How to make a country disappear

In 1990, the country of East Germany disappeared.

From October 3, 1990, East Germany was no longer a country. And just like that, an entity that was backed by a flag, an anthem, an army, a parliament, a constitution, passports disappeared.

The reason the country disappeared was because Germans and the rest of the world decided to stop thinking of East Germany as a country. It was mind over matter – once we stopped thinking of the East German nation, everything else that attested to its existence ceased to matter.

Countries, currencies, races, castes, companies and the very measurement of time are stories we tell ourselves. They have tremendous power over us. But once we stop thinking about them, they cease to exist.

Our thoughts aren’t omnipotent. A winter’s day in Berlin where the temperature is 5 degrees is not going to change, regardless of how many Berliners try and think otherwise. Nor will the river Spree stop flowing through the city of Berlin because we thought otherwise. The weather and water bodies aren’t stories. To cope with them, we need to rely on winter coats and canals.

Yet, most of our torment originates in stories – ones that disappear when we cease to think of them. We have as much power over these stories as they do over us.

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