An emotional view of immigration.

21 May

I’ve written this in a state of high emotion. I’m unapologetic, because this is what it’s like to be a human.

I feel compelled to write about racism and immigration in the UK because I feel profoundly depressed about how our country is drifting to the right and the rise of UKIP as a force in politics.This is a personal account, rather than a polemic on the rights and wrongs of immigration. You may well disagree with me, but I am not trying to tell you what to think, only to tell you what I think. Most of the current political arguments appear to hinge on economics, the threat or otherwise to our economy by immigrants. Perhaps more subdued is the threat to our culture, although this is less explicit. What I have felt of late is that economics is a red herring. Whichever side of the argument you fall on, you can find the facts to back it up.

To think that anything can be proven by facts is ridiculous. You can bend the facts, present them how you like, they mean nothing. There is a counter argument and a counter-counter argument.

Really, it is all a matter of feelings.

Our attitudes to race are at heart emotional. They are about identity – both cultural and personal – and the arguments put forward simply bolster our inherent viewpoint, not vice versa. You will never convince me that your facts are truer than my facts. And you will never convince me that my feelings are wrong.

I remember being struck as a young man reading Wilfred Thesiger’s book on the Marsh Arabs how they had, at the centre of their community and their culture, a building called a mudhif: a sort of cross between a community centre and a guest house. Being hospitable towards strangers was at the heart of their culture, offering them food before you fed themselves. I found this a beautiful idea because it reflects how I feel about the world (and let it be said, my own feelings of guilt about my privilege).

I may have completely scrambled the memory of this book, but how I have remembered it is also important. Put simply, I love the idea of welcoming strangers to our country because I think on the whole they add rather than subtract something. I’m deliberately understating that sentiment. I believe it like some people believe in God.

Yes, it’s a simple argument, but on balance I’ve seen very little in my life to persuade me that it’s wrong, and much to make me think it’s right. I’m sure this says much more about me than it does about immigration.

It is deeply ironic that those who claim the territory of patriotism are most fearful that our cultural identity is weak enough to be wiped out by immigrants. No. I believe in our nation, and I believe that its multiculturalism which is millennia old, is the heart of its identity.

Oh, and I hate the pernicious idea of ‘hard-working families’. Most of us are trying our darnedest to make a good life for ourselves. Of course there will always be people who take advantage, who cheat and commit crimes – they are certainly not limited to the poor or the immigrant populations. This notion of hard-working families is designed to make us distrust others, and that’s why it’s abhorrent. I prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt because on the whole I’ve only been disappointed a handful of times out of thousands when I’ve been pleased to find I was right to be trusting.

Is the only worth to a culture economic? Of course it fucking isn’t! But even if you believe that it is, when should you assess someone’s worth economically? How do you know when they will ‘amount’ to something? Where is the possibility of trying and failing, or trying all your life, and failing, or maybe succeeding? And anyway, what if you contribute nothing economically but are a good person, a good neighbour, a good citizen? So the idea of cherry-picking the ‘good’ immigrants is deeply inhuman and abhorrent to me. Who are we to weigh up someone’s worth?

What if you were to accept the facts offered to you by the opposing view?

Even if you disagree with everything I say, if you are an unapologetic xenophobe, there is another reason why I feel immigration is a good thing, and it’s to do with my being English, or British. My country has plundered the world for centuries, drawing its wealth towards it, sequestering that wealth in the hands of the few. It’s an understatement to say that it has made our nation a comfortable place to live. We are deeply privileged if an accident of birth has let us be born here, or if we have been lucky enough to come here to live, as my paternal Grandfather did two generations ago. But it’s my strongly held view – my view – that it’s payback time. So even if hordes of Romanian criminals ARE coming here to steal our jobs, it’s just history working itself out. It’s time to share our good fortune.

Vote. But don’t, for the sake of our country, vote for UKIP.

 

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3 Responses to “An emotional view of immigration.”

  1. Richard Edwards (@richarde26) May 21, 2014 at 9:30 pm #

    Beautifully put Moose

  2. Julie harvet May 21, 2014 at 10:01 pm #

    Hear hear!

  3. @knopperlegs May 29, 2014 at 11:04 pm #

    Spot on.

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