Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Boon, Bane, Both, or None?

I have been chastised for (ab)using my dual citizenship recently. In my Desert Island Discs post I used it to essentially double my allotment of things to take with me to a desert island. Apparently, that's an unfair advantage. Or is it? Let's see...

First, can having dual (or even multiple) citizenship can bring some perfectly legal advantages?

I submit that it can, and in fact does. Take travel, for example.

First, being a dual national you can travel to a set of countries that is a union (in terms of set theory) of the sets possible with either of the citizenships on its own (or at least do so without needing a visa). An unfair advantage? Maybe. Illegal? Not allowed? Sorry, but no. Second, imagine you, being a dual national, travelled abroad (i.e. to neither of your two countries of nationality). While there, something happens and you need your country's help and support. Being a dual national you can tap into either (or even both) of your countries' resources. An unfair advantage? Maybe. Illegal? Not allowed? Sorry, but no. There's surely more examples, but I think these two will suffice for now.

But, does having dual nationality have disadvantages? It sure does. First, if you are in either of your countries of nationality, you are unable to seek help from the other one. This surely is a disadvantage if one of them is "worse" in some respects - and you happen to find yourself in it with a problem (e.g. a military draft). Second... Well, I can't seem to be able to think about the second, but there must be at least one. Instead I will now concentrate on why having dual citizenship may in fact make you worthy of enhanced treatment...

Let's first have a look at the case of economic or political emigration. The case where you left your home country looking for a better life - whatever better life means. This implies that your previous (previous to emigrating) life was less than satisfactory - at least in the eyes of your home country, but also your new home. And, don't we all extend understanding, often even special treatment to those who have suffered? Most of the time we do. So, gaining a dual nationality by virtue of having "escaped" some form of hardship surely entitles one to some leeway?

Next, let's see if a similar argument can be made for those who gain dual nationality by a more pleasant route. Let's assume it is because they are seen as very worthy by their new home country for being very, very good at something. It can be science, it can be art, it can be sport. You take your pick. But, whichever one you choose, you are admitting that such an individual is somehow special and by implication deserving of special treatment.

Now, I won't claim that either of the two paragraphs necessarily describe my case, but surely by extension, even me, as a dual national, deserve at least a little bit of special treatment? Is it really too much to ask to take twice as much music and literature to a place as solitary and sad as even the most beautiful desert(ed) island must be?