Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Choice Kingdom

"In late modernity, what it might mean to conceive of oneself as belonging to a nation is an interesting question. Are notions of national belonging based on geographical location, ancestry, race, ethnicity, culture? Are they a construct, the result of social and political structures? Might one hold multiple nationalities or none? Is nationality somehow fixed, set, or, in a modern, cosmopolitan context, is it possible to conceive of nationality as a choice?"
On the occasion of a conference on JM Coetzee in the World in Australia, in her article Is JM Coetzee an 'Australian writer'? The answer could be yes Claire Heaney questions whether Coetzee can still be seen as a South African writer, or whether he has become an Australian, both through his moving there in 2002 and his claim of Australian citizenship in 2006. More than the debate surrounding his work and choice of continent the paragraph quoted above spoke to me (also because it just consists of questions I constantly ask myself).

What does it mean to belong and what is it based on? When I am in Germany, I never feel at home; I can't breathe fully and at times an unknown darkness creeps in, like an octopus whose tentacles insist on wrapping themselves ever tighter around my body and my life. And yet, South Africa is ever so slowly losing what was 'home' about it. My mom lives in a different city now. Turns out my sister is not capable of showing that she cares over long distance.

This moment in time is entirely frustrating. On the one hand I want to build a life somewhere, settle in for a bit, meet up with people where I don't think that the friendship has an expiration date whilst knowing very well that if both don't put in an effort all friendships eventually drift apart. Is there just a small percentage of people who will consistently inquire about the well-being of the important ones in their lives, irrespective of distance? Is it only a special breed that insists on not giving up when the kilometres increase?

I desperately want the life of my choosing, the problem remains that I don't know what to choose. Do I go back, do I make the argument for being close to my mother, close to a few I remain in contact with, close to sunshine, close to mangoes? Or do I plant some roots in the Northern Hemisphere, get a retirement fund, forget about leaving all the time? Do I choose weekend-trips to Z├╝rich and all the places I haven't been before? Do I embrace the possibility of actually wanting to make new friends that last?

More than the question of belonging to a nation, in your twenties the question is simply of belonging when your world is no longer a fixed place.

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