Letters - 7 June 2019

From privilege to fundraising and outreach


In the rich and moving ministry at Britain Yearly Meeting were many insights into the privileges we have – or do not have – and about the way in which we should respond to them, more particularly in the context of the climate crisis.

There was one privilege which was not alluded to. It is that of citizenship.

Hannah Arendt was eloquent about it, unsurprisingly since she had had her citizenship stripped from her and only gained a passport eighteen years later. In a book about her, Yale law professor Samuel Moyn wrote that to parade a list of rights before people who lack basic citizenship was ‘something like offering a detailed inventory of the courses of a lengthy meal in the presence of the starving’.

Among the many motivations of migrants who wish to come to Britain or to other parts of Europe is climate change. Some of these migrants either have no recognised citizenship, or they have what seems like ‘second class’ citizenship, which does not, in the eyes of our government, confer the right to come, to live, to work in our countries.

As we embark on further reflection about privilege and climate, I hope we give attention to this, for citizenship, determined by where or to whom we are born, ranks high among the privileges we may possess.

In the last century, part of the Quaker response to the tearing away of citizenship from continental Jews was the Kindertransport. How will we react to statelessness, the lack of basic citizenship, in the coming decades?

Jeremy Lester

Yearly Meeting 2019

I have just re-read your excellent pages on Britain Yearly Meeting (31 May); I was unable to attend and appreciate the editorial approach. There is much to take in and evaluate.

Over the past few days I have been re-reading Becoming by Michelle Obama, and this linked to another book called Biased which I would recommend to Friends. It is written by another African American woman – Jennifer Eberhardt, professor of psychology at Stanford University.

These two books have really opened my eyes to my privileged life, and to how difficult it is for others who live without it, even when ‘first lady’, there are daily difficulties – a constant battle.

Michelle Obama talks about her first university, where there was a place where black students could share time together; she saw it as a retreat and place of rest from the day to day struggle they experienced within the wider society. She also regretted it as, of course, it stopped her mixing with other non-African American students.

The need to widen ourselves to the diversity within our world is palpable.

I look forward to the Friend for the next coverage of Yearly Meeting.

Jo Fisher

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