Mine, yours, ours.

Imagine we have two people, Kate and Peter, and one orange. Imagine now Kate and Peter want the orange for themselves. They do not want to share the orange. They do not love or hate each other. They are not selfish either. That means Kate does not want Peter to die in order to get the orange and Peter does not want Kate to have an accident for him to get the orange. They simply are self-centred; they only think about themselves and do not think about the other but do not want to harm the other either. There is no mystery or hidden agenda. Each of them wants the orange only for themselves.

Now, back to the orange. If Kate takes the orange Peter will be upset. Similarly, if Peter takes the orange, Kate will get upset. In any of these cases, Kate or Peter will hate Peter or Kate, respectively. True? Well, it depends. Depends on what?, you may ask. It depends on what Kate and Peter want to do with the orange. Has anyone thought of asking Kate and Peter about it?

What if Kate wanted the orange to make a cake? She would only need the orange’s skin! What if Peter wanted the orange because he was desperately thirsty and loved orange juice? By simply talking to each other Kate and Peter could end up with the total of the orange each of them wanted and needed. In fact, Peter could even peel the orange for Kate and Kate in return may even squeeze the orange for Peter! A win-win situation.

Now think of a delicious cake and two people, Rob and Mary, who were hungry, loved sweets and again, were either selfish or just self-centred. What about if we told these two people they could both have the cake but it is up to them to decide who gets it? Most probably, being self-centred, Rob would ask the whole, cake for him. So would Mary! They would inevitably have an argument and fall apart. What if we interceded and gave a knife to Rob? He would probably kill Maria and eat the cake. True. But, he is not selfish. Rob is only self-centred.  Being self-centred he may only cut two slices and give Mary the smallest one. What about if we set a rule? The one who has the knife will cut the cake but the ones who is waiting gets to choose the slice. With this in mind, it is very likely Rob will cut the cake in two identical slices and Mary will have to choose any since both of the slices would be exactly the same! Another win-win situation.


It is more complex than cutting a cake.

Sovereignty disputes or conflicts are very similar to fighting over an orange and the cake. In what sense? In that we have more than one person interested in having the lot. See the Malvinas/Falkland islands, Kashmir, Gibraltar, Jerusalem, Tibet, Quebec, Galicia, Cyprus, and so many others. Each country and each population want the land for themselves and only themselves. The British want the land for the British. The Spaniards want the land for the Spaniards. The Palestinians want the land for the Palestinians. Therefore, the story goes the same in each case. Can these people do what Kate and Peter did with the orange? Can these people follow a procedure and do what Rob and Mary did with the cake? Yes, they can. Let me share a fictional story with you…

Once upon a time, there was a world with three peoples, the Khemedians, the Syldavians and the Bordurians. All these three peoples were very peaceful and used to have good relationships with each other. Khemed was the smallest of the three lands and Khemedians had originally been Syldavians or Bordurians that had moved to this area generations ago. A while ago Khemedians discovered a very rare metal that happened to be necessary for the construction of inter-stellar flying objects. At first, they all continued their mutual relations in peace since there was no actual need for the metal. But, scientists in Syldavia made a shocking discovery: their world had limited time and was going to be destroyed by a supernova in the years to come. The scientific community in Borduria confirmed this information. Dissent came. Syldavians and Bordurians rushed to get their hands on the precious metal. War was imminent. Let us see each of the populations in more detail:


Imagine a group of people living on an island named Khemed. The majority of Khemedians are polytheists and there are some other minorities that are monotheists. Their main God is Ra, the sun. Together with Ra, there are twelve other minor (six Gods and six Goddesses). Although the territory is small in size, it is highly rich in a very rare metal only found there. However, they do not possess the means for its exploration and exploitation. Therefore, their main source of income is the exportation of basic products obtained from fishing and farming. They do not have any means to defend the island. Finally, the sovereignty of the island has been continuously claimed by two sovereign States, Syldavia and Borduria. Because Syldavia and Borduria have never been interested in Khemed and their land they have always maintained peaceful bilateral relations. Until now.


Syldavia is a medium size sovereign State with a large population, mainly polytheists. Similar to Khemed, their main God is Ra, the sun. They also have several minor Gods and Goddesses. This country is situated in another continent and although not having natural resources, it is immensely wealthy mainly because of the many services they provide, their infrastructure and their level of technological and scientific development. Syldavians have one of the most developed means of defence in the world.


On the contrary, Borduria is one of the largest sovereign States in the world in terms of territorial size, but not densely populated. Bordurians are mainly monotheists. The only God they recognise is Pachamama (Mother Earth). Their economy is based on agriculture. It is a non-wealthy country with heavy international debt, high rates of unemployment and inflation and governmental corruption. They do not have any means to defend their territory. Geographically, they are located in the continent adjacent to Khemed, so mainland Borduria shares with Khemedians part of the continental shelf.

Jorge Emilio Núñez
18th September 2017


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