Nov 262014

I discover, this evening, that I’m a so-called “hidden” migrant:

Nigel Farage’s Ukip has called for the children of immigrants to themselves be classed as migrants – despite the fact that the party leader’s own two children would be included in that number.

The party highlighted a report issued today by the right-wing thinktank MigrationWatch UK, which said immigration’s impact on population growth had been underestimated by more than 1.3 million because babies of those coming to this country were not taken into account.

Meanwhile, for the moment:

Neither MigrationWatch nor Ukip suggested that the citizenship of those born in Britain was in question.

The rationale for inventing such a darkly-laden concept?  According to our dear Mr Farage’s political grouping (“whose wife,” the Independent story usefully reminds us, “is German”):

[…] the issue of “hiding” those born to migrants from statistics had “ramifications for healthcare and other public services”.

“We have to accept that this is happening because otherwise you can’t make the decisions to make sure everyone is OK,” the spokesperson said.

“If the figures for migration don’t include children, you’re not taking the correct facts into account for public policy.”

Frankly, this is bollocks.  Sorry.  But it truly has nothing to do with healthcare or public policy.  Nor, indeed, with making sure everyone is OK.

But let’s be charitable, for a moment at least.

Even if it did have something to do, say, with healthcare, take the case of my good self to see how ludicrous this latter idea really is: my father is British, my mother Croatian (though she now has dual nationality); I me mine am British by birth (Oxford if you didn’t know – rather too foreign and beyond the pale, I accept).  But now I’m to be considered a migrant – and a hidden one at that (ooooohhh!  Maybe I’m even red and hidden under your bed …) – I pose the following conundrum to Mr Farage and his ilk: of the fifty percent of me which is “hidden” migrant, we have to add the fifty percent of what I now assume to be “hidden” native, because fifty percent of me by parentage is homegrown (even by these idiots’ own home-made definition).  So if this “hidden” migrant concept has been devised to help out with the correct and proper governance of our nation, which bit of my body parts will be judged as migrant and which will be judged as native?

Imagine the conversation if you can …

GP: No, I’m afraid that free-at-point-of-delivery for “hidden” migrants like yourself is no longer the case.

Me: OK.  But although my mum’s as foreign as they come (she speaks English perfectly, mind, so it’s just as well I told you – make sure you bill her the next time she visits), my dad’s about as British as you’d care for.  So whilst my [choose your body part] is distending itself painfully as we speak, which bit of its treatment do I need to pay for ‘cos it’s Croatian – and which bit of its treatment is free ‘cos it’s British?

GP: Hmm.  Good point.  Let me see.  Well.  The expensive operation will obviously be Croatian; the bandages and TLC, on the other hand, can be British if you prefer.

Once upon a time, there was this other idea, dearly held, which argued that bullying was in the eye of the beholder; that any case of bullying needed investigating if someone – anyone – felt that that bullying had taken place.

This was to get round those nasty people out there who claim that any horribleness was never the intention of the exchange in question.

We might remember this issue right now.

There is, after all, little difference between the self-belief of outright bullies and the craven certainties of “hidden” racists – especially when such racists deny ownership for “hidden” agendas (even as they continue to actively propagandise them):

So it is that the racist, as well as the bully I’m sure we have all experienced, manages with an incredible precision to occupy simultaneously two miserable and quite contradictory positions in society: that of victim and oppressor both.

Yet we should not allow the horrible things such people succeed in doing to provoke a similar hatred or reaction in ourselves – for just as surely as the cruelty they exhibit to others is a sign of a brutalising upbringing, so our response to their resulting brutality can only serve to define how uncivilising was ours.

There are two ways of dealing with racism and bullying: a) outright rejection and a terrible shunning or b) a generous engagement and a never-ending instinct to education.

I know which process I would prefer to be a part of.  Have you considered which one most closely resembles your own?

Nov 192014

This article by Julie Bindel, published yesterday on the Guardian newspaper’s website, is interesting.

Certain caveats beforehand (I don’t want a storm of unhappy responses): I’m a man, so like the English in the Scottish referendum, I honestly get the feeling that I have little right to hold an opinion here; also, I get most of my understanding of the world from social networks these days – and if that’s not an example of mediated media, then I don’t know what is.

Mind you, I stopped tweeting at my previous Twitter account, @eiohel, precisely because the heavy weight of so much of that timeline was just too much for my delicate soul to deal with.

So I reverted to the backwater that is @zebrared.  And here I am.

All by-the-by; but also in the way of an explanation for what follows.

A couple of choice phrases from the article linked to above (the bold is mine):

  • “The current climate of McCarthyism within some segments of feminism and the left is so ingrained and toxic that there are active attempts to outlaw some views because they cause offence. Petitions against individuals appear to be a recent substitute for political action towards the root causes of misogyny and other social ills. Petitions have taken over politics.

I’d also argue that personalities have taken over almost everything else.  I’ll explain this assertion later.

More choice phrases (again, the bold is mine):

  • It would appear we have forgotten how to target institutions. The tactic du jour is to wind up a crowd and shut down any nuanced discussion or debate. Patriarchy is being left to its own devices while bad and unpalatable men are being taken to task one by one.”

And finally (the bold my doing once more):

  • “We built this movement on a desire and willingness to question and challenge old assumptions and truisms. We are in danger of becoming autocrats who would rather organise a pile-on than try to change systems. The life blood of feminism is in danger of becoming bile.”

To be honest, I don’t think this is a symptom of decay in feminism.  Or, at least, not just feminism.  The malaise is infecting far more areas of our society than that.  Those of us who affect more than a glancing interest in politics – and as inveterate bloggers, what’s more, a politics which once proudly proclaimed the personal as political – have, paradoxically, long bemoaned the importance of personalities in latterday political discourse to the exclusion of what we variously argue as being the far more relevant matters of policies, the grassroots, party activists, even ordinary voters and their communities.  We’ve had plenty of examples too: one clear one from my own party, Labour.  Whilst Tony Blair reigned over the movement, most of its incongruences seemed well hidden, papered over, perhaps (at least on a good day) non-existent.  As soon as Gordon Brown came to power, the personal contrasts couldn’t have been more marked: almost overnight, the Party started coming apart at the seams of what practically seemed a bogeyman’s sack.

So.  That a certain kind of feminism (the type that targets institutions and structures with thought, wit and accuracy) should become contaminated with the celebocracy of generations brought up on reality shows too numerous to mention – and when I say reality shows, I also mean current affairs programmes which prefer to invite the notorious instead of the informed, any ratings-pursuing day – is, actually, hardly surprising.  The petition-itis mentioned is but another symptom of such a focus on notoriety.  And what in our civilisation is more notorious and worthy of comment than the downfall of an individual – any individual, famous or infamous for whatever it might be – whose misfortune, stupidity or plain rank idiocy allows us to breathe quite relieved that “But for the grace of God, go I …”?

The vicarious thrill of experiencing the fear, riding the rollercoaster and escaping the condemnation was never more apparent.

If the Guardian‘s “Comment is Free” article is anywhere on the button (and I revert to my early caveat – I don’t as a relatively privileged upper-middle-aged man even know whether I have a right to type these words), then feminism – the kind that deconstructs a patriarchy which surely incarcerates us all, whether woman or man – has fallen foul of the instincts described in my post this evening.  In celebrating the importance of the individual, in underlining that every woman, child and oppressed soul matters, we have slipped slowly, silently, sneakily and ultimately over the no-man’s land that lies between a kind, generous, inclusive individualism on the one hand and, on the other, that starstruck, nasty, almost fascist celebration of media-generated idols which Chris Dillow at “Stumbling and Mumbling” has recently been exposing.

It’s sad, bad and very wearisome.  But it’s far far worse, this McCarthyism we perceive, this state of play we experience, this degeneration into lynch-mob behaviours … when perceived, experienced and observed in fields of thought we thought impervious to such influences.

