Mesut Özil is a German professional footballer who plays for English club Arsenal. He retired from international football, very recently, due to discrimination he felt when Germany lost in this year’s world cup football at the league level itself. He came into limelight in 2010 world cup at the age of 22 and had lion’s share in Germany’s victory in 2014. For sportsmen, life is a big grind and with age their game becomes more mature, age does slow them down too. After Germany lost in league stage this year, murmurs had started about Özil’s poor performance but people forget that the whole German team had played poorly including in the practice games. In certain circles, there started a whisper campaign where it was said that Özil was not true to his adopted country. He has Turkish origins.
This campaign upset him so much that he said, “When Germany won in 2014, I was a German; now that Germany has lost I am a Turkish immigrant living in Germany.” In disgust he simply retired. This brings out the old questions about immigration. Since last century, immigration has reached epidemic proportions. Similar statement was made by Albert Einstein in 1922. He had said, “If my relativity theory is proven right then Germany will claim that I am German and France will say that I am a global citizen; but if this theory is not successful then France will say that I am German and Germany will say that I am a Jew!” This statement perfectly explains how the thought process in the world has hardly changed in such matters.
Özil is the son of Turkish immigrants and was born in Germany. The laws about citizenship in all countries are different; in the US a child born on US soil, irrespective of Visa status of the mother, becomes Citizen of US. Özil is born and brought up in Germany but as often happens he and his family have kept close links with his roots in Turkey. With sons of diaspora doings so well internationally in football for Germany, the Turkish President Erdogan used Özil for photo session opportunity! This started a bit of whisper campaign in Germany. Had Germany done better than what they did, there would have been no murmurs or whispers. France had about ten players with African origin in their world cup winning team. Comedian Noah of South African origin had commented in a show, “Africa has won the world cup!” French Ambassador to US, Araud, rebuked Noah and wrote to him a twitter message, that Noah had misunderstood France’s cultural model. France had won the World Cup which helped the Ambassador take this view. Official French statements differ when France is attacked by French citizens of African origin.
Where should the loyalty of immigrants be? Where is the loyalty of immigrants? It’s a tough call and there are different ways of looking at this. The loyalty issue will be faced by first generation immigrants. Generations after first, will not face such issues, as next generations will be born and brought up in the adopted country! Proliferation of technology, especially internet, has changed things drastically. In 60’s and 70’s of last century, people who migrated to different countries traveled back home infrequently. There was no WhatsApp, no Facebook and no Skype. So, communication was difficult and expensive. In early 80’s when Jaya was in the US for her MS, we did not have phone at home. Jaya would write to me to fix up telephone call timing at someone else’s home. I would then go to their home and hoped that we got connected.
With fantastic changes in communications, democratization of people’s finances, due to greats strides in IT industry things are pretty different in this century. People are fully connected, people travel back home regularly, parents and aunts and uncles also travel to different countries where diaspora has moved. The diaspora keeps local traditions, recipes and clothing styles alive even in foreign countries.
With these changes, probably it is difficult for first generation immigrants to shift loyalties to land where they live! In Indian context, will they sing God Save the Queen, Star Spangled Banner or Jana Gana Mana more forcefully, more from the bottom of heart? It is difficult to say. Recently, English cricket captain made a telling comment. He said, “These days when we play against India, whether in India or back home, advantage is always with India because for them both places are “home” due to great support they get in England too! Large population advantages?
30 years back, I remember a discussion when someone said in England that the real test for immigrants should be whether they clap for or against England. But now things have changed so much that such discussions are never even attempted.
Back to immigration. Which is your land the Fatherland where you have now immigrated or Motherland where you were born and brought up? Where are your loyalties? I have observed especially about Indian diaspora that they make handsome contributions to the Fatherland but they don’t forget their Motherland too! It is as if they have duel citizenship, mentally. Some modern “financial fugitives” actually have citizenship of many countries and move their assets and body to escape the law of land which gives them trouble. Country like India have started many new schemes to tap the potential of diaspora by providing them with cards like Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) cards to make life easier for them when and if the want travel to back home, invest money in India, maybe take part in elections. Mother countries are bound to wood their prodigal sons. Many a time it is seen that people shine better in their Fatherland due to various factors. Their country is bound to take advantage of their roots back home.
Many a times I wonder what will be the mental status of fourth generation diaspora? What will a Aniruddh Kulkarni, fourth generation immigrant, who may go by informal name of Andy CoolKar, feel about Motherland? Will he really feel the same love about then too distant a motherland, mentally? I get a feeling that the Caucasian immigrants may find it a little easier to merge in countries which are predominantly Caucasian. But now these things are also changing fast. Caucasians (is by today’s definition West European?) consider themselves different than the Hispanics, people with Spanish/Portuguese background but normally living in South America. Will countries become melting pots like New York city is? Or will there will be street signs in Spanish and Chinese and maybe even in Telugu or Hindi in some towns in foreign countries? Which will then be the Fatherland and the Motherland? Tough call? 強硬電話, Llamada difícil, कठिन कॉल!
Özil’s of the world, then do not be so emotional and retire! The whole world is your playing ground buddy!