Opportunistic citizenship–part 1
The two words come together on Google but the concept has not been defined as I do here. And – there is as yet no single set of words that will define completely ‘opportunistic citizenship’ [OC].
I’ll give a thumbnail sketch of what OC may involve – but it is not a full concept at this stage. The concept includes and originates with citizenship by naturalisation, but it is not limited to that particular form of citizenship. OC means that naturalised persons reap the benefits of citizenship in an opportunistic fashion, with no genuine desire to give back to the society or State that grants it. I will expand on this in a while. What follows refers in part to rights and privileges, however I focus more on mindsets. I think you probably need to re-read that sentence very carefully.
First I wish to give my experience and concept of what it means to me to be a citizen of a new country i.e. England. I must explain this by reference to a conversation I had with my father a few years ago. This was around the time of the Iraq war. I was asked, whether I loved England so much that I’d be willing to give my life for this nation, and whether if called upon to serve in the army I would do so. My unhesitating response was “Yes!”. This caused some bewilderment; that I would want to die fighting for a “foreign nation”, in a war that was “none of my business”. Well it is my business!! If I swear allegiance to a nation – especially one that I adopt or has adopted me – I think I’m obliged to give my life to defending it’s realm, if that becomes necessary. After all that is what may be required of a citizen in a country of birth – so why should it be any different for me? (I ask rhetorically). However, I don’t imagine that many of my immigrant countrymen or those like me who acquired citizenship, would share my point of view.
Those becoming British citizens are required to take the following oaths.
Affirmation of allegiance
I (name) do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that on becoming a British citizen, I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her Heirs and Successors, according to law.
I will give my loyalty to the United Kingdom and respect its rights and freedoms. I will uphold its democratic values. I will observe its laws faithfully and fulfil my duties and obligations as a British citizen.
Stupidly some think that it is the Queen as a ‘person’ and her ‘bandwagon’ that the allegiance is to. Do I need to spell out that it is the exercise of sovereign power that is the core issue? Chrysst!!!
So perhaps you will come to appreciate, that to me citizenship by naturalisation, is not simply about what benefits I can derive from the adoptive nation. It is very much about what I can give back.
To me as an immigrant it meant that I would want to spend a significant portion of my life here – or all of it. And it means that I would function as as closely as possible to a naturally born citizen – even if I moved to another country later on – living the values and ways of the adoptive nation in large part.
I would know, understand and acquire fluency in the most common language spoken here, with it’s cultural nuances. But I’m lucky in that I speak only English to start with. I would aim to mingle with local indigenous people and understand their varying cultures. I would serve the people – my people – as I would my original people, on some smaller rock.
But why should one want to become naturalised at all? I’m sure there are a range of motivations behind that. The positive factors such as serving and becoming part of a nation are easy to talk about. However, there is another side to this, that to my knowledge so far, is not normally explored.
People from third world nations may wish to become citizens of a first world country because there are many social, economic and political advantages to be had. That set of motivations in itself is not necessarily a negative thing, I should say instantly. However, if people are motivated to gain these advantages purely for personal reasons and with relatively minor considerations about the obligations of being a citizen, then I say it is farcical. Citizenship of the UK means that one acquires EU citizenship as well, with all it’s privileges. One may travel in many parts of the world with lesser restrictions, than if one was simply from some third-world banana republic. I clearly cannot go into all the advantages of citizenship of a first world nation here.
On the other hand, some acquire citizenship of first world countries as a sort of ‘get out of jail’ free card i.e. the passport back to first world, if ever third world goes unbearably mad. Which means that in the back of their minds spending their days in first world country is not or never was high on the agenda. This could end up in a never ending debate about whether it is a requirement to spend one’s life in a new adoptive nation. I’ve never postulated absolutes. I’m saying that becoming naturalised carries a certain force – and underlying that means that one wishes to live as most citizens born of the soil would do. And sure a proportion of indigenous citizens will leave for other countries to live. So, clearly that’s not the big issue. But for naturalised citizens, it would contrast if shortly after achieving this, or at critical points they cleared off back to where they came from.
