Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Freedom Of Choice

Why is there so much hate for expatriates? Let's start with the word. I hate it as well, even if I am one. It betokens hostility because of the creep over years of an implicit sense of difference that can seem to border on the superior. Expatriates thus form a class apart, one that is subject to being despised: not by the local indigenous community but by those from afar in the motherland. Their status, courtesy of the title expatriates, carries with it a haughtiness. To hell with expatriates. They've chosen to abandon the motherland. Whatever comes their way is their doing.

Alternative titles - foreign resident, foreign citizen - arouse no such opprobrium. A further one - immigrant - does, but this can stem from a transposition of the situation within the motherland. Once upon a time, the motherland was a place of tolerance, a refuge for the persecuted, a welcoming pair of arms for those from different countries and from different creeds. There is some delusion in this, but notwithstanding historical differences between Protestants and Catholics and the beginnings of a culture clash when Jamaicans started arriving in the motherland, tolerance has held true. Or did.

Brexit has exposed, were there really any need, given its prior existence, the intolerance of immigration and also of emigration, the beleaguered expatriate. In the case of the latter, a form of outward or externalised xenophobia has taken a grip. Aside from the pejorative implication of "expatriate" (one I fully understand), what truly drives this antagonism? Is it simply the vision of the idle lounging-away of long days under a Mediterranean sun and the endless supply of gin and tonics?

Envy may play a part. But so also may the introspection of those who are fully embedded in the motherland, from whose shores they will never depart, save for two weeks of idle lounging-away of long days under a Mediterranean sun. The foreign resident comes in a multitude of forms, hence the catch-all castigation of an expatriate community can be and is an affront. Does it not occur to those back in the motherland, dispensing bilious intolerance, that some people opted to move because their horizons are broader than those limited by and shrouded in the mists of English Channel insularity? Curiosity and discovery were once admirable traits of the British. They created immense wealth. Nowadays they are consigned to the wastelands of old and less old England - the gentility and nobility of the village green willow on leather juxtaposed with the gorilla (and the word is being used correctly) warfare of a category of football supporter (so-called).

The motherland has long been an advocate of freedoms. Trade has been one; choice another. Mobility was made easier by the European Union, but mobility had existed before agreements by the member states. This mobility was a function of curiosity, adventure, the seeking of a better or alternative life, marriage, employment and, yes, the determination of some to spend existences developing skin cancer. (One might also add, it shouldn't be overlooked, the need to escape justice.)

The advocacy of freedom of choice, which doubtless even the most severe critics of expatriates would themselves advocate and defend, was enshrined in law: free movement of people, goods and services. There are those in the motherland who are selective in their advocacy, the products (some at any rate) of the collective narcissism that has taken hold: and not just in Great Britain. This is the exaggerated belief in their superiority but which at the same time has a deep-down doubt surrounding the collective prestige. It is the doubt within this collective disorder which makes some hit out.

The image of the expatriate is not and cannot be standardised. From a personal point of view, how often did I get to the beach last year? On fewer occasions than a fortnight's holidaymaker, that's for certain, and this despite the beach being within easy walking distance. Not once did I sit by a pool. Not once did I have a gin and tonic nor any other alcoholic drink save for a glass of Rioja on which Kelvin MacKenzie has proposed an import tax. Rare are the viewings of British television, but the BBC is an institution I hold dear, if primarily its radio: an institution lambasted by the same critics of the expatriate, at least in part because the ineffable "Daily Mail" tells them to.

What others do, however others choose to live their lives under the sun is entirely their affair. It is not my business and nor should it be anyone else's, wherever they themselves live. They choose because choice exists. The freedom to do so should be fundamental. It is fundamental. But it is a freedom detested and further excoriated on the principle of not being patriotic, however one might choose to define that.

Freedom of choice. A value to be defended, not despised.

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