Today, I read with horror that a quarter of all British people questioned want migrants to leave Britain.  (That means a quarter of the people I walk past every day want four-fifths of my family to leave the nation I was born in.)  Then I see my political party reacting with words of consolation for such philosophers of the human condition, and wonder, really, how on earth we got here.

If the touchstone of early 21st century feminism now believes it’s in crisis and has problems … well, surely it’s time we all believed the same: wherever we stand; whatever gender, belief system or century we feel we occupy; however we look at the world that cruelly fails us.

Aug 102013

Traditional Britain – this awful awful outfit which, like a prehistoric alien at the heart of a 21st century astronaut, aims to return Britain to some allegedly better time by exploding out of the Tory Party in a way no one of any sensible political persuasion could reasonably stomach – needs to revisit this ten-minute video on the history of the English language, where not the “English” themselves.

Not that witty irony or self-deprecation would ever be likely float their racist pateras.

But this is where I begin to wonder whether what drives their prehistoric instincts is really racism at all.  In my previous post, I described the concept of “extractive elites” – the definition running as follows (the bold was mine yesterday):

[…] An extractive elite is defined by:

“Having a rent-seeking system which allows, without creating new wealth, for the extraction of rent from a majority of the population for one’s own benefit.”

“Having enough power to prevent an inclusive institutional system – in other words, a system that distributes political and economic power broadly, that respects the rule of law and free market rules.”

It also despises what Schumpeter calls “creative destruction” (again, the bold is mine):

[…] “creative destruction is the process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one.” Innovation tends to create new centers of power, and that’s why it is detested.

For the purposes of today’s post, it’s that last phrase which interests me most: “Innovation tends to create new centers of power, and that’s why it is detested.”  What if Traditional Britain – and unhappy outriders of a similar bent – have either consciously or unconsciously realised that, in a 21st century of galloping technological advancement, any elite, whether extractive or not, could not possibly get off the ground any project which aimed to preserve their power bases and incumbency by arguing they were against the concept of innovation?

In truth, innovation – as a philosophy, tool and essential driver of latterday Western society – is just too ingrained and built into the foundations of everything we do and think, both nationally and globally as a wider civilisation.  No one would get anywhere by fighting such an overwhelming figure.  So it is that Traditional Britain claims to exhibit radical thinking, even though its instincts are – manifestly – radically conserving:

The British nation, its institutions, peoples, traditions, and history has been undermined and attacked repeatedly over the last fifty years by those who teach in our schools and universities, cynical politicians in our Parliament and the self-interested officials in our communities and institutions.

Today the Traditional Britain Group has been reinvigorated by a new, dynamic generation of young, intelligent and passionate people, determined to make a difference and show that there is, will be, and has always been an alternative – real conservatism.

Concluding on its About page that:

With courage, pride and determination, the Traditional Britain Group says, ‘No more! The ancient traditions, peoples and beliefs of these isles are worth preserving. There is an alternative for Britain. The fight back begins now!’

As has so often been the case over the past fifty years or so that TBG chooses to underline and focus on, politicians who prefer to enrich the wealthy at the expense of the poor nail their flags to the masts of radicalism.  They have to.  We live in a changing world.  The overriding meme of the 21st century is precisely that.  Who on earth in their right mind would contemplate describing themselves as a dinosaur against progress?

So it is that radicalism becomes a catchphrase for all and sundry – in particular, for those who have no historical right to employ it.  And to date, we on the left have tended to allow such politicians their confusing labels – even as the only radicalism involved, the only change engineered, is a progressive (ie regressive) impoverishment of the evermore politically defenceless.

But if we look at such political groupings through the prism of extractive elites, we may begin to perceive a subtly different kind of profile: when right-wing organisations such as TBG, EDL, even the BNP in their time, witter on destructively about immigration, in truth they are wittering on about innovation.  Immigration is a code word for such elites – innovation is what they really fear; what they really fear but cannot admit they despise.  In a Western civilisation where technological companies, networks and communities are the basis of the future, these anything-but-cosy throwbacks (throwbacks to a past which, in truth, as the video at the top of this post has shown, never existed in the first place) cannot even say what they really think: that stuff should remain the same so that their incumbency, power, rentier statuses and opportunities are not criminally shared out amongst the rest of us.

When they say they want to send blacks back to where they came from, it’s about as ciphered a language as you could imagine: what, in fact, they really mean to say is: “Anyone who threatens my current state of wellbeing must bugger off out of my way.”

For if you’re poorer (or richer) than a TBG-adherent, you don’t have to be black to face their ire.

All you have to be is ambitiously redistributive – more importantly, innovatory – in all your gloriously political and sociocultural instincts.

That’ll soon get their “radicalism” kicking into gear – and on your case.

Immigration’s just the subset of their hatreds: sadly, a socially acceptable way in many parts of our country these days of damning the redistribution – through a yet-as-unexperienced and truly free-market capitalism – of wealth, power and societal control.

The battle is much much bigger than immigration.  It’s all, in fact, about the way we want to do our economics.

And they’ve known it much longer than we have.

This is not a simple – even where disgraceful – matter of different skin colours.  This has far more to do with our human rights to financial and sociocultural stability.  This is a lazy stratum of society looking to maintain its rights to sustain its unproductive habits.

A stratum which clearly would like us to remain unaware of what it’s really getting up to.

And it’s time to wise up, no?


It’s time to wise up.

Aug 022013

My most recent tweet reads as follows:

This “stopping people for papers” lark is the anteroom to the introduction of ID cards. The cards will be the content of your mobile phone.

“Stopping people for papers” sounds a bit like tinpot dictatorships, so first read this and then read this – before judging for yourself how tinpot the UK is getting.

Anyhow, it’s pretty self-evident that people are currently being stopped on British buses and commutes in general, and are being asked for evidence of their identity using a crude form of ethnic profiling.  So far, so bad – or good, if you are of such an inclination.

Now to the latter two parts of the tweet: firstly, that the Home Office is planning to introduce ID cards; secondly, that they will consist of the content of your mobile phone.  These stories should help bring us all up to speed.  As I pointed out in a couple of previous posts back in 2012, the government isn’t only planning to introduce ID cards, it’s also planning for them to be privatised ones:

So no longer will it be necessary to battle the libertarian instincts of so many Daily Mail-reading Middle Englanders.  By simply passing legislation designed, according to its proponents, to fight organised crime and terrorism conducted on the Internet, the function creep Meacher mentioned in his piece will be enabled from a design-of-concept point of view into the laws themselves to allow them to also create the figure of virtual ID cards.

For you have already bought and paid for an identity card: it’s called a mobile phone; it costs you maybe £400 over a two-year period; its functionality, call-centre provision and contractual relationship is already outsourced to a private provider; and it will allow governments everywhere – but in particular here in Britain – to spy on, collate and structure all your most personal information as individual profiles are legally created about every single voter in the country.

This is ID-card paradise for entirely amoral command-and-control agendas.

Or, for the rest of us, a civil-liberty hell on Planet Earth.

And all this before we heard of Prism, Mastering the Internet and XKeyscore.

It all comes together, doesn’t it?  First, the street-located technology to download (or steal, depending on your point of view) the content of your mobile phone in minutes; second, its trialling and employment in airports and other points of entry into the UK; third, the inevitable sop to private-industry sponsors galore looking to get the grasping hands on yet another potential cash-cow – at the clear expense, of course, of citizen privacy; and fourth, its primary application on “people of colour” and other individuals we decide, out of unhappy cowardice, we would be better off not defending for the moment.

But as we’ve already learned from the past couple of years of Coalition government, what the Tories decide to do the weakest in society very soon gets applied to a much broader constituency.  The logic of these actions is ultimately irreversible: once done to the downtrodden and “illegal”, such regimes, out of massive hubris, end up extending them to everyone else.

