Divisive rhetoric has hijacked our judgment, intervening between us and reality.
Last October, as we woke up in the autumn gloom of a Disunited Kingdom after the summer referendum, and groped our way to the tea pot in order to Keep Calm and Carry On, we heard the voice of Theresa May announcing the death of the English language: “If you believe you are a citizen of the world,” she said, speaking to a supportive audience, “you are a citizen of nowhere.”
Words can be deployed to all kinds of illogical ends. They are a shifty lot.
Well, that woke us up pretty quick. We are more inclined by nature to support than undermine, much prefer to acquiesce than oppose but here was a definition of words that raised too many questions before breakfast. A citizen of the world is a citizen of “nowhere”? The entire planet, pace Butler, is Erewhon? And where does that place modern Britain? On Mars?
To be accused of having no link to this planet and its peoples may be a surprise for a fair number of us who have been born in one country, raised in another, educated in a third, married, had children, and buried family members in a fourth, fifth and sixth, lived and worked in seven or eight other countries, and might now be obliged to request naturalization in a ninth, because of Brexit. It may also be news for all those of us who had been forced to flee in desperation from our homelands as a result of war, famine, plague, terrorism, persecution and/or natural as well as financial disasters. It can even be a shock to learn that “rootless cosmopolitans” as some of us were called in a previous age, are actually part of a “global elite” in this one, even though we cannot afford London housing. Was our Prime Minister really suggesting that only those who believe in Being First deserve to be British? Can people with a world-embracing vision really not “understand what citizenship means?”