I am an English national, married to a Japanese national, with two sons holding dual nationalities. We are living in Ireland. We are immigrants. Not emigrants, nor ex-pats but immigrants. I work here. I pay taxes here. I’m entitled to all this country has to offer. I’m welcomed but I don’t ‘belong’ here as such. I’ll be honest with you, it feels liberating.
We live in an apartment building and there are a lot of kids here. When I come home from work, my sons are often outside playing with them. Kids with backgrounds from Iran, Poland, Romania, Venezuela, Italy and Ireland. I’m under no delusions – this ‘ain’t Sesame Street – but to regard this as anything but beneficial would be foolish and to try to prevent or suppress any of this would be pure madness, right? Oh, but wait!
In some sort of perverse “Deal or no Deal”, Britain has decided to give up a ‘very nice, thank you’ situation for what lies inside a mystery box. A vote which, for me, is a vote against logic, against respecting the opinions of experts. A vote which comes – and I’m being as nice as I can – from the gut (or more likely bile duct) rather than the head. It’s a vote which, in our modern times, feels like something King Canute would advocate.
Besides love and spiritual comfort, to succeed as parents we should also provide opportunities. Opportunities that allow our children to grow beyond what we were capable of. The freedom of movement within the EU should be seen as that: an opportunity, not a restriction. When I was coming of age, Eastern Europe was opening up. Memories of this are mixed with memories of warm summer mornings full of potential. At an impressionable age, I saw “Before Sunrise”, and all I wanted to do was travel around these new countries beyond the Iron Curtain and fall in love with a French girl. Unfortunately, I never did. The stags and hens beat me to it.
What frustrates most is now my opportunities and my children’s opportunities have been limited. To be able to live anywhere in Europe, to eke out a living and to raise my children in another country was something I thought I’d be able to enjoy indefinitely. A lot of child educators would argue children need roots and stability, and travelling around the world doesn’t give them that. I disagree – I think it makes them resourceful, open, confident and communicative. Multiculturalism eventually leads to pluriculturalism, and pluriculturalism is what our unique little country has enjoyed ever since that bloody French foreigner and his army came over in 1066, taking our houses, our jobs and our women. Are we removing all ‘foreignness’ from our island? If so, who is going to trigger Article 50 on our language, philosophy, moral code, political system, national religion, royal family, rock music, Christmas trees and fish and chips? The list is endless and pointless. The only countries I can think of with strong monocultures are North Korea, and maybe Cuba – I don’t want to live in either, thank you very much. I hope my sons become pluricultural: that they don’t feel torn between identities but can pick and choose, when and where it suits them. Plurilingualism opens up career opportunities, pluriculturalism opens up personal ones.
I will move back to the UK in the near future (after an experimental stint in Cuba, perhaps) and hope that that thing that binds us ever together as a country – complaining about our lot in life – remains because I’ll have plenty to rally against. Little Britainers might say, “if you don’t like this country, then get out!”. Well, they’ve made that increasingly difficult.