FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Delegation From Nowhere

by PETER CERTO

The Olympic Games can draw unexpected visitors. Remember the Jamaican bobsled team? This year, it’s the delegation from nowhere.

Beginning in the games’ opening week, residents along the rocky coast of southwest England will meet Nowhereisland.

No — what? Its handlers call this hunk of grit a “displaced nation journeying south in search of its people.” The brainchild of British artist Alex Hartley, this “nation” is small enough to be hauled by a tugboat.

Back in 2004, Hartley journeyed to the Arctic, where he discovered an uncharted chunk of floating rock and moraine in the wake of a receding glacier. Hartley, the first person ever to set foot on the island, initially tried to claim it for himself — with a note left in an empty can of beans — to draw attention to the perils of climate change.

Then Hartley thought bigger. The artist returned to the Arctic in 2011. He and his crew dug up some 6 tons of material from the island, dragged it into international waters, and christened it the newly independent nation of Nowhereisland. The island’s Olympic sojourn to the port towns of southwest England marks its contribution to the U.K.’s Cultural Olympiad, a national celebration of the arts accompanying the summer games.

This isn’t just a lark. “Nowhereisland seeks to redefine what a nation can be,” explains the project’s founding document. “Nowhereisland embodies the potential of a new borderless nation,” one “in which all are welcome and in which all have the right to be heard.”

I’m from Dayton, Ohio, and live in Washington, D.C. But I’m also one of the 13,000 people from around the world who have become citizens of Nowhereisland by applying through its website. The most important perk of citizenship, which takes just seconds to obtain, is the right to help craft the nation’s constitution. All of us Nowhere men and women can submit propositions for the country’s governing document and vote up or down on the inklings of our fellow citizens.

It’s an experiment in “open-source citizenship,” a new model of governance that several real governments are beginning to dabble in as well. Many U.S. regulatory agencies, for example, invite nonbinding public feedback on proposed new rules, and the British government recently brought on Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales to help the U.K. civil service better engage the British public. Last year, Iceland even crowd-sourced its own constitution in the wake of the country’s catastrophic financial collapse.

Compared to such “real-world” examples, Nowhereisland might seem silly or impractical. Sure, propositions for its evolving constitution include a resolution encouraging Nowhereians to “rediscover the great value of slowness.” But other provisions are concrete and inspirational, such as a ban on corporate personhood. Another proposal imploring adults to read to children nightly is both heartening and constructive. The resulting mishmash is a charming treatise on living kindly and governing gently, while not taking oneself too seriously.

Nowhereisland proves that it doesn’t take fancy technology or big-name consultants to figure out what most people want. Most of us want a clean environment, an economy that works for everyone, and a say in our political process. Of course, this has never been much of a mystery outside of Washington and other world capitals.

If Nowhereisland provides a space in which to imagine a new world, the next step is to build it. Already, Occupiers in the United States, anti-austerity indignados in Europe, and protesters in the Arab world have shown what can be accomplished once ordinary people decide to stop demanding power and start exercising it.

These revolutions are far from complete. But the Olympic delegation from nowhere is a playful reminder that we can crowd-source a better world if we dare.

Peter Certo is an editorial assistant at the Institute for Policy Studies

This essay is distributed by Other Words

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

April 25, 2017
Russell Mokhiber
It’s Impossible to Support Single-Payer and Defend Obamacare
Nozomi Hayase
Prosecution of Assange is Persecution of Free Speech
Robert Fisk
The Madder Trump Gets, the More Seriously the World Takes Him
Giles Longley-Cook
Trump the Gardener
Bill Quigley
Major Challenges of New Orleans Charter Schools Exposed at NAACP Hearing
Jack Random
Little Fingers and Big Egos
Stanley L. Cohen
Dissent on the Lower East Side: the Post-Political Condition
Stephen Cooper
Conscientious Justice-Loving Alabamians, Speak Up!
Michael J. Sainato
Did the NRA Play a Role in the Forcing the Resignation of Surgeon General?
David Swanson
The F-35 and the Incinerating Ski Slope
Binoy Kampmark
Mike Pence in Oz
Peter Paul Catterall
Green Nationalism? How the Far Right Could Learn to Love the Environment
George Wuerthner
Range Riders: Making Tom Sawyer Proud
Clancy Sigal
It’s the Pits: the Miner’s Blues
Robert K. Tan
Abe is Taking Japan Back to the Bad Old Fascism
April 24, 2017
Mike Whitney
Is Mad Dog Planning to Invade East Syria?    
John Steppling
Puritan Jackals
Robert Hunziker
America’s Tale of Two Cities, Redux
David Jaffe
The Republican Party and the ‘Lunatic Right’
John Davis
No Tomorrow or Fashion-Forward
Patrick Cockburn
Treating Mental Health Patients as Criminals
Jack Dresser
An Accelerating Palestine Rights Movement Faces Uncertain Direction
George Wuerthner
Diet for a Warming Planet
Lawrence Wittner
Why Is There So Little Popular Protest Against Today’s Threats of Nuclear War?
Colin Todhunter
From Earth Day to the Monsanto Tribunal, Capitalism on Trial
Paul Bentley
Teacher’s Out in Front
Franklin Lamb
A Post-Christian Middle East With or Without ISIS?
Kevin Martin
We Just Paid our Taxes — are They Making the U.S. and the World Safer?
Erik Mears
Education Reformers Lowered Teachers’ Salaries, While Promising to Raise Them
Binoy Kampmark
Fleeing the Ratpac: James Packer, Gambling and Hollywood
Weekend Edition
April 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Diana Johnstone
The Main Issue in the French Presidential Election: National Sovereignty
Paul Street
Donald Trump: Ruling Class President
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Dude, Where’s My War?
Andrew Levine
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em
Paul Atwood
Why Does North Korea Want Nukes?
Robert Hunziker
Trump and Global Warming Destroy Rivers
Vijay Prashad
Turkey, After the Referendum
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, the DOJ and Julian Assange
CJ Hopkins
The President Formerly Known as Hitler
Steve Reyna
Replacing Lady Liberty: Trump and the American Way
Lucy Steigerwald
Stop Suggesting Mandatory National Service as a Fix for America’s Problems
Robert Fisk
It is Not Just Assad Who is “Responsible” for the Rise of ISIS
John Laforge
“Strike Two” Against Canadian Radioactive Waste Dumpsite Proposal
Norman Solomon
The Democratic Party’s Anti-Bernie Elites Have a Huge Stake in Blaming Russia
Andrew Stewart
Can We Finally Get Over Bernie Sanders?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail