Saturday, 24 October 2009

I'm not racist but...

And like, I'd never support the BNP, God no, I mean, that Nick Griffin, what a sleaze bag. But you know, they do have some good points right, I mean, it's not racist to say we've got an immigration problem...

Well, no, you might not be racist, but you are wrong. Furthermore, you're feeding the underlying sentiments that cause racism and that allow the BNP to prosper as they do today.

As I'm sure any of you with English connections know, the leader of Britain's far right BNP party, Nick Griffin, was given a spot on BBC's Question time a couple of days ago. You can watch the episode in full here. Lots has been said about whether or not is was right for the Beeb to let him on. I think that the BBC had to treat him like the leader of a party with voters in the millions, though one could question whether Question Time was the right program and other such things. On balance, I'm sure some potential BNP-voters/ex-BNP voters were turned off by his holocaust denial, his obscene and outlandish claim that he shared the platform with a leader of a - not "totally non-violent", as he's been quoted, but more ridiculously - "almost totally non-violent" KKK sect, and all us liberal sorts feel good seeing him get the beating he deserved, but this has brought him more publicity than he could have dreamed and having got our vitriol out of the way, brings the BNP one step closer to the political mainstream.

But anyway, we all know the BNP are racist reactionary prick fucks. What really concerned me was the attitude of some of the audience members and the Labour and Conservative panelists on the show. An audience member asked if the recent rise of the BNP could in part be blamed on the Labour government's immigration policies. This audience member clearly meant "The BNP's recent rise is due to the Labour government's immigration policies". Jack Straw from the Labour party obviously said, that no, it's not Labour's fault, of course there are worries about immigration, but we're dealing with them, for example, for actually example of what he actually said as an actual good thing "asylum number have come down to around a third of where they were". Really! That's great Jack! I'm so glad to know that out country is housing 66% less people seeing relief from poverty, despotism, human rights abuse, racial, sexual and homophobic discrimination, genocide, etc. The other parties didn't agree, Labour haven't "done enough" about immigration, the BNP are popular because our immigration policies are too relaxed.

Watch the video, and observe the tone and language of the debate, and you will see what all of this amounts to. "The BNP are crazy racists, you don't need to vote for them, our parties are sensibly racist". When we cave in to 'tough on immigration' talk, we support the narrative that racism is based on. So let me start with the single preposition that will allow us to defeat this noxious ideology:
Britain does not have an immigration problem.

Of course, this is over simplified. Racism, for example, is a problem that plagues immigrants, and thus counts as a problem to do with immigration. There are others. I could go into sexism and homophobia in the Islamic community for example. Maybe I will explore it. But as middle class white people, as the majority of the readers of this blog certainly are, we've got more than enough blame on our hands to need scapegoats. So here I present the problems and not-problems of immigration.

Race - Not a problem. The one thing all the mainstream parties all agreed on is that the color of your skin bares no relation on one's nationality or character. The arguments of "scientific racism" have long since been annihilated, and anyone who thinks that race determines anything more than skin colour and a couple of hereditary diseases here and there can kind get the hell off my blog and out of my life. In fact, race only means anything when someone is treated different because of their skin colour. But this is where race issues become issues of...

Culture - We've got some problems. Regarding language, I think there is a strong humanitarian and anti-racist argument for compulsorily English lessons. I don't care if a person looks different, eats different food, and has celebrates different festivals to me. But obviously it's a breeding ground for mutual hostility when two people literally can't understand what the other is saying. And of course this doesn't exclude the fact that we Brits are by and large lazy when it comes to language learning and need a dollop of humility and perhaps a large dose of grammar cramming. Nor does it exclude the fact that more native English speakers should learn minority languages to facilitate English language teaching, and we should offer language teaching universally to those who settle in this country. But when multi-culturalism suggests we can co-exist without a common language I think it works against itself.

The second cultural concern I would raise is that of religious values. Quite frankly, the attitudes of large swaths of Islam towards women and sexual minorities are repulsive to me and have no place in this country or any decent society. But then quite frankly, I feel same way about the attitudes of large swaths of Christianity. Stick Judaism in there for good measure, but also include Jewish attitudes to Palestinians in their list of religious extremism. And you essentially find that in the modern world we have a religious problem, not an Islamic one. If we are to condemn certain immigrant attitudes towards women and sexual minorities, and indeed we must, the we must do so for a position of moral authority. Nick Griffin is not allowed to express disgust at Islamic treatment of women because he is the leader of a sexist party - we all remember that "rape is like force feeding a woman chocolate cake" line. And of course he's no defender of gay rights, which he finds "really creepy". But then, papers such as The Sun and The Daily Mail, which love to morally condemn Islam while presenting a 1950s vision of Britain in which most women stay at home in the kitchen and gays stay in the closest where they belong. The only position to condemn sexism and homophobia is from one of moral consistency that codemns racism and islamaphobia at the same time.

