Zones Of Disaffection

For whatever reason, I tend to often think of matters of space.  Those who have any degree of personal familiarity with me are likely aware of the fact that my views of space are somewhat complicated.  For a deeply private person, I am extremely public, and for a friendly person I am surprisingly awkward when it comes to issues of affection and intimacy.  Many of the most vexing questions in my life have related to space in one form or another, mostly on levels of spiritual, mental, or emotional terrain [1].  As is often the case, I wish to give this sort of context because our internal terrain is often mirrored in our external lives.  If we find it vexing to live in a world that is so deeply divided and is so much more complicated than many of the maps we see, it is because just as we wish to present a certain face before the world, so too the maps of our world are created with certain intents and purposes in mind, purposes which may not always be clear to see or openly acknowledged.

I watch a lot of videos of maps for fun.  Some of my favorite online cartographers discuss issues such as forgotten and half-formed logistical plans for the city of London, or provide looks at maps over time and examine regional or military history.  I was struck, for example, by how indecisive the Crimean War was, which cost half a million lives or so, when compared with the Civil War.  I have also been struck at the ephemeral nature of so many revolts and so many governments, which rise up and then vanish with rapidity.  What strikes me the most, tough, is that the lines we draw around realms often hide a great deal of information of great value.  One of the tenets of nationhood, for example, is that a government should have exclusive control over the territory it claims for itself.  Yet this has seldom been the case throughout history.  Most nations, and this is especially true of empires, have a far more complicated geography than what appears on this map.

Why is this the case?  I remember looking at an old map when I was a child that showed the various Bantustans of the South Africa of the time.  Although these various regions were not recognized as independent nations by anyone else, they represented an attempt by the apartheid-era South African government to reduce internal tensions by providing for autonomy of the majority black population.  We may laugh about such areas ourselves, but the United States includes within it large amounts of land that is not so different from Bantustans that offer a high degree of autonomy to various recognized tribes which have a treaty relationship with the United States.  The United Kingdom has a wide variety of dependencies with varying degrees of self-government, and so do most nations when one takes a closer look.  Given that most nations include areas of other cultures and religions and ethnicities and regional histories, most nations have this complicated history showing on their maps, whether it is being perforated with minor states like Italy or whether there are restive autonomous areas like the Basque region and Catalonia in Spain.  Examples like this could be multiplied.

What is the way in which we define zones of disaffection?  Such lines are all over our hearts and relationships and the world in which we live.  We build walls, secure our ports and gates, and declare certain areas as no-go zones.  We draw lines on the ground and boundaries in our heart to keep those we do not trust from getting too close to us.  Any boundary is a recognition of difference between one area and another.  At times these boundaries may blur, as the state boundaries in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States with the growth of the massive conurbanations there.  Yet the boundaries exist when it comes to laws and cultures.  We ignore such zones at our peril when we assume that cultures will spread without ceasing over the terrain of hearts and minds without any complexity.  If there is one thing that we can know for sure when we deal with human beings, is that things will get complicated.  Of that we can be certain.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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1 Response to Zones Of Disaffection

  1. Pingback: Book Review: The Fabric Of America | Edge Induced Cohesion

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