Naturally, I may be wrong.  I may be wrong about all the above.  This may not be part of some concerted plan to introduce privatised ID cards by the backdoor, and through the mechanism of using them on illegal immigration first.

But if I am wrong – and I’d be more than happy to print a refutation on these pages which demonstrated that I was completely out of my trolley – what other explanation of all the aforementioned stories explains them as clearly as my thesis?

You tell me.  Your turn now.  Please put my mind at rest.

Jul 292013

The concepts of both illegal and legal immigration have had a highly unpleasant past and present.  Our very own quite despicable Coalition government is just the latest group of political miscreants ready to cover themselves in intellectually incomprehensible glory.  This campaign, thankfully dispatched for the moment, is the most recent example of prejudice-driven politics – operating, as it currently is, to drive our society in all kinds of sociopolitically haywire directions.

There was a time, of course, when illegal immigration was a standard bearer of freedom.  This, for example, being a case in point:

The Berlin Wall (GermanBerliner Mauer) was a barrier constructed by the German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany) starting on 13 August 1961, that completely cut off (by land) West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin.[1] The barrier included guard towers placed along large concrete walls,[2] which circumscribed a wide area (later known as the “death strip”) that contained anti-vehicle trenches, “fakir beds” and other defenses. The Eastern Bloc claimed that the wall was erected to protect its population from fascist elements conspiring to prevent the “will of the people” in building a socialist state in East Germany. In practice, the Wall served to prevent the massive emigration and defection that marked Germany and the communist Eastern Bloc during the post-World War II period.

I would assume that even the most right-wing Tory/UKIP/EDL hangers-on would – at the time – have been pretty much in favour of such immigration, and would have been unlikely to send back anyone sufficiently lucky to have managed to escape the clutches of the GDR.

Yet the day the Berlin Wall did fall was, it would seem, the day that illegal immigration lost all virtue.  Whereas forming part of the West’s political crusade against Communism once assigned one a series of undeniable rights to asylum, now it would appear that anyone wishing to move their abode for otherwise trivial reasons like economic betterment is looking, quite inevitably, to be utterly and totally stuffed.

Yes.  There was a time when the West liked to see itself as a beacon of hope.

Fuck that.

You can continue to work for the West if you really want to – just don’t expect to better yourself economically.  Remain in your Third World countries of oppressive regimes; if you’re lucky, get paid the pittance your distant Western masters and mistresses care to assign your part of the manufacturing and sales process; and if you do feel life should be about more than cheap mobiles and Internet TV, watch your back with care and preoccupation – because out of that 21st century Berlin Wall no one will be able any longer to escape.

That’s the new structure that imprisons us all over again.  Incumbent big biz can move its stuff wherever it wants.  But the urge to transfer political and social freedoms is handicapped, tied up and bound cruelly – over and over again.

And it’s our governments – in the West and developed world – which are doing their level best to perpetuate the restrictions of the GDR’s Berlin Wall times.

Illegal immigration?  I say: “Do away with the concept altogether!”

Time for this remaining Berlin Wall to fall.

Time for it to fall, once and for all.

Time we realised that the moment we divided humanity up into legals and illegals was the day that big money, big biz and big government won the day.

Well.  I’ve had enough of that.  I’ve had enough of the division between legal and illegal human beings.  I’ve had enough of a society which allows, in a second, an electronic transfer of money anywhere in the world – and yet, at the same time, sanctions the hunting down of frightened people who find themselves in foreign lands.

Foreign people who simply want to improve their lot.

Foreign people who no longer want to be left to rot at the bottom of a crude pile of invisible-making inhumanity.

Jun 052013

Unintentional or otherwise (and I fear it is not), the Daily Express has a ridiculous front page tomorrow.  For just 10p you can buy yourself this juxtaposition.  In particular, what they are unwilling to say directly about immigrants (who, strangely, have mutated into migrants), they say most directly about wind farms.  So let me run that headline, “End of hated wind farms that ruin our countryside”, past you again.  The subtext of it, of course, really being as follows: “End of hated migrants that ruin our country”.

Migrant invasion by the Daily Express

Now if you check out the full front page as linked to above, you’ll notice there are two other – rather contrasting – stories snuggled up against these horrendously linked ones.  In the top right, we get a lovefest about the Royals (weren’t they “migrants” of sorts?  I’m pretty sure at least a couple of them were …), above a sad story about the suicide attempt of the daughter of someone famous who died a while ago in mysterious circumstances.

I would be tempted, very tempted, to push the game I’ve just played even further: in the world of signs and comparative studies, that juxtaposition could quite easily symbolise a caring British society, having lost its ability quite recently to care for anything any more, proceeding to go through the motions of committing one last savage act of self-immolation.

But that, I suppose, would be one step too far.

After all, the British do care so very much about their badgers, their NHS, their legal system, their children, their homeless, their starving and their pensioners.  The evidence is out there.  The evidence is clear.



One final thought.  Whilst all ET ever wanted to do was “phone home” in order to go home any which way he could, Russia Today hits the nail on the head in this report which explains how immigrants/migrants (dare I say even “aliens”) not only move about as they do but also undergo the suffering that generally results:

Raids on migrants are frequent in Russia’s capital, as Moscow is a destination for millions of people from the former Soviet Union and beyond seeking better work than is available at home.

Really, when we talk about the issue of immigration, we should talk about why home is so very unattractive to those who have left theirs.  That should be our real focus; that should be the question uppermost in our minds.

Ask yourself this: if home is so very wonderful a place to hang around, why are so many people choosing to leave theirs behind?

Then ask yourself if it is ever to right for human beings escaping conditions of squalor to be treated like we’re treating them today.  Little more than animals, in fact.

And we all know how the British now treat their animals.

Apr 022013

Definitions first.  This, on the corporation:

An corporation is a separate legal entity that has been incorporated through a legislative or registration process established through legislation. Incorporated entities have legal rights and liabilities that are distinct from their employees and shareholders,[1] and may conduct business as either a profit-seeking business or not for profit business.

And this, even more pertinently:

Despite not being actual human beings (‘Natural People’), corporations, as far as the law is concerned, as legal people have many of the same rights and responsibilities as natural people do. Corporations can exercise human rights against real individuals and the state,[5][6] and they can themselves be responsible for human rights violations.[7] Corporations can be “dissolved” either by statutory operation, order of court, or voluntary action on the part of shareholders. Insolvency may result in a form of corporate failure, when creditors force the liquidation and dissolution of the corporation under court order,[8] but it most often results in a restructuring of corporate holdings. Corporations can even be convicted of criminal offenses, such as fraud and manslaughter. However corporations are not considered living entities in the way that humans are.[9]

Now this, on how we might define racism:

Racism is usually defined as views, practices and actions reflecting the belief that humanity is divided into distinct biological groups called races and that members of a certain race share certain attributes which make that group as a whole less desirable, more desirable, inferior or superior.[1][2][3]

And this, again even more pertinently:

Racism and racial discrimination are often used to describe discrimination on an ethnic or cultural basis, independent of whether these differences are described as racial. According to the United Nationsconvention, there is no distinction between the terms racial discrimination and ethnic discrimination, and superiority based on racial differentiation is scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous, and that there is no justification for racial discrimination, in theory or in practice, anywhere.[7]

Now to my most recent post (though I’m pretty sure, in my case, the tendency has been exhibiting itself for a while) on the subject of Tory failure (the bold is mine for the purposes of the post you are now reading):

In terms of their own economic markers in the sand; of their inability to lead a country – not through medieval fear but a real and tangible hope – out of the quagmire most of the less well-off will now find ourselves in; of their absent understanding of where a natural justice must lie; and of their abdication and giving-up of a sovereign England to transnational corporations with very foreign ways of seeing and doing.

