The Standard One-on-One: Barnaby Hands

CAT’S CORNER PROVINCE (CS) | The Coprieta Standard was honoured to be granted the opportunity to interview the President of Senya, and a prominent leader in micronational sport, Barnaby Hands, on a range of topics.

CS: Mr. Hands, as a person who hails from the MicroWiki Community originally, many of our readers may not be very familiar with yourself or your micronation of Senya. Would you be able to tell our readers a little bit about you and Senya?

Certainly. I first experimented with geofiction alongside my brother when I was 7 years old, founding my first micronation, the Kingdom of Resqwerland, which was one of 19 nations on a fictional planet called “Resqwerworld”, each with their unique culture. When I was 10, I started founding other geofictional countries with my friends, the most notable being the “Taxi Republic”. I first found out about micronationalism in March 2010 when I stumbled upon Sealand on Wikipedia, and decided to try my hand at an earth-based micronation, which is how Senya came to be. I joined the MicroWiki community in November 2010, but didn’t make a good first impression, getting involved in two sock-puppet scandals, but I was allowed back in May 2011 and since then have grown with that community through thick and thin.

Senya is a micronation that was born to try to help the environment. I come from the English countryside, so protecting the environment is something close to my heart. I also wanted to try and found a community which would escape the trappings of the modern world, so likeminded individuals could have a platform to try and engage in intellectual debate and try to come up with new philosophies. However, Senya has evolved into more of a footballing nation, with our national team being spilt up into four sections; men and women’s real life teams, and virtual teams for MicroWiki and Micras. As such, we pride ourselves on being a sports-orientated nation.

Senya is also well known for some quirky laws. One of the most famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) is Article 69, which prohibits, amongst other things, people engaging in coitus in Senyan territory. As you would expect with such a law, this has become a joke in the MicroWiki, but Senya’s real world territory is the back of my back garden, so you can start to understand why it is in place.

CS: Senya is one of a very few MicroWiki micronations that have made the leap to the Micras Community over the years, and it continues to hold participate in both communities. In your opinion, how do these communities differ and how are they similar?

I think that these two communities are very similar. I have good friends on both sides of the community, and I’m glad to see some MicroWiki nations on Micras. I don’t really think that there is much difference between these two communities. From what I have seen of Micras, they have similar interests and projects to MicroWiki nations, and the discourse floats between very serious discussion and some good old fashioned jokes.

The main differences I’ve seen between the communities is that Micras is much more welcoming. There is an elitist attitude on MicroWiki, which has led to an oligarchy of about 20-25 nations which assume they are better than everyone else, although we’ve started to address that and is one of the reasons we’ve re-launched on micronation.org. Another difference is that the discourse on MicroWiki mainly takes place off of the forums, and on platforms like Facebook and Skype, which, I think, has made it harder for us to attract new members and therefore lead to the elitist attitude. However, I do get the feeling that MicroWiki leaders generally are better friends. Everyone looks out for each other, I remember when I was suffering from depression earlier this year, half of MicroWiki was trying to help me.

CS: When Senya joined Micras, and correct me if I’m wrong, it was during a time when Micras was stigmatized by some in the MicroWiki Community as not being worthy of recognition as a micronational community, for not being “serious” enough. Did becoming active in the Micras community cause Senya any backlash from some of the prominent members of the MicroWiki Community who held this opinion of Micras?

I don’t think anyone on MicroWiki believes that Micras isn’t “serious” enough. Most people on MicroWiki think that Micras is akin to our own community. The main problem MicroWiki users have with Micras is that they don’t believe that it is Micronationalism. Many people on MicroWiki view Micras as a “geofiction” or “simulationist” concept, but not as micronationalism. However, personally I don’t think this is the case and the main reason MicroWiki users think this is because of the definition on Wikipedia. Senya has never experienced backlash from joining Micras, especially as other prominent MicroWiki nations such as Tiana and Sirocco are here too, so I just think it is a case of people thinking that it isn’t micronationalism. However, I think this opinion may start to become less popular, as there are a lot of geofiction projects being undertaken by MicroWiki nations which are being treated as part of the nations, so I think this opinion will start to die out.

CS: As a participant who comes from another micronational community, what are your thoughts on Micras based on your involvement to date? What strengths does this community have, and on what can it improve?

My impression of Micras has been incredibly favourable, it is a truly great thing to be part of. Being a sportsman, my main contacts have been Craitland and Mercury, but when I’ve ventured out of the [Fédération Micraise de Sport], everyone that I have met has been nice and friendly. I’ve spent days looking through the Bastion forums looking at the history of those nations, and I find it all really interesting. One of my favourite Micras nations has to be Shireroth, they’ve got a really interesting history and some great stories. Vilhelm Benkern and Krasniy Yastreb have been really welcoming and helpful, and it has particularly been great working with Benkern on Mar Sara’s hockey team. So, I’d have to say I’ve really enjoyed my time so far on Micras, and I hope it will continue!

CS: You’re the current president of the Micronational Football Association, which I understand governs football matches between micronations, but not in the virtual sense as those on Micras might think. Can you tell our readers more about this organization and its future?

The Micronational Football Association (or MFA, as we like to call it), was actually founded in 2009 by Mercury’s very own Joe Foxon, to try and hold football matches in real life. Back then, the target was to hold a World Cup in the UK in 2013. Although that didn’t materialize, the MFA has grown considerably. We have around 25-30 members across the world, remarkably, including micronations based in almost every corner of the globe (we’ve even got a member from Kyrgyzstan). About 7 of our nations have played real life games now, including Senya, with our most recent game ending in a remarkable 10-9 loss to our neighbours Dallingrad. We originally started out playing 6-a-side games, but now we encourage our members to play 11-a-side, which has been achieved by several nations, including Senya.

At the moment, we have several projects that we look to start soon. We’ve got a Micronationalists XI tour coming up next summer, which originally was going to be in Norway but is now going to be in the UK, alongside a World Cup in 2015 in England and another tournament in Greece in 2016. We’ve also started to collaborate with the NF-Board, who are the next best thing to FIFA, and are home to the Football teams from Monaco, Kiribati, Lapland and Sealand, which lead to Senya being invited to send a women’s team to the VIVA Women’s World Cup in Western Sahara (which we declined, due to the lack of female players we had, which was about 3). So the future is looking very bright for the MFA.

CS: You’re heavily involved in micronational sport. In your opinion, what benefit does sport, virtual or not, bring to the community?

Sport brings a lot to the micronational community. I personally think it brings nations together at one platform, which is separate from the influences of politics and religion, and yet at the same time encourages competitiveness. I believe that a micronation that takes part in real life sport gains healthier and more active citizens, which benefits everyone in that micronation, and virtual micronations gain achievements that would be impossible to gain in real life. I mean, I’d like to see Craitman and his friends take on Spain. I also think it allows perhaps geographically isolate nations to engage in competition, when perhaps they wouldn’t be able to take part in a real life event. But above all, it gives a nation a sense of nationalism, which at the end of the day, defines micronations.

CS: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

There is perhaps one thing I’d like to say. I believe micronations are communities. Communities that give people who are perhaps isolated from society a platform for them to speak, form their opinions, and debate with others, yet at the same time achieve things that many people could only dream of doing.

I think the only way to mark the success of your micronation is when you consider yourself not a citizen of your macronation, but instead as a citizen of your micronation.

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