I have no problem with people being given a platform from which to say whatever they want. I have no desire to prevent anyone from saying anything. We are quite capable of controlling what we listen to, distilling the value of it and either accepting or rejecting its worth. This and things like it are the beauty of the freedoms we enjoy.
I do, however, have a problem with those freedoms being used to give credence to lies. And I have a problem with the way in which we can seemingly abandon the big-picture, issue driven, needs orientated discourses in favour of the mud slinging that’s dominating Westminster at the moment.
The combination of these things is that there’s a likelihood of a big swing to the right in the elections in two weeks’ time.
This week we’ve mostly been receiving pamphlets from the canvassing teams of the parties (and from UKIP in the post from my Grandad). In amongst that was material from the BNP literature containing the perfect mix of half-truth, stereotype, fear and sensationalism to underscore the skillful way in which Nick Griffin is making repugnant views seemingly palatable. Alongside this has been a number of opinion pieces dismayed at the rise of the right but addressing the issues from an aloof position that simply deals with the BNP in the same way the BNP deal with facts. And in response there has been a staggering insight into Britain’s mind.
I’ve seen a number of statements trotted out as glib facts that are anything but.
Their pamphlet contains plenty of them whilst the comments left on newspaper articles repeat the rhetoric and expand the lies.
They’ll pull us out of Europe. I am very much pro-Europe and I fail to see what behaving like a stagnant little backwater really seeks to achieve. Isolationism might work if you’re Russia or China or even the USA because the economies of scale in such a big operation and the access to a willing and exploitable workforce make it somehow viable. Their Britain, which will have had the most exploitable workforce repatriated and already looks to the world to supply its needs is not going to be an attractive proposition for businesses, for external investment or for us.
Hearteningly though, until the BNP MEPs pull us out from Europe they’re going to give 10% of their salaries (although no word on whether they’ll follow the MEP expense abuse that far exceeds what’s happening in London) to funds that will enable community groups to properly celebrate St George’s Day. As though it’s money that is preventing people taking the initiative and organizing things. I’d suggest that a lack of community momentum to organize things that mark St George’s Day, for example, come from an insularity that is peculiarly British rather than anything else. Minority groups will celebrate their homelands when on foreign soil, the majority bumbles along comfortable in the fact that every day life is every day life and doesn’t need remembering or commemorating. Plus, it’s not as though the British really need an excuse for a piss-up, which is all St Patrick’s and St Andrew’s days have become.
Immigration, as you’d expect, features heavily. Whether it’s in the opposing moves, that are supported by the major parties, to block the borders to the 80 million low wage Muslim Turks poised to overwhelm the UK (yes, because a system that currently sees a net migration of 147,000 people is suddenly going to see 800 times that number) or having a picture of a doctor saying he’s voting BNP because the NHS is under strain from immigrants there’s no doubt specks of truth but it’s ultimately incredibly misleading.
If the NHS is under strain (ive never had a bad experience myself) it’s unlikely to be attributed to one thing alone. How about heart disease, diabetes and lifestyle connected cancers? Or drink/drug related need? Or things to do with sex whether curing disease or bringing life. It’s a statement made all the more ludicrous, and disrespectful to our medics by ignoring the valuable contribution made by migration to the NHS’ workforce (for the last 60 years) not just as medical professionals but in the auxiliary roles too.
But that must be what is contributing to our reaching retirement and then being at the back of the queue behind the asylum seekers (there were a whopping 5,000 asylum claims last year, 700 more than the previous one but not what I would call an invasion). I’ve heard this queue mentioned a lot but I’m no closer to working out what lies at its head. Schooling? That’s free for all. Health? Again free to all. Benefits? Open to anyone with need (both to be enjoyed or abused by anyone criminal enough to do so). Work? Difficult for everyone but accessible to everyone who is deemed to hold the best qualifications. Like jobs on the continent are if we bothered to learn languages or leave this sceptred isle. But it’s clearly that issue driving claims that there should be British jobs for British workers. These recent strikes are another example of British arrogance. All that striking in this way will do is encourage more companies to leave Britain because of a workforce that is petulant and expectant of more and more and more.
