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Does FIRST Matter Most?
Or who holds it longest? Or most recently?
Dear Classical Wisdom reader,
We hadn’t planned on driving through the West Bank...but after our very short dip in the Dead Sea (apparently it’s dangerous to be in the waters for longer than 10-20 minutes), that’s exactly what we did.
Our Belarusian born driver took the road past Masada (Herod’s palace/fortress and the site of the famous siege during the First Jewish–Roman War), right by the famous kibbutz, Ein Gedi, and directly into the West Bank.
It looked like we had returned to the Bedouin camps in Jordan. Pointing out the different license plates, we could immediately see who was on ‘which’ side...suddenly traffic light stops felt considerably more serious, with drivers eying each other.
Half an hour later, we arrived in Jerusalem, easily the most contentious slip of real estate in the world.
One of the oldest cities to still exist, Jerusalem is holy for all three of the major Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It has been destroyed at least twice, besieged 23 times, captured and recaptured 44 times, and attacked 52 times. All the who's who of the ancient world have been here. Whether they conquered or created, they all left their mark. King David and Solomon... Cyrus the Great and Darius the Great... as well as Alexander the Great, King Herod, Ptolemy, Hadrian and Constantine.
Of course being the location of so much history, so much religion and symbolism makes for a complicated situation, to say the least. In fact, it’s so controversial it’s almost impossible to discuss the topic without upsetting someone, even if you fervently attempt to do so with no bias, no agenda, no political bent.
And Jerusalem, though perhaps the most extreme, is by no means the only place in the world that has such an issue. It was only two weeks ago, for instance, that we were in Turkey and so many cities would write about Greek founders... as well as the local tribes there beforehand.
So how do you sort it out? Who gets to own what? Does first matter most? Or who holds it longest? Or most recently? What do you think, dear reader?
As always, you can write to me directly at email@example.com or reply to this email...
NB: With regards to responses...modern politics is not our beat here.
You can take this question out of the setting in which it has been presented to get to the philosophical heart, that of ownership. I know there are lots of strong emotions regarding the specifics of this region... but I’m much more interested in logic and thoughtful musings rather than reactionary emails or partisan positions. Respectful language only please.
As for today’s mailbag responses (Do we need passports? Do we need borders?) I was a bit surprised! I had thought surely at least one person would advocate for the other side...If you disagree with the ideas below, feel free to submit your thoughts here.
All the best,
Founder and Director
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Do we Need Passports?
What a utopian question. This is communist UN agenda. Of course, we NEED passports and borders. We need to know who wants to come to our country. Do you let EVERYBODY into your house who knock on your door? I am guessing that the answer is NO.
Interesting questions. I see you’re also a Johnnie – well done on getting an awesome education and making a living out of it. Here’s what I think:
Should we have passports?
Yes, passports identify your citizenship in a foreign country – the right to have rights, as Arendt said. I can’t even imagine not having a passport.
Do we need borders?
Should we restrict movement of people?
Why do people buy locks and install ring cameras outside their doors? This is the same principle but applied on a national scale.
And if we do, who decides who can come and go?
Whoever lives inside those countries decide the circumstances (under a representative democracy) under which people can visit or immigrate. Open and unsustainable immigration is ripe for exploitation. We also must consider “brain drain” in the sender countries. Is it ethical to poach a poor country’s best talent to support a rich country’s greying population?
There is one (rich?) country that requires no passport. Of course, that depends. Its border discriminates, perhaps it’s the government that does that. Fill out the forms, stand in line, no admittance. Otherwise, it depends.
Anyway, once, many years ago in Lagos, I had an informal chat with a charming and important person. I didn’t know at the time he headed the secret service in Nigeria. If I’d known ahead of time, I might have appeared nervous. But I wasn’t. Later I asked my host why he introduced me to him. “You passed muster,” he said. If not, we’d be on our way to the airport, or worse. That is the government.
I didn’t know. I looked it up. Where would we be without Google - Philadelphia.
Of course we need borders and control or we simply lose our identity... plus the lunatics come along and bomb us.
So, the capital of Amman was called Philadelphia, though I do not think they had cheese steaks.
You say in your statement that many people of the ancient world did travel regardless of any restrictions, if there were any, but at that time so few traveled more than ten miles from their homes. The traveler then was an adventurer as well as an explorer, but today in the modern/postmodern world in which boundaries have been drawn up, mostly by Europeans in the early 20th century regarding Africa and what we now call the Middle East, yes, there needs to be passports, or at least it would be a good idea for the sake of security.
Most travelers today, from my perspective, have no idea where they are, as they are not looking at the culture but rather are looking through the lens of the smartphone and their travel becomes a simulacrum. The poor rarely were able to travel at any time and now many of the poor are traveling from desperation.
But it really does not matter if there are passports or not. As it stands here in the US, if you are caught making one's way across a border, you are jailed or sent back, but if you make it, there is a job waiting for you. It is not much different in Europe.
Herman. H, San Francisco
Passports are necessary as a function and benefit of citizenship and the latter is a foundation of country sovereignty. No country has the right to restrict movement of citizens or foreigners, except the right of restrictive immigration or visiting is necessary for the promotion of sovereignty.
There is no good source for this decision, but it falls to the government. Under a republic, the government represents the wishes of citizens and acts accordingly. Under a democracy, it follows and directs the mob. Under a tyranny, the government inflicts its unquenchable thirst for power on scapegoats internally and the demagogic enemy exteriorly. We see that today in Ukraine.
Unrestricted immigration and migration turns a nation into a doormat and the world wipes their feet on it. Fifty percent of German occupants are non-German and almost all Muslim. France, England, Norway, Italy and Sweden are similarly overrun. The US has abandoned the melting pot and been turned into a cauldron sized chamber pot. Rome and Greece were destroyed by the same process as was Assyria and Babylon twice. Nothing new to see here, just repetition with the same sad outcome.
The Stoics believed that we are all rational creatures subject to the same cosmic law, and that distinctions in nationality are by convention only. I do think though that there are elites stoking mass immigration in an effort to change the political system and culture. It is a soft form of warfare. The immigration we are witnessing is not organic but induced. Most people naturally don’t want to leave their native countries.
Dan D M
I believe we do need passports and understand the difference between "rich states" and "poor states."
With the advent of social democracy and the emergence of the welfare state in the late 19th century, belonging to a country imposes a cost on its citizens. People from rich countries generally don't impose as much of a burden on others to the degree the "huddled masses" do. The existing financial impact of refugees (from war, or just job-seeking) is already large--imagine how large it would be if unrestricted.
"There is no week, nor day, nor hour, when tyranny may not enter upon this country, if the people lose their supreme confidence in themselves, and lose their roughness and spirit of defiance. Tyranny may always enter -- there is no charm or bar against it." --Margaret Thatcher
In ancient times, nation states didn’t exist, so there was no need. In our modern world, they do, and the precondition is a national border. They may not be rational, defensible, or even desirable in all cases. But that’s for the people of those nations to decide, not people who just want to come and go. Those who have no skin in the game, so to speak. Most certainly, in today’s climate, they may be the only thing preventing mass slaughter of populations.
Other things that had not been invented in ancient times were:
•universal human rights
•government sponsored entitlements
We could do without governments, welfare, and recognized rights, and return to the ancient system of migratory invasions and displacing denizens by force and reinstituting slavery.