I imagine, of course, I’m not the only English subject to fear the influences of foreign parts – but I do try to resist what might fairly be considered the expression of racist tendencies.  So why am I happily letting slip phrases such as a “sovereign England” being given up to “transnational corporations with very foreign ways of seeing and doing”?  Given that – as the above definitions have shown us – corporations have many of the attributes of people, am I not committing the cardinal sin of racists everywhere?

Am I not, in fact, demonstrating a profoundly unpleasant side to my character – a side I only reveal when dealing with the branded anonymity of my fast-food provider?

Then I think even deeper on the matter.  Perhaps there is in motion a deliberated sequence of events (not exactly a conspiracy – more a flocking of interested parties) aimed at directing our immigration-riven fears at the foreign people who visibly come over.  That these fears might originally be sourced in the corporations we work for, with their “foreign” values and missions and their effervescent induction processes, seemingly unstoppable, unavoidable and inevitable as they are, is neither here nor there: in essence what is happening, as we find ourselves unable to fight the “real” enemy, is that we transfer our fears onto the entirely blameless young Polish couple living two doors down from where we do.

Seen in such a light, we must conclude the following: of course it’s not right to be racist about anything.  And yet … and yet … in the light of these thoughts, I better understand the “real” racists out there.  These corporations, with their foreign ways, are coming to change my education system, my NHS, my police, fire, search and rescue services, my Legal Aid, my road and rail infrastructures – even, it would seem, my very English love of a cricketing fair play.

So what gives them the right to storm the barricades of Englishness?

Their logo-dressed fineries?  Their invisibility cloaks of globalisation?  Their automatic right to move their electronic wealth from country to country?  And why, please tell me, do they really manage to become so like us – especially when the ordinary foreign-landed flesh-and-blood folk allegedly find it so difficult to integrate with our traditional ways and wherefores?

Are the corporations more gracious with our customs?  Are they more respectful with our habits?  Are they more adept at understanding our ways?

Or is it something else – something really rather unhappier?

Is it really that they manage to remake themselves in our image – or is it more that they have the means and methods to remake us in theirs?

Maybe it is OK to be racist to a corporation after all.  They, in many senses, would appear to be swallowing us whole.  Swallowing us whole – before (once sufficiently masticated, our function fulfilled) they proceed to discard and spit us out.

Thus I come to my final question: in such circumstances as these, wouldn’t your racist tendencies begin to flower too?

Mar 092013

I just had this thought:

@goLookGoRead It’s almost as if the subject of immigration is a conceptual Stasi to keep multiple Berlin Walls on their feet.

This was as a result of these two preceding tweets on why politicians seem to love so very much the subject of immigration:

@goLookGoRead Yes. Indeed so. I truly begin to wonder if politicos love immigration ‘cos it mainly serves to prop up their blessed borders.

probably because we’re:

@goLookGoRead In a century when planet-wide borders begin to tumble …

Where might such thoughts finally lead us?  In a world where stateless electronic capital may wander wherever it chooses, untrammelled by focussed political adversity or public criticism of any sustained nature, it could be that immigration as a concept exists so powerfully in our societies not because it is pertinent but, rather, because our politicians find it useful.  I don’t mean in that flag-wrapping way I complained about a couple of posts back.  Instead, I mean as a tool to maintain borders that serve to conserve turfdoms of rather parochial power.  Without the “threat” of the European Union, “foreign” cultures or immigrations various to bring it to heel, surely civil society would go down the line of most pleasure and least resistance: as per cheap holidays, commerce and the freedom-loving instincts of people generally – at least where minimum means to hand exist – we would almost certainly end up following the global rich in their promiscuous relationship with homeland, birthplace and starting-point.

And then, pray tell me, where would that leave the aforementioned politicos of the relatively local?  Their prosaic command over ordinary people’s prejudices would leach out amongst the evermore porous walls of national definition – leach out of those once impervious One Nation dynamics we used to find anywhere and everywhere.

Having already lost the battle with worldly capital, they would proceed to lose all final control over absolutely everyone else.  Voters would become the tail that wagged the oh-so-aged actors of ancient political dogfight.

So why doesn’t it happen – or, at least, why doesn’t it happen more often?

Because this conceptual Stasi I mention above – all this industry around immigration (an industry which should really spend far more of its time operating with economic innovation) – simply serves to maintain all these tiny and considerable Berlin Walls of so very much benefit to all these parochial politicos.

Professionals whose very reason for being has slowly disintegrated with the passing of our century.

Even so – as all professionals must – they resist the passage of time.

So it is that immigration as a matter of great upheaval doesn’t mainly respond to the needs of ordinary voters but, far more importantly, to the needs of the political classes.  In particular, in order that they might maintain their ever-loosening holds over their charges.

Politicians of a certain kind need division.  And focussing our attention on, building an industry in favour of and against, the subject of inevitably destructive cultural dissonance, instead of teaching us new tricks in the broadening fields of sustainable economics, is clearly a distraction – if ever such a distraction existed – of the cruelly and inimitably ruthless.

To no avail, perhaps, if history is anything to go by.  The Berlin Wall collapsed – seemingly overnight.  And here, the same may happen with equal suddenness.

Just to repeat what I’ve already said over the past few days.  The problem is economics, not cultural.  Until we manage to sort out our economies, there is really no point in papering over multicultural cracks.

Especially if, by so doing, we end up reneging on so many human realities and rights.

When cracks appear in a bungalow built over porous land, you might want to pay a degree of attention.  Whatever you do, Polyfilla time it most certainly ain’t.

And focussing our attention on such idle matters of cultural dissonance is pretty much the political equivalent of Polyfilla.  Especially when the real issue to hand has absolutely nothing to do with immigration at all.

Mar 082013

I ranted a bit the other day on my own position as a natural immigrant on this planet.  In fact, I am as much an immigrant as I am a person with disability – though you probably wouldn’t notice it if you looked at me.

Just as many of us are disabled but silently, so many of us are immigrants but invisibly.  There are, in fact, many more of us than you think.  You only see those who suffer because of their skin colour.  What you don’t know or realise is how many of us have anciently – and recently – invaded your genes, your history, your habits, your cuisine; even your treasured language itself.

The thesis of today’s post runs as follows: to posit any discussion on the issues surrounding economic fracture as issues which require us to address a person’s culture and race is immediately – without exception at all – to create a group of very second-class citizens.  To argue that individuals who are supposedly different from a perceived norm have fewer rights – simply because they were born elsewhere and are of a different nationality – is an expression of severe anti-internationalism to a most unpleasant degree.  To suggest that some people are more important to a nation-state because their economic contributions are greater is a demonstration of how difficult it has become for all of us to value others in terms of what they are; how easy it has become for all of us to define human beings in terms of their relationship to number-crunching stats and outputs.

To summarise, when we’re talking about immigration, what we’re really talking about is our inability to make an economy work effectively.  People who want to “address the immigration issue” refuse to accept that their views on how the economy should operate are as near to bankrupt as makes no difference.  Unable to recognise that the mixed economy of the traditional social-democratic state is tottering towards an abyss essentially of its own making, they find it far easier to play silly buggers with people’s identities.

Which is why this happens: you will, on the one hand, from the very same important political mouths, hear voices claiming how ridiculous the thought of Scottish independence must be – even as they argue, on the other, for a reassertion of a national identity they do approve of.  An identity which parties must kow-tow to and support because a significant minority of the voters is judged to be significantly racist.

This, then, is what I argue: immigrants are always second-class citizens.  We say things about immigrants we never dare say about anybody else.  And, these days, we say them more and more often.  It seems that Fortress Britain is being re-established on all parts of the political spectrum.  Most everyone is now following that significant minority whose powers of persuasion are located in the unhappiest of prejudices: the prejudices that confuse the reality of economic bankruptcy with the symptoms that immigration represent.

Easier to shit on an immigrant than on a banker perhaps?  Maybe so.  Especially for those who need the political sponsorship of the financial-services sector.

