“God did not create boundaries. He gave us the world to live our lives on. He did not create boundaries to marginalize us.” I was watching “Assaulted Dream”, a film documenting the desperate attempts made by men from the Central American republics, who unable to find decent employment in their own countries, embark on perilous journeys in search of work in the United States. These words rushed out at me, and I was aware instantly of the singular truth and power of the words “God did not create boundaries”. Ecological readings of the Abrahamic faiths; Judaism, Christianity and Islam, emphasize the fact that God gave us dominion over the earth; he did not give us ownership of it. Indeed, God did not create boundaries. He gave us the world to satisfy our needs. It was man who erected the borders that operate to marginalize us.
It was perhaps the acknowledgment of this basic fact that caused me to recoil when I read the following in a column two weeks ago. Speaking about the Goans who apply for Portuguese passports, the author argued that “Surely, those Goans’ sudden love for ex-Estado da India's 'Patria' and clamour for Portuguese passports is but an undisguised attempt to infiltrate the European Union job market for low-end positions which have no native takers”. “Most of those 'patriotas'” he continued, “know nothing about
The statement is a clear example of the many boundaries that men have built in order to marginalize each other. The boundaries in operation in the sentences are the boundaries of race, nationality, caste and class. God created no boundaries, and this was the way the colonizer found the world, a world populated by individuals bearing multiple identities and moving easily from one space to another. The colonizer to a large extent allowed that world to continue as such; indeed they actively encouraged the migration of populations from one part of the colonized world to the other, until the beginning of the 20th century, as the era of decolonization began. It was when the colonized started changing the direction of movement and arriving in large numbers on hitherto white shores, that this world came to an end. It was at this moment that the restrictive international regime that we take for granted today came into operation. International travel would no longer be a simple matter of jumping into a boat and seeking your fortune elsewhere. International travel now follows definite rules. Capital and citizens of the former colonial world travel with practically no difficulty. Those from among the formerly colonized, like
Regardless of the legitimacy of every human being to free movement across the globe however, can this Goan applicant for the Portuguese passport in fact be seen as the infiltrator? The Goan travels to Portugal not through any favour extended by the Government of Portugal but by a right that dates from before the Liberation of Goa, from a time when all Goans were citizens of Portugal, and who lost the right to Portuguese citizenship as a result of the Indian action. The Goan applicant is in fact not applying for Portuguese citizenship; but merely initiating a process to reassert their eclipsed right to Portuguese citizenship. To brand them as infiltrators is not merely a grave misrepresentation, but belies a sinister agenda. Labeling as illegal those who migrate by right to Portugal serves not only to delegitimize their presence in Portugal and Europe, but goes further to delegitimize the very process through which they go to Portugal.
What is baffling however is that it is not a European or a Portuguese who is branding the Goan as infiltrator, but a Goan himself. The puzzle falls in place when we realize that the author is implying that only those who know about
The Goan leaves
God did not create a world with boundaries. He created it so for a reason, so that we could go forth and satisfy our wants, enrich ourselves, share it with others and hand it over to others when their time comes. The boundaries have been erected by man. And boundaries fall. They fell in
(Published in the Gomantak Times, 30 July 2008)