I didn’t know I had to vote for some basic humanity

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-33257415

I don’t tend to read BBC news: it’s a bit wishy washy, the epitome of dumbing down, failing to ask searching questions (or, from the looks of it, any questions) and way too fond of the over-simplistic bullet pointed list. But although I can dismiss and despise The Sun and the Daily Mail from afar, confident that my peers more or less agree (the debate over the problem of a two-tier media which feeds people what they want to hear and thus alienates the intellectual class from the rest of society is one that I am fully aware of, but we’ll leave that for another day, shall we?). The BBC is different, because it enjoys a certain degree of respect, taken as a benchmark of more or less neutral news reporting. (Again, the question of whether it panders to/ is run by the champagne socialist left-leaning liberals is one for another day, although here’s quick heads up: if that’s the current state of the left, I’m Karl Marx.) And it publishes the kind of mediocre tripe you see in that article there on a daily basis. And people read and absorb it and parrot it and are skewed by its attitudes, and we wonder where our basic human values went and when and why it became acceptable to start a sentence with ‘I mean, I would consider myself left-wing’ and end it with a disparaging comment about migrants, unemployed people or anyone from any kind of ‘marginal’ (if those inverted commas could get any more heavily ironic, believe me they would be) group.

This is a rant, I appreciate. And so let’s try a systematic dissection of this piece of dross, published in ‘UK Politics’, with 1640 comments to date and one of the BBC’s highlighted top stories of the day.

Headline: ‘Calais migrant scenes unacceptable, David Cameron says’. What exactly does that mean? Why do we have a hanging verb at the end of that sentence? And what exactly has it told us? PM is anti-immigrant. Yes, that is what I mean. Because he is quite clearly, there in his security-guarded house, not just opposed to the phenomenon of human migration but to the people it affects. Watch that video, watch that smug little man saying that his primary concern is security, that “we’ve got to do more to make sure that Britain is a less easy place for illegal migrants to come to and work in” and tell me that it doesn’t make you despair. These “illegal migrants” are people, for crying out loud! And quite frankly, I don’t want to live in a country where my so-called security depends on the expulsion of people who have suffered the kind of poverty I will never be able to imagine. So cheers for that one, Dave.

Then we have the strike bitMaybe it’s because I grew up in a northern mill town, but I cannot and will not forget that the right to strike was hard-won and fiercely guarded, as the one means of expression of the collective will of an oppressed mass of the population. And now we, with our petty bourgeois self-interest, bemoan queues on the M20 and mock the French for their culture de la grève. How did we get to the point where we feel so foundlessly secure that we can complain about inconveniences to our leisure time rather than standing in solidarity with the demands of our fellow workers? (And yes, I know that sounds like something out of the Morning Star. Get over it. Maybe accept it.) How have we lost the collective mindset to this extent, losing sight of the greater good and overall happiness to bury our heads in tunnel vision, forcing ourselves through work we loathe with the chimeric promise of a happy retirement, a pension and a home by the sea, private health insurance and a holiday in the sun twice a year? Why do we see a piece of news about the group, our society, our world, and think only of ourselves?

Cameron blames Italy. Having just said he wasn’t going to blame the French. Who clearly didn’t get that memo. It’s just a bit sad, how they all score points off one another and refuse to actually accept any basic responsibility. Maybe if you hadn’t fucked up the Middle East, actually sorted out climate change and done some decent development and aid work you might have helped people not need to come to the UK. Because if you really think they’re clinging to lorries and aeroplane landing gear as an easy option, then you’re unbelievably deluded. We need to ‘stop the problem at source’, he claims, ‘breaking the link between travelling to Europe by boat and getting settlement in Europe’. So, he made a sensible statement, and then ruined it by a needless bit of scaremongering. Yes, we need to fix the mess we made of a continent we ploughed into, ripped apart and divided amongst ourselves a few centuries back. And yes, if we do that, maybe less people will need to go to such desperate measures to get into our frankly overrated island. But let’s not do that because we don’t like the idea of these undeserving people scrounging off the taxes we would (and do) gladly dodge. Can we not grant them a bit of human dignity? And can we not try to forget about ourselves and our non-existent migrant problem for just a moment?

The Labour lot jump into the fray and repeat what the Tories said. With abuse of the word ‘integrity’, defined firstly as “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty”, and then and only then as “the state of being whole, entire, undiminished”, which is presumably what the shadow immigration minister means when he claims the French authorities should ensure the integrity of British borders. (And as the French bloke rightly points out, we’re an island. So if we can’t stop the people we don’t want getting in, that’s basically our own fault. And this is how we’ll end up sleepwalking out of the EU, as we casually blame our continental neighbours for everything we don’t like about everything that happens.) 

Then we get to the bit with stereotypical stories about migrants sneaking in by dodgy means. Seven people were arrested in Bedfordshire. Truck driver Andy says that the hundreds of migrants waiting in Calais just ruin his day. Good for you, Andy. I’m pretty sure they’d love to be in your place, but that’s OK, you just have a complacent moan about how you’re just doing your job and what they’re doing isn’t right. And let’s leave the horrifying fact that there are around 3000 migrants thought to be living rough around Calais to a caption. Because they don’t even matter enough to count them properly. We just want to stop them getting in, to send them back, to make them someone else’s problem, after all. And then, and then, the killer line. The ‘Sudanese man’, not even worthy of a name, who asserts his belief that “They will receive you with food… house, then after that you will get a chance to ask for asylum.” Anyone who’s ever come into contact with the asylum seeking process will want to weep at the unfounded optimism of those words. And yet, as the comments that spout bilious, hateful rubbish about do-gooders and vagabonds, so-called pull factors and ‘human mice’ reveal, a large proportion of the population is willing to read this as an indictment of human weakness, rather than the depressing precursor to the shattering of hopes. We claim that we are soft, that we are suffering, that building a fence is the answer. How about we tried a bit of basic respect, justice and humanity? Or is that too left-wing for you?

This was, I realise, a rant. But because I don’t want to end on a depressing note, I leave you with this. I first discovered it at A-level, and then I wrote an essay on French immigration policy which I sent to Oxford when I applied. And five years later, it’s truer than ever. The bit where he says ‘Nous avons le droit de choisir notre immigration’ [We have the right to choose our immigration]? Please tell me I’m not the only one who wants to stand up and say that no, actually, you don’t.

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