And one final cultural point about the loss of British culture. Let me just start with a couple of facts before moving to the argument proper. Where we have urban ethnic ghettoisation it is because white people move to the suburbs leaving immigrant communities in the city centres. And yet, this is happening less and we are statistically living in ever more diverse areas. To repeat, people of different racists are ever more living nearer each other. Furthermore, the 'ethnic group' that is increasing most rapidly in percentage terms is that of 'mixed race'. Far from the race war scenarios presented in the tabloids, our country is one where more and more people of different racial backgrounds are choosing to spend their lives with each other.

So is English culture dying off? In some ways, the answer is an obvious yes. But the culprits by and large happen to be rich white men (and one special rich white woman).
Immigrant culture is flourishing in this country, and English culture of an older sort (I will not here talk about 'native' or 'indigenous', but certainly diverse and traditional) is waning. In many ways we're quite happy about this, we're all glad about the culinary riches brought by Britain's immigrant communities, and most 'English' kids willingly choose to hiphop over English folk because they prefer it.
But regardless, English culture is not waning /because/ of a flourishing immigrant culture, but rather the immigrant culture does so well because the grounds on which the traditional cultures of these isles stood on have been dug from beneath them. Our culture has been thoroughly commercialized.

Since the 1970s and Thatcher's neo-liberal revolution, we have been fed an ideology that says that everything has its price, and it it doesn't turn a profit it's not worth making. The indigenous culture of the mining towns in the North was smashed in the name of this neo-liberal experiment. Whatever the economic justification (the mines, were in fact, profitable and subsidized other sectors of British industry), strong, proud local communities were destroyed in the pursuit of profit and a torn social fabric and institutional poverty remains today - the breeding grounds for BNP supporters. Our country, once the "land of shop keepers" has become the land of cashier. Where once stood hundreds of local shops producing unique cheeses, hand made shoes, home baked cakes, we now have out-of-town shopping centers and ubiquitous Topshops. So if you're concerned about local, English culture, you'd do better boycotting Tescos than the local kebab shop. Is it any wonder that immigrant communities would seek to preserve their own cultures when our relentless drive for profit has decimated what used to be England?

And just a quick point about those two great defenders of British culture, The Times and The Sun, owned by the Australian Rupert Murdoch. These papers consistently pit themselves as the enemies of two of the genuinely praise-worth British institutions, the BBC and NHS.

And to top it off, if we want to get rebuilding anything approximating a traditional culture any time soon, we best get over ourselves and start integrating better into the European Union. The EU is consistently portrayed as an enemy to national sovereignty and a threat to English culture. Bullshit. The EU has support for local cultures as one of it's founding goals. Through EU monies we have seen an increase in language teaching in Welsh and Scotch Gaelic. We also see initiatives such as the European Capital of Culture, recently awarded to Liverpool, which sees money directed to support local arts and communities.

If this section has seemed winded its way a bit too widely over too much information I apologize, but if there's one theme I hoped linked this all together is that what we perceive to be cultural issues are often in fact...

Economic - Racism, as with all prejudices, exists because it benefits capitalism for it to exist. When a poor white person's energies are spent attacking a poor black person, they are both distracted from the cause of their poverty. When poor white voters in the American south vote Republican because they dislike gays, they vote for a party who will cut the funds going towards their education and health care. When the white British working class complain that immigrants get a head start in the queue for social housing (this is simply not true), they ignore the fact that the problem isn't brown people taking social housing that should be going to white people, but rather more simply, there's not enough social housing! And Labour are fine with this because it means they can announce polices that promise that immigrants will not get a head start on social housing (they already don't!), rather than having to pledge money to build the social housing this country desperately needs.

Our country has a lot of immigrants because other countries are poor. Other countries are poor partly because of British government policy that ties third world debt reduction to privatization of third world assets and infrastructure, the profit of which ends up in the hands of the rich which the Africans are still unable to feed themselves. If we want less immigrants from Africa and India (and I will here accept the argument that as a small Island, immigration must slow down /eventually), the only humane way of achieving this is not with the stick that imposes harsh immigration laws for those seeking to enter Britain, but with the carrot that reduces poverty around the world and makes economic migration (as opposed to cultural migration or migration for marriage and the the like) a thing of the past.

If we are to support 'British' culture, then we must repudiate our fetishism of profit. The starts with support for cultural institutions such as theaters that can not survive on a for-profit basis, and ends with rolling back corporate Britain, urban planning that protects local businesses, a taxation and regulation regime that cuts the biggest companies back to size, and political reform that takes power away from these monied interests and puts it into the hands of local communities.

If we are to repudiate racism, we can not do so by accommodating it. Racism, sexism, homophobia and all other discrimination must be tackled together, and must be tackled with the awareness that they share a common route in dividing the oppressed peoples of the world against each other to the benefit of the ruling classes. The representatives of the major parties did their best to show Nick Griffin as the racist leader of the racist party that he is, and landed some good blows, but their attacks rang hollow for one reason. They are all representative of capitalist parties. And the only consistent way to stand against racism and for local communities is to stand against capitalism and for socialism.

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