Being a global citizen is simply a matter of being British. To succeed in the world, act British. Discuss.
I am British (you guessed already), quite specifically born 1959 English in Cambridge, UK. That has shaped a lot of my outlook. Post-war (WW2) post-Empire post-Cold-War and brought up with and amidst USAF people stationed in the UK at the time of the moon-landings. Add in 44 years of UK EU membership and travelling Europe extensively in my twenties. Those factors and an enquiring mind have given me a somewhat international outlook.
Here we used to look to the USA for the wow factor. Europe was a bit exotic too. We Brits felt a sense of great history and entitlement, technological, cultural and military superiority. Now we look to China for wow factor and wonder what our trade, prosperity, ease of travel and future will be. Yet, I feel my country will ultimately benefit from the forthcoming Brexit shock to make it strive again to be the exciting prosperous place it has shown in the past it can be.
Mine is the country that did the industrial revolution, invented the internet, jet engine, railways, maglev trains and phones, designed the mallard, spitfire, e-type, harrier, mini, miniskirt and half of Concorde and the channel tunnel, as well as giving the world Shakespeare, the best translation of the Bible into English (partly by Shakespeare) and at least half of pop music. I want us to put the Great back into Great Britain so it not just the geographic descriptor for these islands.
This is I feel, necessarily about us as individuals. I am too small to steer history in any meaningful way whatsoever and nor do I seek to, but I can still be a butterfly wing beating out fractal consequences, cheerleading and hoping for a nascent hurricane. I define myself as and enjoy being a global citizen and urge my fellow Brits to delight in being multicultural, outward-looking and to play and shine on the stage that is the world.
I watch La Tour, support the Baltimore Orioles, listen William Gibson audiobooks, wear a Mondaine Swiss watch (or “for best” my 1942 limited edition Juvenia), cheer England in the world cup, suck a Ricola, enjoy a McDonalds breakfast (still miss the old Big Breakfast), drive a (unique special edition – one-only OEM) Smart car, listen to (South African) Kaya FM, work for a global construction consultancy headquartered in North America with internationally known architects, read Monocle, Flipboard and Cool Hunting, watch Paul Begley, New China TV, SerpentZA and Naomi Sexy Cyborg, on my many different Apple, Windows and Android devices of course. I sponsor two children in Kenya and enjoy Scandinavian, French and German TV crime dramas. I dance Tango and listen to Jazz and Classical from everywhere. I eat British, Indian, Chinese, North-African, Middle-Eastern, American, Thai, Polynesian, Spanish, French, German, Dutch and Italian food. I like root beer, British, green Sencha and Macha, Moroccan mint and lemon tea, coffee, beers, lagers, really fine French wines (Margaux), the very best Scottish single malt whiskies, Swedish Vodka and that French café speciality La Bomba (Cognac in hot chocolate). I snack on corn chips, pretzel sticks, and peanut puffs. I love merguez, belly pork, falafel and Singapore fried rice. For chocolate probably Rittersport tops it. I am a born-again Christian helping construct a mosque designed by a Jew, sponsored by Turks, fabricated and assembled by Swiss, Irish and Greek people.
Almost everything in my homeland’s culture including food, language and genetics result from us invading others or others invading (or trying to invade) us – mutual assimilation. We are perfect mongrels on a just-enough-isolated island that has made us fiercely independent seafarers, traders, invaders, exploiters, explorers, colonisers and conquerors. Romans, Saxons, Angles, Vikings, Normans, the Crusades, the Empire, the Napoleonic, two World Wars and numerous other wars have made us rich, strong and diverse. Our history is certainly not all noble but the result is incontrovertible. To me Jamaican is a very British accent, curry is a typical British dish, American English is just an old Elizabethan accent, the best bridge in France was designed by one of my countrymen and so were all those lovely Apple computers. Brits are the Borg – we assimilate everything. If we invade you when we eventually leave we take all you had that was good and leave you our language and culture which is also quite good, if you invade us we assimilate your language and culture and eventually you simply become us.
It is however not now simply about looking back, sitting on laurels and past glories – those things past are just examples of what we are capable of time and again at every point in our history, I believe because the psychosocial identity we share as a nation. Right now we are the financial capital of the world and we will not let the EU steal that. We lead in satellites and are global players in aerospace, defence (defense), energy, biotech, physics, pharma and have Oxford and Cambridge amongst our universities. We are a nuclear power and sit on the UN Security Council. We are the fifth or sixth largest economy on the planet (argue amongst yourselves while we make more money by inventing insurance – oh we already did that). We will play every advantage we have. We will no longer be contained and constrained by a couple of rich old rivals in Europe keeping us from competing with them too well by getting us to pay for all the poor countries they have appended.
I notice that Britain never really got the Marshall Plan money after WWII – our share was more than cancelled out by lend-lease war debts to the USA. How convenient. Europe and Japan got all the help, then as we started to get out of the economic dip we got lured into the EC. A very good way for competing economies to keep us down post-Empire (I think they were scared of our capacity to dominate the world and conspired to keep us down to their advantage). Imperial competition between Britain and German led to WWI and on to WWII. The Japan-US Pacific conflict of WWII was also a trade war. The USA wanted to be the next empire, economically if not territorially, so keeping the UK away from the money and playing Europe and Japan made sense. Getting the EU to mop up Eastern Europe post USSR was also a cheap way for the USA to counter Russia. Britain has been paying a good bit of that bill for a long time. That era has ended. Europe is falling apart. America is receding, China is rising. India is a player too. Africa is the next sleeping giant and China already can see it. It is time for a newly free from the EU Britain to carve its own path again. Not the old path, although strangely there is a tiny little space for a new British Empire in there – countries in our Commonwealth that might ask for a really close relationship with us in return for stability and protection from terrorising neighbours – much as China is subtly offering some African states already. So something new, something better, something great. An international multicultural future beckons.
The future belongs to the brave, so confidence is all important. On the past 2000 years’ form – taking the long view – I think have every reason to be confident.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips, Straining upon the start.
(Shakespeare’s Henry V, Act III)