I decided to write this bit on nationalism and what it means to me after several different conversations I had since I started walking.
Regarding this subject, one of the conversations started like this: “Oh, you’re from Romania! But wait, aren’t you a gypsy? … Uhm… no…”. At which point I remembered one of Olly’s reactions to my plan: “Did you ever consider you might have gypsy ancestors and that’s where this traveling thing comes from?”. I could only smile. And I’m not taking a step back from the whole gypsy situation out of shame, but only to make some people get the bigger picture. One in which the western media constantly colored Romania in the gypsy land that it’s not. One in which a lot of people have absolutely no idea on what Romania really is about. And I’m not dismissing the gypsies. Some of the greatest artists I’ve came to enjoy are gypsies, may them be gypsies from Germany, Poland, the UK or Romania. And it’s one thing most people don’t get. Britain, like any other country, has its own gypsies as well. And some of them behave, some don’t. The same way some of the British people are amazing and some are pricks. There are plenty of both in Romania as well.
But I cannot put labels on groups, either. That’s not thinking. At most, it’s a short-cut to thinking. Of, course, we like to address a lot of out matters in general. Romanians did this, British did that, Gypsies are like this and that and so on. Only a few actually bother to talk about only what they know, and from case to case, sticking to the point, without jumping to general conclusions. For a lot, though, it’s easier to draw lines. All of that while taking pride in their nationality. A form of perverted patriotism. And it’s strange to see that in some British people. Going mad about their nationality. About their territory. Fueled by media channels that address full-out blown-up campaigns of claiming the bad influence of the foreigners. It makes me smile and a bad-seed idea makes me think of payback. But something more profound comes after: the possibility that it’s harder and harder to speak of countries any more. Soon enough, there will be no more countries. It is where all our present history seems to be going towards, with our ever-mixing nations, with our ever-mixing cultures. All while nationalism, in its utterly traditional and fanatic form still shows itself, sometimes in unusual places.
All the media pressure got to the administration system as well. And my personal experience with that system didn’t turn out quite well. As a Romanian national, for more than about a year I tried to obtain the legal forms of working in the UK, all through the system put in place to avoid situations where foreigners would create pressure if becoming a burden on the social benefits system. But I wasn’t going for that anyway. And although I was offered numerous jobs, I could not take them because of that very system’s rules I was trying to respect. I did not came to England to steal, nor to steal anyone’s job. In the end, the system worked though, informing me through a letter that the UK Border Agency is not happy with me exercising my treaty right as a student. In other words, it was the classic polite British way of saying – leave our country! I can but smile at that as well. Honestly. Knowing that the system fails big time anyway and there are plenty working illegal, may them be from Bulgaria, India, Romania, Zambia or Russia. And probably the UKBA knows they are failing at practicing what they preach as well.
And in that light, honestly, now, does it really matter? As in does it matter where I am from? Is it something so important? Does it describe my personality? And how come this affects my rights? And if it is, my question to anyone taking pride in belonging to a nation is this: “What was your contribution to being able to call yourself British or Romanian or French?”. Ask yourself. Think about it. For me, the answer is zero. None. Inexistent. The fact that I was born in Romania was just a random happening. There’s nothing I did for that. I may have as well been born in New York or in Faya-Largeau, a desert city in Sahara. And I cannot take pride in something that was beyond my power. It’s something a lot of people do not realize: they could’ve been born anywhere in the world. But I do take pride in knowing the history of the place I was born in, in knowing its culture, in knowing its present and in having a genuine interest for its future. And it somehow goes the same way towards the UK after living here for a while. Which is probably why I now feel that I’m just about to go outside my comfort zone.
But nationalism? I feel more as a part of this world than to a specific place, which could’ve as easily been delimited not by history, not by a community’s development in a geographical area, but by people that drew lines on a map. I’ve said it before and I say it again: we are way too divided as a species. We could be 7 billion strong. But we are 7 billion weak.
Some took a rant at my writing in English, asking to stop calling myself Romanian, since I threw my own language at the bin. I’m only writing in English so more people could have access to this blog. And those people may wonder, after this post. What is Romania for me, then? It starts with being the place I knew best and loved most. Things change.