Friday, August 12, 2011

To a Friend in London

For the past few days, I've been exchanging emails with an old friend who lives in London. I've watched with dismay the news reports and videos of the destruction and looting and read to my further dismay that the British government has threatened to shut down forms of communication including Twitter in response to what is taking place. Our emails touched on some of the causes of the current situation as perceived by my friend. She has a unique perspective, being an American ex-pat who has been living in London for several years. As the conversation has recently touched upon the topics of nations, national identity and multiculturalism, I thought I would share this with you.

"Thank you again for sharing your perspective with me. I don't think I'm necessarily more political than you, I've sort of soured on mainstream politics. There's not a whole lot of difference between the left and the right as far as I can see, though if I had to choose a side I'd be hanging off the edge of the left.

In the past few years I've had to reassess what it means to have a national identity. Do you consider yourself English now that you live there? What does it mean to be English? I ask myself a similar question, what does it mean to be American? I grew up loving this country, being fiercely patriotic. Indeed, even now when I see the corruption in our government and the bigotry of a large portion of its citizens, I can still see the beauty of America's spirit trying to shine out from under the muck.

I'm not sure that the concept of nations makes much sense to me anymore when I see that the multinationals are the ones who are running the world. Governments don't act in accordance with the needs or wishes of the people they represent, they act in accordance with the demands of the corporations who paid the money to put them in office. I really believe that. The big multinational corporations don't pay taxes, they can't really be sued except by their stockholders if they are publicly owned, and their sole reason for being is to make money, not to provide goods or services to the people. They are virtually unregulated. Governments help to create the illusion that there are nations and some even pretend to have a democracy but in the end when it comes to serving and representing their citizens, they fail.

It's comical to me that we have the Tea Party in Arizona claiming that Mexicans are taking their country from them. They're too blind to see that America doesn't belong to the people, it belongs to big business. Why don't they rally to tax corporations instead of complaining about immigrants who do the toughest jobs for pennies? Why do the immigrants come here in the first place? Why for work, of course. The thing is that in today's world they may not need to come here because so much work is outsourced these days to places where labor is cheap. If I were a Teabagger (as we on the left refer to the Tea Party members), I'd push for businesses to hire where they sell, I'd push for just wages for all workers, documented and undocumented. In the end that would help their cause, unless their real cause is just to spread racist paranoia because they're too afraid to tackle the real enemy, which would be a monumental task and require real patriotism and not just theatrical flagwaving.

As for culture, I think of myself as a citizen of the world. I love that there are cultural differences between us, but I do not value those who dominate or suppress human freedom in the name of culture or religion. I cannot be silent when women or minorities are discriminated against. It's funny, maybe that's just part of my Mexican-American upbringing.

Multiculturalism is a difficult dream to achieve, we have so much to learn before we can expect to be respectful of others. I know it would be a challenge for me. I am so damn opinionated! But can you imagine what a beautiful world it would be if we did achieve it?"



Anonymous said...

Rap on Sister, rap on.The only people talking 'bout love thy neighbor is the preacher, and it seems, nobody's interested in learnin',but the teacher.....yes, if people would open their eyes and see what is really happening, and heaven forbid, stand up and do something, there might come some changes.........XO Angie

Matt "Max" Van said...

I read Dave Allen's post at and it, too is viewing London through a teabag- he makes the point that london may be reacting to the kind of Austerity that the Tea party wants to bring to this country.
Back in the day, I was a hardcore Trotskyite, and while I'm far, far more reformist these days, one holdover from my time with the RCP is that I see nations as a tool for controlling the masses. I see Nationalism, and it's disguises in patriotism as a scheme cooked up by dictators like Napolean to convince people to join in wars that aren't in their best interest. It's another shackle. But, that's my opinion. Take it or leave it, I'm no genius. But, I do know that, left to their own devices, people don't tend to draw up lines between supposed identities- they have to be told to do that. If nobody ever tells me what a gypsy is, how will I ever know to watch out for them? I just wish that we'd all quit trying to identify gypsies, and start trying to plug some of the holes in Spaceship Earth, you know?