“If you don’t like it, go somewhere else.”
This response to an argument is far too common. I’ve seen recently it when complaining about the monarchy and the Olympics, as well as on lots of other occasions. However, that phrase is loaded with assumptions, privilege and intolerance.
I object to the monarchy. I don’t want the head of state to be a hereditary position – they should be democratically elected to represent the people. The head of state is meant to act as a control to keep the government in check. The queen theoretically has the power to veto legislation, to select the prime minister, and a few other things but she cannot do so because it would be politically impossible. Therefore the queen is useless as head of state and is basically only good for ceremony. I think it is wrong to define royalty as somehow better than everyone else and to call people subjects instead of free citizens. I certainly hate the celebration of the jubilee, all deference and nationalistic flag-waving and spending millions on extravagance at a time when the cost of even food and shelter is being denied to so many because of austerity.
The reason that I have presented this argument, however, is that you don’t have to agree with the views I have just expressed. We have basic human rights which are stated within the European Convention on Human Rights as a right to freedom of expression (Article 10) and a right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. (Article 9.) In a democracy people may vote to select a representative or a policy based on the views that they hold. Unfortunately I can’t vote to abolish the monarchy because MPs have sworn loyalty to the queen and cannot introduce such legislation. I can, however, express my dislike for this situation.
There are many injustices that I would like to fight and the monarchy is a long way down the list. The jubilee has made it rather hard to ignore recently though, and when people express their dislike of the queen a very common response is to be told to live somewhere else. The problem is, I can’t, and I shouldn’t have to anyway.
I am chronically sick. Physically and mentally I would find it extremely difficult to cope with moving house across borders although there are ways around that if I had money. If I moved I would be separated from my support network and would require even more state support. My illness forces me to rely on income from benefits because I am unable to work and as a result it’s not just a case of paying to renew my passport and buy a ticket to another country; once there I need food, shelter, clothing, medicine and all the other things necessary to live. Unfortunately we live in a world of closed borders, of xenophobic people and of language barriers. It is hard enough to move to another country to work, but next to impossible to move to another country to live on welfare. (For what it’s worth, I once left the UK for six months, but was forced to return to find work.)
Even if I could leave, though, why should I have to? This is the place of my birth, the place where people share the same language and cultural references. This is where my family and friends are. I do not forfeit the right to those connections just because I dislike the government and the monarchy, and I certainly do not forfeit the right to complain about those things just because I am too sick to work. (See: Ungrateful.)
Freedom of expression and of thought means that we have to share with people who hold views that we don’t like. We can oppose those views, we can express our opposition, and sometimes views run over into threats which the law addresses, but we must not demand that people leave just because we disagree with them.