Certain notions can only develop with the passage of time. One of those notions is ‘change’. In one sense it seems intuitive; nothing remains constant over the course of one’s life. As we age our bodies change, families grow closer or don’t, friends come and go, society endorses something at a whim whilst another goes out the window, political parties fall in and out of favour, money inflates… nothing remains the same. Then there are all those catch phrases endorsing the word e.g be the change you want; change the world; change is a given etc. Ha ha, whilst writing this a very good cover of the Man in the Mirror by James Morrison is espousing the virtue on my Spotify music stream. I’m looking at the man in the mirror, I’m asking him to change his ways.
The truth is that change IS a given but it also a very subjective entity. It always needs to be looked at in the context of its use. I suppose what I am getting at is that I am at one of those junctures where I would like to heed the title advice of Sheryl Crow’s number A Change Would do You Good (also on my playlist). The choice is between staying put and ruminating on getting another job and continuing in my effort to integrate into the society in which I have lived for the last year. Unlike the better part of previous year in Luton I have gone out and actually revived a few old habits and engaged with other people: mountain biking and playing my clarinet in a band being two such examples. And yes I have actually derived a good deal of pleasure from the latter and though I still mostly cycle on my own, to and from work, I’ve enjoyed a biking excursion to the Isle of Wight earlier this summer with some social riders as well as a peak at the lovely New Forest. Why then this underlying feeling of disconnect?
Perhaps it is down to a change, not so much within, but without. It’s not an easy change to define but it’s a feeling of protracted unease which seems to permeate through the lower and upper levels of British society regarding notions of identity. People don’t generally say much but a comment here and there betrays a disdain of the ‘foreign influx’. The meteoric rise of the right-leaning UKIP bears testimony to this. Now we have the In or Out Scotland debate I am seeing people who only weeks ago profess indifference becoming rather more vocal in opinion. The general gist of it is, who the heck does this Alec Salmond think he is even considering the notion of independence? My attempt to draw a corollary with the in-out debate on Europe is either met with a blank stare (how can you possibly equate the two?) or a dismissive wave of the hand. ‘This is not the same debate’ they seem keen to impress upon me. Really? Issues of taxation, how it is collected, where it is collected, and who decides to spend it? Issues of political representation and powers imposed from abroad? Issues of identity? etc
In all this I feel like an observer. I am a tax-paying citizen but I am an emigre. I came her a mere five years ago. What qualifies me to know what it means to be a British patriot? If it came to it I would take up arms for this country I suppose, but what would I be fighting for? I need to take up a position because I do believe in the principle. And so I feel a little disconcerted. Which way to lean? To the left, to the right or neither? In which case I adopt the position of most other emigre I have interacted with, notably the Eastern Europeans and Asians, and stay clear of politics and the identity debate. My gut feeling is that this is a debate for the English, especially after the Scots have had their say and more than likely take the independence offered them. After all who would win the right to a referendum on independence and then refute it? I will keep my head down for now.