I remember feeling homesick whilst living in Australia in 2011. I was there on a working holiday visa and six months through, I decided it was time to go and headed for home. Well, headed to Asia for a month to relax first and then home.
The homesickness I experienced then, manifested itself in a few different ways. I missed family and friends. I missed having a support network. I missed how connected the UK is to the global music scene, compared to Australia and as a huge music fan that was important to me. I missed many cultural aspects, like the humour and familiarity of surroundings.
After coming home however and over the last seven years, I’ve viewed the UK through fresh eyes. Travelling the world has broadened my outlook, helped me to see the way that other countries operate, seeing both the positive and negative. Britain has also been changing, becoming more insular whilst I was becoming less so, so we have been on a collision course for some time.
Read more: If you are thinking of coming to live or visit the UK, then take a look at our comprehensive guide to Brexit & UK Visas for Travellers here for a full round up of the Brexit situation.
Some Home Truths:
Britain has always been an elitist place. Hundreds of years ago, we sailed around the world, invading other peoples countries, conquering them and getting rich from exploiting their resources. The places we could exploit the most – like in the case of Africa – we also stole people and forced them into slavery.
Many of the main streets in Glasgow’s historic centre, where I live, are named after slave traders, for example. It seems we are not even sorry. We have since then, been fighting to protect that wealth as a country.
We now use borders, trade deals and business to prevent any of these nations recovering from the oppression we inflicted. Take the Stealing Africa documentary I recently blogged about, for an example of this. 105 years ago there were no firm borders, as we know them – you could travel around without any documentation. Then in 1914, wealthy countries like the UK, introduced passports to lock out the people they exploited.
This is my primary reason for my support of UK membership of the EU – the freedom to travel should be a right that everyone has and the EU was the first step towards achieving this globally. You should be able to go where ever you want, without having to ask politicians for permission.
Many scholars now feel that strict immigration laws have little to no effect on driving down immigration numbers. The biggest driver of immigration is inequality and this is why the USA and UK are world leading countries for migrants seeking entry level work. We have the widest wealth gaps, from richest to poorest, creating an underclass of employment. Here is one of the world’s leading geographers, Prof. Danny Dorling to explain:
Now, I’m not a complete rebel. I wouldn’t mind doing as the government decided, if there was a fair, democratic representation in our parliaments but in the UK, equal representation is not happening. Just 7% of children go to private (paid for) school in the UK, yet 48% of Conservative MPs, 17% of Labour’s and 14% of the Liberal Democrats party come from that background. Then add that the upper House of Lords is completely unelected and full of wealthy people and you have a recipe for a hideously elitist government. There should not be a ruling class. Nor should politics be a meritocracy profession and if a parliament fails to reflect wider society, it can not be considered a democracy.
If the UK government reflected wider society:
- 63% of MPs would be working class (only 25/650 came from manual occupations)
- 51% women (currently 32%)
- 13% of MPs should be BAME (currently 8%)
As I am someone who comes from a modest, working class background, living in the UK means that I have far less opportunities, than if I lived in almost any other developed country. Money is not something that is very important to me – I own no major assets but also have zero debt – but I find having no opportunities of profession and the lack of equality, stifling. (charts below courtesy The Guardian)
I would have liked to work in music or journalism but these are almost exclusively middle or upper-middle class professions. I know that my writing is good enough and indeed, I have a unique perspective, but due to an underprivileged start in life, I had very little any chance of achieving that in the UK. Half of all journalists are from public schools and remember, only 7% of the population get to go to these schools. I have had over three hundred articles published in established press outlets as a contributor, so I have plenty of work to showcase. Having not attended university, I have been unsuccessful with every job I’ve applied for in these fields, had no offers of freelance employment, training, mentorship or internship and have only been paid for two of those articles.
Whilst I respect that the majority of the media is privately run and has the right to operate a hiring policy that excludes huge sections of society, I do not think it is healthy. Moreover, I do not think the same hiring policies should apply to the BBC or Channel 4. These publically funded and owned entities should certainly reflect society and provide equal opportunities. Again, we should see 63% working class staff, 51% women and 13% BAME. Sadly, public service broadcasting has very similar diversity issues, as in politics.
Read More: A guide to Brexit for travellers coming into the UK.
Who Am I?
Whilst I am from Britain, I would not refer to myself as a ‘Brit’. I am ashamed of that term due to a legacy of international imperialism, illicit conflicts like Iraq and the narrow minded Brexit attitude towards international people.
I do on occasion refer to myself as a ‘Scot’ but also have my reservations over that. Scotland was complicit in imperialism and although inhabitants generally oppose wars and Brexit, has it’s own set of issues.
In Glasgow – where I live – male life expectancy is just 71 years old, termed the Glasgow Effect. That’s 10 whole years less than the south of England and is similar to war-torn Libya and Samoa, which is experiencing a diabetes crisis right now. I would argue that social deprivation and a culture of treating children abusively, are the biggest contributing factors.
Take Billy Connolly’s upbringing as a well documented example. His phycologist wife, Pamela Stevenson identified seven severe adverse childhood experiences including abandonment, neglect and sexual abuse during his upbringing.
Billy went on to develop alcoholism and severe low-self-worth. Had Billy not been fortunate enough to come into wealth, meet his wife who helped him give up drinking and move away from the oppressive environment of his childhood, then things might have been very different for Billy too.
This kind of upbringing is all too common in Scotland. You might also examine the past of other Scottish icons, like Sean Connery and his history of domestic abuse, or Irvine Welsh and his drug addition.
The result is a national attitude of low-confidence, subservience and self-deprecation that can lead to societal issues with homelessness, drug abuse. alcoholism and dietary problems. Like Renton said, “it’s shite being Scottish, we are the lowest of the low, the scum of the earth”.
Carol Craig makes the case to consider Scotland’s relation with abusive upbringings, in much more eloquent terms that I ever could over on the Glasgow Herald website here. Personally, I’d like to live deep into retirement age and Scotland doesn’t seem to be a home conducive with that idea.
Right now, I am most comfortable referring to myself as a ‘Celt’. The modern day Celtic people are a loose grouping of Scottish, Irish, Welsh, West Country English and Northern French people. We have our own cultural languages and you notice the road signs are bi-lingual in these regions.
We invented folk music and generally like to play or watch rugby as the main community sport. The Celts are Europeans and in the age of Brexit, we seem to have forgotten that borders are just lines drawn on the map by rich people. We share blood with these people, for gods sake!
Time To Go:
And so it is time for me to strap on my backpack, to go out and learn something more about the world, before settling in Australia. Of course, I am more than aware of the short-comings of Australian history, the oppression of indigenous people by British emigrants and poor treatment of current economic migrants. As a country, it has many shortcomings and I intend to speak out against these things.
But it is home to my girlfriend’s wonderful family and we would like to spend some time closer to them. I would also like to see more of the world and get to know Kate’s background, like she has mine, over the past couple of years. So there are many positive influences on my decision to move too.
Additionally, Australia is a country with much more social mobility, ten years more life expectancy and more ethnic integration. Yes, I will miss my Celtic homeland but as it is being carved up by Brexiteers, with a hard border in France and Ireland, I’d rather not be here to see that, nor the destruction of the Good Friday agreement, or the building of what will be the North Ireland version of the Berlin Wall.
I start my Australia visa application next week.