Sunday, June 10, 2007

Welcome, Citizens of Elgaland-Vargaland

No, this is not the next Borat movie.

I read about this in yesterday’s New York Times and thought it was fabulous. Two Swedish artists have proclaimed themselves rulers of their own kingdom, a place that consists of cobbled-together no man’s lands :
[I]n 1992 they decided to declare themselves kings of their own country, one made up completely of the borders between other countries: the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea; the blue line between Lebanon and Israel; the porous line between Mexico and the United States.

In many cases their vast, far-flung territories can be measured only in conceptual terms, just as thousands of infinitesimal, invisible lines exist only on maps and in international law. Wherever borders are disputed, the lands of Elgaland-Vargaland can be measured in actual miles: its land, in other words, is no man’s land, the places that don’t quite belong to anyone.

The artists print stamps and issue passports to anyone who wants one; they say they now have about 850 citizens, many of them fellow artists.

They have “established” embassies in about 20 places around the world and give their ambassadors wide latitude to do basically anything they want in the name of the kingdom. (One in France recently annexed the “distance between high tide and low tide,” Mr. Elggren said.) They have also claimed possession of some mental states, like the one just between sleeping and waking.

What a fabulous idea, full of possibilities. Imagine if large chunks of Elgaland-Vargaland’s Antarctic holdings were threatened by global warming; they could dispatch a delegate to the U.N. and demand action. Quick, someone call the Yes Men. Or, Elgaland-Vargaland could be a powerful advocate for net neutrality in defense of its digital territories.

I recently visited Elgaland-Vargaland’s cyberspace territories and saw that they actually list all of their citizens. So, a big shout-out to Zoonie Thistlebottom and Dr Decent, two of the kingdom’s very interesting residents.

I’m going to look into becoming a part of the Elgaland-Vargaland diplomatic mission. I’d like to be governor of a territory. Looking around my city, I see a lot of forgotten places I could claim: run-down alleys, crumbled buildings, patches of weeds that the city claims are the homeowner’s and the homeowner claims are the city’s.

That has a nice “Mother Theresa” vibe to it, but that’s not me, plus it seems to be in the spirit of Elgaland-Vargaland to claim a disputed territory that everyone wants, not a place that no one wants. So I poked around a bit and found the perfect place: 5000 acres of disputed boundary between Missouri and Nebraska at McKissick Island. It was created by a flood of the Missouri River in 1867 and they've been arguing over it ever since. So I hereby proclaim this patch of land, which sounds quite lovely, as a territory of Elgaland-Vargaland. I have no authority to do this, not even from the Kings of Elgaland-Vargaland, except in my own mind, which I understand is a perfectly acceptable way to conduct business in the kingdom.

As we say in Elgaland-Vargaland: “Det Finns En Kula För Varje Konung.” I have no idea what it means, but it’s the kingdom’s motto, so folks on McKissick Island better get used to it.

UPDATE: Thanks to Sojourner Joe, who informs me that the motto translates to mean "Find A Land For Every King."