Before you read on, I’m a remoaner. I’m a bleeding heart liberal. I am a left wing snowflake. Think of that what you will, it will tell you a bit about what’s coming and gives you the opportunity to make a choice. Make it now. Done it? Good. This much I know about myself and I have no plan on changing.
Here we are. Post Brexit. A time, that part of me, never really imagined I would see. A kind of disbelief has carried me through the last few years, it wouldn’t happen, couldn’t happen. Surely there would be some kind of last minute save. But no, we’re here, and the world has somehow shifted. It’s hard to know exactly what is different and how life is going to be impacted moving forward. Something is different though and my place within the world and my view of myself within it are altered too.
Mundane things have changed. I have a freezer full of frozen vegetables. I never buy frozen vegetables. I was brought up by upper middle class, alcoholic, foodies. Vegetables don’t go in the freezer unless they have the words ‘petit pois’ written on the packet. Nevertheless, I am the proud owner of a vast array of backup frozen food because my husband (who has been doing the shopping while I stay at home with the omnipresent lockdown children) tells me that the vegetables I want are not always available. Is this the beginning of the shortages we were warned about? Shortages in foods and vital medicines. Is this the beginning of the tough road through to a new normal that I, personally, did not vote for. Will I need to change how I do things in order to survive it? How will my lifestyle be impacted?
But wait, no, that’s not what it is. I’m not that shallow. I never was that wedded to a lifestyle. Life is an experience. We don’t need to be wedded to certain ways of doing things. We need to be open to possibilities, even if they only exist in our heads (such is the world of the writer sometimes). We roll with the punches and embrace our reality, whatever reality happens to be. The problem of identity is less tangible.
There was a time when being British sat well with me. I wore it comfortably like casual alcoholism and a love of improv and stand up comedy. It felt like a natural part of who I was. At the moment, I’m not even sure I know what being British means, or indeed if it will even be a thing moving forward. I’m preparing myself to apply for dual Scottish nationality because why the **** would an independence referendum produce a negative result now? I don’t want to be just English. I always was a product of mixed heritage. I don’t want my identity to get smaller. I want to be the person I was before and somehow that is far more mixed with geography and politics than I ever imagined was possible.
I feel disconnected from the country of my birth. While I sit here, trying to think what I want to write, I find myself subjected to a slideshow of all the times when my country and countrymen have let me down. Click. The time I hid in the toilet because my colleagues were discussing ‘bloody towel heads’ and I felt powerless to fix the injustice. Click. Talking with the Eastern European staff, at the hotel I was staying at, and hearing how alienated they felt in this country and their sage nods when they heard I had a Russian grandfather because decency clearly doesn’t come in British anymore. Click. Watching ‘Adolf!’, the one man show, and being horrified by how swallowed the audience were by the actors seduction in the final act, the hidden racism in so many of them. Click. The time I was walking down the street with one of my best friends and heard someone call her a ‘black c*nt’.
I know that the brexit vote was not entirely compelled by racism and xenophobia and I also know that liberals, like me, are far more likely to see those who disagree with us as being genuinely wrong and evil, and that such closed mindedness is, in itself, opposed to everything I believe in. I know that I need to be open minded. I know that there are people, in my circles, who voted in favour and I haven’t disowned them. I know that I need to put my best foot forward. To do anything less would be an even bigger loss of identity. But, it’s hard not to see the world as being fundamentally changed. It’s hard not to feel out of step.
To me, a developed nation should be proud to share it’s wealth and success with those who are less privileged. We should be prepared to open our borders to the dispossessed, to offer shelter to those who are lost and alone. We should be open to new points of view because we are unafraid of evolution. We were never a purist nation. We are a melting pot of conquerors and the conquered adding their language and cultural flair to the richness of our own. Stronger together than we could ever be apart. That is part of who I am, as was being British. But now open mindedness is not part of the British identity or of British values. British values are far smaller than I thought. So if my values are not British values then what does that make me?
The campaign to rejoin starts here some say. I admit, that at the moment, I am too deflated to add my voice to that cause. I have an instinctive desire to reflect and to understand. Maybe even to seek out a new tribe and a new way to belong. Just because Britain has chosen to close it’s borders does not mean that I need to close mine and, there, sits the heart of the crisis. Being British no longer sits well with me. It feels confining, and I never have liked to feel confined.
Change is the natural state of things. Nothing stays the same and, maybe, my identity has been long overdue an overhall. I’m up for the challenge.
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