Critical points? Sure – can’t you see it? Retirement (as one example) – or close to it. Why retirement? Because on retirement, one normally has more time on one’s hands, more money and more loneliness (due to all the hours and less distraction with work) – only to be followed statistically by downward spiral into ageing and poorer health. Well hang on – indigenous citizens can’t clear off to anywhere! They’re born ‘here’. So – it seems that naturalised citizens have the upper hand. They’re likely to go back ‘home’.
And now I switch to sarcastically massaging the word ‘home’. I feel abused when I meet ‘banana republicans’ – even those who have been naturalised – who ask “When were you last back home?”. I go into an over-controlled rage inside – but one day I’m gonna lose control, I’m sure – it’s Murphy’s Law!! LOL. I invariably stutter, express confusion and seek clarification – only so as to stall for time to compose myself!! Some of these people have been living here for donkeys years yet they never see the UK as ‘home’. Now I call that insulting!! Why should it be that naturalised citizens in large proportions (from my experience) see elsewhere as ‘home’. So – hello!! – you’ve applied for citizenship with all the bother that that involves – you swore allegiance to a new nation – and you see ‘home’ as elsewhere?!!! Isn’t that by definition an act of abject hypocrisy? “Surely not!” you may riposte. Now one might appreciate why the English may, to themselves or behind closed doors, make so-called racist remarks about going ‘back home’ or ‘sending them back’ etc. I can tell you now that some fool out there is about to proffer the ‘not necessarily’ argument, or ‘it depends’ etc.. this is what people do when they have no real argument, but wish to defend their stupidity exposed. And some other fool is going to come with lame arguments such as “Dual-citizenship means that one can have two ‘homes’..” Look, spare me – I wasn’t born this morning, I must inform you!! The reach for intellectualisation of the issue is merely to create a way around the key issue i.e. that which is in the minds of these individuals collectively. I’m not here for legal argument on this – I said this at the outset. I’m here to explore and expose mindsets.
The thought of dying ‘alone’ or isolated on a foreign land, with exaggerated fantasies of some dark uncaring hostel somewhere, no relatives around, being buried in foreign soil – unknown and unremembered – is chilling for a proportion of naturalised citizens. In their later lives or in preparation for older-age, those so affected will make ‘tracks’ back – like the proverbial salmon, that I’ve written about elsewhere. But this sense of not being known, covered in an ‘unmarked grave’, no one to light that candle – is part of what I refer to as the ‘existential vacuum’ (its a big concept, that I will explore separately at another time). Many people actually live a fantasy that beyond their ‘departure’ – at least for some time – someone, our friends, relatives or descendants will remember us, by visiting our points of departure and thinking of what our lives meant. Did I say anything was wrong with that? No! Calm down! The fantasy gives meaning and purpose to our lives and our living in the present. For immigrants and naturalised citizens – all this is big concern. It is of greater salience. Why? The immigrant-life is one that may be plagued by isolation, even when there are many so-called friends to distract the mind from would-be empty hours. Yes – isolation or avoidance of it – in life and in preparation for ‘departure’ are big issues that weigh on the minds of naturalised citizens later in their lives. And what do most people do? They take the easy route out. You’ll say, ‘It’s only human to do that’ – and I’ll agree.
So – in many respects (and I’ve only touched on a couple), the naturalised immigrant is ‘here’ but ‘not here’ at the same time: psychologically, culturally, socially, economically, politically and financially. They are here for advantages in many of those domains – least possibly is in the ‘psychological’ and ‘cultural’ domain – and having reaped the benefits in those domains – even whilst returning much service – they head back ‘home’. Perhaps, the State knows that they will do this – and in the end there will be a sound economic gain. After all most naturalised immigrants keep their heads down, work tremendously hard and obey the law. So – if they wanna go off and die and take up health services back in ‘banana worlds’ – not a problem. Yes – I knooowwww.. I have this terrible way with words don’t I? I hope you haven’t smashed your computer screen in rage – you do wish I was right there on the screen – don’t you? Now – go off and think – or better yet, go off and don’t think about it. …
.. I was gonna say stay tuned for Part 2.. but I won’t!! LOL.