To finish, then, a thought experiment.  I’m going to quote from three recent points of view on the subject, but – on International Women’s Day – substitute all references to immigrants with references to women.  Let’s see how these opinions then sit – how uncomfortable, perhaps, they begin to make us feel.  The first excerpts from the blog Stumbling and Mumbling today.  First, the original text:

Sunny says  the conventional ways of arguing for a more liberal immigration policy have been unsuccessful. I agree. I also agree that we shouldn’t look to the Labour party to change this. Political parties tend to follow the public mood, not lead it.

Now my version:

Sunny says  the conventional ways of arguing for a more liberal policy on women’s rights have been unsuccessful. I agree. I also agree that we shouldn’t look to the Labour party to change this. Political parties tend to follow the public mood, not lead it.

Then we get this – again, first the original:

[…] The strongest foundation for anti-immigration attitudes lies not in economics or hard facts but in an inarticulable sense that migration will change the national character. It’s no accident that there’s a big overlap between antipathy towards immigration and towards gay marriage; both are based upon a conservative disposition which, in many ways, is an admirable instinct.

How do we combat this? Paradoxically, we do so not by being modern metropolitan liberals, but by celebrating our “national story” – by pointing out that immigration is nothing new but part of our heritage. Churchill was the son of an immigrant, as is the heir to the throne.

Again, now my version:

[…] The strongest foundation for anti-women attitudes lies not in economics or hard facts but in an inarticulable sense that women’s rights will change the national character. It’s no accident that there’s a big overlap between antipathy towards women’s rights and towards gay marriage; both are based upon a conservative disposition which, in many ways, is an admirable instinct.

How do we combat this? Paradoxically, we do so not by being modern metropolitan liberals, but by celebrating our “national story” – by pointing out that women are nothing new but part of our heritage. Churchill was the son of a woman, as is the heir to the throne.

The second article I’d like to play this game with was posted on Liberal Conspiracy yesterday.  First the original, as follows:

Why doesn’t Labour change the narrative?
This is the question almost every leftie asks. But probe it further and it quickly falls apart, because it is much easier said than done.

Labour is an opposition party which already struggles to get attention. Even if Ed Miliband said everything that lefties wanted, the media would distort it and re-interpret it for their audiences. And how many times would he have to say it before it got through to people?

Furthermore, people hostile to immigration would just ignore the speech and explain away the facts. This is how people react. This is how the world works. Just making a speech on immigration facts, even repeatedly, just wouldn’t do much to change the narrative.

I’m not saying Labour should pander and I’m not saying Labour should bring back the odious Phil Woolas and triangulate. I’m just pointing out that there are practical limitations to how much Labour can do.

Now my rewrite:

Why doesn’t Labour change the narrative?
This is the question almost every leftie asks. But probe it further and it quickly falls apart, because it is much easier said than done.

Labour is an opposition party which already struggles to get attention. Even if Ed Miliband said everything that lefties wanted, the media would distort it and re-interpret it for their audiences. And how many times would he have to say it before it got through to people?

Furthermore, people hostile to women’s rights would just ignore the speech and explain away the facts. This is how people react. This is how the world works. Just making a speech on facts about women, even repeatedly, just wouldn’t do much to change the narrative.

I’m not saying Labour should pander and I’m not saying Labour should bring back the sexist Austin Mitchell and triangulate. I’m just pointing out that there are practical limitations to how much Labour can do.

And another original excerpt from the same LibCon post:

So what is Labour doing then?
Ed Miliband understands that New Labour triangulation won’t work any more. His view has always been that immigration needs to be re-framed as an economic issue (‘a class issue’ – he called it), to help poorer workers at the bottom. He has thus far resolutely stuck to that view.

But you simply cannot take the public with you unless they trust you and think you understand their concerns. This is also basic psychology. So, first, Miliband has to gain their trust with a bit of humility and apologies. Once enough people think he’s trying to solve a difficult issue, only then will they start listening to his solutions.

And another thought experiment:

So what is Labour doing then?
Ed Miliband understands that New Labour triangulation won’t work any more. His view has always been that women’s rights needs to be re-framed as an economic issue (‘a class issue’ – he called it), to help poorer women at the bottom. He has thus far resolutely stuck to that view.

But you simply cannot take the public with you unless they trust you and think you understand their concerns. This is also basic psychology. So, first, Miliband has to gain their trust with a bit of humility and apologies. Once enough people think he’s trying to solve a difficult issue, only then will they start listening to his solutions.

To finish with this:

We are a long way away from the days when Tories campaigned on immigration by saying ‘If you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Labour’. There is plenty of reason to be positive about the future.

And my tweak here:

We are a long way away from the days when Tories campaigned on women’s rights by saying ‘If you want a feminist for a neighbour, vote Labour’. There is plenty of reason to be positive about the future.

So there you have it.  And the third point of view?  I am reminded by all the above of an El Roto cartoon from 1996 which the Spanish El País newspaper posted on Facebook today.  It shows a professional businessman or typical political sort looking down on a clearly impoverished woman.  His demeanour expresses some significant degree of self-satisfied vanity.  The speech bubble goes along these lines: “Patience, woman, things are getting better, it’s just a question of centuries.”

To be fair to Liberal Conspiracy, the penultimate paragraph of the post I quote from does properly suggest where the future must really lie.  Which is to say, in following the recent US model: here, immigrants have exerted their muscle and gained recognition through political action on their own behalf.

But if any of the above things I’ve quoted from in relation to immigrants are not acceptable to any of us when referring to women and their indisputable rights, then – really – is it not the case that they should not be acceptable in relation to immigrants either?

As a final thought to this rather laborious post (if you’ve got this far, many thanks for having indulged my probably tiresome sensibilities in the matter), where I do find myself in more agreement and substantially greater comfort is in this post which quotes from Compass’s Neal Lawson writing in the Guardian newspaper today:

The problem is not immigration but free-market capitalism, which uproots people from their homes and encourages the best to leave. That denies us the tax base to invest properly in people and places. It’s not a new immigration policy we need, but a new capitalism.

A much better frame than “as so many people are racist, we’ve got to go down the route of centuries of top-down persuasion – and, in the meantime, be grateful for what you are occasionally given …”.

Don’t you think?

Mar 062013

I read this piece from Labour Uncut today, and immediately lashed out (mentally, I mean) at a couple of the phrases thus contained.  Interestingly, however, not all.

Let me list them as follows.  First, the soundbite that caused my mixed blood to boil unevenly:

  • “An effective approach to migrant labour is, then, about economic justice, not racial prejudice. In the interests of One Nation politics Labour has to become the party that is tough on immigration, but tougher on its causes.”

I think this is clearly misplaced.  An “effective” approach to migrant labour doesn’t – in a globalised world – aim to shut down the freedom of such labour to move where it will.  Unless, of course, in the name of “economic justice”, it also chooses to restrict the movement of capital.  And I’m sure the author of the post in question would never suggest that’d be a way forward.

Though I, indeed, might be inclined to.

Another couplet which drew my attention:

  • “[…] There will also be a symbolic shift towards the police rather than HM Revenue and Customs taking the lead on enforcement of the national minimum wage.
  • “‘There must be a level playing field so domestic workers are not disadvantaged and employers shouldn’t be allowed to use migration in the wrong way,’ says a Labour source.”

Not sure there’d be many immigrants out there who’d be positive about certain police forces getting involved in any enforcement.  But Labour’s strategists probably know this – are even maybe counting on it, at least as a way of getting across a subliminal message for the “flog ‘em and hang ‘em” crowd.

