These Borders Are Not Your Borders

Dear Person-Who-Put-Up-The-Alarming-Poster-Featured-Below,

File 23-1-18, 8 53 41 pm

First, let me thank you for the opportunity to consider an issue of great importance: borders. I gather from the poster’s symbolism that the borders you are referring to with the statement “My Borders, My Choice” are the borders of the Australian nation (as opposed to the borders of your personal body, the latter of which would quite frankly make for a much more appealing poster). Luckily, I am happy to talk about national borders, too.


Via this poster, specifically via the statement “my borders”, you claim that you have a right to manage national borders because they are yours. I have taken a moment to look up the word “my” in the Oxford English Dictionary and it directed me to the definition of “mine”:


“Used with a possessive to emphasize that someone or something belongs or relates to the person mentioned.”


In accordance with this definition, when you write “My Borders” you are claiming that the geographical borders of this continent belong to you. Interestingly, this continent’s colonial invaders originated from England, like this definition. Even more interesting, this continent’s First Nations never ceded the land to the English colonial invaders. As such, the land, if we are to be technical, belongs to the former. Since the colonial invaders never made a transaction to possess the land, it seems the invaders and all subsequent generations actually undermine the definition of the word “my” that they themselves have invented every time they use the word in relation to the nation’s borders. I guess what I am getting at here is that these borders you refer to are an arbitrary demarcation enforced by a colonial imaginary and therefore cannot be possessed/in your belonging. I am also pointing to the fictive but self-authorising power that the English language enables through performativity. But let’s put this aside for the time being and get back to the more intimate claim that you are making, in particular, that these national borders somehow personally belong to you.


Exactly how have these borders come to belong to you? I gather you have not bought them at the supermarket, aisle 3: Aussie Arrogance? Are they included on the asset list of your bank statements? Do you declare them as income on your tax returns? (If not, you really should, since you’ve undoubtedly profited from this incorrect but nonetheless dominant belief that the borders are yours.)


Let’s assume that you believe you own these arbitrary borders through inheritance, a bit like how you might inherit a home. This is a logic that I can more easily follow: you were born in the home, your parents died and left you the home, the home now belongs to you, and you decide who comes in and out of its borders.


Naturally, when people from other homes want to come to your home you want to be able to choose whether or not to let them do so. Of course, I understand you would feel very upset if a burglar came into your home, unannounced, took your things, and destroyed your property. In line with this logic, am I right to assume that if your neighbour’s house burns down overnight, you would also be very upset when they run into your yard seeking safety from the fire, unannounced? After all, just because someone’s house is on fire doesn’t mean they can cross the borders of your home willy nilly! Your borders, your choice! And just because they didn’t have time to ask if it would be okay for them to stand on your front lawn and call 000—and then wait five years for you to respond with a YES or NO—that is not your fault!


Okay, yes, you’ve got me, I am being facetious. Of course, I don’t really believe that someone like you, so clearly proud of their home, their neighbourhood, and their nation would respond to your suddenly homeless neighbour like that. You would appreciate that sometimes “life happens” and consequently makes controlling the borders of your home a bit slipperier and less black-and-white than first envisioned. Plus, you’re not a monster, and you’re all about mateship! While you want to have fundamental control over the home you inherited, you would still allow for these minor misdemeanours to occur at your borders here and there, right?


The above home analogy works pretty well, although you might have picked up on a subtext where neighbours are refugees and burglars are all non-First Nations peoples, I’m not sure. Regardless, I’m afraid this home/nation borders’ logic really starts to fall apart for me when I think a little more about it—something I would encourage you to do also. For example, if one naturally owns the home they were born in, does that mean I can return to my first home and demand to live there? True, my parents did sell that home to other people, and these people have probably since sold it on to other people, but because the basis of this home/nation borders’ logic begins with an illegitimate take-over of the continent by colonialists, surely it is appropriate for me to take over my original home on the same basis?


Gee, it really does seem as though when we consider Australian national borders we inevitably hit an almighty wall (a border, you might say): the unlawful dispossession of land that belongs to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Indeed, every time we deploy this home/nation borders’ logic, we also indirectly reassert the fact of colonial invasion, and thereby indirectly acknowledge all those people who were born within the borders of this continent an eternity ago. The logic indirectly acknowledges that these people were massacred and/or displaced by our colonial ancestors, and it indirectly acknowledges that the families of these people—families that determinedly, wilfully, incredibly managed to survive this violence—have a right to claim the land that was stolen from them.


Personally, I really feel that this is the fundamental truth that makes your “My Borders, My Choice” claim a bit dodgy, by which I mean: utterly ludicrous and offensive. For this reason, I did you the favour of removing the poster immediately, in the hope of saving you from future embarrassment. You can thank me later after you’ve thought this through a little more.


Yours Sincerely,