Until now. The bus suddenly stops, not at a bus stop. I see a van of the riot police with flashing orange lights in front of the bus, blocking the road. Heavily armed police men stand at the exits of the bus, ready with their semi automatic guns. The doors open and an officer enters, shouting “ID’s please”. The men start to check the identity documents of my fellow passengers. A young officer comes to me, and I hand him my ID card. He looks briefly at the card and immediately his eyes shout hostility at me. “What is this?” “My identity card.” “Don’t you have another one?” “No, this is a valid card from the European Union, you can read on the card that all nations should recognise this. The British government has an agreement with the EU.” The police officer looks again at the card and asks his superior to advise. The supervisor quickly shakes his head and tells me: “Do you have any other evidence of your right to stay in the UK?” My eyes are wide open and I raise my shoulders in disbelief. Is this really happening? They can’t do this! A strong anger growing in my stomach. The supervisor speaks again, in a demanding tone: “You are under arrest. We will bring you to a deportation centre where you will be expelled per direct.” I start to stutter: “but… but… I work here, I have a job… I rent a room… All my belongings are here… What about that?” “We have nothing to do with that. You are here illegal and will be expelled. Your belongings will be repossessed and sold by the government; the profits from these sales will pay for the costs of your deportation. You can be lucky that we don’t demand you to pay all costs, as that would be tens and tens of thousands.” ” I want a sollicitor!” ” Under the red terrorism code we don’t need to grant you that. You are illegal here and a threat to the country. This is the will of the people. They don’t want you here.” The young police officer grabs my hand and pulls me out of my chair. My cup of coffee falls on the floor. I start to shout to my fellow passengers: ” Help! Do something! They violate my rights!” But the others are rigidly looking at their phones and newspapers, pretending not to hear and see anything. “You are guilty by letting this happen!” I shout to them, without any positive effects. One man behind me kicks me on my leg. He looks me aggressively in the eyes and sticks his middle finger up to me. He does not look extraordinary, nothing remarkable, not with a big swastika in his forehead or horns growing on his head; he is merely a fellow passenger who had just been sitting silently next to me in the bus. Meanwhile, the young police officer pulls my hands behind my back and locks them in cuffs. He pulls me outside the bus, but he needs to drag me as I resist to walk. He doesn’t care, he just uses all the force he has.
Two days before. I am in my home. A good friend is visiting me. We are having a good time, with some wine and deep conversations. We share our worries about the world but feel supported by each other. Suddenly we hear something outside like drums, accompanied by grumble-chanting male voices. My friend and I look surprised to each other. I walk to the window. I see a group of about fifty men marching through the street, all in black leather with big red swastikas on their back. In their hands, large torches are burning. My stomach is turning around. My muscles tension. A rush of adrenalin flows through my body. I see a police officer in front of my window. Suddenly I am outside and ask the officer what is happening. He turns to me and says : “They are using their democratic rights. You should hide if you don’t want to be in trouble.” Immediately, I run back to my friend inside, whispering: “You must hide!” I know she is Jewish and the nazi’s may come for her. I read panick on her face. I feel not afraid, I feel strong, knowing that I will defend my friend. I will hide her. As I am privileged. The nazi’s won’t come after me. They can’t for instance know I’m gay. So I should be fine. Should I?
I wake up with a scream. My heart is pounding in my throat. I’m grasping my breath. I look around. This is my bed. My cupboard. My painting. My table. My tiny room. I am fine.
Fortunately these were merely nightmares that I have had the last two nights. They are not reality and they won’t become reality soon, I think. However the dreams reveal some of my deepest fears. I am afraid about what is happening in the UK. Neil Faulkner wrote about this in his book “Creeping fascism”: it is creeping, slowly but steadily and the direction of the development is crystal clear. In the 30s people were told that their nightmares would not happen, but these happened.
The worst is the uncertainty. Yes possibly and hopefully, a hard racist Brexit will not happen. But there is a possibility that we will go into the wrong direction. I know I’m not the only European without a British citizenship who feels emotionally affected by the uncertainty. The mental and financial costs of the Brexit vote are already tremendous. Theresa May is making it even harder by not wanting to guarantee our right to stay. We are a bargaining chip, a chip with feelings and our feelings affect the quality and value of the chip. We are even already rolling out of the UK en masse, not because we know that we have no future here, but because we don’t know : we cannot bear the uncertainty, because the only thing we can be certain about is that this uncertainty will last very long. I would like to send a claim to Theresa May for financial compensation for unnecessary and deliberate harm to my mental health. Who wants to pay my solicitors?
