Friday, 8 December 2017

Citizens of Nowhere




In her speech to the Tory Conference 2016 Theresa May upset a lot of people by declaring that those of us who think of ourselves as global citizens are in fact citizens of nowhere. How to react? Perhaps by doing what I do best – write about it ….

At Bridge House Publishing my business partner, Debz Hobbs-Wyatt and I commissioned stories by people we knew would feel the same way and a few fell into our laps while we were compiling other collections. We have each even included one of our own stories.
Many, myself included, found May's statement disturbing. I'm British. There is much about being British and the British that I love but not quite everything and not at the cost of appreciating aspects of other cultures. I can't help it. I've lived abroad. I've taught modern languages for twenty-six years and in doing so used international friendship and communication as a motivator. I'm married to the son of a World War II / Holocaust refugee. He brings a lot of German qualities and a few Jewish ones to our everyday lives. Many of my teen years were spent with Elaine, Ingrid, Monica, Theo and Rene – all born in Jamaica and I never noticed the colour of their skin. Eating sweet-potatoes at a 4.00 p.m. dinner felt normal. Elaine and Ingrid's mum was a great cook and kept to her Jamaican domestic clock.   
We have a delightful mixture of interpretations of this theme.
Our collection is framed by two stories that make similar points: Alan Gibbons' From Our Own Correspondent and Jennifer Palmer's The Visitors. 
Ea Anderson brings us a story of the global citizen always on the move in Slowly Things Appear.
By contrast, Neil Campbell's These Boots Were made for Walking is firmly set in a Manchester that many of us know so well. It is a multi-cultural Manchester that worries about Brexit. My own story The Wedding Next Door shows how cultures can rub along together thought it's not always easy. Matevž Hönn juxtaposes for us in Perfect Day events across the globe which seem curiously connected. Debz Hobbs-Wyatt's Boarding House is indeed about a boarding house but one where all sorts of people from all sorts of situations have to get along and in doing this they get to know themselves better.  
    
Vanessa Gebbie kindly gifted us a recycled story: her The Kettle on the Boat. This is beautifully told in a child's voice. The story gives us a great insight into another culture. The child moves into another as yet to her unknown culture. We feel her fear. No, being a global citizen is not easy.   
 
Karen Kendrick's The Road to Nowhere presents a modern day problem: political refugees. Her story shows both sides of this problem in very human terms. A similar theme is explored in Vanessa Harbour's Home, but this time we have a child's point of view.
Shqiperia by Jennifer Burkinshaw shows us two people struggling with two cultures. More challenges for the global citizen.   
Sarah Dobbs tackles another form of Otherness in her story Something like Mohammed. Discrimination isn't just about race. Neither is diversity.
Global citizens face many difficulties and in many cases in the stories here they grow because they overcome huge obstacles. Should we not therefore welcome them and perhaps rename them citizens of everywhere?    
So Madam May' outrageous statement also brought us a fabulous title and concept for a book.       
Now I just need your advice. How best to ensure that Madam May gets this very important Christmas present in time for Christmas? And while we're talking about Christmas what do we think Jesus Christ would have made of her statement?


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