Sunday, 9 October 2016

Follow the crowd?

There's a line in 'Passage to India' by EM Forster - I paraphrase -
                        '... and it will work its way to its end...'
Elderly Mrs Moore, the voice of reason, tolerance and experience, speaks these words. During her visit to India she is horrified at the effects of The Raj; petty officials and their rudeness towards native Indians. In her visit to the fictitious Chandrapore she cannot believe how her son - the magistrate - seems so ingratiating towards the English 'rulers'. She believes he and they are treating Indians badly. Her words '... it will work its way...' refers to her son's fiancee's accusation of rape against an Indian doctor. Mrs Moore believes the 'machine' ie 'the Brits' will take the rape case '... to its end...' British justice will see the Indian punished.

In fact the young woman sees, before it's too late, that she has been buoyed up by the British establishment in bringing a charge of rape. But it won't stick. In court, under oath, she retracts her accusation.British women call her a bitch. She is alone. But the Indian is free '... without a mark on his character...'

Run with the hare or hunt with the hounds - or go your own way? Accuse folks who are 'not like us'?  Is this what is happening to England and Wales as we hurtle towards Brexit? Are some folks on a kind of band wagon which suggests life outside Europe, without immigrant workers, will bring back a nation we love and feel pride in?

I don't personally understand a lack of enthusiasm for migrant workers. If people do a good job and speak English, since I speak nothing but English, pay their taxes, are law-abiding and help get things done, where is the problem? But then I was lucky. I had educated, compassionate parents who taught me not everyone had our (few) advantages.

 I was brought up reading 'Spotty' and 'Ferdinand the Bull'. My father got me reading these stories when I was pre-school age. The tales celebrate difference. I couldn't have analysed the stories as such  aged three or four but I felt for the 'spotty' rabbit who was different from the rest of his family. I liked Ferdinand who preferred to smell the flowers rather than go into the bullring. Spotty and Ferdinand were different. But one didn't dislike them.

When I was nine or so I befriended a girl who was 'poor'. She had no mother and was friendless. It cost me nothing to speak to her and I never cared whether I lost friends as a result. Perhaps I should have cared whether I would lose friends but I never felt allegiance to people who were unkind to others or talked about them behind their backs. I doubt whether it's because I'm a goody-goody. I never felt the need to follow the crowd. And I was brought up to value difference.

While it seems, in some quarters,  migration has to be tackled - although I think there is a sickness, a fever surrounding this issue in Little Britain - it's a passing fad. It will 'work its way to its end' (I hope) and be seen as a hollow tirade. Britain cannot cope without migrant workers.

Nor can Britain cope with poor housing, a run-down social services, an over-stretched NHS nor underfunded schools. While the Tories battle on who will stop them running down a welfare state put in place to help those in need? Who will stop them underfunding services? Where is Labour?

The rhetoric about migrant or foreign workers, nastiness towards 'others' who live here, Amber Rudd, Brexit, Theresa May and infighting in both Ukip and Labour make me feel shame for our nation. Never before this year have I felt so unrepresented by those who are elected to represent us. We are the fifth largest economy in the world. Can we really not build more affordable housing or pay for our services? Migrant workers are not people we should be blaming. An unequal society is - I guess - at the root of the problem. If we are such a rich nation why are so many feeling so aggrieved? ( I know why. I want to know how it happened.)

We are living in unsettling times. The prevailing political atmosphere will work its way to its end.
Let's hope for a truly inspirational political leader some time soon. As a nation we are running on empty.

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