March 01, 2011

Irish Argentine

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011, a unique day for me. I entered the office of judge Omar, of the Argentine Federal Legal service. I sat down with his secretary and after an informal chat and an extremely long question (to which I answered "Si!"), I accepted citizenship of Argentina.

By gosh, I'm an American.

Remote geography allowed both Ireland and Argentina to avoid the "great" conflicts of the twentieth century. One positive side-effect of this neutrality is that they don't consider it a military impediment that their citizens hold dual nationality. Neither nation considers another nationality incompatible with their own.

I now have political rights in Argentina, adding these to the Argentine civil rights which I have enjoyed since residing here. Argentina has recently been working hard to recuperate civil (human) rights since they were violated by both individuals and the state apparatus (particularly the despicable junta government between 1976 and 1983) in the most violent of ways. Civil rights is also something I enjoy as a visitor to the country of my birth. Ireland, on the other hand, is not so generous with it's political rights. She takes the conservative stance of offering these rights to just some of her residents which means that I (as an Irish citizen but non-resident) will enjoy political rights (albeit not in Ireland) for the first time since 1992.

I am now an Irish Latin American, a duality that I am comfortable with. I shall, and do, remain Irish and hope to remain so until I receive my final certificate (whether this document will be in Spanish or in English is hardly my problem), the epitaph will be in English (I'm considering it's tough being a superhero (but I'm sure it would be censored by surviving friends and family). To paraphrase Spike Milligan: "During the meanwhilst" I shall live and develop this duality taking it as far as it goes.

I consider myself very fortunate. The swarms of climate refugees which are envisaged later this century will mean, I realise, that I may be one of the last to enjoy the privilege of moving countries legally and by choice without providing a huge investment (buying a passport.) There are few better places for the migrant than this Buenos Aires port culture; itself an embodiment of that same European - Latin American cultural blend. A coffee colored capital with terrible coffee that tries to make up with excellent maté.

For this Irishman the World just became a smaller place but in that I am far from alone. Many of the southern hemisphere's economic and climate instability problems are now evident in the country of my birth. While we swelter in Buenos Aires, Ireland experiences severe winters (a side effect of the polar melts.) Dublin too faced bubble's of deregulated, virtual wealth burst shearing the fabric of a society which now benefits so very very few.

On a larger scale as we swarm toward seven billions only the damage to the planet is a real problem. Financial collapse might lead to war but our "human"-kind is just one of over 15,000 species facing extinction right now. Christian religions teach us that we are uniquely capable of recognising our own "soul". Maybe we should ask our mates the pigeons, the rats and the cockroaches how they feel about their cities being inundated?

No worries.

Global problems need global citizens and I have chosen to dedicate much of the last decades(s) of my life to question some very basic (mostly capitalist but also socialist, communist) premises of our recent human culture. The last few centuries have burned some very dangerous habits into our consciousness, we seem to have developed a susceptibility to messages and our technologies in the media have come a long way since Gutenburg's printing press. What began in the 1930's with the perfection of German propaganda, has culminated in the extraordinarily sophistication of consumer advertising. We unique individuals deserve more, do we not? We have a right to choose/consume. It is a Coke and Pepsi world out there.

Unfortunately for our planet this separation into nation, class and greedy individual inhibits us from getting together to solve our problems. In psychology -an area where I carefully preserve my ignorance-- one refers to this as "othering"; a process of regarding our neighbours (or those which we believe we least resemble) as inferior or threatening. This has vast economic and a social costs measured in wars, famines and now global pollution which we shall pay dearly for if we don't get together to fix this once and for all.

I have been lucky enough to live in many corners of this planet and shall continue to do so while my luck holds out. I don't have many answers, I have barely begun to see the problems, but I shall try to become more gentle with this beautiful planet little of ours with its multicoloured passports.

Posted by Tony Phillips at March 1, 2011 11:54 AM
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