In all the furore over the colour of the United Kingdom passport, one question has kept coming into my mind. Why do I need a passport?
For as long as I can remember, I have always had one. Every ten years or so I had to apply for a new one, a rigmarole that involved me getting my photo taken in a booth (no smiling please and make sure it’s against a dark background). I only ever used it when going on holiday yet later they became necessary as identification when using low cost air travel.
But they haven’t been around that long, at least not in the form we would recognise. Indeed the first modern UK passport was issued in 1915, during the First World War. Prior to that passports were not generally required for international travel. Who knew?
A passport, according to Wikipedia, is a travel document, usually issued by a country’s government to its citizens, that certifies the identity and nationality of its holder primarily for the purpose of international travel. Standard passports may contain information such as the holder’s name, place and date of birth, photograph, signature, and other relevant identifying information.
I get what they are and what they are for but my question has not been answered. Why do I need one? Who decided that where I was born would determine where I could go? Who decided that only certain people have the right to cross fictitious lines on a map?
Of course these days we say they are needed to prevent terrorism or stop illegal immigration but they don’t and ironically without state citizenship and its supporting passport documentation then there would be no immigration, legal or otherwise.
Passports were originally letters given to guarantee safe conduct when travelling in foreign lands on official business but not now. Today they are instruments of control, designed to assign people to a nation state, under the subordination of its authority and the beauty of the system is that people have the privilege of paying for their own incarceration.
In reality people don’t need passports, governments do.