I’m not a great follower of politics but every now and then I get captured by a particular issue. It’s when passions rise that you notice how far big issues divide us – so that half my group of friends will think one thing passionately and the remainder, the total opposite.
The refugee crisis is one such example. I remember being in Australia during the 7/7 bombings in London and having just returned from the Killing Fields in Cambodia, being horrified at what had occurred in the bus and the underground, but also wondering about the millions who died in Cambodia, and how few knew or had cared in the UK.
Of course it’s all about it coming home to you, to your country .. Or close to you – the images of refugees at places which seem close to home – like Calais or Budapest – is the thing which piqued our interest. We know people die of starvation and preventable disease every day in Africa, yet we can’t identify with that situation in the same way as we can with people landing more or less on our shores.
And yet even then, at first, the language in the news was all about “hordes” and “swarms” of people. Dehumanising and stoking up fear. It’s only since the image of the Syrian toddler, washed up on a beach dead, that the conversation has shifted in the UK at least – perhaps behind certainly Iceland and Germany who have proactively lobbied their governments to take more refugees (no longer “migrants” we notice) and are busy offering their spare rooms.
So a lot of my friends have gone quiet but I know they think the UK is FULL. And anyone who has driven on a main road in the UK then driven elsewhere in Europe (where traffic appears almost non existent) would have sympathy with this point of view. Even He and I had this conversation – he felt that the public services in the uk were under considerable strain and that we should have considerably more stringent immigration policies.
There’s a myth, by the way, that they come for our magnificent benefits system. This has been debunked again and again and in my view they come because here we speak ENGLISH. If you’re going to have another language it will be this one.
Anyhow, where I stand on this issue is that we need to get to grips with the fact that we are a global community. That our little English tribe is part of that but it is going to get more and more impossible to legislate just for us. With the opening of borders, global selling through the internet, the explosion of news, politics needs to be led globally with a thin layer of national government and a strong local community. This morning one of my favourite columnists Mariella Frostrup tweeted that our EU needs to prove it’s good for more than measuring bananas – and I agree.
It’s interesting that it’s apparently mostly single mothers and students who are offering their spare rooms through an air bnb style service set up in Germany. Perhaps it’s because we haven’t battened down the hatches in a family unit that we fear the disruption less.
Would I take one in my spare room? I’d be privileged to. But I couldn’t do it forever I don’t think.