It’s not often I have the chance to visit the Barbican, the well-known art centre in central London, but this morning I did. Alas, I wasn’t there to see a concert or to watch a dance performance, but to submit my application for British citizenship.
Not wishing to get too intimate with foreigners, I presume, the Home Office has cleverly outsourced some of its citizenship application services, which is why I found myself sitting opposite a mild-mannered and ever so friendly librarian in a quiet corner of the Barbican library.
It was all perfectly civilized, almost pleasant in fact if it wasn’t for a camera that had been specially installed to allow the Home Office to spy on applicants.
‘Should I wave at them,’ I asked, pointing at the camera.
‘You can if you want,’ the librarian said, ‘but to be honest, I’m not sure anyone is actually watching.’
Having checked my documents, scanned my fingerprints and a photo of me that made me look anything but a ‘person of good character,’ the librarian pressed ‘submit’ on the screen, and off went my application to the Home Office.
Since no one asks to see evidence of ‘good character’ to obtain a library membership, I signed up to get a card before leaving the library. That way, my visit wouldn’t have been all in vain, should the Home Office decide I don’t measure up to their notion of what makes a British citizen.
If it hadn’t been for Brexit, I probably wouldn’t have considered applying for a British passport, but with a British husband and British children, joining the tribe makes sense given the current political climate. My reasons for wanting to become British are purely practical, however, and as I’m already a bad Swede, will I now become a bad Brit as well?
It’s just that national identity has never been particularly important to me. Yes, I am Swedish, but that doesn’t necessarily make me more inclined to hang out with other Swedes than with people of different nationalities. Frankly, I don’t care what nationality you are as long as you’re a decent human being.
What matters infinitely more to me than national identity, citizenship, Brexit, Boris et al., is the future of our planet. For the science is clear: we are facing not just climate change, but wholesale climate breakdown within our lifetime. In the face of that stark reality, can we afford to squabble about who belongs within our borders and who doesn’t? After all, our national self-interests, our quests for bigger, better, greater nations, have themselves contributed to the accelerating change in climate that now threatens to destroy not just individual nations, but all of us.
Some will say I’m a hypocrite for banging on about climate breakdown while still driving my (hybrid) car, flying back to Sweden every few months, and failing to give up meat, and it’s true. But I’m learning. I’m making an effort to educate myself about the science behind climate change and the destruction of ecosystems, to make better-informed choices for myself and my family. It’s not enough, I know, but that is no excuse for turning a blind eye and getting on with business as usual.
I might be a bad Swede, and soon a bad Brit as well, but I’m at least trying to be a decent human being.