We grow up believing that our borders and passports give us a reason to identify with millions of other souls who happen to share the same piece of land with us. Choosing where to be born is outside of our control, and yet we are artificially programmed to love our country. Nationality gives people who haven’t achieved much in their lives a reason to believe they can have ownership of greatness. Heroes from the history books, scientist, inventors, inspiring leaders, or entrepreneurs who move the world had sacrificed more than their time from 9 to 5 to earn their respect. And yet whenever a brilliant mind accomplishes something great, the people from his or her country feel proud, as if it was them who did all the hard work. National pride is the sleeping pill of the masses. Humanity needs an upgrade to a better operating system that inspires action and love, rather than passiveness and hatred towards “the different.” We need to unplug our imposed identities, switch from autopilot to manual and go on a journey to discover and appreciate diversity.
My passport states that I am a Bulgarian. But I also feel British, American, Japanese, Moroccan, and Swiss, even when this is not written on any of the ID documents I have. Wherever I travel, the people I encounter always ask the same question: “Where are you from?”, instead of “Where are you headed?” Society always wants us to color inside the lines and fit into a checkbox: nationality, sex, marital status. Having an abstract checkbox smeared with too many colors is scary, it could create chaos. Or liberate us to have a better understanding of ourselves. We as humans need to stop being proud or feeling ashamed of where we come from. Our birth place can’t make us better or worse people and it is not a preposition to success or failure in life. It can’t be a reason to kill or die for.
Once, the Earth used to be perceived as flat, with edges that led to a dark abyss. Now, although spherical, we see it through our flat maps, divided with lines. Countries have borders. Nature doesn’t. In a way, our world is like a tree – shake one branch and the whole tree will move. We are living in a century when technology allows us to be curious nomads again and have the ability to live and work from wherever we want to. Innovation helps us to enjoy looking at the tree and how it blooms, rather than shaking its branches. Languages are no longer a barrier to communication, especially when automated translation gets more and more perfected. Offices can be replaced by virtual workspaces. And outdated laws need to be updated to reflect the needs of those of us who feel like world citizens because we are.
Reprogramming national pride is hard. Growing up in a country with a homogeneous nation, I decided to move to London when I was an 18-year-old. It is easy to tell someone to have an “open mind” but to actually open it to other cultures seems as painful as having brain surgery. There was denial, I barely interacted with anyone foreign. There were tears, homesickness, and even suicidal thoughts. I was rude, ignorant and anti-social to the different. I just couldn’t accept their otherness. To everyone who felt offended by my behavior at University: “I am sorry”. I still feel bad about being such a jerk in the process of my transformation. But although the journey was through a dirt road, it was taking it. It took me two years to reprogram myself and to heal. My national identity used to be that deeply rooted.
Being a citizen of the world is a mental state. One that appreciates peace and is above all stereotypes. I can imagine a world with no countries. Call me a dreamer if you wish.