"Sometimes the only power you have is to tell your story." -Evelyn Wilde

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Top 40

But do you know this idea of the imaginary homeland? Once you set out from the shore on your little boat, once you embark, you'll never truly be at home again. What you've left behind exists only in your memory, and your ideal place becomes some strange imaginary concoction of all you've left behind at every stop. - Claire Messud, The Woman Upstairs
Turning 40 is where I draw a line in the sand between then and now. I will end this Blog today and once the itch to write strikes again, post forty, will start working on something new.
My deepest desire is to publish Fluent as an Ebook and/or Print Copy and hope that it is read. If just a few people were to reach out to me in the future saying "Your book made me feel less alone and confused, thank you. I love your writing." It would fill me with such joy that I actually start to tear up just thinking about it. To be witnessed and appreciated for my honesty is worth more to me than any paycheck or applause.
Writing connects my thoughts and feelings in a way speaking never has. When I try to express myself before I've written my thoughts down, they come out too quickly, or muddled; I stutter and my hands start to flail and gesticulate as if I am trying to play charades instead.
My goal in publishing this Blog was always the truth: the painful, embarrassing, shameful heart of what was happening in the moment. In the writing and processing of those experiences I was usually able to find the humor, humility or strength to continue living through it. I would say this Blog is a memoir of opinions, reflections and observations during several stages of my life that were part of a larger experience, a life. My life, until I turned forty.
Growing up is a straightforward, linear process if considered chronologically. In 1974 I was born and I survived to see every birthday, one right after another, forty years hence. The soul, however, has a very different trajectory. I was more self assured at 4 than I was at 14. More brave at 23 than I was at 37. I needed my parents at 29 in a way I never did at 19 and at 40 I wonder what I will think about myself and the world at 50.
When I sat down to write this last post I thought it would be a sort of this is what I've "learned" piece. A Top Ten or bulleted HuffPuff article that sums it all up and assures the reader (and myself) that unseemly facial hair and losing friendships are all totally normal. But there are more than enough of those.
I won't pretend like I have anything figured out or that anything has even really changed all that much. There is still far more to experience. Far too much of the world I have yet to taste and parts of myself to discover within them. I have fears still not conquered and a mind that is far from still. I am not that young woman spinning in circles in Spain and yet I am every inch of her.
My tendency to wander persists but I see the aging of my parents bodies and the faces of my loved ones transforming with every visit so now I stay closer; fearful that I will miss something that I can never replicate from a distance. Yet a part of me longs to explore, searching for a place, and my place within it, that finally feels like home.
There are hundreds of quotes that would neatly sum up this place I find myself in now, at 40. Ultimately, wisdom without experience always falls short. I must evolve and so must you.
Thank you for reading.
Fluent: Notes from my twenties and thirties
By Natasha Watkinson

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Pick Pockets

"I really enjoy travelling in Economy Class" said no airline passenger in the past five years.

I think that is a safe assumption. I'm sure refugees seeking asylum are grateful to be seeing the back of their country so any seat on a moving vehicle feels like a dream come true. As would women fleeing abusive relationships or teens starting college or, okay, so I'll rephrase that: "Flying sucks" is what the majority of people are probably thinking, as they herd themselves onto most commercial planes.

Can you blame them? According to a Wall Street Journal article, the majority of Western bodies have grown wider in the past decade, while most airline seats have shrunk to just 17" across.

Airplane catering is notorious for being the definition of that Woody Allen joke: Such terrible food and such small portions!  but at least it was included in the price. Being tossed a packet of potato chips without reaching into your wallet is now considered a luxury, reserved to very few domestic carriers.

A flight might be advertised at a great price but once you add up the fees and taxes you haven't saved a penny. Checked bags- you'll definitely be charged for them or see your ticket reflect the price if you aren't. Even carry on luggage comes with an extra charge on many "Budget" flights in the US and Europe. It has been reported that using the restroom on the Irish carrier Ryan Air requires a payment.

After your credit card has been charged to perform the most basic of human functions: excretion, hydration and nourishment. A change of clothes at your destination and a seat that can support your body weight, is it any wonder that people have thrown drinks when their efforts to recline have been thwarted by an invention called the Knee Defender? Those 2 inches are all we have left.

I'm currently in the process of reestablishing myself as a Psychotherapist and between the Certification fees, Licensure Renewal fees, a fee to simply keep my name on a Register, plus Professional Association Membership and Liability Insurance, I'm out almost $500.

