Saturday, March 19, 2005

My Nationality

Earlier this week, I saw Gordon Brown talking about what it means to be British. I don't want to write about the politics of it, but for someone who lives in Scotland it is an interesting question.
I am all of these:


I was born in Aberdeen although I haven't always lived here. I lived in The Netherlands for 4 years. I do understand it when another Aberdonian says something like "Fit like min?" or "Da dee at ye bam!" Most Scots would understand but, I suspect, many others who speak English would not. So I'm an Aberdonian, 29 of my 33 years have been spent here.

I cheer the Scotland football team when they play. I suffer the agonies and disappointments which go hand in hand with supporting Scotland. I don't celebrate their victories often, and if you've seen Scotland play recently you'll understand why. My father tells me we used to have a good team but it's hard to believe. I try not to support "whoever England is playing" because I don't think it's a very healthy attitude. Sometimes I can't help myself though. I blame Kevin Keegan but that's a long story. Anyway, I'm Scottish.

I can speak about the weather - On Sunday it was snowing in Aberdeen but on Wednesday it was 17 degrees celsius which is unseasonally warm for this time of year. I support the GB team at the Olympic Games. I know most of the words to "God save the Queen" which, unless I'm very badly informed, is the British national anthem. (It's an unrelated point but why does it get sung at England games? Shouldn't you English people have your own anthem?) It says I'm British on my passport. So, I'm British.

Not just because Britain is in the EU, although I'm one of those people who actually think that this is a good idea. I also say this because I used to live in The Netherlands (I actually didn't live in Holland which is technically only a part of The Netherlands, I lived north of Holland in Assen.)
And two of my relatives work in Europe, one in Germany and one in Belgium. So, I'm European.

World Citizen
I think a lot of British people don't really appreciate just how contrived countries are. I put it down to the fact that Britain is an island. I could drone on about the theory and history of the formation of nations but nobody would read it . Instead, just try to find a map of Europe from around 1400AD. There was no Germany, no Italy, no Belgium, and no Britain. Or try to find a map of the USA from 200 years ago. It's so small, isn't it? The point is that many people believe that nations are well defined and permanent. The US and UK governments, as well as many others, heavily promote this idea to their populations but it's just not true. The US didn't exist 600 years ago and it probably won't exist 600 years from now either. The US was created with guns, railways, and treaties, all the work of European settlers. Just think about it. Because of war or agreement some people have live in more than one country without ever moving. Nations are not permanent. Borders change, some nations cease to exist, and others are created. A nation is not a fundamental truth, it is a political creation.

So when someone says to me "I think that we should use our money to help British people instead of spending our money trying to help people in other countries" I get angry. I ask them what it is about a British person that makes them more worthy of help than anyone else. What is it about a new born British baby that makes them more important than a baby born in Iraq, or Nigeria or Cambodia? I can't see a difference. A life is a life. So I'm a world citizen. I don't want anyone to have to live in the abject poverty which is so common in developing countries. The worst part is that the planet could easily support the current world population to a decent standard. That is why I have a "Make Poverty History" banner up there in the top right corner of my blog.

OK, I sneaked in some politics. I admit it. That's because it's important, especially this year. We can be the generation who forces the world system to change. I'm intending to go to the Make Poverty History demonstration in Edinburgh on 2nd July to coincide with the G8 meeting in Gleneagles. It will be the first demonstration I've ever been to. I'm sure I won't be the only one. And every person at the demonstration will be a world citizen, whatever their nationality.

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