The Avid Reader: Columnist joins a ‘micronation’

For the Ledger-Transcript
Published: 11/20/2020 11:32:35 AM
Modified: 11/20/2020 11:32:23 AM

I recently became a naturalized citizen of the Grand Dutchy of Flandrensis. This is a micronation that has laid claim over territories in Antarctica. While we are not currently recognized by any of the larger governments of the world, it is important to note that it is not really our intention to be recognized – although we do consider this failure to recognize us as somewhat short-sighted on their part.

Essentially, our mission is environmental, and our message is clear: We believe that Antarctica is one of the few places on this planet to remain relatively untouched by humans; and we strongly believe that it should remain a nature preserve only available for scientific research well beyond the expiration of the Antarctic Treaty in 2048.

All of our 673 citizens, from 70 different countries (dual citizenship), continue to proclaim this message – nature, not people. Thus, our current inhabitants: 0. And, while you might think that Antarctica is not that important compared to the burning of the Amazon rain forest or the plight of the Aral Sea, it is! Yes, you can expect more columns from me in the future on environmental issues, a few murders of course, several books of poetry, and one or two updates on histories of indigenous peoples. Keep reading this column – I’m having fun.

Speaking of fun, the best example of a very crazy but rollicking good time in establishing a micronation is a history of the beginning of the Principality of Sealand. According to the Prince Michael Bates the current ruler, this history is the true account of what it took to become a sovereign nation. Bates was the subject of many interviews by Dylan Taylor-Lehman author of “Sealand: The True Story of the World’s Most Stubborn Micronation and its Eccentric Royal Family.” Yes, Dylan-Taylor has penned the best history of the most famous micronation of them all. Established on September 2, 1967, Sealand has a constitution, a flag, currency, passports, and stamps. It is located on a former British WWII mid-ocean tower fortress designed to shoot down incoming Nazi bombers. The size of this principality qualifies it as a micronation.

Although it was abandoned by the British, Her Majesty’s government did take exception to a private family, headed by former British military hero Ray Bates, simply laying claim to the structure. Lawsuits, attempted invasions by British warships (no shots were fired, and no one was seriously injured – although one sailor did sustain a sprained thumb), and an attempted coup round out the principality’s swashbuckling history. Also, through the years pirate radio stations were established on the tower, shady businessmen tried to invade for nefarious purposes, and every so often mercenaries showed up looking for trouble.

As you read, you must remember that all of the contents in this book are authentic. This is something I had to remind myself of, because this history is such an amazing read, I had to keep telling myself it is real. I just could not put this book down. Every time a chapter ended it left me wanting – what came next. Another case of “up past my bedtime.”

The principality still stands by the way, and it has become a symbol of independent thinking and a wish for a place in the world that allows one to feel unfettered, at least for a time, from the confining governmental parameters of big nations.

This then pushes the question “Is this why the concept of a micronation appeals to so many?” That is the question asked, and answered, by Alastair Bonnett in his delightful book, “Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies.”

It can be argued that having one’s own sovereignty, found in those secret cities and other unruly places is possibly somewhat foolish, but it is also very human and important in many ways. Although it appears that Google Earth seems to have mapped every single spot on this planet, the idea that there are places that have been missed has tremendous appeal. Just imagine, still being able to find a spot that has not been recorded, categorized, labeled, and otherwise filed for posterity. Then laying claim to it, making yourself the crowned head, and ruling the way you wish. There is an explorer in all of us and the chance to still discover some out of the way place has as much appeal now in 2020 as it did in 1520. Earth still has unrevealed secrets – and Bonnett celebrates every single one.

By now you probably want to establish your own micronation, connect with other like-minded buccaneers and adventurers, and rule your own empire. Kids often have this desire as well, and this should be encouraged! There is a tremendous amount of learning to be done when a person wants to establish a country. Kathy Ceceri has recognized this and penned “Micronations: Invent Your Own Country and Culture.” While this is technically a book for teenagers, I have to say, it is thorough, beautifully designed and thought out well enough for adults as well. I love this book. The vocabulary definitions, technical explanations of how to make a country, inclusion of fascinating facts about other countries, and discussions about culture, really allow this book to cross over into a manual for any adult looking to establish his or her own micronation.

Many students are home these days and giving them this kind of a project has tremendous appeal. They can discover the roots of democracy, examine the construction of a constitution, understand the establishment of government branches, and expand their knowledge of the evolution of an economy. I cannot speak highly enough of the projects and overall design of this book. If some of the readers of this column wish to make their own kingdom – this is your chance. We can all meet up at MicroCon in 2021 and exchange stories.

Our nation is decidedly small, but the idea is as big as this planet, because that is what we are all fighting for. People care about our environment, and the future of the nations, large and tiny; but eternally serious people may get tired and quit after a while. By injecting a fun and intriguing element to the mission, more people will come on board and stay the course. Remember, the more people calling attention to the issue means that the big countries are more likely to listen. That is the purpose of our micronation. Remember, Flandrensis is located on five small uninhabited islands (except for the penguins) off the coasts of West Antarctica: Siple Island (73 ° 39’S, 125 ° 12’W), Carney Island (73 ° 57’S 121 ° 00’W), Maher Island (72 ° 58’S 126 ° 22 ‘W), Cherry Island (73 ° 45’S 123 ° 32’W) and Pranke Island (73 ° 14’S 124 ° 55’W). We base our claim on an interpretation of the Antarctic Treaty (1959), and our voices will be heard.

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