The Blog

Imagine There's No Countries

The only place I feel the most at home is at the airport. I recently put Uzbekistan as my home country on a job application form for completely desperate, hopeless banter. (Then I corrected it, obviously. To Lichtenstein.)

I'm about to write something radical.

I'm writing this only because:

a) I am rapidly running out of time, because I've only got a few months left of being a naïve student who can afford idealism,

b) I've been bed-ridden for a few days due to some miniature version of tonsillitis, and have done a lot of fever induced hallucinating,

c) Spotify is currently playing a hauntingly epic playlist and I feel inspired.

A little known indie artist name John Lennon once wrote, "Imagine there's no countries/it isn't hard to do". Even though he was only my third favorite Beatle, did anyone ever listen to the poor guy?

Ninety-nine per cent of the world would probably disagree with Mr. Yoko Ono, for a variety of reasons. And I can't really argue with you. But I've tried my entire life to change the way I feel and I genuinely don't think I can. So here it is: no countries, no borders, no nations. Just people.

My fellow blogger and Cambridge student Julian Tan recently wrote a wonderful blog post about the meaning of his nation to him. I really enjoyed it, but I combed through it and couldn't find anything to sympathize with. For me, living in a new country doesn't make me love my previous one any more or less, but it definitely increases my affinity to the new place. I seem to be missing the bone that produces patriotism. I had it when I was a kid. Social construct or not, I bought into it. I loved my country, and I thought I'd be loyal forever. I literally knew, as a six-year-old, what it meant for my blood to boil for the motherland.

Cut to me today. I still love China, but I am far from patriotic about any country at all. The only place I feel the most at home is at the airport. I recently put Uzbekistan as my home country on a job application form for completely desperate, hopeless banter. (Then I corrected it, obviously. To Lichtenstein.) Defying racial stereotypes has become so instinctive to me that I am about to become the first ever over-achieving Asian to graduate from a top tier university, unemployed.

I think given the direction the world is headed, people like me will increase in numbers. I just don't have time for nationalism. The more I learn about it and any sort of identity politics the more my belief about this is reaffirmed. My passport is just a document. (And the horrendous secret that it is in fact possible for me to look like a man in a photograph.) I deeply, deeply love the country that gave it to me. But I love many countries. And in my life, I see myself loving many more.

Now before you call me nationally promiscuous - can I just suggest that within this generation of freaks who can navigate Heathrow better than your average Joe, and who speak in strangely annoying trans-Atlantic accents, there might be a solution to some of our problems?

In the hopes that my director of studies and examiners don't read this, I will tell you that from a certain perspective (generally a hungover one on a cloudy day), my entire politics degree has been one arduous and frustrating bicker about pointless ways to disagree over conflicts. Conflicts between classes, races, religions, ethnicities, nations. Conflicts that are robbing human beings of their money, dignity, education, families, and lives. Conflicts that I was not born into merely by circumstance. Conflicts that I can write about eloquently, but am no closer to solving.

Quick reality check. I don't actually have the solution. If I did I wouldn't be blogging, other suckers would be blogging about me. I've just had a thought.

People often ask me - if Finland and China were at war, whom would you support?

Now first of all, let's just take a second to establish how ludicrous a Sino-Finn war would actually be. "We are taking our Nokia bricks back!" screams one side as the other side bellows, "You've been cooking rice wrong all this time!" The only more ludicrous situation in the whole world would be Finland and China facing each other in a football match. Now this would be such a painful 90 minutes that I'd probably just self-combust.

But the point is, I wouldn't be able support either Finland or China. I could not ever see one half of myself spilling the blood of another half. The very concept is alien. How on earth could I pick between two sides of my heart?

Perhaps my plight in life is that I will never really know a home. I will never shed tears for just one flag or anthem. (Great for watching the Olympic games - this way you get to feel happier more frequently.) My attachment is to my suitcase, and the people who have loved me, a foreigner, as one of their own. My allegiance will be to that which I can take with me, inside my mind, and which I can change. Maybe this is tragic. Maybe you think this a pathetic way to live. Maybe I will always be a bit of an outsider.

But this is my blessing. Because I not only will not fight another for identity - I cannot. Do you see this? I am, by circumstance, defined by difference. I always have been. I am eternally outside borders, real or figurative. So that with which so much violence is justified will never be enough to move me. I am bound by the very things that made me who I am.

This is getting a bit ridiculous. Let's bring it back with a good quote. In a book about cosmopolitanism, Kwame Anthony Appiah wrote: "Whatever obligation I might have to another, especially in a foreign other, that obligation does not supersede the obligations I have to those people most familiar to me." For me, and an increasing number of children of globalization, my most familiar are dotted around the world. If I pick my ten nearest and dearest, I'll already have spanned three countries. The Sino-Finn example was ludicrous. But a conflict between Europe and China isn't that out of this world. If we ever came to that, I'd probably rather you split me in half than pick a side. Now imagine if the people in charge of whether or not this conflict arises were all like me.

As globalism goes on the increase, so will people who travel more. People will work and study in places they weren't born in. People will read about the enemies of their grandparents and understand. People will find a word in a second language that can express something better. People will fall in love with people who don't look like them, and who don't believe in the same things. And they will have children. These children may not save the world, but they will at least resist the conflicts of our generation, just because from the beginning, they were already different. To them, a world without borders will be that little fraction more possible.