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Critique by Denis:
TO: Dr. Bob Abramms
PO Box 134
Amherst MA 01004
Here are my comments on
the POPULATION MAP project.
FIRST CAUTION: the list Paul sent
me of countries whose population he’s using includes
entities which I do not believe are countries, that is, not
independent nation-states. American Samoa is a US territory.
Anguilla, to my knowledge, is not an independent country but
a dependent territory of the United Kingdom. Aruba is
actually part of the Netherlands, though internally
autonomous, ever since its separation from the Netherlands
Antilles in 1986. Bermuda is a UK territory. The Cayman
Islands is a UK territory. Cook Islands is more complicated.
It’s a self-governing parliamentary democracy in free
association with New Zealand. The Faroe Islands is a
self-governing overseas administrative division of Denmark.
French Guiana is an overseas department of France. French
Polynesia is an overseas territory of France. God knows what
the Gaza Strip is. It’s not a country of any kind (that
would be Palestine). Functionally, it’s territory occupied
by Israel. Gibraltar is a colony of the UK. Greenland is a
self-governing overseas administrative division of Denmark.
Guadeloupe is an overseas department of France. Guam is a US
territory. I know there’s something anomalous about
Guernsey, but it remains a British island, maybe even a
British bailiwick. Hong Kong is a Chinese S.A.R. That is,
it’s as Chinese as Inner Mongolia. Jersey also remains a
British island, maybe even a British bailiwick. Macau is
another Chinese S.A.R. The Isle of Man is another part of
the United Kingdom. Martinique is an overseas department of
France. Mayotte is a territorial collectivity of France.
Montserrat is a British colony. The Netherlands Antilles is
an autonomous part of the Netherlands. New Caledonia is an
overseas territory of France. The Northern Mariana Islands
are a commonwealth of the US, like Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico
is a commonwealth of the US like the Northern Mariana
Islands. Réunion is an overseas department of France. Saint
Helena is a dependent territory of the UK. Saint Pierre and
Miquelon are a territorial collectivity of France. Turks and
Caicos Islands is a colony of the UK. The Virgin Islands is
an organized, unincorporated territory of the US. The Virgin
Islands, British, is a dependent territory of the UK. Wallis
and Futuna is an overseas territory of France. The West
Bank, like Gaza, is territory occupied by Israel. If a
country, is it Palestine or a part of Jordan? Western Sahara
is a situation which to the best of my knowledge remains
suspended in a UN-sponsored cease-fire between Morocco and
the Polisario Front, though I haven’t been paying attention
and if you check on the Web, it may well have become a
country in the last couple of years.
SECOND CAUTION: I’m obligated to
point out that Paul’s list does not include all the places
in the world whose status is similarly anomalous. Excluded
from his list are Christmas Island (Australian territory),
Cocos Islands (Australian territory), Norfolk Island
(Australian territory), Niue (another self-governing
parliamentary democracy in free association with New
Zealand), Tokelau (a New Zealand territory), Svalbard (a
territory of Norway), the Falkland Islands (a colony of the
UK), Pitcairn Islands (a colony of the UK), Baker and
Howland Islands (a US territory administered by the Fish and
Wildlife Service), and Jarvis Island, Kingman Reef, Palymyra
Atoll, Johnston Atoll, Midway Islands, Wake Islands, and
Navassa, islands of varying status attached to the US under
varying administrations. Navassa, for example, which lies
between Jamaica and Haiti, hosts only a lighthouse
maintained by the US Coast Guard.
But also excluded is the Holy See, a
monarchical-sacerdotal state which gained its independence
(from Italy) in 1929. It is in fact a sovereign state, the
world’s smallest in population and size, and one that dates
to the eighth century. It has 870 inhabitants, give or take.
Similarly excluded is Tibet. I know that
ODT has consistently advocated on behalf of the Tibetan
peoples by including the disputed border on the Peters,
“What’s Up? South!,” and Hobo-Dyer maps. In fact, I can’t
find index entries to Tibet in almanacs anymore. Orthodox
opinion has thoroughly assimilated Tibet to China as another
And if you choose to fly in the face of
this, then what of Chechnya? What of the Basque homeland?
The claims of the Tamil? The Kurds? Ad nauseum.
Few of these places are big enough - have
enough inhabitants - to show up on the map, so the map
itself is little at stake, but the list of nations too small
to appear on the map is very much so.
So are remarks like the one I make in my
text about the smallest country in the world. The smallest
place on Paul’s list is Saint Pierre and Miquelon (a French
island off the coast of Labrador), but Saint Pierre and
Miquelon is not a country. The smallest independent nation
on Paul’s list is Tuvalu. Tuvalu is what I went with.
But the smallest country I know about is
the Holy See.
Now I grant that there is something weird
about treating the Holy See as a country. Is it a member of
the UN? No. But neither, last I heard, was Tuvalu, though
there is no reason why it shouldn’t be. Nauru, for example,
is. So are the Solomon Islands. So is Antigua and Barbuda.
So is Vanuatu. I’m guessing that maybe I’m out of date and
Tuvalu has become a member.
What do you want to do?
MY ADVICE: In the first place, keep in
mind that you’ve got color and line to play with. I do not
believe that any of the places listed under my first caution
should appear on the map in individual colors. Two problems
I see are Hong Kong and Puerto Rico. Each should be three
squares big. Hong Kong should be in China’s color and Puerto
Rico in the color of the US. You could assimilate their
populations to those of China and the US (just make China
and the US three squares bigger). You could leave Hong Kong
in China’s color and distinguish Hong Kong from the rest of
the country with a line and a name label. You could leave
Puerto Rico in the Caribbean, but in the US colors.
