In my frivolous or depressed with the world moments (diva’s have such extreme feelings), I ponder a solitary life. Away from society and the rules of others; living as I choose (in some sort of luxury obviously) with no requirement to fit in, watch what I say or tip toe around tender minds. My kingdom. But man being such an invasive species I’d considered most of the globe appropriated — under the rule of a nation, with such anonymity only achieved in the extremely obscure, resource poor (well you know — without access to cocktails or wifi) or the no mans land separating borders. Mine was a far fetched dream. But it has surprised me to learn that beyond these circumstances exist ethereal places that are merely abandoned or simply between owners subsisting in a limbo.
These suspended locations are called Micronations. Defined by where people have laid claim to an area they believe to be unowned but are not legally recognised. According to the internet, more than 100 of these ‘countries’ exist although they vary in how they have been formed and operate. From wanderlust.co.uk I found these to be the better known: The Free Republic of Liberland located between Croatia and Serbia, where access has been blocked by the Government of Croatia. It suggests a system of voluntary taxation and minimal laws. The Principality of Hutt River in Australia did require a passport and a valid visa to enter attracting c40,000 visitors a year. In 2020 for unexplained reasons, it decided to close borders and return the kingdom to farmland after 50 years of ‘independence’. Sealand in the UK (off the Suffolk coast) has official stamps, a flag and its own currency. It also offers a chance of being bestowed an honorary title. The Kingdom of North Sudan located between Sudan and Egypt is a sizeable 800 square miles in size; Somalialand in East Africa which declared independence from Somalia in 1991 is not recognised despite having its own currency, police force and government.
Frank Zappa the musician is quoted with the line ‘you cannot be a real country until you have a beer and an airline’, so it is curious as to what constitutes a country in the eyes of the world. The Montevideo Convention of 1933 stated there are four main requirements (and minor conditions I’ve not noted here) for an area to be recognised as a state of international law. It has a permanent population, a territory (defined borders within which you are sovereign), a stable government, and the capacity to interact with other states on an equal basis. In 1945 across the globe existed 51 countries. Today the UN recognises 193 members due to a principle that was enshrined in the UN charter called self determination. That is the people of a country have a right to chose their sovereignty and international political status. The basis of the principle spread rapidly on introduction in the 1860’s. Today however, the implementation of the process of self determination seems to have become mired in vagaries due to the lack of clarity in how such a freedom can be executed; what the outcome should be (the formation of a country with full autonomy, assimilation, independence etc); which groups ought to be allowed to self determine and how you contrive borders. In truth it is quite arbitrary. Today Kosovo (Serbia), Catalonia (in Spain) and Taiwan are in the midst of a battle for self determination.
A different option for a recluse is a water based one. Humans have been living on the ocean for many hundreds of years — from homes on stilts to floating islands built of reeds, to later day sea faring. The Seasteading movement attempts to elevate it to a grander scale, intriguingly partaking in a type of insurrection during the pandemic. It offers ocean colonisation through a vision of floating cities, free from government intervention as much of the world’s waves are unclaimed by any nation. The development professes to be a solution to over population, rising sea levels and poor governance.
Micronations and the Seasteading movement offer a fascinating insight into a different ideal of living; free it is believed from the rules of modern day society. Feasibly an anarchy. But human nature is such that in order to succeed laws imposed by government, court and the expectations of society need to be replaced with other shared ideals, other styles of governance, a hierarchy. Why? Because political economists to behavioural scientists to philosophers have determined most mortals even in a coterie, need a type of decision making process, a structure to help them proceed and a method to allocate. Where no rules exist humans spontaneously create them. We seem to be hard wired that way. This American Life ran a fascinating podcast about a man who wanted to escape the strictures of society so he gathered a community of fellow idealists to live freely on land he had purchased especially for this purpose. The experiment failed because people wanted organisation; for someone to be in charge and hand out instructions. Idealism without focus and bounds ensued in dis-satisfaction and chaos….
It will be curious to see how this discussion evolves as space and the planets are colonised. Through space law each country has sovereignty on the air space above it and is responsible for what it projects above. Widening our gaze, The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 implemented by the UN stipulates that ‘outer space is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means’. This implies, the nations who signed cannot own any part of space although private companies or individuals could challenge this assertion. Elon Musk as owner of SpaceX has been quoted as saying ‘No Earth based government has authority or sovereignty over martian activities’ as Mars is a free planet and will follow self governing principles based on good faith. I can see this being a debate that rumbles on.
So where does that leave me. Should I run away to live that simple life or am I simply swapping one rule bound society for another? Where will be most fun and liberating? Perhaps it’s best if I stay put, keep quiet and enjoy my cocktails and wifi — so long as no one else tells me what to do….