God save the EU
God save the EU
Alidad Vassigh


VALENCIA — As a British national living in Spain, it is strange to (still) be an EU citizen and yet start to feel unwelcome in this "European home." All this thanks to Brexit, that nasty little gnome doggedly making its way through the disbelief of millions.

Born in Iran and with nearly 40 years of roaming behind me, I now have to start planning where to move next — though from now on, I will not be armed with so much as gingerly holding a British passport, which will inevitably lose some of its clout.

I was reading yesterday in the El País newspaper about three Spaniards living in the UK, one of whom recounted the "inexplicable" hostility she sensed from some Britons around the time of the Brexit vote. Even as the formal signature of the British prime minister begins the Brexit process, the Spaniards in the UK say the xenophobic wave has now subsided. Personally I have not discerned recent hostility in Valencia, where I am now, which I ascribe to the generally kindly Iberian disposition.

After all, Spaniards did not start blamed foreigners for the millions of job losses here after 2010, when Brussels was squeezing them with austerity.

Still, I am beginning to feel anxious about my situation. Some of my friends like to repeat the same unnerving joke, cajoling me into "finally" revealing that I am a Mossad agent (or el Mossac, as one girl insists on calling it), what with all my moving around. Such jokes used to be funny until the world started slowly turning into a police state.

But beyond the geopolitics, Brexit has come at the worst time for me, coinciding with various financial and psychological pressures, not to mention the onset of middle age. For years my EU passport has been a guarantor of my person and a document allowing me to practically travel anywhere. Yes, I suspect it was always "worth" a little more for also being British.

How will I be received now in the various countries to which I have regularly traveled back and forth, like Mexico and Colombia? Amid the generalized collapse of culture and civilized norms in this market-driven world, can one expect an immigration officer in Mexico to understand how he or she must treat a subject of Her Britannic Majesty, when he no longer is also a friendly EU citizen?

My family has had its share of precarious living.

Ordinary people, especially those gradually sliding into relative poverty, need the backing of their nation. Yet the fate of millions in this recession-plagued era suggests governments might have done much more to protect them against the squalls raised by "the markets." That is when politicians are not themselves playing fast and loose with collective destinies. Why even call a divisive referendum in a parliamentary democracy? Why, with so much at stake, and after so many years of the tabloid press fueling anti-European sentiments among the public? Now Prime Minister Theresa May's urging Britons to unite as she negotiates prompts me to think, as the French say, non mais elle se fout de ma gueule? No, apparently, she's not f***ing kidding.

My family has had its share of precarious living and moving around for nearly as long as I can remember. My parents sent me and my brother to London just before the 1979 revolution, then spent a fortune (literally, the price of several Tehran properties and many carpets) to keep us and school us in the UK, until I eventually obtained that precious passport.

We have seen, and been, the Iranian middle class disintegrating through almost 40 years of Bolshevik-style mob rule that has ruined our country and made us undesirables (which reminds me of one Iranian lady who told neighbors in California, during the 1979 hostage crisis: "Oh no I'm not Iranian, I'm Persian.").

The 2009 financial collapse has ushered in a time of endless, horrible, possibilities, some of which are now taking shape in ways we could never have imagined. I recall the novelist Isabel Allende telling the reporter David Frost some years back, that before the 1973 coup, Chile's middle class could not imagine turmoil or violence affecting their lives. Coups, she said, were seen as a thing of "steamy" places — banana republics, not solid nations like Chile.

But when the army toppled her cousin President Salvador Allende, and many ordinary, otherwise respectable people found themselves jailed, beaten or destitute abroad, she said she realized how swiftly things could change, how basic safety should never be taken for granted. At any time, anywhere, she observed, anything could happen to anyone.

*Alidad Vassigh is a Madrid-based writer and translator. He was born in Tehran, educated in France and England, and moves about frequently between Madrid, Mexico City and Bogotá and a regular Worldcrunch iQ contributor. Sign up to Worldcrunch iQ here.

This is Worldcrunch"s international collection of essays, which includes pieces written in English and others translated from the world's best writers in any other language. The name for this collection, Rue Amelot, is a nod to the humble address in eastern Paris that we call home. Send ideas and suggestions to info@worldcrunch.com.

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