Der Spiegel has an interesting story on how one East German couple plotted to emigrate “legally” to West Germany. It’s an interesting read, and it calls to mind one of the most fundamental moral arguments for open borders:
“I wanted to live, I wanted to discover the world,” says Jens. “I couldn’t accept that aging rulers simply decreed: “‘You can’t leave the country; you have to stay home in the small cage!'”
Today, Jens writes independent biological assessments on nature conservation projects. He hasn’t seen Marion for 20 years. But he has cherished the memories of their forbidden journey, along with photos taken at the time. It was his children who started to ask him what happened back then. “If you want something, pursue it with all your heart,” he tells them.
It takes a special kind of person to believe that 9,000 kilometers is not too far to travel to go from East to West Berlin. Perhaps this is the kind of thing you can only come up with if you’re 24 years old and in love; if you can put up with not knowing in the morning where you will sleep that night; if the end of the forbidden journey is open; and if you see the dangers along the way as the challenge of a lifetime. And if you seize your freedom, instead of asking for it.
Indeed. Jens’s story resonates with us, and rightly so: every human being identifies with questing for freedom. Seeking one’s fortune is an ancient story-telling trope. Who are the people today simply decreeing “You can’t leave the country; you have to stay home in the small cage”? East Germany no longer exists, but the modern closed borders-regime is barely one step more progressive than East Germany’s.