Two more phrases now – this time it would seem a little more constructive in approach, and telling the kind of story I perceive:

  • “[…] it is not racial prejudice driving public concern about immigration, it is economic injustice. Indeed, the contemporary discussion about immigration pits older migrant communities against newcomers in a battle for scarce jobs and resources.”
  • “[…] Immigration is a necessary addendum for economic neo-liberalism to function. The growth of the New Labour years was held aloft courtesy of an ever-ready army of cheap migrants serving to keep corporate costs down. […]”

But the author goes on to colour his argument when he adds in flag-wrapping glory:

  • “Surely it is a great progressive cause to tackle labour market abuses and offer British workers something more than the dismal prospect of competing with migrant workers on the basis of who will work for least? Isn’t that what a labour party should be for?”

That sentence would’ve be fine for me if he hadn’t used the adjective “British”.  What’s progressive about that?  How internationalist does that sit with other “progressive” approaches to globalisation?  We never think twice about capital moving its dosh at the speed of electronic – and stateless – light.  Yet when we talk about the flesh-and-blood aspect of our economies, we suddenly get all coy about identity and its relative importance.

No.  To argue that the case of migrant workers is mainly a question of economic justice, and the economic justice we’re talking about relates to “British” workers in Britain at the expense of anyone else with an equal right on this planet to make their living, is to ignore the real causes of much migration: the relative poverty we tolerate in other countries compared to the advantages we – even today – still enjoy here in England.

And I’d be much happier if the suggestion to hand was to deal with the subject of economic justice in all its awful entirety than to use it as a fig leaf to cover the immigration sensibilities of those who’d like to be racist – but find themselves unwilling to take ownership for their state.

A final thought to be going away with.  You’re right.  I don’t know how to talk about immigration, do I?  And that should be a most puzzling matter, for I was born in Oxford, England – can’t get much more English than that – to then spend most of my life growing up in the North West of the same country.  But my mother is Catholic Croatian; my father atheist English (and possibly Welsh); my wife and children are Castilian Spanish; and I even feel kind of curiously attached to the fluid ounces of Spanish Jew that apparently course through my veins.  So maybe you can understand my confusion.  I belong to nowhere entirely – and yet feel beloved by all of those influences.

For me however, and for people like me, in Labour Uncut’s economic justice, there is no place at all – except, perhaps, a self-interested sleight-of-hand which, on the one hand, says if you have enough capital, the world will surely be yours; whilst, on the other, if you find yourself at the bottom of the pile, stick with the bottom of the pile in the country which still treasures that neo-liberal drive to the faecal end of the labour market.

Which probably means the vast majority of so-called developed countries out there.

Now doesn’t it?

Feb 152013

We live in a world of gadgets galore.  But when those liberal sorts advise us, in full economic misery, that the market must be left to its own devices, it’s really time to call a halt to our obsessing with these objects – whether literally or figuratively.

A few days ago I made a link between the horsemeat and banking scandals.  I also suggested that criminal and business behaviours had become so indistinguishable that anyone on the outside looking in would have serious problems perceiving a morality in either.

Meanwhile, published in the Independent this Wednesday, we get these choice words from the headliner of an Andreas Whittam Smith article – an article you really should read in full:

Trusting businesses to do the right thing is naive. From banking to the meat industry, without strong regulation, it’s inevitably the consumer who loses out

Not the customer, you understand.  The customer is always king.  Only don’t go thinking that you and I will automatically occupy such a treasurable role.  Most of the current malaise affecting our latterday societies can be placed at the leaden feet of this idol.  We, of course, truly do believe we are that personage: we believe that these massive corporate entities will be kept in check by the daily vote and pitter-patter of feet through this (virtual) door or that.  We believe this because they tell us so.  We believe it, perhaps, because they choose to obfuscate the wider picture.

And it happens in all sorts of fields too.  Not only horsemeat or sub-prime loans – social networking too.  If you’re not the paying customer (for example, if you’re not an advertiser), you’re most definitely the product.  Any attempt to impose your will on these behemoths will almost certainly lead to utter despair.  The product is to be pushed, not caressed.  Don’t imagine they even imagine your needs.

And as the product which you are, they’ll inject you with any necessary painkillers to contaminate and make as addictive as possible the processes you have become involved with.  “Bute” for Twitter and Facebook is probably far more prevalent than we imagined.

The managerialism that pollutes our economies – that takes us on this merry dance where the real customers are top-flight nest-feathering executives, who occasionally “do good” for all-too-passive shareholders but more often are seen to ignore the pressing needs of powerless external customers – is what has brought us to this very dark place.  And I say “dark place” because of another Independent report – one which as a frequent Amazon “customer” I cannot let pass without comment.  According to an investigation by German media, neo-Nazi-connected security guards have been “monitoring” immigrant workers in Germany who work for the online giant.  This process of “monitoring” involves rifling through their rooms and possessions on a regular basis.  There is currently no suggestion that Amazon contracted the security guards themselves, or indeed knew anything about the process itself beforehand, but – in this very pattern of behaviours – it does suggest that left to its own devices, the market continues to contaminate and prejudice such generally hidden B2B transactions – transactions which deeply affect the unknowing consumers, and serve to hide what is apparently a multitude of real and considerable sins.

And if the market truly worked when left to its own devices, it would be the Amazons and Apples of this world which would proactively announce, without the requirement of constant media prodding, the abuses in their supply lines they would systematically discover through the capable checks and balances of their own processes and procedures.

As it is, such stories about fascist abuse in factories, accommodation and other work-related places the world over just lead me to feel dirty and complicit in my enjoyment of gadgets and content.

I’m beginning to feel I can’t even read a book without participating in oppressive activities.

When the terms “consumer” and “customer” get as divided and differentiated as the above would now seem to indicate is the case is, really, when we find ourselves moving into totally uncharted waters of a globalised trade.  A globalised trade where the only daily vote truly deposited is that which determines how to screw the end-user and workforces in better and more ingenious ways.

If only they spent as much time, energy and brain capacity on trying to do things right.

One thing is absolutely clear: unleashed, unregulated, uncontrolled and unacceptable – the adjectives which describe our experiences with these organisations are beginning to take on an unreasonably unhappy life all of their own.

Jan 302013

We had this headline a couple of weeks back:

Tom Winsor says outsiders will ‘enrich’ the police service

By “outsiders” it seemed, at the time, that he meant those who were not primarily police officers.  In their wide-ranging efforts to de-professionalise our society – and at the same time rid the hold such evidence-based individuals apparently have over the same – it looked like this government was now setting its attack dogs on the police as they looked to apply to allegedly hidebound practice the synergy and synchronicity of other ways of seeing.  Just one more profession in a long line already under fire: lawyers, doctors, nurses, teachers … well, the list could be as long as you wanted it to be – as long as it didn’t include politicians themselves.

Today, however, we have a truly pleasing development.  The outsiders Tom Winsor was describing weren’t just other professions: they were – actually – people from abroad.  Yes!  It’s official!!!  The Tory Party comes out in favour of immigration:

Senior officers from overseas will be able to run police forces in England and Wales for the first time, under a government overhaul of recruitment.

Outsiders will be able to join forces as superintendents and recruits can be fast-tracked to inspectors.

Police Minister Damian Green said the service would benefit from a wider talent pool.

In favour indeed, as I say, of an immigration of the most blatant kind.  Right to the heart of the law and order of our state, no less.  Foreigners to be in charge of how we weave the very tapestry of the English and Welsh way of doing things.

Well, sort of anyway.

A couple of caveats, as always with this government.  First, no nasty European-types will be allowed to sully our oppressive instincts, as the Home Office only plans:

  • Opening up chief constable roles to senior officers from countries such as Canada, the US, Australia and New Zealand

We really wouldn’t want untrustworthy horsemeat-eating individuals anywhere near our command-and-control infrastructures, now would we?  Who, after all, could trust a Frenchie with our tasers, rubber bullets and CS gas?

