Despite the international scaremongering campaign around Brexit, loyalty to where we're born is what creates the space for democracyby Norman Lamont / September 11, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in October 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
Whatever criticisms might be made of Theresa May, she clearly has an eye for a good turn of phrase and has already provided several entries into the dictionary of political quotation. One drew particular attention: “If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere.” For these words she was met with a hailstorm of criticism.
But she is right. Citizenship is a legal relationship consisting of rights and duties between the individual and a particular state. Diogenes, two and half thousand years ago, styled himself “Citizen of the World,” but the phrase makes sense only as a metaphor, emphasising our common humanity and feelings for our fellow human beings.
The PM’s remark struck a chord. Self-styled “citizens of the world” irritate, because the claim conveys an aura of superiority: “my cosmopolitanism is superior to your parochialism.” There is often an implication of xenophobia. Many intellectuals sneer at patriotism, and—sensing the word has a warm feeling to it—they substitute the more inflammatory “nationalism.” But patriotism, or loving one’s country, does not mean dislike of other countries. Loving the place where one was born—be it a village, city or country—is natural. If one substituted “society” for “country,” liberals would not criticise. But the idea of country is tangible, and invokes an instinctive sense of loyalty and obligation.
Oddly, in the eyes of pro-Europeans some nationalisms are less dangerous than others. Scottish nationalism is attacked as impractical, but until recently seldom on xenophobic grounds. This may have been because separat…