We seem to be walking towards a globalised world which strives to blur all boundaries and erase all man-made distinctions of caste, creed or gender. However, as the age- old belief goes, ‘good fences’ can indeed make for ‘good neighbours’. In this piece, we shall examine how the creation of fences remains crucial in the present context and underscore what significance these fences hold for humankind.
One cannot talk about fences without seeing them through the lens of national borders, which are abstract political entities traditionally meant to keep some individuals outside or inside, and to facilitate neighbours to go about their business in a well-ordered manner. They also logically cater to human’s instinctive needs to define a private territory, much like any other animal, for that matter. But borders have much more far reaching consequences- they have an underlying symbolic role to play in building a strong national identity, which comprises the building blocks of the nation-state. They have functioned as an integral part of society. In ancient Greece, for instance, the fights broke out to keep or change borders over the scrublands. While it might not have added anything to the profits of these farmers, it certainly possessed a value in successfully demarcating jurisdictions over the land. Thus, they are contended to be as old as agricultural civilization itself, granting exclusivity to the residents.
These fences allow a provision of a sense of security to the citizens residing within the territory that they cover. This is indicative of a mutual acceptance of both the neighbours to construct their distinct social communities. This system outrightly bypasses any sort of hectoring, hence safeguarding the respective interests of residents of both of these communities. They appropriate the sanctity of human relationships, necessary when played out on an individual, national or global level.
Preaching ‘bordlessness’ of the world will not help us by one inch to build a better society. It can turn out to be counterproductive and can actually end up promoting lawlessness or facilitating crime, acting as conduits for unchecked political chaos. Rather we must reconfigure the manner in which implementation of the various border policies takes pace, to ensure that it works in everyone’s best interests. “A unity of the demos ought to be understood not as if it were a harmonious given, but rather as a process of self-constitution through more or less conscious struggles of inclusion and exclusion.” They help keep peace in a volatile world- similar to what jurists from Rome stretching out till Scottish Enlightenment called “meum et tuum,” expanding on what is ‘mine and what is yours’
The success of fences lie in their ability to systematize International human interactions and to eliminate societal insecurities regarding safety or sovereignty. One should do well to remember that borders are not one-dimensional physical demarcations, rather a conscious produced construct that allows for more order in the world. One can certainly hope for more porous, free-flowing and accepting borders around the world, but to imagine a world without borders is an unnecessary ideal to strive for, and indeed good fences can sometimes make for good neighbours.