Monday 26 February 2007

Ireland has problems, but Britain is going bonkers!

Tony Blair George Bush
Back in London, the city of my birth, to celebrate my much-loved Mum's 78th birthday, I'm aware that while Ireland may have problems, England is one step away from going totally bezonkers.
Ever since arriving in Ireland in 1992, I have held up British multiculturalism as something to which the Irish should aspire, but now it all seems to be going horribly wrong.
It is pointless to compare British and Irish attitudes to immigration, because the experience of the two peoples is so different.
While the British seem now to be stumbling and threatening to fall, after a long and mostly successful journey through immigration, integration and acceptance, the Irish are just stepping off the boat.
Most of the racism and bigotry expelled from Irish minds and mouths comes from ignorance born of a complete lack of experience. Good Irish people with healthy minds and wholesome hearts suddenly come out with the most abysmal drivel, and I know that they don't realise how bigoted they sound.
'That foreign person did that differently to us!' they say. 'I'm not sure if I like that. Shouldn't they at least try to be the same as us, if they want to live over here?'
Gentle Irish souls who consider themselves to be intelligent, liberal and informed are now, for the very first time, face to face with a tiny minority of people who do things their own way. All of a sudden theory is out the window. Intellectually you know what is and is not acceptable, but experientially you've never seen the like of it before.
The future of Irish society will be won and lost over the battle between two words: At the moment, when an Irish person says 'integrate', what they really mean is 'assimilate'.
Should 'assimilate' win ownership of the Irish psyche, there is a long hard struggle ahead for all of us
If, however, the Irish cop on, see beyond their fear of change, and come to understand the massive and manifold benefits of integration, life will be a lot richer, happier, less fearful.
These two words do not merely represent a semantic choice. The difference between expecting assimilation and enjoying integration is that between ignorance and wisdom.
In Britain these days there is much fear.
When I were t'lad, you had yer occasional riot on long summer heatwave evenings, but down at street level, we all got on well and enjoyed our differences. You knew you were a Londoner when you were supping a pint of Real Ale, eating Jamaican goat curry while listening to Monsoon play Indian bhangra - English pop fusion music.
All wasn't right with the world, but it was more than alright that most of the world lived in my street.
But chip away at something for long enough, and eventually you will whittle it down to form whatever shape you want. After decades of assault from Thatcher, Major and Blair, the open minds, inquiring eyes and accepting hearts of the British have finally mutated into hate-filled fear-ridden monstrosities who believe the Daily Mail.
For Blair's legacy to appear meaningful, the 'War on Terror' has to be perpetuated. Just as Irish communities were once under threat, Muslims in England now live with a burgeoning fear, resentment and anger.
As one alleged terrorist attack after another is nipped in the bud by Scotland Yard, before coming to fruition, there's more reason to invade and tear open Muslim homes and arrest Muslim people en masse without charge.
In an essentially secular country that has defended its citizens' pluralism and freedom of worship better than almost any other on Earth, there was recently mass hysteria about women who choose to wear veils.
At the same time, on Celebrity Big Brother, a housemate suggested that Shilpa should "Fuck off home!"
There are no three words that cut so sharp deep and straight to the bloody heart of racism. Speaking with a broad Scouse accent, the same lass moaned:
"She carn' ivven spee kenglish proppah hennyweh!"
Here's a recipe for hate: Add a dash of invisible 'Islamist' bomb to a dollop of Big Brother bollocks, season with hysterical veil bigotry, and mix well with suspicion and fear of your neighbours.
Bake at high heat, and when it catches fire, our civil liberties get burned again.
Bigotry, racism and the inevitable ensuing wars rob us of our most basic human right: The right to live without fear.
Governments play with civil liberties, reducing our freedoms as they will, but we are guilty too. We allow fear to poison our thoughts, words and actions.
We deny ourselves a fear-free life by choosing suspicion and bigotry.
Fear is ready for me as I step off the plane at Luton Airport.
Having passed through customs, I pop over to the World News shop in the Arrivals Hall.
Grabbing a bottle of water, I head for the woman at the cash register, who sits on a chair inside a semicircular counter, with ciggies lined up behind her, sweets all around her, you know the kind of way.
"Can you stand over here?"
At first I don't even realise she is talking to me, because the other side of her counter looks identical to this one.
"Can you stand over HERE sir, PLEASE!"
Oh boy. Welcome back to Britain. My long-dormant yet ever-belligerent London buds are reactivating.
"Why? What difference does it make?"
"I am a very nervous person, and once I was threatened by a customer who stood that side, so I never serve from that side any more."
"You spend your whole working life afraid? That's terrible. You should change your job!"
"I love my job, but always feel frightened here."
"Well you should get over it then."
"I'll never get over it!"
"Well no, you won't! Not if you keep saying that!"
As we inevitably care more for ourselves and less for our neighbours, so they gradually become more easy to distrust, and eventually hate and fear.
The sad truth is that eventually fear will win.
Shame, because all we have to do to avoid that is trust each other and enjoy our differences.
England is becoming America, and Ireland will become England (sorry!).
The European ideal of society looking after its own will perish in the pursuit of individual wealth.
Until then, the west of Ireland is my home because here humanity lingers yet, and while I expect only the inevitable, I can at least appreciate what is now good.


Anonymous said...

Sue from England says:
Do you really think Jade was racist? I see it as entirely about dominance.

Here is a C-list celeb getting completely out-classed on every front by a beautiful, talented, articulate, intelligent A-list celeb. And she didn't like it.

The whole jump-on-the-bandwagon about racism bothers me deeply.

This is the other side of the paranoia and fear - we lose the ability to have a rational debate about anything.

We cannot recognise a catfight for what it is because it involves an Indian woman. If Shilpa had been Swedish would we have been so alarmed? I doubt it.

Anonymous said...

Angela from the Bahamas says:

Just read the last blog- convenient that all thse terrorists plots come to light, eh?

Bloody dreadful- I'm glad I live here and not either UK or U.S.

At least I have some degree of freedom and privacy.

You may have heard little about it, but our media and the US's has been saturated recently with the Anna Nicole Smith scandal.

As the house she inhabited is just down the road, and there is a permament camp of reporters, I am reminded of what passes for news, and how to divert minds away from boring stuff like war to the salacious and tawdry.