Since I’ve been travelling quite a lot this year, I’ve been thinking about the way we look upon distance and national limitations. I’m half English, one quarter Norwegian and one quarter Swedish, and I live in a region that is 50/50 Denmark and Sweden. Therefore, national identity is an idea I find hard to relate to. For me, it’s all about getting to where I want to be, meeting the people I want to meet, and working the way that suits me best. Basically, we’re talking about infrastructure – both digital and physical.
An example: a few months ago I went to San Francisco for the weekend. I left Malmö on Thursday morning and was back at the office in time for lunch on Monday. The flight, one way, took approximately 14 hours (8822 km). A long way to go (and god knows the flight home wasn’t pure pleasure, SFO-MIN-AMS-CPH), but completely manageable for anyone. As a comparison, I went to Örebro and back a week or so ago. Getting there and back took me 15 hours (497 x2 km).
Both this map over at City of Sound and Personal World Map illustrates this point admirably. Living near a rail and flight hub, and having wireless broadband access, makes ones physical surroundings considerably less important. The region of Wallonia has been advertising in The Economist delivering this message. Pointing out the vicinity of Paris, Amsterdam and Luxembourg as it’s key advantages certainly gives that impression at least.
If one starts to think in terms of regions like Wallonia, or Øresund where I live, and imagine the scenario of travelling seamlessly both in between the countries within it and using the hubs to travel away – where would it make the most sense to live? And by live I mean the country and city where I’m officially thought to be most often. It would probably be a place where taxes are low and interference in general is at a minimal. If travelling a lot – I would need a private health care plan anyway, and my general involvement in domestic affairs would be at a minimal. Will there evolve states that enables people to outsource their living? Like Monaco for athletes, but on a greater scale?
Even if the above initially sounds a bit neo-liberal for my taste, I think this is the way we are heading. People will find other ways of solidarity that aren’t dictated by national borders. The engagement in NGOs on an international or idea driven level will increase. I think it will be a lot like the old “think global, act local” slogan, only redefining local to be ones surroundings no matter what countries that may include.
Øresund, Scandinavia or even the European Union are all regions aiming to link together rather than hold apart. And with globalisation so obviously integrated in the coming generation of work force, the idea of the national borders suddenly feels very old. We will want to live where we can meet the people we care for and where we can experience the most. No matter where some old kings decided to draw the border lines.