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Archive for September 4th, 2009

As regular readers know, my household is international in every sense. One of the results of being born in one place and living in others can be dual nationality, or, in some cases, even triple the legal connections to countries.

My hope is that sooner or later we humans, with our inbred tendencies to inbreed out of xenophobic compulsion, will grasp the idea that divisions are arbitrary, and as bipedal primates we are more similar than we are different no matter where the heck we popped onto the planet.

Not that we’ve grown any closer to accepting that basic fact over the centuries, as illustrated in a recent post, and with so much at stake … power and money being at the root, of course … keeping divisions in place makes a lot of sense to a lot of people.

“Divide and conquer’, also known as “divide and rule”, divide et impera, is such an easy strategy that most don’t even think to question the wisdom, true necessity and history of this long-standing tactic.

The use of this strategy was imputed to administrators of vast empires, including the Roman and British, who were charged with playing one tribe against another to maintain control of their territories with a minimal number of imperial forces. The concept of “Divide and Rule” gained prominence when India was a part of the British Empire, but was also used to account for the strategy used by the Romans to take Britain, and for the Anglo-Normans to take Ireland. It is said that the British used the strategy to gain control of the large territory of India by keeping its people divided along lines of religion, language, or caste, taking control of petty princely states in India piecemeal.

Extrapolate it out globally and wonder why, in today’s world of instant communication, ease of peregrination and cultural blending, the need for lines drawn on maps exists.

How much energy goes into defending borders that are nothing more than artificial designations, and how many people die in the process of attempting to keep invisible lines etched in sand holding back floods?

Of course, keeping the enthusiasm for an outpouring of resources and blood is of the utmost importance, so whipping up a constant frenzy of “we’re better … and different … than you are” is a mission passionately embraced.

It’s not like fencing folks in and calling them a People solves the problem of unity. We maintain our tribal affiliations no matter what neighborhood we’re tied to, so eliminating a a few specifications would hardly rob us of an opportunity to look down upon our fellow man with scorn over eye color or choice of peanut butter.

So why not get past the archaic notion that soil defines?

Well, for one thing, a lot of people would be out of work. Keeping things separate is big business and multiple governments employ millions. If, for example, geography, not politics, dictated affiliation and Canada, the US and Mexico were to be considered the same place with one set of grand plans and one set of workers charged with overseeing those plans a lot of offices in all three places would be empty.

This is a ridiculous idea, though, since Canadians, Americans and Mexicans represent completely different species.

Aliens, that’s the word.

Oh! Gee. That’s not correct. They are no more different from each other than are Oregonians from New Yorkers, yet those admittedly diverse groups manage to exist within the same broader borders.

So, where does the advantage lie? What do we get out of divisions, other than conquered and ruled, and why do we not ask this question often?

Wondering how I got on this kick today?

It all started with an emailed newsletter from the US Embassy in Mauritius … another small island nation in the Indian Ocean that spends a fortune making sure its government is a distinct entity … that included the following:

Almost all male U.S. citizens (including dual nationals) and male aliens living in the U.S. who are 18 through 25 are required to register with the Selective Service.

If a man does not register, he could be prosecuted and fined up to $250,000 and/or be jailed for up to five years. Registration is a requirement to qualify for Federal student aid, job training benefits, and most Federal employment. Even if not tried, a man who fails to register with the Selective Service before turning age 26 may find that some doors are permanently closed.

As the mother of a Cambodian-born son living in Seychelles with a British passport I can’t help but react to this negatively and fall back to thinking that begging the American government to make Sam a citizen will not be a priority.

The world is a small place, we are citizens of this world, and I do my damnedest to teach my kids that there are no limits to where they can contribute and to whom they can feel connected.

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