The Beauty of Thinking About Other Things


See how it is when you can finally have nice things again?

Each one of the world’s 317 land borders is defined and agreed to, formalized as a result of agreements between those countries that abut each other, as neighbors; and each has been surveyed with, in most cases, a mutually agreed level of precision. To read a table of these boundaries and their history is to learn much, in the same way that stamp collecting, now in popular disfavor, used to teach much about the world’s historical geography.

One can derive great pleasure in picking at random from the United Nations list: learning of how, for instance, the Albanian border with Montenegro was first agreed to by a delegation of Turkish pashas who went to Germany and signed the Treaty of Berlin in 1878; that the northwestern border of Myanmar, separating it from the Indian state of Manipur, was the result of a victory over the Arakanese by the Burmese army back in 1558; that in 1821 an entity called the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves annexed a free-spirited confection of small states gathered around the Río de la Plata’s estuary and known at the time as the Liga Federal, and in doing so set up a line still recognized today as the border between the modern countries of Argentina and Uruguay; and that the border between Ireland and Britain came about in 1921 when the 26 southern counties of the Irish Republic, all with a majority population of Roman Catholics, declared an independence from Britain which the six mostly Protestant-majority counties of the northeast of the island could not and would not accept, and who thus remained loyal, if troubled, and protected behind what would become a highly militarized border, for much of the century beyond.

The luxury of being able to distract yourself with things like this is a welcome relief from four years of outrage and terror.

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