“If you believe you’re a citizen of the world,” said our dear Prime Minister on the 5th October at the Conservative party’s conference, “you’re a citizen of nowhere. You don’t understand what the very word ‘citizenship’ means.”
That statement is a huge disappointment. I don’t agree.
What does the word citizenship mean?
It is variously defined as the position or status of an individual viewed as a member of a society and their behaviour in terms of duties, obligations and rights of a citizen and a person recognised under the custom or law as being a legal member of a sovereign state.
For me, citizenship is a sense of belonging. While I hold a British passport, I don’t feel that the first 3 decades of my life that I spent in India count for nothing. I may not officially be a ‘citizen’ of India but I have an affinity and love for that land which far outweighs any official document. When I visited Uganda a few years ago, I felt like I belonged there. I felt a strong connection with the people and the earth. It felt like home.
People who see themselves as citizens of the world feel part of a rich boundless tapestry rather than an isolated, discreet nation or group. They know, deep down, that a smaller vision of citizenship creates “us” and “them”.
Perhaps world citizenship is a stance against people like the PM who manipulate the “us” and “them” to demonise the enemy of the day and thereby justify heinous acts of brutality. The unfounded suspicion of the “other” justifies total lack of respect. The difference in appearance is made out to be sufficient ground for fear and disgust.
The world is smaller than ever before. We all belong to one large family. Borders are man-made. All we need is love and respect. We all suffer hunger and pain in the same way. Our loss and anger is the same. Our blood is red, irrespective of the country we belong to. Enough blood has already been shed in the name of pettiness of one kind or another. Let us not buy into this small mindedness. Let us be proud citizens of the world.