Second, even now, even after all the above proposals have come to light, not quite all immigration is as welcome as it might be.  This, for example, also published today, on the government’s initially wizard wheeze to selfishly cream off entrepreneurial talent from other – perhaps less advantaged – countries where you might think such characters might be just as usefully needed:

Immigration rules intended to encourage entrepreneurs to settle in the UK are being abused and need to be tightened, a minister has said.

Immigration minister Mark Harper said a “meaningful assessment of the credibility” of immigrants claiming to be entrepreneurs would be introduced.

Fake businesses were being created and funds recycled to provide evidence of entrepreneurial activity, he said.

“Legitimate applicants” would not be deterred, he predicted.

Hmm.  Legitimate applicants I hear you say?

One occasion, in fact, where Cameron got it right.

So why is his government so all over the place on this surely self-evident issue?  Of course crossing frontiers and boundaries is good for the countries where this happens.  Of course the sparks that cultural dissonance generates lead to far more creative soups of productive activity.  Of course the good that globalisation can mean will only come out of exchanges of opinions and viewpoints amongst our evermore sclerotic specialisations.

What I really can’t understand, then, being as the Tories claim to be the party of those who wish to get on, is why they aren’t more consistently in favour of immigration as a grassroots process that benefits practically everyone who could participate in its primarily constructive embrace.

Which kind of football team would you really like?  Cherry-picking believers in obscenely buying in top-class players like our very own Manchester City?  Or youth-academy stalwarts investing in the long-term future of a Barcelona?

The kind of place, in fact, where foreigners are welcomed with open arms – and yet are also generously combined with carefully nurtured homegrown talent.

I know which I’d prefer.

The question is: does Cameron’s Tory Party?

Jan 132013

Today I read, a little tardy I have to admit, Ed Miliband’s speech to the Fabians.  This is the bit which initially caught my eye:

[…] a young woman came up to me recently and told me she had decided to go to University in Holland because she said she couldn’t afford to do so in Britain.

Believe it or not, to a government minister her departure will seem a success because if more people leave the country it will help them meet their net migration target.

But it doesn’t feel like a success to me to have talented young people fleeing abroad.

Ed’s quite wrong in what he concludes, of course – as, indeed, is the young woman.  Let me explain.

I came out of university in 1983.  It was in the middle of Thatcher’s Britain: an awful time to be young and looking for work.  I lived at home with my parents for several years, trying to make my way as a short-story author.  I even went on training courses as I considered setting up a printing business.

But sometimes what the world wants of one isn’t exactly what one has become – but, rather, what one has been all along.

I was Oxford born and bred.

About as English as an Anglo-Croat could get.

So it was in 1986 that I met the Spanish woman who would later become my wife.  We exchanged letters for a year, whilst she was back in Spain, and then in 1987 I went over for a summer holiday.  By October of the same year, I was teaching English to the Spanish – without formal qualifications except, of course, the degree in Film & Literature I had acquired four years before.

My knowledge of English in England had done me no good at all.  Meanwhile, my knowledge of English in Spain had automatically found me employment.

The truth of the matter is that crossing frontiers always adds value.  The truth of the matter is that this is why so many people fear immigrants so much.  Immigrants have so much to offer that it’s hardly surprising the value-subtracting natives amongst us should wish to run campaigns to kick them out.

History is now repeating itself.  My eldest son, currently studying Mandarin on his year out in China, is achieving the kind of brilliant marks and results his first two years in the British university system were unable to get out of him.  Opportunities have showered down upon him – the world is his wok, it would seem – and his considerable and manifest joy at learning in a country where they really know the language and how to teach it just makes me realise that by encouraging him to go and study first in England, we – his parents, who thought we knew better – wasted two of his most precious years.

Now it is that my second son is looking to study abroad too.  Anywhere, he says, but Britain itself.

Sad, you may think.  And maybe you’re right.  But equally, maybe you’re not.

So how should we interpret this pattern?  As the young woman in Ed’s anecdote does?  Escaping the confines of a country which cannot pay for her education?

As an example of fleeing a homeland we should not ever care to leave?

I don’t think so.  And this is where the current One Nation rhetoric fails to hit as completely home as it must: yes, as a clever way of re-conceptualising traditional British socialism – the NHS, Legal Aid, free education, subsidised social and disability care – it’s certainly making waves and will begin to powerfully resonate soon enough.  But in subliminally suggesting that we have everything we need on this parochial island, if only we manage to make friends again and learn how to value each other sufficiently, Miliband is ignoring the reality I have already outlined above in this post: fleeing the shores of one’s homeland to make one’s way elsewhere is precisely the best way for an individual to improve their chances of getting on.

It may, of course, not be exactly what monolithic political parties are looking to message their way into our subconsciousnesses – but the truth of the matter is that sensible British socialism has always managed to take account of the needs of restless individuals.

One Nation Labour should do no less.

Before it’s too late, Ed, please do sort out this contradiction: migration is one of the glories of modern human existence.  And funding not the right but the opportunity to experience it would be one of the very best things a globalised economy could agree on.

If, that is, it was up to agreeing on anything sensible any more.

Sep 132012

My two youngest children, seventeen and fourteen now, are becoming more and more Spanish as they get older.  They miss the ways and wherefores of social integration: the ways people address you and assume your reality.  I had believed life in Britain would’ve become easier as time passed.  But this has most definitely not been the case.

Without wishing to sound too dramatic, they are verging on a state of walking wounded.  They do laugh and enjoy their lives, of course.  I’m not saying they do not.  But Britain – perhaps that’s just England – is such a repetitively insistent society.  Variety is the spice of life – but not in the England we know.

I wonder if this state of walking wounded I speak of isn’t being shared more widely by those who would consider themselves natives.  In the past, we lived our lives in a relatively comfortable environment: our leaders were like us more or less; we were like them; people didn’t fake too much; prejudices were shared.

Now, we find ourselves attacked on two sides simultaneously.

Firstly, from within, and since phonehacking, the Leveson inquiry and now the day-old Hillsborough revelations, it is clear that in what we thought was a representative democracy, the only people truly represented have been the already rich and wealthy.  The police have been found guilty of using their tools against innocent citizens; the tabloids, in particular those belonging to Murdoch’s empire, seem clearly in the thrall of making money over uncovering the truth; and the judiciary and establishment in general have allowed themselves to be distracted by power and status to such an extent that digging deeper was clearer not a goal.  As this by-the-by sign-off from one of the Guardian pieces linked to above indicates, and in relation to Thatcher’s own reign and preoccupations around the terrible events of Hillsborough:

While there was no direct evidence that Thatcher or the cabinet was complicit in a cover-up, it is revealed that the primary concern of the government at the time was the impact of the disaster on its proposed football spectators bills.

The second disorientation I can see, an external one this time, and which is also creating a legion of confused and shocked citizens, comes from the US – a country whose cultural content has to date, quite rightly, entranced and engaged us.  Here, we find that foreign ideas, mostly foreign to our own special form of English socialism, are beginning to take over and invade our very sense of Englishness.  This disorientation leads to feelings of shame and guilt; of anger and fear; of all kinds of uncertainties around not change as such – but bad change as per Cameron and his ideologues.

Is it possible, then, that just as my daughter and son become evermore Spanish in their instincts, growing up as they are into adulthood, and even as they find themselves in permanent and intimate contact with English society, so native-born English people – whatever their ethnicity – are discovering that the invasion of immigrants from distant and different countries which is most affecting their sense of wellbeing happens to be an immigration of ideas more than people?

That is to say, is it only that my children are growing towards their Spanishness and away from their perception of Englishness – or is Englishness for everyone in general growing away from what we might argue it has every right to remain?

And if the latter, is this a case where we can all agree that immigration is undeniably wrong?  An imposition by the already globally powerful with the aim of organising a society which clearly does not belong to them.

Ways of organisation which manifestly benefit them even as such ideas serve to prejudice the rest of us poor souls.

Yes.  Perhaps this is the final stage of globalisation.  Where ideas underpin the future of money over the future of flesh-and-blood human beings.

