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<nettime> Ready to Delete the Border
fran ilich on Thu, 23 Aug 2001 20:30:22 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Ready to Delete the Border

Ready to Delete the Border
By Fran Ilich
2:00 a.m. Aug. 23, 2001 PDT

Many people have thought of us, borderhackers, as people who are against the
new world order. And in fact, I could easily say with closed eyes that I'm
more of a fan of the USA than I am of my own country.

I am a border kid, a pocho from the wrong side of the border, which for
years consumed life and material goods at American malls, museums and
libraries. A kid who grew up in a country where the government couldn't care
less for its people during many years. And all of a sudden when time came
for university, I noticed the things I would never be able to get, confined
to an educational system lost in time, which is eager to generate as much
possible workforce for NAFTA factories.

It was not a dream for me to pursue. It wasn't about preparing the student
to become what he wanted to, but to make him ready to fill the ranks of
qualified mensch-machine.

But the border was always there; whenever I would come to the U.S. with my
American-citizen dad, I would remember I was an alien in California, not
even a tourist. And I couldn't understand why. Truth is, we borderhackers
simply don't believe borders should exist.

Boundaries and limits are meant to be broken by human endeavor; they're OK
as inspiration sources (factories of human energy that will take you to the
next level of the videogame). But then again, didn't the Berlin Wall teach
us of the damage of keeping people apart, of splitting the world in regimes,
races and classes -- when at the end we're all human beings?

Last year ­- the first Borderhack -- we tried to penetrate and understand
the border with a very critical mindset, acknowledging the strange
attractors that keep the people from both sides of the border together and
at the same time apart.

We tried to stay apart from the clichés of border activism: There is a
reason why Mexicans gamble their lives in order to become American citizens.
When people gamble their lives in the desert, river, freeway, etc., in order
to find a better future in another country, it's because the situation has
reached a limit. Why are people leaving Mexico to go to the USA? If people
could be happy staying where they are, with their current situation, why
would they leave? 

There is the theory that these people leave home for the USA, but it could
also be that they're fleeing Mexico to find a place they can call home. Same
thing, reverse perspective.

If one thing is true, it's that the border isn't as real as when you are
next to it. It doesn't matter if there are laptops or ISDN lines and a lot
of campers. The rusted metal borderwall goes all the way into the Pacific
Ocean, the helicopters fly in the skies, the border patrols are everywhere.

There's no way you can deny or even forget that you are on the verge of a
world. You can almost see replays of those legendary hunting days when in
this same spot of land, Mexicans were the thing of prey, a prize to put on
the wall. You can almost play back images of families running on Interstate
5 in order to catch their future wonderful lives, brown indigenous
characters at U.S. Customs repeating "American citizen" like a scratched
record, their only hope a new life in the U.S. Kids playing cat-and-mouse
with INS officers, Mexican students crossing the border every morning in
order to attend school.

Some call this Latin America, others call it Third World. But still the
border is closed: The wall reminds you this is as far as you can get, one
more step requires credentials, permits, and so on.

And once you pass the border, you find a lot of bytes from the other side
floating around, and they're constantly causing failures and fatal
exemptions to the machine. Files get lost in the transaction;
tension-causing riots in the actual hard drive. You find a Mexican
California, and a Californified Mexico.

So this is Borderhack. Hacking the border. Don't be misled; hacking is not
destroying. Hacking is done in order to get to know the system better. The
system is always repaired by people who understand the system.

Borderhack is a camp where the world of technology and the Internet -- tools
that are known to break borders and erase limits -- meet with the world of
physical borders and passport handicaps. Hacktivists, Internet artists,
cyberculture devotees, border activists, electronic musicians and punk
rockers are ready to delete the border on Tijuana-San Diego if only for a
few days, with java applets, port scans, radio, microwaves, ISDN,
face-to-face communication, technology workshops, presentations, music

The idea to synthesize the camp is born out of our condition of dilettante
border kids, out of our years of crossing the border and doing a little
window shopping, pretending that we could be part of the American Dream of
wealth, happiness and freedom. We are confused, we accept it. On one side,
the malls are filled with happiness, and on the other -- the wrong side --
we are forever condemned to produce goods that we will never enjoy

That is, unless we are lucky enough to come by a green card. This is the
border. Our border. A place where we earn pesos and consume with dollars.
Where we almost live in the U.S. Where we can smell the future coming from
the freeways, from Silicon Valley, from Hollywood, yet we are trapped in a
muddy hill with unpaved streets. We are the good neighbors of the U.S.,
always here, always smiling, ready to serve the next margarita. And ready to
delete the border. 

(Editor's note: Fran Ilich founded Borderhack in 2000). 

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