Walls. Christianity & poetry. And nations, identities & borders
[ by Charles Cameron — continuing our probing of borders, and liminality, with hints of mirroring and parallelism ]
Let’s start with a “borders” video for your consideration:
That’s worth viewing, though it’s no more the final word on the subject than Robert Frost‘s poem, Mending Wall:
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
Walls here, I’d, suggest, are liminal as forming borders between one part of the neighborhood and another — but those gaps are likewise liminal, separating if you will one section of all from another. As this (minor) reading suggests, the situation is more complex than a simple statement that walls are bad / good.
Indeed, as here, poetry is often deployed in the service of nuance..
We’ve had earlier Zenpundit posts on liminality and borders, among them:
Of border crossings, and the pilgrimage to Arbaeen in Karbala Violence at three borders, naturally it’s a pattern Borders, limina and unity Borders as metaphors and membranes McCabe and Melber, bright lines and fuzzy borders
My interest here is first drawn in by succinctly stated patterns of mirroring and parallelism found in an Atlantic article, What Does It Mean to Be a Canadian Citizen? The first comes from JFK, and may indeed be his most frequently quoted utterance:
Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country
That’s the mirroring example.
The parallel universes example suggested here is no less succinct:
The time-honored saying “No taxation without representation” does seem to imply, as a corollary, “No representation without taxation.”
Okay, those are the two quotes that caught my eye for reasons of formal symmetry. The rest of the article, I’d suggest, is extremely interesting for what it says about borders, nationalities and Canada in particular. Here’s one of the writer’s crucial observations:
About 24 percent of immigrants from Hong Kong return to the territory after acquiring Canadian citizenship, as do 30 percent of immigrants from Taiwan.
You can see the appeal. Hong Kong’s economy is growing much faster than Canada’s. Its income-tax rates top out at 17 percent. Canada does not tax the foreign-source income of nonresident citizens, in effect creating a geopolitical arbitrage opportunity too attractive to miss: the protections of Canadian nationality at low Hong Kong prices.
And this, from the concluding para, will give you an idea of the questions the article leaves us with:
Is citizenship a kind of subscription service, to be suspended and resumed as our needs change? Are countries competing service providers, their terms and conditions subject to the ebbs and flows of consumer preference? Edmund Burke long ago articulated an ambitious vision of society as a “partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.” Does any of that still resonate? Or is it a bygone idea of a vanished age, dissolved in a globalized world?