After working at the University of Sussex over the summer, myself and two of my best friends embarked on an interrailing trip around Europe. The trip was a wonderful experience and a fantastic chance to visit iconic cities and locations. We managed to see, and do, so much, as is evidenced by this brilliant video my friend made of our time on the continent. As well as the memories, and the photos of our experience, the trip proved to be incredibly thought provoking. It gave me a wealth of ideas and topics which I wanted to write about. Travel really does broaden the mind and I would defy anyone to venture across Europe for a month and come back the same person as when they left. I learnt many things on the trip, and many of my beliefs were re-affirmed. None more so than the belief that this world is divided into unrepresentative and irrelevant categories.
It was in Austria, whilst staying with more friends of mine in Vienna, that it became apparent. The only divide I had with these people was that of nationality. In almost every single way we were identical. We were around the same age, we held the same interests, had the same views and beliefs, participated in the same leisure activities and were concerned about the same things. My two friends from the UK and my friends in Austria were only separated because of the land mass that they happened to have been born on. There was no difference between “British” and “Austrian”.
I try not to define myself as any nationality. I don’t believe I owe allegiance to any flag, or country in particular. I certainly don’t take pride in being a nationality, for a start I am not really sure what that even means. Does it mean that I should feel good about what other people have done? Other people that just so happened to have been born on the same land mass as me? The accusation of traitor has probably been leveled at those that have expressed similar views as these in the past. With regards to being told “you’re betraying your country”, I believe that it is an empty insult. As cliche as it sounds, I have no country. The world is my country and all of its people are my brothers and sisters. This is something I truly believe. I will not discriminate against someone due to their nationality, and I will not immediately support someone just because they are of the same nationality as me. Nationality to me is a creation. It is a concept that everyone buys into, and because of this, the concept is legitimised. In my opinion nationalities and nations are obsolete. That though, is for another article, and is another argument.
We are told, by the powers that be, that we are British, and that “we are all in this together”. Since those words were uttered it is clear that that was not the case. As “Brits” we are encouraged to get behind the nation and show our support. Whether that be in the Olympics or other sporting events, or “important” dates in the calendar, such as events involving the Royal family. Attempting to unite a nation is a senseless and pointless endeavour because despite how hard you try, you cannot tar everyone with the same brush. The diversity and differences of the people of Britain are too pronounced and too obvious to simply be covered with a label.
Globalisation has brought with it many things, both advantageous and not. One advantage is that now, more than ever, we are able to connect with other people around the world. This connection isn’t just being able to talk to them, and see them, it is also a connection which allows us to participate in one another’s lives. Whether that would be through sending money or aid, purchasing products, showing support and solidarity, or providing assistance and raising awareness. The world has become a much smaller place, and because of that we are now more easily able to identify with those that have previously been labelled as “other”. Those that politicians and the media label as foreign, or alien, are noticeably more similar to us than many of the fellow countrymen we are historically supposed to show loyalty to. My experience from living in Turkey and interrailing around Europe, has proved to me that I have more in common with my Turkish friends, my Austrian friends, my German, Greek and Cypriot friends, than I do with many of the people I share the label of “British” with. The likelihood is that this is true for you also.
The Daily Mail‘s incessant attacks on foreigners are fueled by hatred and bigotry, the victim of their attacks differs little from the average Brit. It is true, these people may have been born in Eastern Europe but that is where the differences end. They like football, they enjoy a few drinks down the local pub, they have worries about what to get their children for their birthdays, on Sunday mornings they walk their dog in the park, as Monday morning arrives, they too cannot wait until Friday. They want a good life, and a good education for their children. They want a well paid job, they want to be rewarded for their hard work, and they like their coffee black with one sugar. This man is far more likely to become your best friend than someone who was educated at Cambridge, owns three homes and works as an investment banker. Yet the foreigner is presented as a target of distrust and manipulation and is unworthy of your friendship and loyalty.
I would not say that I am a follower of Marx, or indeed Communism, in fact I am opposed to many of the ideas espoused, but I am in agreement that the world today is divided upon class rather than any other social distinction. What is paramount for citizens to understand is that class divides are far more important than divides of citizenship in determining our real interest. Nationality and patriotism are preached by governments because it is an easy way to harness support. All the tools are already in place, the government need only to ring the bell and the people come running to defend the flag. The danger for governments worldwide is of a conscious populace who realise that the elite in charge of the country are as alien to them as E.T. was to California. Class transcends borders and as such is a major threat to the established order. The thought of hundreds of millions of people uniting and working towards a common goal strikes fear into the hearts of the ruling elites. The Occupy movement clearly demonstrates that people are beginning to see past loyalties based on nationality, and are instead establishing loyalties with those of the same class across the globe.