Miami 2011: “How to Start Your Own Country”

Did you know the inventor of the Segway now leads his own country? And it’s in the Long Island Sound? This is one of the things to be learned from Jody Shapiro’s “How to Start Your Own Country,” an amusing and enlightening documentary about micronations, with particular focus on the future of frontier-breaking. Dean Kamen, the Segway guy, owns North Dumpling Island, which he calls the Kingdom of North Dumpling, and though technically, legally still part of New York State, it has officially seceded from the United States (with a non-aggression pact signed by President George H. Bush), has its own constitution (supposedly hundreds of years old) and is self-sufficient and completely carbon-neutral. It helps that Kamen is a billionaire. He also doesn’t rule over anyone else.

Shapiro jumps from one micronation to the next in the film, some more eccentrically run than others, while generally addressing the whole issue of the “country club” mentalities of the United Nations, the European Union, etc. Places like North Dumpling and the Principality of Sealand (a former British fort in the North Sea that was originally taken over by pirate radio broadcasters) are basically aligned with more familiar states like Palestine and Liechtenstein. Then there are the more eclectic, utopian concepts, such as the territory-less, location-variable New Free State of Caroline, which seems to blur the line between cult and state. It also best exemplifies the doc’s attention to the connection of state and state of mind.

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