tag : bright yellow-green apples: we need a better memory

"I see little point in persisting in a discussion with one so obstinate as you" Martin White

Saturday, January 29, 2005

we need a better memory

figure 7.2. what will become of us

The ruckus surrounding Michael Howard’s statement on immigration was perhaps inevitable. He couldn't have chosen a worse time to talk in crude conflagrations that mixed up asylums seekers, migrant workers, and ’economic seekers’ into one spectrum of threat to our way of life. Yes, this is essentially what he - and those he is seeking to woo and placate - were saying. That foreigners are in danger of degenerating whatever it is that makes us British (whatever that means!) And yet what did we mark recently but holocaust memorial day?

I am not seeking to be so crude as to say that current right-wing received wisdom on this spectrum of difficult and complex subjects is simple xenophobia, or essentially comparable with the historical tragedy that people experienced under the Nazi regime. I am saying that there is a heck of a lot of shallowness in this day of remembrance in some quarters. It’s too easy to reflect only in terms of what has already occurred, unchallenged in our own times. Yes we should be concerned about the current renaissance in anti-Semitism across the ‘west’ and ’middle east’, but if we let our mindfulness only rest in such terms of reference we cannot hope to ensure against prejudice and genocide. Too often ’never again’ can only see the lessons we should take from history in terms of the brick thrown through a Jewish shop, the stigmatic labelling of Jewish people. I’m very concerned at just how much public debate is descending down these lines in our own time.

While everyone talks about the horror of then, there can be a sharp danger of complacency. Across the world, from Dafur to Chechnya, there is a danger of rampant violence against people continuing without action - just as happened with Rwanda. And in our own country the discourse about ‘immigrants’ becomes increasingly venomous. More self-awareness please. We need a better memory.


Blogger Martin said...

Like you, I wouldn't resort to taunts. But several things worry me about this:

We have had this kind of panic about immigration being the beginning of the end before, in fact more or less constantly for a century and a half. There was the Irish in the mid-nineteeth century, the Russians in late nineteenth century, the Jews in the early twentieth century, and perhaps most potently in this case, Romanian immigrants like Mr Howard's father in the mid-twentieth century. That somebody who lives in this country because of the welcoming premise of immigration should make this speech makes it all the more risible.

Pulling out of the United Nations Convention on Refugees would be an absolutely horrendous message to send to the world. It contains a long and detailed description of what a refugee is, and the basis of this proposal appears to be that refugees are admitted by virtue of their need, not their number. There is nothing in that Convention which would not be fundamentally accepted as within the fundamental principle of asylum - to help those in need. To pull out of it would only confirm that the Conservatives do not wish to adhere to that principle.

I also think following Australian policy, as the government who dithered for days about immigrants on a sinking boat and then packed them off to the smallest country in the world, would be something of an error.

Sorry, that's practically a blog post in its own right! You shouldn't get me started...

12:59 AM  
Blogger ash said...

here is My Offering.

You know this is something I feel very strongly about, and I think you've done the subject a good amount of justice here, so i salute you. :o)

3:38 PM  
Blogger Fluffy said...

I think you missed what he was saying. He certaintly wasn't saying that we Brittishness is being erroded, but making a (stupid) economic arguement for controlled immegration. He wasn't saying that we shouldn't take in people, but that the system is being abused at the expense of real refugees (which to some extent it is), and that the current system is playing into the hands of people smugglers (which is definitely is).

I'm not going ot defend him, but you really need to listen to what he is saying instead of jumping to views about what he is saying. As a son of immegrants himself he is never going to say what you're straw manning him for. Silly boy!

1:13 PM  
Blogger postliberal said...

I think you’ll have to look at what he says in the context of current ‘debate’. This was not a single unit speech, pretty much every week we get various scare stories and hyped up rhetoric from right wing parties. There is no way there can currently be a sensible policy on these issues while the Daily Mail screams about ‘human tides’ and John Redwood makes dark comments about ‘threats’. And here, as in recent New Labour policy, there is no clear thinking but a capitulation to the worst human instincts. See here for more on this...

4:00 PM  
Blogger Martin said...

Allo, allo, what's going on here then?

I think that as a son of immigrants himself, his policy is absolutely infuriating because it draws on the same kind of prejudice that existed when his family arrived in the country, and may, under his proposal, have prevented has family entering.

Everything John Redwood says is said darkly. If he sang Happy Birthday, it would be dark.

5:46 PM  

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