By Zeynep Gulin De Vincentiis
[Editor’s Introduction: Born in Istanbul, Turkey in 1969, the author of this piece first contacted me in early December 2011. Here are the bare bone facts of her life: graduate of the best high school (Robert College) in Istanbul – degree in Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Bogazici University (Istanbul) – teaching assistant for ten years at Bogazici U. – world traveler (two round-the-world trips 2001-2002 and 2008-2009) – visitor to over 100 countries – fluent speaker of four languages – currently resident of Italy – and mother of a newborn daughter.]
I was very apolitical way into my mid-thirties. I had a rather customary life, with my own personal worries, and never got around to thinking much about the world outside – apart from the usual conversations with friends on daily news.
Then life “sort of” settled in. By then, I had had enough experience to make something out of all of it and came to some conclusions. Basically I think I first started talking about these things to my husband.
After doing two round-the-world tours and having had more than enough border-crossing problems I was upset. When people travel to one or two countries, which usually is the case, getting visas and going through customs do not make much of an impression. People with American or European passports are not hassled very much, at least not in the places they usually travel. It’s all a different story when you set out on going around the world and travel through so many countries one after the other. When you are faced with an obstacle at every border crossing, and it’s not even like you have to cross a river or climb a mountain either, you become aware of the significance of some imaginary lines, those imaginary lines that somebody drew and you grew up with on the world maps.
Of course it was not only me. I saw other people prevented from getting where they wanted to be, too. One day at my embassy in Rome, there was a girl from Pakistan wanting to visit Turkey. She needed to wait at least a month for a visa because they couldn’t issue it in Italy and needed to write and get an answer from Turkey. I realized what other governments did to me, my government was doing to somebody else.
I also realized what my government was doing to its own citizens as well. One man wanted to go to Turkey for his sister’s wedding. There probably were problems with his papers but I heard the woman behind the screen say he needed to pay 400 Euros for something, 70 for something else. All the time I was thinking “What the hell is this for! He just wants to go back to his home.”
We also had more than enough bureaucratic problems to get married. I am Turkish and my husband is Italian. I won’t go into the details but because of some stupid laws we couldn’t get married either in Turkey or in Italy. So we ended up going to Las Vegas to get married and the marriage was all of a sudden legal in both countries.
I didn’t know then that this was just the beginning. In order for me to live in Italy, with my legally wedded husband that is, came more bureaucratic problems and red tape. I was now aware: Governments imposed the stupidest rules, regulations and red tape, not because they didn’t know how to operate efficiently, they did it on purpose to show you who the boss was. Or of course it’s possible they do it for me to write a book named A Journey into Bureaucracy!
Then waiting for a baby, I suggested the name Lara for our daughter. My husband said “Dr. Zhivago.” Talking about the movie he also mentioned that the producer of the movie, Carlo Ponti, was married to Sofia Loren. I started reading about them and realized that they had to get French citizenship, not only Loren and Ponti but the ex-wife also, to get married. Why? Because at that time the Italian government did not allow divorce! I was furious at what governments made normal people go through with all their laws and prohibitions. They treated you as if you were their toy.
I could go on and on with stories of problems we had with the “authorities”. The final straw was the transcription of my Turkish driving license into Italian. The two countries have different laws on surnames. In Turkey we get our husband’s surname when we get married. We are obliged to. We can keep our maiden name but it’s either one surname, i.e. your husband’s, or two surnames, i.e. your husband’s and father’s. Of course to have to carry men’s names was also unacceptable to me as I believe names should be matrilineal. As they say in Latin “Mater semper certa est” and “pater semper incertus est.” That is “Mother is always certain, father is always uncertain.”
