Maps don’t represent reality, afterall. We dedicate the majority of our elementary geography classes learning how to understand and interpret them, but at the end of the day, I’ve come to realise that they’re as baseless as anything else that has been subjectively created. We think science is our objective reality but we forget that science is a product of human intelligence, and is thus, in more ways than one, biased. There are many ways one can look at it, whether it be from a sociological, religious, historical or socio-economic perspective, but at the end of the day, some sort of criticism will remain evident.
We think we’ve developed as a race- we claim to have become more intellectually evolved, racially diverse, culturally accepting amongst other fallacies- but, because we are, at the end of the day we are as ethnocentric and self-serving as it comes. Maps play a big role in determing our world-view (literally). It’s very unconscious and subliminal (think: Disney), but it’s enough to materialise certain conceptions. Why is the north pole situated at the top of the world map and the south pole at the bottom? Why does the equator determine what is “above” and “below” it- why are some countries to it’s north and others to it’s south? What significance do the projected sizes of certain countries and continents have on those studying the map? Why is Europe and West Africa in the center and Australia and South America at the bottom- could there be a causal link with discrimination due to this? Is possible to get an accurate picture of the world through a map considering one has to trace 27,000 spherical miles onto a standard, flat piece of paper? These are some of the concerns many people, including myself, have had with maps such as the The Mercator projection. Some critics say that it was a convenient way for Europeans to maintain their colonial foothold with the size of their continent on a map whilst reducing the size of underdeveloped nations. It is nteresting to see that the Equator is placed 2/3 of the way down the map rather than halfway down causing Europe seeming larger than South America (which in reality is twice the size of Europe); Alaska is shown to be thrice as large as Mexico, although the latter is the larger of the two; and finally, Greenland is drawn larger than China (China is actually four times larger than Greenland).
Such faults and ethnocentric views make me question what we’re being taught….and how we’ve subliminally accepted “universal truths”. Before this, I had never questioned the authenticity of a world map- to me it was plain science; but now that I think about it, there IS no objective reality. I can construct a map the way I’d like to project it. I could place Pakistan at it’s center, magnify it’s size, change it’s colour to make it look more attractive- and who knows, it could be the start of a new, healthy way people perceive us as a people, culture and geographical entity. Instead, we’ve followed whatever that has been set down to us. Reality is how you perceive it- no one can see Earth in it’s full entity even from space- you’ll only ever see the half which faces you.
It’s interesting to wonder and questions the smallest of things that we’ve been taught- conspiracy theory much?. How can set the biased away from the unbiased, the subliminal from the conscious and the good intentions from the bad? How do we set ourselves apart and try to define ourselves the same way others have done so? It angers me that the makers of these biased maps have succeeded in making the rest of the world see what they want us to see; and we, instead of actively questioning what we are being taught, internalise it instead. It makes me think of the maps which distort political boundaries between countries, for example, India and Pakistan. In most world maps, you will now find Kashmir added to the Indian boundary, leaving Pakistan with a cut out semi circle at it’s northen pole. Similarly, Iraq and Kuwait fought over whether Kuwait was a part of Iraqi land due to a map laid out by Europeans in the early 1920’s which had instated an erroneous border line between the two countries. Are these ways to accomplish and cover certain agendas certain agencies have in mind? Could many of our problems today be solved just by editing a stupid map that we’ve been staring at for innumerable centuries?
Food for thought, not just for us as individuals, but also as a nation that has been living in obscurity for much too long.