Last week’s depression has morphed into anger. I’m happy enough to admit that I’ve become a grumpy old man in general, but several comments over the course of the last seven days have left me fuming.
The British Prime Minister suggested that if you are a citizen of the world then you are, in fact, a citizen of nowhere. I’m sure that several thousand years ago, the Macedonians, Athenians and Spartans were all espousing similar thoughts. Yet when Greece was unified it ushered in an age of artistic, scientific and cultural advancement not seen again until the Renaissance. Sometimes you have to let things go to move forward.
The Devil’s Bible series is set in a time when there was no Germany, when there was no Italy. There was no Belgium, and the Netherlands had only just declared themselves independent of Spain. Theresa May’s words could well have been written by a Hessian or a Bavarian in the mid-17th century. And yet history has proven that it is indeed possible to maintain both a regional and a national identity, so why not a national and a supranational one? It’s like belonging to two clubs at the same time. In my position – British and Irish passports, a wife with British and German passports, living in Prague – such man-made definitions seem arbitrary.
Then someone much closer to home floored me with the statement that plants which don’t have deep roots don’t tend to survive long. I had voiced the opinion that the actions of the British Volk made the UK much less attractive to me and my family, and was all but accused of abandoning my heritage. Aside from the obvious quip about grass managing quite well with shallow roots, I started to consider what ‘having roots’ actually means.
To have roots in Northern Ireland could indeed mean a traditional upbringing with a strong work ethic and a down-to-earth practicality, overlaid with a love for education and a desire to better oneself. But it could also mean the small-minded insularity that comes from living in the corner of a forgotten island, the last stop before the empty vastness of the Atlantic. Throw in forty years of hatred and sectarian violence, and I question whether I really want to have roots there.
We are all in search of tribe. It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you come from, there is a joy in finding kindred spirits. They say you can choose your friends, but not your family – in many ways it’s the same thing for where you come from. I’m lucky enough to have been born in Ireland, and there is much (so much) that I love about the culture and identity that the Emerald Isle bestows upon its diaspora. A toss of the coin and I could have been born in Syria…
So yes, I’m angry, because I see so many decisions being made as knee-jerk reactions, instinct trumping (no pun intended) intellect. I just hope the voice of reason prevails before we explain Fermi’s paradox by destroying ourselves.