I receive offers every day for Test Prep workshops that would cost me hundreds of dollars, on top of the fee to just sit the exam. I get mail advertising Continuing Education (CEU) Seminars- which I must have to keep my License but also come at a price. Not to forget the 65k I dropped in Student Loans just to get the Master's degree. I haven't even started to clear my debts and I doubt I will for many years.

All those fees and charges are hiding in plain sight. Just look on your receipt when you buy a movie ticket on-line or pay a bill by check. They are called things like Processing, Bank, or Dealer fees. They may add just a dollar or two, or as much as 10%, but the point is that they are arbitrary, with no real purpose other than padding out their profit and adding to your amount due.

Every inch, every cent that is demanded of us comes with very little in return. While the wealth gap increases; the Rich are filling their pockets despite working wages remaining stagnant. The Minimum Wage does not even come close to a Living Wage. Women are still earning less than men in the same positions and the cost of living is soaring.

The Knee Defender may prevent someone from taking up your precious few inches of space but I think it represents so much more: the anger and rage that has been unleashed on a few planes reflects a much deeper frustration.

What if the Revolution starts with a few people pushing their seats back? Could it be enough to motivate many more to stand up?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Miami Vices

I wasn't going to add my voice to the uproar over the Pamela Druckerman Op-Ed in The New York Times, Miami Grows Up. A Little but after reading a few indignant responses I felt, as a recovering Miamian, I also had a point of view to offer.

I left Miami in January of 1998 but my sister has stayed, now raising two children in the same area where we grew up, so I have been obliged to visit regularly.

The Miami I belong to spanned my family's immigration from Zambia in 1979, when I was 5, to my exodus after graduating college at 23. During those 18 years in my life I did some important stuff: attended K-12 school and University, lost my virginity, fell in love, got my first job, endured Hurricane Andrew, and learned to drive on its treacherous roads.

Although I have lived in many cities since, like Ms. Druckerman, Miami is pretty much it for me, as far as any connection to a childhood. I resent that I cannot recognize myself in its current reflection.

The Sun Sentinel recently put together a collection of movies filmed in the South Florida area and I realized, much like the roster of shite on that list, I haven't been impressed with anything produced in the city since 1998. I can effectively draw a line under There's Something About Mary as the beginning of the end for Miami and I.

The fact that only 15% of Anglo Americans remain in Miami put a figure to what I had witnessed with every return. While I applaud any city which embraces immigrants, celebrates diversity, and encourages assimilation, that is not what multiculturalism looks like.

Especially when the Miami model for immigration has been either illegal or reserved for the privileged. Starting with the Pedro Pan flights and followed by the Mariel Boatlift, the template for immigration came with little to no regulations or similar concessions (nor generosity) for the Afro-Caribbean, especially Haitian, communities. 

Once you cross that Miami-Dade border though, you might as well be at the world's end. Some Latinos are encroaching north to Broward County but the hub of Latin activity remains firmly within Miami, and the citadel which has been constructed around it. Business and culture have responded accordingly so an "American" raised in Miami would now be struggling to find a job or friends without ingratiating themselves into the dominant Cuban/Latin culture which does not translate beyond its own borders.

My sister married a man with Spanish and Cuban roots yet she has resisted learning Spanish. She keeps her social circle small; having realized years earlier that she can drink the coffee and eat the food but will only ever be a guest at the table.

The other aspect of Miami that Druckerman described is the ostentatious displays of wealth and vanity. She says "Florida had always attracted people with “an inordinate desire to get rich quickly with a minimum of physical effort,”" This exploded in the late 80's and early 90's as modelling agencies, drug money and real estate collided.

It is difficult for me to not feel slovenly, sweaty, and flabby in many Miami neighborhoods but that isn't reserved to just the 305. Money and vanity have decimated the authenticity of cities from London to Los Angeles. What makes Miami's glossy veneer that extra inch of insulting is, much like the movie sets, its all style, no substance.

The natural beauty that defined South Florida for centuries has been sold off to the highest bidder. Aggressive towers block the sun along the shoreline, while McMansions have cleaved their way into Miami's Old Florida/Spanish style homes, which used to sit on large, lush lots; much the way Plastic Surgeons reconstruct the lips and labias of women beyond recognition.

