December 6th: Borders
What horrible, divisive things borders are. Wars have been fought over them, walls and fences have been built to defend them and people die trying to cross them …… yet we live in a period when we are in danger of creating more.
Being a well-seasoned traveller, I frequently have to cross borders. I can say with candour that this is never an experience I look forward to, and one I usually dread. My current, least favourite is crossing between Hong Kong and China. They are technically the same country, but one would not think so. One has to leave Hong Kong and then enter China, which is a lengthy, boring, mildly intimidating ordeal that leaves one feeling processed and monitored rather than welcomed to one’s next destination. I guess this is the intention of borders, but it’s unfortunate that everyone is treated as if they are certified interlopers. At least most checkpoints have done away with the lane for ‘aliens’, which I find particularly unsettling, especially when I find I am one.
I am currently working in The Netherlands. I flew to Düsseldorf in Germany, the nearest major airport, and drove to Aalten, which is just across the border in The Netherlands. My hotel, the beautiful Wasserburg at Anholt, is a short distance away in Germany. One travels uninterrupted between the two countries through a small, unassuming town named Dinxperlo. One street in Dinxperlo runs along the border. The road itself lies in The Netherlands, but the houses on one side of the street, the Hellweg, are situated in Germany, whilst those on the other side, the Heelweg, are part of The Netherlands. The town is home to a shared Dutch – German police station and at both sides of the border a common dialect is spoken. Peace and harmony prevail. Outside Dinxperlo, remnants of the old checkpoint can be seen. Since the Schengen agreement came into being in 1990, people have moved freely to-and-fro.
Hard borders are a last resort; expensive, threatening and both indefensible and undefendable. We should not be creating more, whatever our woes. A world with borders is less free, less equal and ultimately less humane. TFG.