Updated: Apr 6
May Day! May Day! May Day! And so the alert goes out. From a ship in distress or a plane in trouble. But May Day has many a meaning.
Today is May 1st, the day known as May Day in many countries. Traditionally, historically, in England, especially, but throughout the United Kingdom, May Day was a Spring festival, with dancing around the May pole, and the crowning of the May Queen. At the moment though, in my country, as more widely, there is little in the daily news to dance about, though every day is May Day. The Prime Minister, Theresa May, has the name, but wears no crown. She is in office, but not in power. Her profile seen to be a certain way according to one's best or worst view. But she is in the news every day. Because of Brexit. The problem that seems to have no solution, British exit from the European Union, was supposed to be according to those who had wanted it, the solution to a problem, Britain's membership of the European Union, according to the view of those who had seen it thus. But it has become anything but this. Anybody in any way alert can see it without the need to hear an alert. A government in crisis, a country in stagnation, my nation, divided. And Theresa May inert. Having lost more votes in the Houses of Parliament, than any Prime Minister in parliamentary history, she continues to try to get her deal, the treaty, agreed with the European Union, through Parliament, who reject it. The EU blame her for her stubborness throughout, she blames them for their intransigence as well, but the deal is done, and nobody really now in the UK, likes it. Brexit is on May Day alert.
The record of this Prime Minister is one of stoic persistence and strident insistence. This is the former Home Secretary who pursued, in her own words, the "hostile environment," towards immigration. Never mind that she meant illegal immigration, it meant in effect, a culture, in government, of alienation and rejection, of longstanding residents who had thought they were documented and were not, who had been in the United Kingdom since childhood or youth, deported. She did not start it but her tenure in office pushed a policy that punished the innocent, for obsession with getting the guilty.
Theresa May has some rather strong qualities, but in her weak position, at present it is becoming less than likely they are obvious to the citizens of the United Kingdom.
Of course it was she who said, famously, to garner Conservative patriotism, infamously, to liberal patriots, " Citizens of the world, are citizens of nowhere."
And of course, May Day, for many throughout the world, is the day of workers, of solidarity, of unions, it is indeed a very international day. But citizenship is more than class, or group, it is belonging, it is unifying. Citizens of the world have been everywhere in recent days and weeks.
They have been in Sri Lanka at Easter. They were at Mass and in a hotel. And even now citizens such as these are there. In the face of evil, good can be seen elsewhere. In the cries at the many funerals of the slain. In the efforts of the public servants in the aftermath.
Citizens of the world have been protesting about climate change. They have done so peacefully, sometimes foolishly. Marches of thousands and speeches of note. Stunts of a handfull, who are a handful indeed! Why can't people realise that for people to protest, by being able to inspire, with passionate or informed eloquence and words that convince, is powerfully felt. It is so much better for a movement than people using protest, by gluing themselves to trains or pavements and disrupting the public transport system that is a necessity to solving the very climate crisis they care so much about. That some can't see this, and why, is a shame. But the Extinction Rebellion has at least got rebels with a cause.
One citizen of the world has inspired many. And this young Citizen of Sweden, she was amongst the citizens of the United Kingdom this week, encouraging more to take up such citizenship of the world, as indeed, stewardship of the planet. Greta Thunberg, sixteen year old climate activist showed that she might have advanced a movement, but she is more impressive in her stillness. Her movement is called Future Friday, with school students on strike from schools, throughout the world. Yet, as with the workers movements who have often been on strike, and who are indeed at the heart of May Day, Greta Thunberg achieves as much or more, in her tendency to eloquence and in her ability to convince.
And a citizen of the world called Lyra Mckee has been shot dead in a crowd in Northern Ireland. A journalist in her twenties, a loss that makes anyone with any knowledge of this, know, that recent peace in Northern Ireland and the hate and extremism that caused its absence for too long, renders such a tragedy heart rending, and any who are aware of it must feel it , and are citizens of the world.
Just now the citizens of the world have been and are, in San Diego, in a Synagogue. There a citizen of the United States, was a citizen of the world. She saved the life of a Rabbi, by risking and giving up her own, puttng herself in his way, and in harms way, she consequently, shot, by the gunman.
May Day, a dance around a pole, for citizens, of a country. May Day, a day of all workers, for citizens, of the world. May Day, a distant call for help, for citizens, of nowhere?
May Day! May Day! May Day! The alert is given by individual citizens of individual countries, all distressed, troubled. In such moments they are definitely, citizens of the world also. And poignantly, citizens of nowhere. Nowhere in particular, lost at sea and in a lonely sky. Yet they are everywhere.
Author : LORENZO CHERIN