“For peace of mind”, my aunt answered when I asked her why she left her native land, Africa. “I wanted a better life for my children. Not just financially or education-wise, but also so they would have peace of mind.”
Globalisation and nationalism are the two buzz words on everyone’s minds nowadays. We argue about globalisation, about capitalism, about employment, and about immigration, so much so that we elected as president a man who promised to fix these terms into neat little packages once more.
If peace of mind is what drove our parents and grandparents to leave it all behind, sacrificing their lives for ours, then the irony is not lost on us, for the Western promise for peace of mind is breaking. We face consistent terrorist attacks from people whose lives Western powers first destroyed. This, along with issues of immigration and austerity, force us to become marginalised within our very own communities. The promise of ever-present employment is faded, as it becomes ever more impossible for us to reach the success our parents dreamed for us. Our degrees are almost meaningless, despite being promised that they were the keys to future employment. We lose hope for a bright future with each year that passes.
We have been left the mess of the generations behind to clean up, a mess identical to the ones our parents first ran away from in their Second and Third World nations. Since we must clean up some mess, why not clean up the mess left behind in our native lands? Where do our loyalties lie? Within the context of globalisation, surely it matters not whether we choose to stay in our “adoptive” nations, or whether we return to our “birth” nations, for making one nation better only serves to better the global community?
Yet, within the context of nationalism, we are forced to choose one nation over another, as nations lock up their borders, and ask citizens to choose where their unwavering loyalty lies. Some of us are compelled to “go back”, to help build nations torn apart by colonialism and its ripple effects. Some of us, on the other hand, are compelled to stay, because “here” is our home, and we know no other.
To go back is commendable. It is to attempt to build where others have destroyed, and to try once more, where others have failed, or never even tried. To stay is just as commendable. It is to choose loyalty to your home, and to try, just as well, to make right where past generations have failed. The question is not necessarily about loyalty, globalisation or nationalism. At the heart of this decision among second and third generation immigrants is the question of where you call home. We, in rare positions of having more than one nation to call home, must decide where to set up our adult roots. Where do we most want to affect change? For some, we need not even limit our choice to one nation. Who says home can’t be in two, three or more nations?