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Borders -- Writer's Poke #375

Nepal, a country that was never colonized, was only “opened to the outside world” in the 1950s.

Closed societies aren’t all that uncommon throughout history. At one time, Japan and China were “closed” to the West. Today, of course, North Korea is a closed country, although it apparently is toying with the idea of promoting its own brand of cruise-ship tourism.

But what does it mean to be a “closed country”? Are such countries simply xenophobic? Elitist? Scared of strangers? Correct in trying to protect themselves, just like individual homeowners are correct when locking their doors and windows?

Countries, like people, probably have a variety of reasons for building walls around themselves. China built a Wall to keep the “barbarians” out, and so the mindset seems to be that bad guys come from “out there.” Close the borders, and keep out the bad guys.

Nepal and Tibet only has one legal border crossing; only opened in the 1980s, it was commissioned by the Chinese, who dubbed it “the Friendship Bridge.” According to Michael Palin, the Chinese border guards at the Friendship Bridge aren’t all that friendly, but the people he meets in his travels – in Nepal, Tibet, and elsewhere, almost inevitably are friendly. They never exhibit any animosity to him. Hospitality is still a virtue, even in countries with the highest fences and tightest border restrictions.

So perhaps the question is: Why are governments of closed countries so scared of their citizens meeting foreigners?

What are your thoughts about national borders? Are they just lines on a map? What real value and significance do they hold?

"Globalisation has made us more vulnerable. It creates a world without borders, and makes us painfully aware of the limitations of our present instruments, and of politics, to meet its challenges." -- Anna Lindh

"I'm competitive with myself. I always try to push past my own borders." -- Tyra Banks


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