I don’t know how many times I’ve crossed the border in Surrey-Blaine; I know that by the time I was in my 20s, enough that when I drove north onto Interstate 5, I could know I was approaching as the surface structure shifted under my wheels, from smooth to the ripples, as though the highway budget hasn’t long stretched for a long time and I’m driving out of the country. My frequent crossings there shaped my attitude toward frontiers in general, and I entered adult life thinking that I had the right to go anywhere. In the decades that followed, the world did nothing but encourage this notion, as technology has made it easier for us to travel around with lucky papers.
First change of money. Cash is weak, e-banking expands and travelers checks are obsolete. The peseta, franc and escudo are gone. Cell phones have arrived, but early ones only work at home; Tourists fixed the problem by swapping out SIM cards when their transoceanic flights crashed. We have smartphones, Wi-Fi and electronic boarding passes, just one more thing to pack. Our money and our phones converge into mobile payments.
Seven years ago, Joe and I sent out our biometric data – fingerprints and iris scans – to the US and Canadian governments so we could get our Nexus card, helping entry into one two countries faster. In principle, I don’t like governments that store those details; in fact, I took the opportunity to skip the hours of waiting at the airport. Whenever I step forward to get a picture of my eyeball, I feel like I’m taking a few steps in my future.
This persistent fever towards easier travel has cultivated an attitude of disregard for my world in a growing global population. For some, it even encouraged fiery ideas about nation-nation decline. The British voted for Brexit, which the current US president has withdrawn from at least 10 treaties, that Beijing is trying to assert dominance over Hong Kong – these are signs that the march towards globalization is stalled. But it takes pandemic to get borders back to life.
Sci-fi writer William Gibson, an American immigrant to Canada, is often credited with the remark that “the future is already here – it is not very evenly distributed”. As the pandemic has pushed different countries in different directions, that uneven distribution is exacerbated. In February, my brother talked about all the changes in his everyday life in Seoul. Masks on every face. Men spend more time washing their hands. His gym was closed, then his kindergarten was followed. His employer arranged a schedule to ease the crowding at work and he had his temperature checked every time he entered a building. Once, his wife received a mass text message from her office building, announcing that a family member of a worker working in the same building had been testing Covid-19. The result is negative.
Below Korean lawThe Department of Health may collect personal data from both confirmed patients and potential patients, while phone companies and police share the patient’s location with medical authorities on demand. bridge. I asked Gregory if any data collections bothered him. “Absolutely not,” he said. I asked why not, and he said he trusts the government.
The changes he describes seem strange and far-fetched. But then, when American cities went into order, my brother’s life was back to normal. Of course, it’s not the same as before. Masks and disinfectants were everywhere, and he took a vacation in the Korean countryside to avoid overseas quarantine. But the nursery has reopened, now recording the temperatures of every family member in the morning. People go out to restaurants and work. The country held a successful national election in April. Certainly there is dissent, and the pandemic still exists. But relatively speaking, it seemed like my brother’s world had passed quietly through the business that didn’t die, while during most of my interactions at home, someone ended up on fellowship. because of school closings, loneliness, job loss or absolute sadness more than 200,000 Deaths caused by coronavirus in the US. I got to know my brother and I live in different countries. Now we are even further apart.