Jun 222012

I only applied to one university in 1980.  I only applied for one course of study.  I couldn’t see myself lasting out any other of the offerings at the time.  I made a mistake filling out my application form and missed out General Studies.  I was made an offer at Warwick University to study Film and Literature on the basis of the results I was expected to get in the other three subjects I studied at A-level – one of which was, unusually, the challenging subject of Mathematics.

My Mathematics teacher was off for ten weeks with a stroke that year.  He refused to take early retirement; the school neglected to contract a replacement.  My grasp of Maths had never been very good; I clearly should’ve taken English Literature, but parental pressure took me down the scientific route.  The omens were therefore not very good.

And so it was that I was offered a place at Warwick University to study Film and Literature on the basis of A-levels in Engineering Science, Economics and Mathematics.

If I remember rightly, there were around twenty places on offer and perhaps a hundred or two applicants.

There weren’t too many film studies courses around at the time in the UK.

In the end, I failed my Maths A-level – I got another O-level instead – but Warwick very kindly let me in because of my General Studies, where I achieved an A grade.  I wasn’t a brilliant student; I had problems with my study methods.  But I did get a 2(i) at the end of it.

It was 1983.

Margaret Thatcher was holding sway quite despite her disastrous economic policies.  Unemployment was rife.

I wanted to be a writer.

I spent three years living with my parents, writing stories and sending them off.  And getting them returned, often by return of post.  I used a real typewriter at the time; later an Amstrad computer with a WordStar clone.  But the rejections didn’t stop taking place.

By the time I was twenty-four, I felt pretty unhappy.  Then I met a Spanish woman at a birthday party – in Salford, of all places.  She invited me over to Spain in the summer of 1987, after a year of having exchanged letters.  This was way before email was available for the majority of the population.  Perhaps way before email was available for anyone.

In Spain I found myself at home.  I added value to Spanish society.  I was a university-educated English speaker who quickly learnt how to popularly teach the English language to the Spanish.  This would never have been possible in my own country.

Wherever on earth that might have been for an Oxford-born half-Croatian with a sixteenth part Spanish Jew, an atheist English father and a dyed-in-the-wool Catholic-practising anti-Communist mother.

I added value precisely because I crossed those frontiers.  I already added value (just wasn’t aware I did) before I went to Spain – precisely because of the mix of cultures I represented.

I escaped Thatcher’s Britain because in such an environment I believed I was worthless.  I felt that what I represented wasn’t needed by the cost-reducing instincts of a Darwinian capitalism in full pursuit of that deep-pocket-enriching bottom line.

But the Spanish – far more clearly – did need me.

For twelve years.

Then my boss – a man I considered a dear friend and even a kind of partner (perhaps that was my mistake) – broke certain understandings into painful and destructive shards.  I lost a lot more of my family’s money than I had a right to.  Finally, I lost my mind in an awful crisis of confidence.  This has affected me ever since as I struggle and battle to regain the right to become a businessperson again.

Business – good business – involves crossing those frontiers I mentioned above.  Cultural rub, cultural dissonance – these are terms that I have used on these pages before to describe the manifestly creative aspects of promoting difference; of promoting our respect for such difference; of promoting its power and ability to devise new futures.

There is nothing more exciting than to find oneself a fish out of water – yet able, somehow, to survive.  That change which takes place – and which takes one aback – as sea creatures morph into amphibious beings suddenly able to engineer brand new ways of living.

So after that crisis of confidence – which, in a sense, was my fault entirely; my fault as I failed to properly understand the ins and outs of a culture still foreign to me – I retreated back to the country I was born in.  It was a messy retreat for which I felt a great deal of guilt during a long time afterwards.  Indirectly, if that is at all the right adverb in the context of the verb which comes next, I wrenched my wife and three children out of their home environment – and forced them to study and work as migrants in a country I had never, myself, known how to completely call my own.

For that was the funniest thing: I, also, felt myself a migrant.  A migrant as I returned to my “own” country; a migrant as foreign as they felt.

Blair’s Britain, its five-a-day exhortations, its ASBOs, its LEA letters threatening us with fines if we allowed the children to stay off school … all this did most definitely not seem the green and pleasant land of my childhood, of my Ladybird books, of my graded readers, of my primary education.  Milkmen still existed; but not for long.  I think even two postal deliveries still existed; but, if they did, not for long.  School milk had long disappeared; meanwhile, Microsoft and Dell ruled the education establishments in their shiny and salesperson-driven realities.

The open source software I had stumbled across in Spain was a century – and a world – away from the country I should surely have felt formed a close and intimate part of me.

Even as I didn’t.

So how can one feel a migrant in one’s country of birth?  How is this possible?  Are some of us natural migrants?  Do some of us belong naturally to all countries and none?

What is this strange feeling I have of being a migrant wherever I go?

And will I ever, now, manage to fit in?

Or will I forever be condemned to a state of foolishly square peg in that deceptively round hole – that round hole which belongs to men and women who only believe in people who believe in fitting in?


So it was that I studied Film and Literature; taught English for twelve years to the Spanish; had a crisis of confidence; studied to be a publisher; had a second, far worse, crisis of confidence; and then found myself working for seven dispiriting and soulless years in a back-office operation in a bank (even as I rightly fought to make up to my family the mistakes I had committed a decade before).

And where am I now?  What am I now?  A migrant in the country I was born in.  A man who can call Spain his adopted home; Croatia his distant love; and England his resilient oppressor.  England an oppressor?  It both drove me mad during the Iraq War and then, via the NHS, put me back together.  It both educated my three Spanish children and taught them the value of their rather more perfectly formed identities.  It both gave work back to my wife and taught me I was capable of going so far as to damage my body on humble data-inputting production lines – out of love for a family I treasured above everything else.

It also showed me how cruel and ingrained the class system still is in this country – this country which proclaims itself a bastion of opportunity.

Oh yes.  I understand what it is to be an immigrant.  Because, from the day I was born, I never belonged anywhere.

Even as I knew, in my heart and soul, I had the right to belong everywhere.

Jun 222012

Ed Miliband speaks on the subject of immigration.  You can find his speech here in full at

Sadly, it seems that Miliband is falling once more into the trap of defining a mere indicator of our ills – a political litmus test if you like – as being the very cause of all our troubles.

In reality, immigration isn’t the issue at all: the issue is that politicians of his stratospheric level cannot decide, in the midst of economic doom, whether they believe in expanding or steady-state economies.  If, in their heart of hearts, they really believed in the former – that never-ending growth was the solution to our problems – then immigration would never be seen as anything but a positive tool to resolve our problems of low birthrate, skills gaps, a population which is getting older and so forth.

Unfortunately, it would seem that – in their heart of hearts – they can’t quite summon up the intellectual courage to admit either to themselves or their woefully kept-in-the-dark voters that an expanding economy, with all the rapacious economic activity which goes along with it, is simply no longer feasible in a world of clearly finite resources.

Yet they continue to act in other areas of policy-making as if it – that is to say, an open-ended and expansionary society – truly were an option sensible people could continue to promote.

Of course, Mr Miliband, the problem isn’t that immigration is putting an impossible strain on our economies.  The problem is that for the past fifty years your political class has created and sustained policy structures which support the idea of expanding economies and all their implications – and then spent the last four years in utter denial when the gravy train has completely gone off the rails.

Sort out what you want to make of our economies before you fiddle around with irrelevancies such as nationalities and borders.  For what’s absolutely clear is that if you want to talk of borders, far more important than influxes of people is the free and destructive movement of capital at the whim of global investors.

When politicians mention immigration, it’s generally because they don’t want to mention something else.

And that something else is the cruelties of an all-imposing capital: a capital which makes poor workforces servants and sufferers of cleverly eternal money – instead of clever money servants of the perishable goods that are ordinary people.