My parents actually left Miami the same year I did and relocated to Palm Beach County, about 90 miles north. I moved back a few years ago to attend Graduate School and settled mid-way between the two in Delray Beach, which was voted America's Most Fun Small Town in 2012.

It's not all fun in the sun though.

The onslaught of Addiction Treatment Programs and Half-Way Houses (as well as the coterie catering to those 'in recovery') have infested the area. All the attention has spurned the sale of quaint, historical landmarks to large developers. Once again, more money than sense prevails in South Florida.

Miami, Delray Beach, these aren't my towns. They don't define, embrace or inspire me. I might never see myself reflected back, wherever I may live.  

As an immigrant, I understand the need for approval and desperately want to demonstrate the value of my contribution. I don't mean to discredit how Latin culture has enhanced Miami or the seriousness of Addiction. I just don't feel connected to any of it.

Nevertheless, as I was scrolling through my photos recently I realized that, at a certain point, the images changed abruptly. What were once landscapes and city sights became the faces of my family and home cooked meals.

I might eventually make peace with South Florida and stop looking for validation in a location. If home really is where the heart is, and I can't reconcile people vs. place, is there at least an Instagram filter to make it appear that way?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Memory Lapse

The past is never dead. It's not even past- William Faulkner

I recently saw Richard Linklater's film Boyhood. A beautiful story which looks at a family and their young son as time passes. As an audience, we watch every cast member age and evolve over the span of twelve years. So much changes yet underneath all those layers we can still see who the characters were. Like Russian dolls, encasing themselves over time with bigger versions of self.

If I had been filmed between 2002 and 2014 it would basically cover the events of this Blog, which more or less started to evolve when I was twenty-eight. I'll turn forty this October and I can't even imagine what it would be like to watch myself visually transform from the person I was then to who I am now. Rereading my old posts is painful enough.

The subject of Stories we Tell, another film I saw this year, is also a family. The family of the director, Sarah Polley, and a secret about her father that was kept from her until she was an adult. What she explores, through interviews and vignettes, is the metaphorical car crash that so often becomes the memories of our lives.

How can so many different versions of the truth coexist? In Ms. Polley's case, the person closest to the answer, her mother, had died years earlier. The construction of events (and the motivations behind them) were left to interpret by the people she had loved and betrayed.

I wish we all had the opportunity to create a feature length film about ourselves. Unfortunately, when I was a kid, technology was nothing like it is today. My memories are stored in dusty photo albums not IPhone videos. I am mostly grateful for that though; there are school performances of Broadway songs really not worth remembering. Nevertheless, there is so much I don't recall about my life.

Memories are not facts. A memory is a stored event in the brain. Amalgams of sensations and different versions of what actually happened; stories we repeat, to ourselves and to each other, until they eventually become our truth.

In one of my early training courses we were asked to write on any research subject we were curious about. I chose Trauma and Memory. My question was whether (in some cases) it was the traumatic event or how the event was recalled that caused more suffering. How could we help victims of trauma shape their memories?  How could caregivers and families help construct a narrative, with awareness of their own reactions, to support the victim rather than embed the trauma deeper?

I have recently started working with clients who have suffered extensive trauma and developed severe Dissociative Disorders as a result. Just like when I started studying Psychology as an undergrad, and took that first Psych 101 class, the work has brought up stuff in my own life that I owe it to myself and my clients to look at. 

As a teen, I remember constantly feeling unsure of who I was. Trying on personas to see how well they fit. Looking externally for validation and recognition: Surfer, Hippie, Slut. Basically any character from a John Hughes film. I tried them all.

Going back even further, we moved to America when I was five. I remember feeling out of place in Kindergarten because I had a British accent. I remember being bullied by mean girls in fourth grade. I remember being terrified of High School and feeling like I had finally found my tribe at the School of the Arts in Miami. Nothing was too out of the ordinary. Except that I had once been molested and I never talked or thought about how it affected me.

I remember snapshots of the sexual feelings. A servant who worked for my family was too close (we were still white Colonialists, living in Zambia). I was probably three or four. I can't recall his dark features. I don't remember being in pain or scared, just intensely focused on, in a way that felt clandestine. I remember being sexually aware, looking at all my father's Playboys, and wanting to explore the genitals of my friends from then on.

When I was maybe seven or eight, after seeing a show on television, I must have connected the dots. I told my parents what had happened. I remember registering the sadness and horror on their faces, my mom crying and my father averting my eyes.

