December 15th 2015

Peake Nationalism

Timothy Peake boarded the International Space Station a few hours ago becoming the United Kingdom's first official astronaut. It has become headline news, dominating the day's news cycle.

But whilst Peake left our pale blue dot with only the humble honorific "Mister", he has subsequently been awarded the dubious appellation of "British Astronaut".

Now, I'm no open-borders pan-nationalist and nor do I in any wish to detract or denigrate Peake's accomplishments — indeed, it is only out of a genuine respect of "our Tim's" achievements that I pen this in the first place — but are we still clinging to the idea that an extraordinary effort by a co-member of our species requires a nationalistic qualifier?

How much do we really have in common with our "fellow countrymen"? This is, after all, the International Space Station, to which Peake was elevated from Kazakhstan on the back of a Russian rocket, in order that he may peacefully collaborate with an American, a Ukrainian, etc.

I encountered the rebuttal that support of this nature is inspirational and incentive to others, but is it really motivating to know that — if you toil to achieve greatness in this life — then your accomplishments will be cheaply co-opted by mediocrities who only share the same colour passport as you? In this sense, isn't national pride really a form of national insecurity?

A "Briton" in space: if space travel can teach us anything, it's that broadcasting the specific patch of ground you were born in is an outdated, tribalistic contrivance and should be assigned to the dustbin of history.

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