Anyway, I chose to only keep my husband’s name. In Italy, the woman keeps the maiden name even if married. So this turned into a never ending story of paperwork and fees to be paid. After the sixth round of excuses not to give me the license, even with all the proper papers ready, I was fed up! “I’m not going to get involved in anything that needs any kind of papers. I want to live paper-free!” I said. Free of government-paper, that is. “I don’t want a residence permit, I don’t want a license, I don’t want a passport, and I don’t want any kind of ID. If need be, I will just pay the fine. And it’s fine.” If not, they could put me in jail or do whatever. I did not CARE! Max Weber, the sociologist, was right: Capitalism plus Bureaucracy equals Iron Cage. There is no way out. “I’m not going to get that Italian license. I don’t want it. And I’m going to go and tear that carta d’identita, cut up my Turkish ID, the passport and throw all the rest of the papers, “permesso di soggiorno” and “tessera sanitaria” in the fire. I don’t want any of those.”
I really felt like tearing up my cards, burning them. And I would have done it, if I weren’t married, if I hadn’t been expecting a baby … . That is, if my actions would affect no one but me. I’d live away from it all. They could fine me, and they could put me in jail. I wouldn’t have cared. I couldn’t accept someone putting so many conditions on me without my consent. I couldn’t bear someone saying “If you are going to go there you need to get a passport, you need to get a visa, for those you need to bring in these papers and pay me this much; for a driving license, for a health card, for an identity card, for whatever registration, for a simple piece of paper you need to pay me these amounts.” Go there, get this, they made you run around. I felt like a mouse obliged to obey orders in a labyrinth and I really couldn’t bear it. I found it humiliating, saw it as an insult to my autonomy- individuality-identity- haecceity- quiddity- however you want to name it.
I wasn’t going to let them have me on a collar anymore.
This experience got me thinking… . What are licenses for in the first place? When I got my license, did I go right out into the traffic? No. Because I couldn’t really drive, didn’t have the experience or the confidence. I always had somebody with me for a while. Then, when I felt like I could drive I started getting out on my own. Are there people without licenses driving on the roads? Yes, there are. Are there people with licenses, getting drunk and killing people? Yes, there are. There are even people with licenses, not drunk, but in a hurry, or upset, or just fine but in a moment of inattention, get into accidents, cause damage, and kill people.
Meanwhile, I watched GANDHI (the movie). I read Thoreau’s “On Civil Disobedience” and some Kant. I also read Tolstoy’s “Kingdom of God is Within You”. Although I am not religious and don’t feel that there is a reason to add God and Christ to the argument, the basic thoughts were the same. I was so ecstatic to discover Tolstoy saying the same things I was saying. But I was also upset, when I thought that Tolstoy had said these things about 120 years earlier, and people apparently had not been affected by them.
But I still insisted: Even though the contemporary political world order has turned it into this … the Earth is not a place to be parceled into countries, and forbidden to people who themselves, their parents or spouses have not been born there or let in on conditions; it is a land as a whole, to be lived and traveled on for some time and then buried under.
And when I told people this and that I didn’t believe in borders, they made fun of me saying my ideas would make even the word “utopia” laugh. I wasn’t let down by their remarks and quoted John Lennon: “Imagine there’s no countries. Nothing to kill or die for…;” and Mother Theresa: “The problem with the world is that we draw the circle of our family too small;” and Einstein: “Nationalism is an infantile disease… . It is the measles of mankind.” There were at least some other people who thought like me and maybe because of us a future without borders could one day be possible.
I had been thinking for a long time to stop traveling as a protest – not even leave my small house. To someone who has been around the world twice and been to more than a 100 countries, this would be a big protest! [Blog by Zeynep Gulin De Vincentiis]
Then I found about Garry Davis of the World Service Authority. He had renounced his American citizenship after World War II. People considered him a bit of a “nut,” and of course they were the sane, but I couldn’t see how any sane person could believe in countries.
Inspired by all I lived through and believed in, I went on to find about giving up my citizenship and found out that it was not possible. My country did not allow me to give up my Turkish citizenship without getting another citizenship first. They were “preventing” me from becoming stateless.
