9/18/2005

The Closest Thing to Crazy

Anglo-Georgian chanteusova Katie Melua's most famous number is called 'The Closest Thing to Crazy'.
While, to my ears, Melua's voice is not unappealing, the song itself sounds as if its writer penned it on a beermat while stoned.
However, having lived in the UK since the age of eight Katie has recently become a British citizen. This happy event was recorded by The Daily Telegraph, which on August 11 reported her as saying,
"This is extremely special for me and my family. As a family we have been very fortunate to find a happy lifestyle in this country and we feel we belong here.

"We hope we have also made at least a small contribution to the country. We still consider ourselves to be Georgian, because that is where our roots are, and I return to Georgia every year to see my uncles and grandparents, but I am proud to now be a British citizen."
'We still consider ourselves to be Georgian' - hmmm....
Two days later the 'Telegraph' reported another example of this apparently widespread sense of skewed intellectual priorities amongst recent immigrants. In an interview with Bernie Ribeiro,
the Ghanaian-born President of the Royal College of Surgeons, it wrote,
"Sitting in his office overlooking Lincoln's Inn Fields, he admits that he never imagined that he would end up here when he arrived in Britain on a boat from Accra at the age of eight.
Describing himself as "an African first, who is also British", he bats away talk of multi-culturalism with a Trevor Macdonald-ish suavity. (
Gnote - Sir Trevor Macdonald is the UK's Bob Schieffer)
"The message for anybody coming into this country - whether from Africa, the Caribbean or Asia - is to recognise that you must involve yourself with the society to which you have gone," he says.
"Isolating yourself away into a ghetto to maintain your religious ideals will not help to integrate you into British society."
But it would seem to be OK to lock yourself into a cultural ghetto of your own imagination.
How odd it is that two childhood immigrants to the UK, who even their most ardent admirers would have to admit have enjoyed the very best the country has to offer, should feel themselves as 'Georgian' and 'African' first, rather than British. If Melua were honest, she would admit that, by all accounts, Georgia is a Black Sea hellhole, a very much less conducive place from which to launch a music career than the UK. Ribeiro's commitment to his African-ness has not prevented him from pursuing high professional office in a very prestigious British institution.
Neither Melua nor Ribeiro have been hard done in this country by any manner of means; so why are they so arrogant as to apply for citizenship without any intention of making either emotional and intellectual commitments to the UK?
Joe Guzzardi wrote about this phenomenon recently, in the context of Maria Sharapova's whining and jarring assertions of 'Russian-ness'. It seems to be a failing which manifests itself not amongst those who emigrate at the ground level, but amongst emigrants who are originally middle-class - both Melua's and Ribeiro's fathers were surgeons; Sharapova would have been thrown into a middle-class lifestyle beyond the imagination of many Americans and most Russians not long after her nine-year-old toes touched the ground in Tampa.
What has prompted this post is a puff-piece on Melua in the 'Mail on Sunday's sub-pornographic 'Night and Day' magazine today (not available online), entitled 'Georgia On My Mind', which reports,
"Last month, the whole family pledged an oath of allegiance to the Queen in a British citizenship ceremony at Weybridge town hall in Surrey. They now hold joint British and Georgian passports. Katie says she still considers herself Georgian - 'but it's a real honour to be British, too' - and the move was a practical one for her. Until now, she had to apply for a visa every time she wanted to leave the UK. For her family, 'becoming a British citizen was the ultimate goal - in the sense of gaining stability. The ceremony was a bit surreal - and a bit cheesy. But I did get a teensy bit emotional'.
If anyone knows the Georgian word for 'bullshit', please let me know.
That any person should be permitted to gain citizenship of any country without being prepared to make absolute emotional and intellectual commitments to it is disgraceful. That they should be permitted to proceed without doing so is madness. Melua's vapidity no doubt insulates her from the fact that we face a very serious problem right now, of people being issued with British passports in bad faith; and her assertions of Georgian-ness after pledging allegiance to the Queen show that she just doesn't get the point of the exercise. For Katie Melua, a British passport seems to be about not having to apply for visas - nothing more.
There is now no doubt that the UK's immigration system is in a state that's the closest thing to crazy this side of anarchy; and it makes me the closest thing to crazy with rage to read such rubbish.
All new British citizens should be required, as part of their oath, to declare that they foreswear all other nations; to edify the United Kingdom at all times; and to declare that if their consciences do not allow them to follow these conditions then they will vountarily seek the revocation of their citizenship and will undertake to remove themselves from the UK. Such conditions would apply equally to Ghanaian surgeons, Georgian guitar-strummers and Pakistani imams. They would sort out the wheat from the chaff, and result in a more committed citizenry.
They could even be called 'The Lanz Principles'.

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