I might have known then that it was not the event that traumatized me but the reaction of the people I loved, once I had shared the truth years later, that left a scar. I felt what I now know was shame and I have still not been able to completely free myself from it's grip.

It must have been awful to hear what I was saying. I was their little girl. I marvel at how difficult being a parent is and love my parents for everything they did, right and wrong. I would, however; also love to reconstruct the events of that day. I wish they had stayed calm, expressed their grief in private. I'd have them hold me close and tell me that it wasn't my fault; that it did not make me any less special. I would like to have gone to a nice lady, with a sand tray and puppets, to help us learn how to talk about what had happened and how to move forward in a healthy way.

It was the early 1980's though. Oprah was still anchoring the news in Chicago. No one knew how to talk about anything back then. In 2014 we overshare. Every feeling and experience has a 5K walk and a You Tube channel. I'm not sure that makes us more fluent in how to express our feelings and experiences but it's certainly better than awkward silences and unexplained tears.

Learning how to tell our stories, to each other and more importantly to ourselves, is where the healing begins. That is mostly quiet work. Performed in small rooms, with comfortable chairs, lots of tissues, and a professional who encourages us to remember.

No matter what incarnation we may be in, it is never too late to go back and revisit the version of our self that needs love and attention. Memories just want to be recognized.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Gambler's Fallacy

We struggle to introduce ourselves to strangers these days. "This is my...fiancé" we say, ending the sentence in an upward inflection, as if to convey: It's complicated.

It's always been a bit complicated for us, though. I'm considering creating a graph that charts our relationship from 2005: dating, marriage, several separations, divorce, and now, engaged. It is not that uncommon to remarry your Ex. Hollywood has examples, usually dysfunctional, but it does happen to the unfamous, too.

We’ve decided to refer to one another as 'My Man/Woman.' Taking a page out of the romance languages of French and Spanish to describe the person your heart lays claim to. Divorce probably wasn't the best idea for us, emotionally or financially, but it seemed like the only option left.

I think if we hadn't officially ended our marriage I would have hung on, as I had for the two years that preceded,  hoping he would realize what he needed to, without abandoning me.  I was still very much in love, despite the pain we had gone through, maybe even because of it. 

I don't think we would be together today if we had stayed married then. He needed to feel the void and I needed to fill mine. I had to find the bravery to move on and he had to feel the fear of my permanent absence.

Over a few months, my ex-husband plotted his way back into my heart. I had moved to London and was struggling to create a life there again. It was tough. I thrashed around that city for a good while.

There is always the risk of returning to a place (or person) you loved so much at one point in your life and not feel let down by their current incarnation. People, places, things; we are all made up of the same stardust, compelled to evolve and change.

A friend who worked in Finance once described how people avoid taking their losses. In Psychology this phenomena is termed Gambler's Fallacy: A failure to recognize a chance event; the belief that an outcome can be predicted based on chance outcomes in the past.

The problem with not taking your loss is that it often prohibits future success, as people keep doing what they already did, believing their luck will turn around eventually. It takes intelligence and a lot of guts to take matters into your own hands and accept the loss. It is not lost on me that only after walking away could my man and I get our life back on track together.

We are committed to creating something that is not based on the past; a relationship that might not be exactly new but is different, better. We also continue to seek out the support of couples and individual therapy, to process and proceed, trying not to repeat too many of our old patterns.

We are who we are though. I can still get triggered pretty easily. We poke at old wounds and tender spots. The past cannot be erased completely, especially in such familiar territory.   

Friday, July 11, 2014

Shrug and Scroll

I saw the film Her a few months ago and thought it was brilliant for many reasons, primarily because it made me think about the possibilities and limitations of human connection.

In the film, an adult man falls in love with his Operating System and experiences the rise and fall of emotions of a very real romantic relationship, despite the fact that his paramour only exists in his hard drive.

A recent public radio interview cited the film in a story about investment being made in computer technology that can replicate and read emotion, creating something termed Affective Computing.

While many of us are spending more time facing a screen than another human being, we are doubling down, not backing away. Which makes me wonder how much further can we take our disconnection from reality before it becomes pathological?

