Citizenship, loyalty and belongingness

Thousands of Filipino-born Americans cheered vehemently for Manny Pakyaw for “The Fight of the Century” boxing title against American Floyd Mayweather Jr. at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas in May this year. From time to time, we hear about some South Asians in the UK feeling gloomy when the English cricket team wins against Pakistan or India (their ancestral homes). My first work supervisor in Australia was a New Zealander, and I believe he celebrated in the comfort of his Brisbane home (Australia) the win of the All Blacks against the Wallabies/Aussies in yesterday's Rugby World Cup 2015.

Sport is one of the primary means through which citizenship and belongingness are contested and resisted. The teams we cheer for, flags we fly, anthem we sing and colour of clothes we wear are a part of our interpretation, as individuals or groups, of the cultural, linguistic and national connections that unite or divide us. These days, such connections are quite complex as the very concept of a national identity is challenged and redefined (sometimes as multiple identities) and dual citizenship have become more common than ever.

Globalisation, migration and family relationships have (and will continue to) changed individual and collective identities within a nation. At the same time, international connectedness has been confirmed by membership to organisations, e.g. European Union, creating a new kind of identity that is different from what is traditionally associated with a single country. Likewise, constant economic, political, social and cultural developments contribute to the transformation of our identity and sense of belonging, which aid or complicate our rights and responsibilities as citizens of one or more countries.

Double citizenship implies dual loyalties, and this is complicated when the duality involves countries that are politically and/or culturally different, e.g. one of them is non-democratic or has an extremely conservative way of life. These dual loyalties are sometimes subject to suspicions and prejudices.

My 1984 PhD thesis was on Asian immigration and the Australian criminal justice system. The main finding was that during the 10-year period (1980 – 1990) Islander-and Asian-born immigrants had lower crime rate than the Australian-born population, but were more negatively portrayed by the media and perceived by the public. The marginalisation and criminalisation of migrants and refugees continue (especially involving Muslims following the 9/11 incident) because of terrorism and threats of it, conflicts in the Middle East, crises in the movement of people due to war and poverty, and political and economic situations in the arrival/receiving countries.

Wherever we are and whatever our sense of belonging, let's resist discrimination, respect differences and practise shared citizenship that contributes to making our society more informed, peaceful and just.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Margaret Mead (December 16, 1901– November 15, 1978; famous American anthropologist and author).
"Good government is no substitute for self-government." Mahatma Gandhi (2 October 1869– 30 January 1948; led India to independence from Britain and inspired freedom and civil right movements across the world).

(visit my website BRolade Societal Blog - roladesocietalblog.com)

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