Shaking up boundaries

Imagined boundaries can be placed anywhere, creating the appearance of an inside and outside, and us vs them.

There are many benefits of imagined boundaries. They are practical. They help us communicate with ourselves and others, and navigate and function in the world. If ideas of better and worse are added, they can give a sense of cohesion within the boundary (whether as an individual or group) and it can help us feel better about ourselves.

And there are also some drawbacks. We may get so used to a particular imagined boundary that we take it as real, as something “out there” in the world. We may get so used to it that we don’t recognize it as imagined, and that equally meaningful and useful boundaries can be placed anywhere.

So it is good to shake it up. It is good to place boundaries at meaningful yet unusual places, as a reminder that these are just imagined boundaries and that other boundaries give meaning as well.

A story in today’s Aftenposten does exactly that, reporting about a meeting between Maryam Rajavi, an Iranian exil-leader, and Gunnar Sønsteby, a highly decorated Norwegian WW2 resistance leader. They have something important in common: Their countries is/was a dictatorship, not supported by a majority of the population. They are both leaders of the resistance movement. And they were both labeled terrorists by the ones in power. (Rajavi’s organization is labeled terrorist even by the US.)

We are used to think Europe vs. Middle-East, Christian vs. Muslim, and since we rehearse those boundaries so frequently in the media and our own lives, it is easy to take those boundaries as more real or important than many other possibly boundaries. These stories remind us that other boundaries can be equally meaningful and important. In this case, the ones wishing and fighting for democracy, now and in the past, vs those supporting dictatorships.

An important role for the media is to shake up our familiar boundaries, and sometimes, they do a good job.


  • shifting boundaries
    • imagined boundaries can be placed anywhere, and create an inside and outside, and us and them
    • many benefits to us vs them
      • practical
      • if better/worse added to it, then feel better about oneself, ingroup cohesion etc.
    • and drawbacks
      • may get so used to that take as real, as something “out there” in the world
      • may get so used to that don’t recognize it is imagined, and that equally meaningful/useful boundaries can be placed anywhere
    • so good to shake it up

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