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.