In London, where I now live, it’s always foreigners who ask me where I am from. Africans in particular. They hesitate – on one level I must seem quintessentially English – but they are clearly picking up on something different about me.
If I ask them to guess South Africa, Sweden or Germany are the most common responses.
British people of whatever colour or class have never asked. To them I look and seem like a middle class, English women, so they project the assumptions they have about that on to me.
If I explain anything about my background then it’s ‘lucky’, ‘privileged’, ‘glamorous’, ‘jet-setting’, a tinge of passive aggressive, jealousy permeating their responses.
The reason for this is simple. I grew up all over the world, moving country every three to four years. Botswana, Zimbabwe, France, Switzerland, America, Turkey and then back to Switzerland and France.
My parent’s were frontline aid workers. My father worked for the UN’s refugee agency, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. My mother, a child psychologist, worked with child soldiers and war-traumatised children long before the issue rose to international prominence.
Amid all the moves, both parents also made frequent trips to areas of headline humanitarian disaster – Ethiopia during the 1980’s famine, Liberia and Sierra Leone during the civil wars of the early 1990’s an Rwanda at the tail end of the 1994 Genocide, to name a few.
My childhood was an endlessly changing kaleidoscope of colours, cultures and creeds, more ‘diverse’ than even the most ardent multicultural-junkie could imagine. I will have had childhood friends from countries and cultures many people have never heard off.
The conversations around the dinner table were of war, civil strife, refugee movements and human rights. My father’s agency was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work repatriating Zimbabwean refugees at the end of the civil war. My mother and her colleagues helped to draw up the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The assumption is that this must have made for a life akin to a permanent backpacking holiday, full of positive inter-racial and multi-cultural exchange, with ethical demigods for parents: that I must be true ‘Citizen-of-the-world’ and that this must, surely, be a wonderful thing.
I got so tired of these blinkered, naïve assumptions – which only served to compound the isolation and total absence of roots or identity that are the actual legacy – that eventually I stopped telling people anything about my upbringing at all.
Why did I decide to start this blog? Simple. The debate surrounding race, culture, immigration, Islam and identity in the West has reached a state of absurdity that is now threatening our civilisation, and I have some unique experiences and insights to contribute to it.
Expect posts on:
- The reality of an internationally rootless upbringing, why a firm cultural identity matters to children and how multiculturalism harms this
- Behind the scenes insights into the aid industry and the people who work in it.
- How racism, xenophobia and prejudice exist in all societies and across all races.
- Why cultures are not equal and why many of them are not compatible.
- Lesser-known aspects of history, especially ones that break down the narrative of evil, Western colonisers and poor, defenceless everyone else.
I’ll aim to post about once every week or two and I look forward to any comments, queries and criticisms.