I didn’t write a post for St George’s day. On the one hand, I don’t like nationalism, but on the other hand, a lot of criticisms of St George’s day are very class based and seem a lot more bothered about the loutishness or stupidity of people taking part in any celebration of it than actually focused on what the issues with nationalism itself actually are. It often all gets a bit focused on flags and lager.
I’m an internationalist because national borders don’t have any logic to them. I don’t see any scientific or ethical reason as to why where you are born in the world or your ancestry should dictate how much access you should have to world resources or where you can travel, and I definitely don’t see why it gives you the right to decide it for someone else. When I was about 20, I went to Amsterdam with some friends; we got the train, and in Brussels (I think) we passed through a passport check point. At one side of the steady flow of people walking through was a huge queue of people who had been stopped – I watched someone get pulled out a few people in front of me. There was one main difference between those like me who were walking through with ease and no questions, and those being kept behind.
I really think national borders exist for the benefit of the elites within them. I don’t see how our current world distribution of resources and the borders we use to police this is anything other than racist, and it irritates me that if you think that way you are dismissed as being either a frothing trot by the centre or a woolly minded pc liberal by the right. I think this world of borders exists within our heads alone, a sort of shared delusion of ownership of the land we happen to inhabit. It is propped up by a false claim of nationalism (in its embodiment in specific Western nation states) somehow having ownership of values relating to equality – feminism, liberalism – as those these values were somehow supported and brought about by our colonial history rather than something which it tried to crush. Values of equality such as feminism can’t be owned; they existed in the first point where a decision was made to resist a privileging of one over another, and are rebuilt in every act of resistance around the world. The bits of feminism (and other egalitarian values) which are culture specific are probably the bits which most need challenging.
On St George’s day, I usually think about my Grandad, who was a George, and who my son (who learnt to crawl on St George’s day 4 years ago)’s middle name comes from. I know that I am biased, but he is one of if not the most amazing person I have ever known, and it is nice to think about him. Roughly 8 years ago, when he was close to dying, I visited him quite a bit in hospital, and I will always remember one particular visit. This elderly man, close to 80, in huge amounts of pain, spoke to me at quite some length, with tears in his eyes. The tears did not come from his own suffering, which was considerable, but from a book my dad had brought him back from Palestine about the atrocities happening there in that very specific war of national identity, which he wanted to talk to me about.
I really hope that there will be a future point where people look back at these delusions of invisible boundaries people in the same way as we now look at the idea of a flat earth. It is a similar sort of delusion, based on received knowledge and an inability – or aversion – to challenging it.