Why do they say my country doesn’t exist?

Benjamin P. Taylor
4 min readMay 19, 2021
  • What did you once have, that can never come back?
  • And what do you want to hold on to, now, as a result?

What we build, as people, is so precious.

I grew up in a town, in a country, that seemed grey, crushing, often violent, incredibly angry at difference, at uniqueness, at potential, crushing in conformity and drabness. Flavourless and resentful.

And yet there was goodness, value, and especially hope. My heroes were the comedians, who called out what was and what could be. Gay people who were proud, even flamboyant, regardless of the consequences. Liberation movements.

People able to be themselves and live their lives, creating greater possibilities for themselves.

And, it seems to me that over time we built a better country. Open, inclusive, creative, positive, energetic. Never perfect, always with glaring weaknesses and problems.

And it seems to me we threw so much of that away. I find I see Twitter updates now, daily — schools asking to see passports, outright racism from ‘leaders’ in politics and press, a clearing out of those with principles and backbone — that move me to tears and anger (which is, of course, a good reason to leave Twitter).

There’s a scene in Emir Kusturica’s Underground where, after decades of being kept in the dark, they ask to go to Yugoslavia. The answer comes back: “There’s no more Yugoslavia”! And just as in real life, the bewildered survivors have to claw through their confusion and grief to find some way, as after a bereavement, to partially re-orient, even as the land they’re standing on floats away to sea.

2016–2020 was a pretty special period. The US learned what it’s like to be occupied by the US. The UK learned what it’s like to be colonised by the British. (And many learned just a taste of what’s it’s like to be an immigrant). And creeping militarism has been a distateful aspect of it all. There is no more what we once had and all I can say, in the words of Malcolm Tucker, is “you f*cking c*nts, you’ve f*cked it”. In pursuit of power, in spite at human freedom, and (what hurts most) in the moral emptiness of not caring as long as they win, so much of true, human value has been thrown away. This is not party political, by the way — though it is deeply political. I can’t choose a side, because the most disappointing thing is the exposure of the weaknesses of all ‘sides’.

And so, I mourn. And I acknowledge my anger.

All of this, of course, is ambiguous.

Maybe what we lost wasn’t so great. Maybe mourning it traps us in saudade, nostalgia. Maybe it’s just what everyone experiences over the course of life, the emotional response to the world varying according to their age. It’s certainly a temptation to righteous anger which in itself is one of the most dangerous forces in the world. The good people are still around. And certainly there are always new possibilities. Where you put your attention matters.

And all we can actually do is pick ourselves up and try to build something which lives up to what we value. Find those small spaces where things persist, notice the liberation that still lasts, create those spaces for ourselves and our families first, and seek to create possibilities for all.

  • What did you once have, that can never come back?
  • And what do you want to hold on to as a result?