Borders are not innocent

It’s Chinese New Year tomorrow! My head had been buzzing from all the social network analysis I had been doing today, so I decided to call it a day. I have come across some wonderful anecdotes here and there for the past two days but had been struggling to piece them up together for a proper post here. So what I am going to do is something I do best (I hope!) — listing them down!

  • Illustrator Christoph Niemann was sent on a National Geographic trip to Cambodia and Vietnam, of which he came back with this beautiful series of drawings and observations. In his behind-the-scenes video, Niemann talks about how “painting and drawing his experiences creates a dialogue between his mind and a place—this process ultimately allows him to turn the lens on himself. “Essentially the drawing is like a visual filter,” he explains. “You take the world—and you take it through the abstraction of your drawing — and you start seeing differently.” It reminded me of how many times I have been traveling and decided to rely so much on the lens of the camera and not writing — what a foolish move, obsessed with posting to Instagram and Twitter, and had been forgoing the slow absorption of experiences and paying more attention and being more open with my surroundings. I must do better the next time.
  • I am also reading this book called Violent Borders, a very ambitious book by Reece Jones which attempts to detail the harm caused by national borders. It posits the idea that borders are inherently violent constructs, and that they are “a governmental technology that is used to create, discipline and contain an orderly population inside a bounded territory.” Borders, however, are not innocent and just like technology, subject to some human biases that seek to strengthen the status quo that will benefit some privileged few. It is a very intriguing read so far, recommended by a friend who is an immigrant rights activist.
  • This quote, forever: “It was books that taught me the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.” — James Baldwin
  • And this too, by George Monbiot: “When you hear or read a politician, a pundit or a journalist, the first and foremost important question you should ask yourself is this: “Are they seeing to advance their own interests (and those of funders, friends, and faction), or seeking to advance everyone’s interests?”

Good night.

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