January 27, 2003
The Spirals of Hatred for the 'Other'
My horror stands unabated at the misrepresentation and reprehensible xenophobia rampant in Britain today. Of course, the story is an ancient one, playing on the fear that human stupidity has of 'the other'. The misrepresentation of asylum seekers, and the ease with which politicians desperate for appeal of any sort (i.e. the Tory party leader and Tony Blair) and intellectual-gutter papers like the Daily Mail have in perpetrating ignorance and fear disgusts me to my core. Day after day we have shrill and hysterical announcements about this massive 'wave' of liars and potential terrorists that will engulf the 'culture' of Britain. So major a threat is this onslaught of lying dangerous 'others', that our wise Leader, Tony Blair, has warned that we may have to "withdraw from our obligations under the European convention":http://politics.guardian.co.uk/homeaffairs/story/0,11026,882965,00.html?=rss on human rights. The arguments against such empty hysteria are many.
The statements of doom based on economic reasons are highly contentious and
improbable; many economists are very clear that immigration can be, and is, a positive factor in economic development (walk through London at 5am to see the thousands of invisible cleaners and workers, almost exclusively composed of the 'other').
The suggestions of loss of 'culture' seems weak at best, to quote "David Aaronovitch:":http://politics.guardian.co.uk/homeaffairs/comment/0,11026,882694,00.html
bq. "Rowthorn's definition of nation is just piety masquerading as analysis (has he even read Linda Colley?), and his suggestion that mass immigration necessarily undermines a sense of nationhood is completely contradicted by the experience of the United States and Australia. If nationhood is just a series of particularities (eating fish and chips, taking the dog for a walk, knowing who is tenth in line to the throne), then Rowthorn may be right. If it is embodied in values, then he may well be wrong. Let us say that the things that we most value about Britishness are tolerance, free speech, non-violence, a vibrant popular culture, comedy, a belief in fairness, representative democracy and complaining to anyone except the person who has given you offence. Are these necessarily put at risk by high levels of immigration?"
It seems clear that if Britain's 'culture' is so fragile that it will break under what is still a vast minority of diverse 'others', then are those supposed core values worth keeping?
Finally, I find it hypocrisy of the highest order that politicians and the press can, in one single breath, talk about brutal dictators and regimes like Iraq and Zimbabwe, and then not recognize most asylum seekers come from these very countries. Tony Blair loves to play the game of demonisation, yet he cannot back up his attack that Hussain and Mugabe torture and starve their people when asylum laws are cracking down on those very same people escaping from those tyrants?
see also: "Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in the Independant":http://argument.independent.co.uk/regular_columnists/yasmin_alibhai_brown/story.jsp?story=373061
 Whatever that 'culture' may be.
 Those invisible 'others' that are responsible for 'waking' the city up, and keeping it running, who are paid next-to-nothing and who have no working rights because of their status (thus maintaining the low running costs of innumerable businesses). I would love for one of the 'anti-immigrants' to spend 6 months working with the status of one of those invisible 'others', and then try to reflect on their xenophobic ignorance and misrepresentation.
 Not that I agree with his list of 'Britishness'! Just with the sentiment that it is probably only the superficiality of a 'culture' that may be challenged by the 'other'. In fact, Britain is an [albeit imperfect] example of enrichment of those superficial aspects of the 'culture', as attested to by the great contributions in art, music, food and other aspects of daily life that have made Britain simply much better to live in.
Posted by Ian at January 27, 2003 11:03 AM