Monday, March 06, 2017
Citizen of the World or Citizen of Nowhere?
If Margaret Thatcher's legacy is sealed as "there is no such thing as society", Theresa May may have already given us something to remember her for: "But if you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere."
This is, she may claim later, taking her words of out of context. She said, to be exact: "But if you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere. You don't understand what citizenship means." Justifiably, she could claim, at a later and calmer time, that she was merely defining citizenship. However, she meant this to be a soundbite, and it is a good one: And, therefore, it can be taken in its more provocative sense, as it was meant for that.
We are at a day and age where many people may indeed want to think of themselves as citizens of the world. They want to be footloose, live in different countries, have relationships across national boundaries, learn different languages and work in different places. And, indeed, with the Internet, one may have deeper conversations and closer friends across boundaries rather than next door. This is just for global bankers: For students, junior employees, entrepreneurs, writers and artists, life is very global.
In context, one may not necessarily know whether to be offended or amused by what Ms May said. She is doing what nationalists do, invoking blood, honour and sacrifice, all the mythologies of British greatness. She is the deliverer-in-chief of Brexit, and at her heart, a little Englander: She is bound to say what she said. The offencive thing about this barb is not meant for all those rich Chinese and Indians who park their money in London Real Estate, Ms May is happy for them to be World-loving, but it is meant for those British students and city-dwellers who never fully understood the schism with Europe. Ms May is indeed accusing them for failing to comprehend the incomprehensible, as she is rebuking them for being a Citizen of the World but wanting the country to be Global Britain at the same time.
One could also be amused by her attempt at defining Citizenship. She believes one can be a citizen of Britain - an imagined community - but can not imagine any bigger. But there is something ironic here, because she gives away that citizenship is a top-down thing. So, while she invokes the issue of commitment, she, at the same time, making it an issue of governmental paper which her government can issue or take away. If those lofty and meaningless words give away anything, it is that she was the Home Secretary far too long.
So, is Citizenship of the World possible? We may say that the ancient Greek definition, which was about belonging to a City, is not acceptable to us, as our world is economically and technologically more complex. At the same token though, Ms May's definition of citizenship, bound to nation state bureaucracies, may be equally out of date. As I mentioned above, with work, love, conversations, knowledge and kinship truly spread across the world, it is perfectly possible to be a citizen of the world today.
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the...
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are ...
My previous post, o n whether Hinduism is the only thing to unite India , to which my answer was negative, was based on the idea that Indi...
It is common to hear - Globalization is not working for everyone! The Right says it, and believes that closed societies with open economie...
We knew this anecdotally: That Engineering graduates can not find a job in India. Now, we have some numbers: AICTE says that 60% of the 80...
Today's election results in five Indian states may or may not be noticed by the world media, but they are, in a way, no less significa...
When facts change.. I enthused when Labour Party chose Jeremy Corbyn as its leader. It promised an escape from politics as usual, a b...
The title of this post is in quotes because someone told me this. This was some days ago, over lunch in London, something that I stayed wi...
India is in the middle of a great transformation, driven by the aspirations of its young people. This transformation is apparent to an...
Stayzilla, an Indian start-up which offered homestays, like AirBnB, is in the news, for wrong reasons. That Stayzilla decided to down shut...
How To Live
"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."
- Theodore Roosevelt
- Theodore Roosevelt
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
- T S Eliot
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.