Robert Anton Wilson was an important part of the counterculture movement, known for his sci-fi works as well as his extensive writings on a wide variety of political, psychological and philosophical issues. Alongside his literary career, Wilson worked on several film projects as well and one of his films even starred Steve Buscemi.
Titled Borders, the film explores some of the core elements of the philosophical ideas put forward by Wilson in many of his works. Directed by Merrill Alidighieri and Joe Tripician, this strange work blends together documentary-style segments with narrative sequences in order to create a strange cinematic experience.
Ranging from topics such as immigration and drugs to Star Wars, Borders explores how human thought is governed by certain borders. Through his writings, Wilson urged people to maintain an agonistic attitude about almost everything which is often paradoxical because of these very borders that limit our epistemological endeavours.
According to Wilson, these borders – physical or psychological – are a “basic mammalian territorial imperative”. He explains it by citing examples of territorial topology in the animal kingdom before proceeding to show how those territorial instincts have led to the formation of nations as well as several schools of political philosophy.
“The difference between human beings (or domesticated primates) and the other mammals is we mark our territories with ink excretions on paper—land titles, peace treaties, and so on,” Wilson argues. “Every national border in the world marks a place where two gangs of domesticated primates fought until they were exhausted, and then made a territorial mark.”
While talking about the illusory nature of humanity’s so-called sophistication, Wilson adds: “That’s how national borders are created. We don’t throw excretions at each other like the chimpanzees, we throw chemicals and bombs and so on, but it’s basically the same mammalian process. The only intelligent way to discuss politics is on all fours.”
Often compared to the likes of Timothy Leary and Terence McKenna, Wilson’s writings are read by many to this day and his ideas remain interesting to modern readers. If you haven’t ever picked up a Robert Anton Wilson book before, this strange documentary feature starring Steve Buscemi might just be a good but bizarre launching pad.
Watch the film below.