The other day my friend Ann and I were discussing the fact that if she wants to become a British citizen, she will be obliged to swear or affirm (the former involves God and the latter doesn’t – you get to choose which) an oath of allegiance to the Queen. Strangely, because I was born here, I can choose not to ally myself with the Queen and even, I suppose, to plot her downfall (in a democratic way!) but if Ann wants to be British, she can’t.
At a citizenship ceremony you affirm your allegiance by saying the following:
I (your full name) do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that on becoming a British Citizen I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her heirs and successors according to law.
I’ve quoted the non-religious version, but you can swear to God if you wish. In the ceremony, this is followed by the “Pledge of commitment”:
I will give my loyalty to the United Kingdom and respect its rights and freedoms. I will uphold its democratic values. I will observe its laws faithfully and fulfill my duties and obligations as a British citizen.
Whilst I don’t have a problem with the pledge, I would certainly have to think carefully about the affirmation. I’m not a big fan of the royal family – they are after all just people who, by accident of birth, are able to lead a very privileged life. Although our monarch is the head of state, she doesn’t actually run the country… and anyway she has no skills to do so apart from having ancestors who were the biggest bullies in their time. And this got me to thinking about what I would feel happy affirming my allegiance to…
I’m not at all nationalistic – I prefer to see myself as a citizen of the world and to celebrate my links to all other people, not just those who happen to occupy an arbitrary area. Don’t get me wrong – I am very grateful to have been born in a country where I can speak freely – including telling you I’m not keen on the monarchy – without fear of retribution, and where I experience no severe repression because of my gender, lack of religion, skin colour or sexual orientation. The question is, given a choice, what would I affirm my commitment to? I think the answer is not to my country or monarch, but to the land… and air and water; to the earth around me and all it’s wonderful diversity.
So, as a citizen of the earth, this is my affirmation and pledge
I do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that, as a member of the human race, I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the earth beneath my feet, the air that I breathe and the water that sustains me.
I will give my loyalty to the natural world and respect its rights and bounty. I will value the world’s ecosystems and work to enhance the land that sustains me – leaving it richer than when I found it. I will observe nature and be inspired by what I see, fulfilling my role as a part of the diversity life on this amazing planet.
How about you? What sort of pledge would you make?