Monday, April 14, 2008

Problems with Borders (not the bookstore)

I am going to warn you off the bat that I might offend some people with this post. But please hear me out - after my thought process I might actually get somewhere productive.

So last night husband and I watched the 2005 film, Paradise Now. In case you are unfamiliar with this film, it is a film by a Palestinian director about two young guys living in Nablus who are called upon to go on a suicide bombing mission in Tel-Aviv. I usually do not comment very much on Palestinian-Israeli politics because it is not something that I know a whole lot about and I find myself completely under qualified to comment on such an intense problem. Anyhow. Suffice to say this movie was very disturbing, and it was difficult to watch these two young guys as they came to terms with what they were doing, what they had volunteered to do, and all the reasons that they felt that self-sacrifice was the only option.

What struck me about the film, and this is something that I feel more qualified to talk about, is the radical contrast between the occupied and non-occupied parts of Israel. Nablus in many parts has only dirt roads and is very medieval in its urban plan. Israel of course has beautifully paved streets, clear bus stops, skyscrapers, beaches with lounges and sun umbrellas. It is a striking difference and when the film ended — let me just say I am completely and totally opposed to the killing of civilians as any type of military or even resistance tactic — I was struck with this disgust for anybody who would allow themselves to live in such close and direct vicinity to such obvious inequality.
"Graffiti" art by Banksy on the Palestinian-Israeli wall

And then I immediately considered the view on the other side of the Mexican-US border which is about 15 minutes south of from where I live. And I realized that this view is not much different than the view in Nablus and it is perhaps even more desperate. And of course I don't live in constant disgust in myself... for allowing such obvious inequality to exist so close to where I live. Am I being hypocritical? But after all, Mexico is a sovereign nation - and a democratic nation at that - its citizens vote, elect leaders.. and have some kind of agency in the working of their government.

Okay - this problem is obviously not going to be solved by one humble attempt at articulation on one buried blog post. But let me pose the following questions — when we live in an increasingly globalized world - where it is clear that physical borders to do not determine the limits of a nation's influence or power - is it not time to start considering some larger, broader form of citizenship? Once, many years ago, an Italian friend mentioned to me albeit jokingly that the whole world should be able to vote for the US president since whoever is chosen will have a profound impact on the entire world. This is a funny idea - yet not a terribly inaccurate observation. How can we begin to think about citizenship outside of national boundaries? The EU is not a bad model... but perhaps we need something more global. Anyway just some things to think about.

P.S. Here is a blog I found that is in a small way trying to overcome this problem. Two citizens one from Gaza and the other from Sderot post a blog about their experiences on opposite sides of the "border."

1 comment:

myrrh said...


Really interesting post. I haven't been keeping up with you as much as I would like, but I'm glad I had a chance to read this one. And I agree wholeheartedly, that there is something terribly wrong when a political border creates such unequal spaces. More distressing is how richer spaces DEPEND on poorer ones to maintain their standards of living.

However, I am not so hopeful about some kind of larger-scale governing body. I do not think the problem is with some kind of mismanagement internally (although I know this plays a role), but the problem boils down to different amounts of power exercised over different spaces. And I don't think a larger governing body will "solve" that. I mean, take my situation locally. I live in the Eug, middle to upper middle class university town. Next door, what we call Springtucky, has a vastly different socio-economic situation. And it isn't for lack of a larger governing body.

Anyway, it is an interesting issue nonetheless and one that I think about in my own work.

I thought Paradise Now was an interesting movie for other reasons... I hope we'll talk about it this weekend. See you!