Then I listened to the story of an honest, hard-working man who got into Italy by being strapped to the bottom of a truck. He didn’t get paid for his work, and he was exploited because he was “an illegal” immigrant. He was just stuck with his “hands tied.” I kept watching the news, hearing of so many people being put in prisons because they went searching for a better life, the life that we in the modern world have, but cannot grant others to even desire the same, let alone allow them to seek it.
This got me thinking about what makes a person “illegal.” My husband said that was a shorthand for saying that what they were doing was against the law. And I replied, “Who made those laws in the first place? Some men. Soon they are going to be marking some areas and saying ‘It is illegal to breathe on this piece of earth unless with permission from such and such authority.’ Anybody who dares to breathe will be suffocated. And it will all be ‘legal’ because there is a law and somebody crossed it, therefore deserving to be punished.”
Of course there was also the question of “security”. How I hated those searches at airports so much. Those searches accomplish nothing. It is all a theatrical show. I simply cannot understand how people can put up with them, and even think they are good, and feel secure. “For security reasons” was a phrase that made me so furious. I saw people being stupefied by rules which served no purpose except to give trouble to ordinary people. The check-in personnel getting to play the role of the customs officers, who themselves try to play God. So much money is spent on all this machinery and guards to “protect” us from what? Anybody could still blow up a bomb at the outside check-in of an airport and kill so many people. Why is the only trouble the planes and inside the airport? And I couldn’t help but think that if that money had been spent on bettering the conditions of people, there wouldn’t be any need for all these measures in the first place.
I also had become disenchanted with the professional life in the media. A newspaper had published one of my articles, but they butchered it without even acknowledging me, asserted that it was their right, and did not even pay me for it. I sued and ended up losing 2,500 USD even though I actually won the case! Because the lawyer fees were so exorbitant. Of course, this made me question the whole legal system which didn’t provide any justice but only served to feed lawyers and the people working in the system.
I also had begun arguing about taxes with my husband. He is a very law-abiding person. Not that I am not law-abiding, mind you. It’s just that I am a bit of a rebel and cannot stand being subjected to things that I do not consent to. I said I should be able to decide where my money should be going. Like most people, I didn’t want to pay for the military in the first place. In this day and age, they could easily set up a system where the citizens could decide where they wanted their tax money to go.
This was all before the time I could think of such a thing like a life without government.
My husband said that the government was protecting me. And I blurted out “From what?” The government should have protected me from itself. What’s more, government couldn’t stop a man from getting into my house and killing me. Funnily, just around that time, a private security company had come to our door and asked if we were willing to pay for special surveillance at night.
I have always been an individualist, and often have not gotten along much with others. Not because I am an aggressive, mean, or unbearable person (at least I don’t think so!) but because I think differently from most people and I don’t refrain from saying what I believe.
My husband still defended the system, saying I could vote. And I said “I’ll never be in the majority. I can never change things the way this system is set up. Besides, why should even 99% of the people have any say over the 1%? I do not want to determine what others should be doing. They can do whatever they want, as long as they do not use force.”
My husband said “People have formed groups, because it was safer for them that way. So you agree to obey by certain rules. It’s a social contract.” And I replied “I didn’t sign any contract. Nobody asked me. I didn’t agree to these rules. I don’t agree to be governed this way.”
I had not heard of the social contract theory at the time. My husband, having studied Political Science, had his mind full of these theories, and knew all the names in the field.
So one step after another… . I started reading anything related to minarchism, philosophical anarchism, and sovereign citizens, etc. I also found out about autarchism. Which of course led me to LeFevre, and then to voluntaryism and to Carl Watner.
It is a long story as you can see. But now my beliefs rest on firm ground and I plan to take some active role towards achieving these goals in a couple of years. During that time I plan to finish two books and hope that they reach an audience of common people. We’ll see what life brings… . I just hope it will be better for all people of the world. Reading “The Voluntaryist” and like-minded literature gives a wrong impression that the world is on the verge of change. But it still is nice to see that some people are becoming aware and hopefully will disseminate their ideas to others, and to the next generation to come.