Two other problems are Gaza and the West
Bank. Combined they have about 3.7 million inhabitants, that
is, only 100,000 fewer than Lebanon. Combined they account
for, like, four squares.
You know, what we call a country these
days has really two components: a people (or nation, with a
population) and a territory (or state, with area). They’re
not necessarily related. The Gypsies are a great example of
a people without a state. The Kurds are another, different
kind of example. They also exemplify the ethnic character of
this dimension. Old-fashioned kingdoms, which willy-nilly
added peoples to states through royal marriage, are good
examples of states independent of peoples. The idea of
sovereignty comes in here (from king = sovereign). For the
past four or so hundred years the idea of nation-states has
been growing in popularity, the ethnie, the people becoming
sovereign. It’s pretty much what we mean by countries these
days, with self-determination and all that. The idea these
days is that a coherent people has a right to be its own
state. (In the United States this is played out with
Indians. First they have to apply to be recognized as a
people, then for rights to land.) But you have to have both
parts, a people - like the Palestinians - and a state -
which the Palestinians lack but desire.
Though the Palestinians are most
definitely a people, recognized by everybody including the
Israelis (at least by most of them), neither Gaza nor the
West Bank is a state. You could put them in a separate color
- they are certainly not Israel either - and label them
specially: Palestinians. That is, label them by their name …
as a people. But I don’t believe Gaza or West Bank should
appear as such on the map.
None of the rest of the places listed
under my first caution are big enough - have enough
inhabitants - to appear on the map.
None of the places listed in my first
caution should appear on the list of countries too small to
appear on the map either. That list should consist of
countries, nation-states, like Antigua and Barbuda, the
Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Nauru, and Tuvalu.
None of the places listed in my second
caution is large enough to appear on the map either, nor do
I believe any of them should appear on the list of countries
too small to appear on the map either. The Holy See may be
sovereign, but it has no people (though most are Italian and
Swiss, the Pope himself is a Pole, and citizens of many
other countries live there too).
As for the Tibets, Kurdistans, Chechnyas,
Basque Republics, ad nauseum, their populations have been
taken account of in the counts of the inhabitants of the
states in which they currently reside, so Tibetans in China;
the Kurds in Turkey, Iraq and Iran; the Chechens in Russia;
the Basque in Spain and France; and so on. The colors that
account for these numbers should be those of China, Turkey,
Iraq, Iran, Russia, Spain, France and so on, but if you want
to draw lines with special labels feel free. The labels have
to indicate a people, not a state, and so: Tibetans, Kurds,
Chechens, Basque, and the like. Have fun getting these
As for the continental population
cartograms, the scale is going to have to be unusually
prominent, because otherwise the maps will not merely be
confusing, but downright misleading. Design this feature
with care. While I prefer to say “so-and-so many years ago,”
I have little problem with “Birth of Christ.” It’s an
ordinary reference point as widely used by Jews as Gentiles.
If it makes you anxious, how about BC and AD, both of which
refer to His Being? You have to scrap the whole system if
you’re going to kill “Birth of Christ.”
The Common Era system offers a way out.
You say B.C.E. instead of B.C. (Before Common Era instead of
Before Christ), and C.E. in place of AD (Common Era instead
of anno Domini, that is, Year of Our Lord). If you’re made
anxious by the zero point, move it. There is nothing
remotely accurate about these population estimates. Instead
of Birth of Christ or 0 CE make it 11 CE or 10 BCE.
We need to have a conference call with
Fred Pearce (the population researcher). In an earlier draft
of the thumbnail caption you assumed that disease decimated
North American populations prior to 1650. There were never
that many North American Indians, not if North America
excludes Mexico (as it does on your silly maps). It’s
Mexico/Guatemala that had the huge Indian populations
(Toltec, Maya, Aztec, Mixtec, et cetera) that were diseased,
enslaved, and otherwise done in post-1492. Let’s face it,
prior to 1650 there wasn’t even all that much contact
between Europeans and North-of-the-Rio-Grande indians, just
some flirtations along the coast. We had all the Indian wars
to look forward to in 1650, the French and Indian Wars, the
wars in Ohio, the Mississippi Valley, et cetera. These all
came after 1650.
The problem you’re having here comes from
dividing the Americas along the Rio Grande. Pre-Conquest
such a division is plain wrong. After the Conquest, but only
once Iberian culture begins to manifest itself, the idea of
Latin America as differentiated from Anglo-America begins to
make sense, though it’s an amusing concept for 1650 when the
Anglos had no more than a tendril of culture along the east
coast north of Florida, and most of the continent was still
You don’t have much of a sense of history,
either, do you?
And no, they weren’t Anglo-Europeans who
invaded North America after 1650. Certainly there were more
Africans added to the North American population after 1650
than Anglos, and far more other Europeans than Anglos. You
might refer to the population (hardly “repopulation”) by
Europeans and enslaved Africans. Given the cartograms you’re
working with, these are going to have to be very carefully
I think that putting Mexico and the rest
of Middle America in South America is a very bad decision. I
think all you have to do is read the newspapers (or make eye
contact with the next construction worker you run into or
janitor or cook) to realize Mexico is not part of some
“Latin” America, but of some wild Mexico-US combo. You can
forget your 20th century concept of Latin America. You can
forget it completely. It’s a whole new ball of wax.
(Where’s Puerto Rico? In the Bronx! Cuba?
Well, it’s a first hack at the problem, a
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29 August 2004