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

 

May 05, 2016
David L. Glotzer
Welcome to Fortified Europe: the Militarization of Europe’s Borders
Adam Szetela
Beyoncé’s “Formation” and the Boutique Activism of the Left
Bruce Lerro
Lost at Sea: Left Liberals Have No Party
Paul Cochrane
Hot Air in the Saudi Desert: a Kingdom in Descent?
Brian Terrell
My Visit to a Las Vegas Jail
Judith Deutsch
The Military’s “Securitization” of Climate Change
Phyllis Bennis
Kunduz Bombing: Proof the Pentagon Should Not Be Allowed to Investigate Itself for War Crimes
Chad Nelson
When Compassion is Terrorism: Animal Rights in a Post-911 World
Dan Arel
Making Sanders’ Dream a Reality Through Political Activism
Kent Paterson
Ten Years Later: Reflections on the Legacies of Immigrant Spring
Serge Halimi
Why Firefighters are Against Free Trade
Andrew Stewart
Green Bernie or Green Party Machine?
Binoy Kampmark
Yuri Gagarin in Space: the Politics of Cosmic Discovery
Hayes Rowan
This Naming of Things
May 04, 2016
Kshama Sawant
It’s Not About Bernie: Why We Can’t Let Our Revolution Die in Philadelphia
Conn Hallinan
Baiting the Bear: Russia and NATO
Joshua Frank
Hanford’s Leaky Nuke Tanks and Sick Workers, A Never-Ending Saga
Paul Craig Roberts
TIPP: Advancing American Imperialism
Ted Rall
Hillary to Bernie Supporters: Don’t Vote for Me!
Eric Draitser
Hillary Clinton and Wall Street’s Neoliberal War on Latin America
Leslie Scott
The Story of Jill Stein: Putting People, Peace and the Planet Before Profits
Ann Garrison
Building the Greens Into a Mass Party: Interview with Bruce Dixon
Tom Clifford
Crying Rape: Trump’s China-Bashing
Lawrence Davidson
Getting Rid of Bad Examples: Andrew Jackson & Woodrow Wilson
Ellen Brown
Bank of North Dakota Soars Despite Oil Bust: A Blueprint for California?
Nelson Valdes
Is Fidel Castro Outside or Part of Mainstream Thinking? A Selection of Quotes
Jesse Jackson
Don’t Send Flint Down the Drain: Fix It!
Nathan Riley
Help Bernie Keep His Halo
Rivera Sun
Remembering Nonviolent History: Freedom Rides
Clancy Sigal
Rachel and the Isolationists: How Maddow Blew It
Laura Finley
Changing the Conversation About “The Woman Card”
CJ Hopkins
Coming this Summer … Revenge of the Bride of Sophie’s Choice
May 03, 2016
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Resumé: What the Record Shows
Michèle Brand – Arun Gupta
What is the “Nuit Debout”?
Chuck Churchill
The Failures of Capitalism, Donald Trump and Right Wing Terror
Dave Marsh
Bernie and the Greens
John Wight
Zionism Should be on Trial, Not Ken Livingstone
Rev. John Dear
A Dweller in Peace: the Life and Times of Daniel Berrigan
Patrick Cockburn
Saudi Arabia’s Great Leap Forward: What Would Mao Think?
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Electoral Votes Matter: Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders vs Donald Trump
Chris Gilbert
Venezuela Today: This Must Be Progress
Pepe Escobar
The Calm Before the Coming Global Storm
Ruth Fowler
Intersecting with the Identity Police (Or Why I Stopped Writing Op-Eds)
Victor Lasa
The Battle Rages on in Spain: the Country Prepares for Repeat Elections in June
Jack Rasmus
Is the US Economy Heading for Recession?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail