“Am I mad, in a coma, or back in time? Whatever’s happened, it’s like I’ve landed on a different planet. Now, maybe if I can work out the reason, I can get home.”
These days, it is easy to feel that, like Sam Tyler and Alex Drake, we have slipped back in time. Every time I read the news, it seems that our world is regressing. A cold war with Russia? Check. Labour in turmoil, on the verge of splitting? Check. An Iron Lady in Downing Street, steering this country ever deeper into small-minded isolationism? Check. Arguments over Europe? Check. Huge regions of the country which feel abandoned? Check. Swathes of the population singled out because of their ethnicity? Check.
Of course, the details have changed, but the story is the same. The trouble is that this time, we know how this story ends. It ends in race riots and unemployment. It ends in poverty and social isolation. It ends in generations unable to buy their own homes or find jobs which pay a real living wage. And in the process, a part of ourselves gets stripped away. Great Britain becomes Little England. We get drawn into bigotry and a rejection of anything bigger, more loving, more intelligent than we are; we get scared of anything we don’t see on our own post-war cul-de-sac. Except that ‘cul-de-sac’ is a French term, so I guess we can’t use it. It’s the kind of term the ‘metropolitan elite’ uses. Like ‘metropolitan elite’.
Many great people have pointed out that history repeats itself, first as tragedy then as farce, or that it has to, because nobody listened the first time. And right now, that scares me. I am scared that this country, which I unaccountably seem to love, is heading down a dark road. I am scared that the dream of a world connected and at peace is little more than a pile of ashes.
But I am also, unaccountably, hopeful. I am hopeful because of people like James, who can write eloquently about being a “a Fenlander, East Anglian, Englishman, Brit, European, and #CitizenOfTheWorld“, people like Angharad, who can embrace being a citizen of nowhere it that means being a citizen of the world, people like Richard, who can spend every hour that God gives working quietly to help people with less than him, people like Matt, who can devote time and energy to teaching Syrian refugees English, people like Jo, who stood for something right up to the moment that someone took away her ability to stand.
I am scared, but I am hopeful. This is my country too, and I will not abandon it to bigotry and hatred. I will stand with my brothers and sisters in their boats on the Mediterranean, in solitary confinement in China, on the streets of Charlotte, North Carolina, living under occupation or fear of persecution in the Middle East, living voiceless and without hope on the streets of Sunderland. If we stand together, then perhaps, perhaps we can get back to the world I recognise, the world of hope and mutual support. Perhaps we can get home.
I am a citizen of the world. I am a European citizen. I am a British citizen. If that makes me a citizen of nowhere, so be it.