In the media autopsy conducted after many gun massacres, (video) gaming has long been cited as a probable indicator of violence, as it can result in social isolation. Although violence and Autism are not necessarily linked, Asperger's Syndrome (a diagnosis on the higher end of the Autism Spectrum) has been included with more frequency to describe the perpetrators of recent horrific crimes.

Autism is fundamentally a disorder of connection: a disconnect from feelings, empathy, and communication. If coupled with social stressors it can lead to violence but I would posit that video games- where social norms no longer apply- are especially dangerous to those individuals who are not hardwired to decipher the boundary.

Autism is a disorder with symptoms clearly defined in the DSM V as being "...present in the early developmental period (but may not become fully manifest until social demands exceed limited capacities, or may be masked by learned strategies in later life." Would it not be conceivable that there could also be a possibility where symptoms become acquired?

If a child's reality is primarily experienced by plugging into a screen, communicating through head sets, YouTube comments and Twitter feeds, are we not effectively grooming ourselves into symptomology that, at the very least, resembles many of the criteria for diagnosis?

Although my points are not necessarily connected to one another either, I found myself thinking about all of this as I stared at my computer this morning.

A friend and I corresponded about how I had shut down my LinkedIn account.  It was no longer something I could pretend added any value to my life. I had never gotten any work from it and, despite being 'endorsed' by people I respected, I never felt validated by any of it.

I had ironically proclaimed my emancipation from "Facebook stalking with a suit on" - on Facebook. To which my friend replied: 
The endorsement is like the very least one can do for someone else. How little effort does it takes to click on the random name that appears? I don't know half of those people beyond Grad School or tertiary social contacts so who am I to say if they have the adequate skills in Contract Negotiation, or Transponding, or whatever other bullshit CV skill LinkedIn pulled out of their assholes- but at least they didn't ask me to actually write them a recommendation, am I right?!

Moments later a story appeared on my news feed about the world's first indoor city planned in Dubai:

A kind of pick'n'mix urban collage, the project samples bits of cities from around the world with gay abandon. There will be a "celebration walk" modelled on Barcelona's Las Ramblas, a bustling billboard-lined theatre district modelled on New York's Broadway, and a shopping area based on London's Oxford Street – all sealed under snaking bubble rooftops.
Horrified by the thought of my niece and nephew living in a world where they can only visit the Epcot versions of New York or London; pollution, corruption, and apathy rapidly eroding away culture from Sydney to Saigon. I passionately shared the story on my Facebook page. 

Dubai's very own Broadway ... Photograph: AFP/Getty

A few hours after that outrage a friend asked me if I would be available to babysit her daughters. I started to rack my brain for where to take two small children on a Summer Sunday, in South Florida, that would be air conditioned and interesting.
I am not writing this without self awareness that I, too, am an offender. The only advocacy I can muster is clicking a pop-up petition or sharing an article via my social media accounts.

Russell Brand recently rallied for a Revolution in London against government cuts, corruption and an increase in state surveillance. The most radical outcome was that people actually turned up- in person- to protest alongside him.

Given the state of our current society and a future that is already resembling the stuff of science fiction and fantasy we, me, must show up. Not out of paranoia or some sort of Technophobia but because our lives actually depend on it. If we give in to the apathy, the real world- the one outside of our climatized pods, will be too hot, dirty, dangerous, and expensive to inhabit.

Our emotional, physical and spiritual connections to other people, and the communities where we live, are becoming extinct, in real time. We must look up from our screens and into each others' eyes so that the world we live in and leave behind for is authentic; not a virtual, fabricated, mash-up of Earth's greatest hits.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Family Affairs

If I were to visualize the Halcyon Days of England it would take the form of a Cath Kidston tea set.
Cath Kidston's pretty aesthetic seems to have inspired numerous TV programs lately which claim to be 'Great' and 'British': baking, allotments, sewing, & crafts. Apparently, Post-Modern Austerity is competitive, voiced by Kirstie Allsopp and has it's own brand.

My mum was born in Sussex in 1948. The same year as Prince Charles and the National Health Service. She left England in 1970 to follow her parents to Zambia, where my Grandad had a contract through the British Government. There she met my father and never returned to live in her country again. Her version of Britain is preserved in amber. My mum talks fondly of Carnaby Street and seeing The Beatles in concert. She has bucolic memories of farthings and double decker buses yet she also remarks (every time she returns) how strange it is to hear black people with English accents.

