Let’s not … go back to ‘normal’.

Toilet signs designed by young people at Orygen. Australia. (https://oyh.org.au/)

When I first came to the UK, I thought of myself as nothing more than a human being, a doctor, a mother. I came here with one suitcase full of books, inappropriate clothes and lots of dreams. Over the years, slowly, through events good and not-so-good, I was made aware that I was a ‘female doctor from ethnic minorities’. Others may see me thus but I still see myself as a human, a doctor, a mother.

Before our world was invaded by a microscopic organism, we were divided. Identity politics dominated all conversations. ‘Vegans’ wanted to convert me to their religion. ‘Vegetarianism’ just wasn’t good enough. Fingers were being pointed at seemingly evil ‘middle aged white men’, as if they were all the same. I found myself defending them in public as I am on the inside. I am married to one of the nicest of them. The ‘transgender’ community was making its presence felt in a big way. The BME and the LGBTQ++ and the sexists and the racists, the liberalists, the socialists, the nationalists and the list is endless … were firmly rooted in their fenced off, defensive little territories.

Then came the virus and we were all united in the knowledge that we were fragile creatures and we needed each other to survive. We needed to look after ourselves and each other, in ways that were more meaningful and different from before. We learnt that the mind needed as much attention if not more, than the body. We found out that we are related to everyone else on the planet whether we liked it or not. We needed to rise above our little ‘Me. Me. Me’ voices and make decisions in favour of what was good for everyone.

We found out that small things are big things. My lovely neighbour, M, left a bunch of flowers outside the door for me every week. I arranged those flowers the best I could and sent her the pictures. I wrote hand-written letters to friends from my childhood with whom I was starting to lose connection. I discovered the joy of sleeping for a few nights in a row without setting the alarm. Si and I discovered the joy of being in the house together for days, doing normal things – baking, gardening, meditation, going for a walk, reading, watching ‘The Crown’.

I say, let’s not go back to our ‘normal’ divisions and our frantic passions. Let’s take this opportunity to re-invent ourselves and the way we meet the world. Let’s not be driven by our fears and insecurities but by a sense of deep connection with ourselves, each other and the planet. Let’s take this new learning into the world we want to live in. It’s up to us.

Day 741

“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.