The country where you live now…..have you lived there all your life?
What about your parents? Or their parents?
According to the UN one in every thirty people lives in a country other than their birth country in the course of their lifetime.
That’s true for me. After retiring from clinical practice in Scotland two years ago this month, I sold up and moved to the Charente in France, which is where I live now. I had an ambition to live in another country for a long time and retirement gave me the opportunity. I didn’t want to just live in another country, I wanted to learn another language and to live in the culture of that language. I find it not only enlarges and deepens my experience of the world, but it changes my perspective on my birth country and culture too. It’s not a matter of one being better than another. It’s about the difference.
I guess I’m now a migrant.
I hadn’t really thought I was until the “Brexit” vote (don’t get me started!), but I now know I’m like millions, yes, millions, of Europeans who are born in one country and live in another. The EU project emphasises what they call the “four freedoms” and they are all freedom of movement – freedom of movement of capital, goods, services and people. What the people who promoted Brexit seem to want is to take away only one of those freedoms – the freedom of movement of people. They seem to prefer only the freedom to make money.
I read an article in a French newspaper recently where the writer questioned the policies which divide people who migrate into two categories – “economic migrants” and “refugees” – and asked who decided it was more noble to flee from war and violence than it was to try to escape death from hunger. Not all migration, of course, is about escaping from anything. Migration can be stimulated not just by fear, but by curiosity.
Migration has, of course, become a huge issue because of the surge in mass migration produced by the US and Europe destroying other states and bombing their cities. Is it any surprise people want to escape Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Libya and so on? But migration is what human beings do. As a species we’ve done that since we were hunter-gatherers and there have been huge waves of mass migration throughout history. Without those waves we wouldn’t have the diverse countries we have now.
I feel it’s time for us to tell a new story of migration – both of migration to escape something and migration for a better, deeper or larger life.
None of us need to go back many generations to find ancestors who were born in one country then moved to another. Maybe that’s the place to start…..tell the stories of our migrant ancestors, and tell the stories of our own migrations.