I would like to believe the British people (who have actually lived in their country for the past 45 years) who voted for far right parties in the recent election, are reacting to understandable economic frustrations, yet also hold the warm and fuzzy memories of an England that was mostly white and affordable, too.

Never mind that the reality for most, as Caitlin Moran pointed out in her fantastic collection of essays, Moranthology, were far from twee: (her dad, recalling 1950's Britain)..."It was sodding miserable. there were lice, it was cold, and everyone was racist...the only good things about the old days were 1) the bacon was better, and 2) you could smoke in the post office. And that's IT."

Watching the television program Gogglebox has done more to confirm my belief in England than any Party Political Broadcast or gardening contest. The cast are the real people of this great country and they are brilliant. I could go on and on about my adoration of the Siddiqis and the Michaels'. How much I want to have cocktails with Steph & Dom, eat crackers with June & Leon, or have my hair done by Stephen & Christopher but you could only appreciate my obsession if you tune in on a Friday night as well.

Watching them has come to feel like watching TV with family and I find their opinions on politics especially interesting. They have spoken often about the recent vote. Their opinions are as varied and complex as all of ours. The media and politicians like to put voters into the same boxes as they tick but people's choices and private logic are far more layered and emotional.

The recent election brought up complex feelings towards Europe, Scotland, and Cornwall, which feels to me like a family in crisis. When a family is struggling a Therapist will always look first to the parents because if they aren't coping well, no one is. I believe England are the parents in this scenario and need to step back from the kids to focus on their relationship with each other.

Let Scotland go to college, allow Cornwall to have its own room, Wales can talk funny, and the Ulsters sulk. If we allow the family to fall apart, cutting ourselves off from our ancestors (Europe) and all our cousins, we will be weaker for it, and so will they (they just don't realize that right now). Instead of looking at all the trouble the extended family is causing, let's look at ourselves: put our own house in order.

England is a great country, in Europe, a far bigger and stronger Continent. London is a magnificent city, in England, but certainly not the only city worth investing money and interest in. Perhaps it is time the family finally had that talk they should have had in the 1960's.

Are there too many immigrants draining the social systems of a generous state? Yes, there bloody well are. I've said it. I'll burn on the cross of political correctness. I don't hate the immigrants because of a flawed policy. 

Do many people born abroad, or down the road, take advantage of the benefits available to them? Yes, they bloody well do. I don't think we should take the only lifeline some people have away from them though. Every citizen should contribute to this country and the proposed volunteer scheme for receiving benefits is a brilliant first step towards a renewed pride in the country and its citizens.

Perhaps the guilt of the fallen Empire has made the English complicit for decades. The conquered have cashed in on a passport and settled back in the motherland. That's not their fault. It's a bit like eating all the food in someone else's fridge and leaving an IOU; you can't be shocked to find them drinking from your juice carton the next morning. Chucking everyone out who doesn't fit into a subjective version of what is 'Great' and 'British' isn't really an option, either. Let's be honest, we can't even end a dinner party without it getting awkward.

In general, I actually find the English character to be quite kind and generous. They always root for the underdog and love to peel the skin of the top banana. Many cover up that vulnerability with moaning, passive aggression, alcoholism and sarcasm but they're very sweet really. That generosity has been exploited by the worst and unappreciated by most- immigrant, Scottish or other.

In my time living in London I have witnessed shocking displays of behavior, that run the spectrum from cruelty to kindness, performed by every color, creed, and credit score.  Personally, I believe that good manners, connection to others and altruism need to come before church (temple, mosque, etc.) or bank, building and interest rate. I want to live in a house where, if you are behaving like an asshole, you are excused from the table, no excuses.

Just look at the London skyline to see how we create monuments to church and finance but can't build an affordable housing community for our citizens. Look at how our tax code and immigration policy are to blame for failing systems, yet we punish the tax paying citizens for a problem we elect and employ people to solve.

What every English person needs to answer before placing blame on Scotland, Immigrants, or Europe is this: What does it mean to be English in 2014? What do we value?  Where have we gone wrong? How can we change and forgive? How can we embrace others and still hold on to ourselves?

Before we can honestly answer those fundamental questions how can we be any good to the Commonwealth, Europe, the world, but more importantly, ourselves?  Define those points and not only do you have your policy, but you have an identity.

Those are big questions to answer. Might I suggest we start with the people over at Gogglebox? They'll tell you what they think, and we should all be listening.