Vox Day likes to call immigrants without deep roots in a nation, ‘paperwork citizens’, as opposed to real citizens. I always thought it was a bit mean to those who’d tried hard to fit in and make a life for themselves, but now I see the grain of truth in the sentiment.
As you know, I’m not presently allowed to return to my own country. Subsequent rumination have helped me to make sense of this.
Almost 30% of Australians were born overseas. Some of these, no doubt, are keen to assimilate and eventually become patriotic, dutiful, grouse Aussie shearers. I’ve met Indians from Dubai who delight in our coarseness and have learnt to swear like troopers. I’ve met game Vietnamese boys who play Aussie rules football. I’ve met Kiwis who didn’t know they were Kiwis until they tried to apply for university.
I also know many migrants, especially from China and India, who move to Australia purely for the material advantage to themselves and their families. They seek economic opportunities and start businesses in which they hire primarily their own kind, and often their own kin. They endeavor to get their assets safely out of their home country. They expect their children to marry within their own community and to remain aloof from the ‘Australians’.
Such people have no loyalty to Australia. If they have any at all, it is to their own nation, whether they still have the old passport or not. My second-generation schoolmates said they would never fight for Australia. Fuck Australia. They would only go to war for their own country – Macedonia, China, Cambodia, Tonga. Yes, you got a little window into my teenage world.
In even more mercenary cases, foreigners seek citizenship specifically for the piece of paper. I know a Bolivian who stayed long enough to get his passport, then went home. It’s much easier to travel the world and get working visas with an Australian passport than a Bolivian one. I know a Taiwanese couple who did the same thing, but in their case it was so that their kids could one day go to an Australian university and perhaps work in the country for a while, though they would probably return to Taiwan to have a family.
I don’t particularly blame these people, all of whom are very nice. Rather, I blame us for being such sluts with our citizenship. If we don’t value it, why should they?
That is not the only way that heritage Australians demean our citizenship. First, we are far less inclined to fulfill our duties than we used to be. The last time we had the draft, during the Vietnam War, red-blooded Aussie kids of middle-class background almost always dodged it by entering uni or some other scheme. Only the dumb or working-class kids ended up having to fight. War’s for povos.
Further, having citizenship now means a raft of benefits like the dole, the pension, Medicare and other services. If you ever fall on hard times overseas, you can always come crawling home and get back on the public teat. That is a common reason for expats holding on to their Australian citizenship even if they have no intention of returning. Here I describe myself.
The idea that Australian citizenship is now just a piece of paper, one with assigned benefits and no duties, has seeped into the national consciousness, immigrant and heritage alike. That’s probably why there is very little sympathy for the 100,000 Australian citizens presently stranded abroad by arrival caps. Indeed, 65% of Australians favour sealing the border to returning citizens completely.
Partly this is terror whipped up by politicians and the media, but partly it is a newly cynical view of our ‘citizens’ that undermines the sort of national loyalty that is taken for granted in normal countries.
Some citizens trapped abroad, like myself, have been expats for many years and have contributed little to the country where we were raised. We pay taxes elsewhere, are never available for jury duty, don’t vote, and we will probably only come home if we want something, like the prodigal son who only calls his mum to humbug some more cash.
The most up-voted comment on a recent article about stranded Australians said something like, they chose to pursue a life abroad, there were risks, that’s what you get. You took a gamble and it didn’t pay off.
Other stranded citizens have only been citizens for a short time. They’re the Indians who returned home to do Indian things, only keeping their Australian passport in case they need to work or do business there, or get welfare, or flash in front of a prospective spouse. Indians are just an example – there are plenty of other ‘citizens’ who just wanted the convenience of a second passport, but who are happier living in their own countries.
And there are further Australians who got stranded for all sorts of other reasons like essential travel or sheer bad luck. Even in their case, the indifference of back-home Aussies is understandable. There is no such thing as an ‘Australian’ anymore. If nationality means nothing, then what loyalty do we owe to our compatriots? None.
The tiny risk of a mostly harmless virus escaping from quarantine outweighs the severe hardship some are suffering overseas, unable to work or access welfare, get medical care, or see their children. This is because the interests of strangers overseas has a weight of 0. In the absence of a true sense of nation, we might as well be blob-monsters from Kepler-22b. This is doubly so for those safely back-home citizens who were born overseas or belong to the second generation. They may have intense loyalty to their countrymen, but I’m not one of them.
This realization has come at a hard time for me. Not materially, but emotionally.
Australia has finally begun standing up to China, even at significant economic cost. She seems to be regaining her will to sovereignty. I experienced a long-lost twinge of patriotism. I thought, perhaps I would be willing to sacrifice for my country after all.
As my job in Japan fell through, I planned on returning to Australia for a long period of time as soon as local travel restrictions eased. I thought, maybe I should give Australia another go. Try working there again, perhaps in a regional area this time. Warm thoughts returned to my mind. For the first time in many, many years, I felt homesick.
Just as I became able to get to an international airport, the Australian arrivals cap hit the water and flights home became almost impossible to book. I thinks I’ve had eight flights cancelled or bumped but I’ve lost count. This is purely the fault of tyrannical Australian authorities and of my hysterical and treasonous countrymen who are egging them on.
I can see the reasons for empathy ebbing. I understand there are two in this tango. Nevertheless, it cuts almost as deeply as being abandoned by my own family. The prodigal son is always the son, always welcome home when he has mended his ways. But there is no return for me.
I’ve got another job in Japan starting in a few months. I hope to go home to visit family before then, but I now face the sad prospect that Japan will let me in before Australia does.
That hurts. My roots in Australia go back a very long way. What would my grandpa think, who risked his life on the Kokoda Track? What about Pop, who survived the Depression by eating whatever bunnies or other wildlife he could shoot in the Mallee?
Once my parents have passed, I will not visit Australia any more. I am now a true paperwork citizen, keeping my passport only for the convenience that it offers. I’ll try to get permanent residence or a second passport elsewhere.
I’m done with Australia. Australia is done with me. In fact, Australia no longer exists.
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