Today as I was rummaging in the vegetable drawer of our refrigerator, I happened to notice a label on the asparagus saying it had come from Mexico, and it sparked a thought that has often occurred to me for many years.
Whenever I think about borders — property borders to some extent, but mainly national borders — it strikes me as odd that we attach so much importance to keeping people on one side or the other of them.
Consider: we are happy to allow products free passage across national boundaries, be they fruits and vegetables, pencils, or iPads (with the exceptions of a few plants and plant-derived substances that we rather bizarrely define as illegal). And we don’t give a thought to migrating birds, fish, and butterflies. Yet it is somehow extremely important that other humans not cross those boundaries without having jumped through a lot of bureaucratic hoops to get the necessary permissions and paperwork. And we often make it virtually impossible for people to get those permissions.
No, I’m not oblivious to all the political and economic forces at work. And yes, from the ground-level perspective of the civilization we have created (and which we are so immersed in that we rarely notice how artificial it is) all the rules and restrictions about borders have some rationale behind them. But from the 100-mile-high point of view, doesn’t it seem strange that we allow jackrabbits, crows, and dung beetles to cross our borders freely, but go to great lengths to keep other human beings from doing the same?
Many animals in the natural world are territorial, and in general they only care about keeping other individuals of the same species out of their territory. I guess humans are no different.