The uncertainty that Theresa May has already created directly leads to structural discrimination of EU citizens who have no permanent right to remain. For instance my landlord has asked me to move as she is rebuilding the house (this is my seventh forced unexpected move in four years living in London). All estate agents in my area answer the phone politely but when they ask me to spell my name, they immediately ask where I am from and whether I have the right to remain permanently in the UK. Their response? No, they are not allowed to accept me as I am not British.
The last agent who asked me about my right to live permanently in the UK, I answered in detail: “I have the human right to live anywhere on this planet. Any time. For any duration. As I am a human being. Borders are invented by narrow-minded selfish individuals who are too anxious to share what they see as their righteously deserved property. Nobody can claim that they have more rights to a certain piece of earth than others. Like nobody can claim that others do not have the right to inhale oxygen. It is random fate that I was born to my parents who lived at a random place of the world. We are all indebted to our parents, and not to ourselves that we are born where we are born. We are all victims of random fate. It is historical fate that owns the total planet earth, and not one individual has the right to claim any part of that earth. Nobody has the right to any part of this world, all of us are temporary guests to the host of fate. Too many guests have outstayed their welcome on this planet, and too many people have neither paid anything back nor shown their gratitude to the fact that they have been given the miracle of life at a welcoming place in this immense universe with many uninhabitable planets, at this relatively quiet time in the turbulent history of this planet which has seen many meteorite impacts and volcano explosions. Too many Brexit voters (I assume not all) seem structurally ungrateful. They are not under threat or pressure from a fight for survival in daily life, like in poorer countries. They do not need to run for their lives because of a volcano or earth quake is shattering their dreams. They think that they created the right for this piece of earth, albeit by their mere being born here. They do not realise that it is a miracle that they were granted the possibility of life, here and now. There is no sense of awe. There is no mystery. There is only narrow-mindedness. Or possibly they are grateful and full of awe, but they are afraid for fate. They are afraid that fate could randomly turn against them, like fate has randomly given them the precious gift of being here at this place at this moment in time. By denying the existence of randomness and fate, they do not need to be afraid.
So you ask me whether I have the right to remain here in the UK? Do you dare to claim that you have the right? I am a grateful member of this community, trying to repay earth in any way I can, and fill of awe for the miracle of being-here. This should convince your landlords to accept me, as a fellow guest to this planet.”
No, I did not get a house via this estate agent. And of course I did not use such eloquent words, but my message was clear. Poor agent, he must have been thinking he was speaking with a madman. Possibly he was. Was he? Am I crazy to think that nobody can claim the right to any place on this planet?
Of course we should responsibly use the guest rooms that we are given during our existence, and we may want to be more pragmatic about what we share with whom and when, if that is in the long term benefit to the house and if that shows gratitude to our host. But the full terminology of “our rights” is a disgrace to our host that is random fate, living in the house of planet earth.
Of course fate does not exist as a person or entity. Fate is the expression of a personal experience: I am born at a certain place in a certain time and I will shape my place for a bit for a short period, or I will go to another place which I will temporarily shape; but before me, next to me, and after me there are others, and this experience of the totality is what we call fate. Or some people call this Purpose or God’s Plan. Regardless of the name that individuals have given this experience in history, all philosophies and religions seem to show a sense of gratitude, awe and respect. But with the secularisation and scientification of society, individuals seem to have lost touch with this experience, and even seem to be afraid of this experience.
I am grateful to every moment I am here, wherever that is on earth, in the UK, Borneo, or elsewhere. If fate brings me somewhere else, I will go there with a sense of awe. But I refuse to accept intolerance, discrimination and power games, where that violates the rules of our host, and where that hurts too many other guests. I will not move when people try to force me, while they are not in gratitude and awe for what they have been given. I will fight to see the human faces, wherever and whenever I can. I will fight for every individual’s right to be alive and for their ability to embrace their fate in gratitude and awe.
Why am I sharing this story (and similar personal stories) on Facebook? I am not asking for pity. Neither for praise. I am hoping for a moment of reflection and feeling. This is radical political activism for me: the personal is political, and by showing the personal I hope to show you the politics. By showing you the politics, I hope that you will see your own person and the politics that you are embedded in and that you are co-creating. And I hope to share hope: alternative perspectives are possible. We can change. We can change. When we start to recognise and value what we have been given in life.