Then there’s the question of Iraq and Afghanistan. Dealt with in a number of ways. Firstly, Iraq was about oil and therefore wrong, Afghanistan is a foreign war and therefore we should be pulled out. They state our troops are not well equipped (and the infrequent stories that highlight this gloss over the evident disparity in kit between the rarely wounded coalition and the repeatedly pulverised enemy). Oh yeah, and that Muslims in this country don’t appreciate their sacrifice because soldiers have been abused in the streets.
It’s a clever ploy because it distances them from the fighting on the basis of faith and the source of so such foreign policy discussion and faith based discourse whilst leaving you in no doubt that Islam is dangerous and insidious. It ignores the reality that there are plenty of anti-war protesters who have diminished the efforts of the British forces by pointing an accusatory finger, backed up by the nationwide news coverage of the event, at one particular group and one particular incident.
It’s interesting though that there’s a contradiction within the party and what they believe when it comes to the interaction of faith and skin colour. A BNP candidate councillor for York said that if there is a black police association from which whites are barred why couldn’t the opposite be true. Leaving aside whether that’s what normality looks like (no majority ‘loses out’ when minorities are granted the same opportunities) he went on to say that they don’t want to talk about colour at all, just people.
So why then does their propaganda specify Muslims (twice)? Skin colour and faith are clearly very different. Although skin colour isn’t important what you believe is enough to make us build up divisions that really we aren’t interested in. Evidently this school of thought must be informing the guy who said something along the lines of ‘it’s not that we don’t like Muslims it’s just that their faith is incompatible with our Christian heritage’.
Christianity tells of God’s love for me, for you, for creation. It points out the beauty of being in loving relationship with God and with people like us but Jesus makes it blatantly obvious that actually it’s more about being friends to the friendless, striving for justice for the downtrodden and generally pouring out ourselves in service to others particularly if the world thinks your differences are insurmountable.
Be proud that this nation of ours has played host to people from around the world forever. Be proud that in this country your human rights are not only protected but they are proactively promoted throughout the world. Be proud that we are blessed with education, health, welfare, transport, employment regimes and systems that are the envy of the world and that prompt people (without just cause to flee) to leave their homes to search for better life and offer those who have to flee a safety from the harm they might experience at ‘home’.
I work in one of the poorest parts of the UK. 6 out of 10 postcodes are amongst the 25% most deprived nationally. And we have an ethnic minority population of 8-9%.
Yet the menu of life in Hill is one of joblessness, benefits, drink, drugs, fractured families, teenage pregnancies, nationally the lowest educational attainment, some terrifying health statistics. And I could go on.
None of those problems come from immigration. None of those problems would be fixed by corporal or capital punishment. And certainly none of those problems are solved by the repatriation of anyone deemed not to be British by ancestry.
It’s not enough to say “no platform for racists”, thumb our noses and walk off with the moral high ground attached to our feet. It’s not enough to be condescending, to assume that people understand and appreciate what’s going on behind the propaganda. This is heart and mind stuff, but it’s heart and mind stuff that flows from that reluctance to engage. So let’s address the issues. Let’s talk about Britain being an absolutely mongrel nation that has thrived on immigration and covered the planet by emigration. There is no such thing as being ‘British’ by ancestry; there’s nothing that makes a 5th generation Brit more British than someone whose parents arrived in this country in the 60s, or who has recently been given citizenship.
Get off your bums and use your vote. The European elections use Proportional Representation, that makes it even more important that you do vote. Don’t lose sight of what this is really about in the immediate confusion and emotion of this talk about expenses (when really we’re splitting hairs over a small proportion of unnecessary expenses against necessary expenses). Evil prospers when good people do nothing.
“He has showed you, o man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8)
When you go to the ballot box vote for the people who will do justice, mercy and humility. Please don’t vote for the ones who won’t.