liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
[personal profile] liv
My plan to post every day of the three week festival fell at the first hurdle when I got home at 11 o'clock last night after a work do, and then had to deal with a minor emergency. So to make up for it, two posts today.

People who blame all the problems in the country on "immigrants" and talk about "flocking Eastern Europeans" are, in fact, bigoted. [ profile] elmyra's moving response has already been linked all over the place, and even ended up in a national newspaper, but I'm linking it again because lots of my readers aren't following UK politics closely, and I think this is important. (Now, some Americans don't like discussion of racism against white people, and I have some sympathy for this position, but I do want to be clear that the fact this issue of xenophobia and hatred towards immigrants is important does not at all mean that I'm treating all the history of oppression of African-Americans and other PoC as trivial.)

I'm also really worried and distressed that the comments to [ profile] elmyra's post have turned into a horrible spEak You're bRanes mess. I am seeing far too many variants on the sentiment that it's not racist for working class people to blame immigrants when they feel betrayed by the main political parties. It comes up so often that I am starting to think it's almost scripted, an astroturf type of campaign. Though maybe it's less sinister than that, it's people repeating what they read in the tabloids. I completely accept that a lot of people are angry with the main political parties and aren't getting as good public services as they ought to be. Complaining about that is valid, blaming it on immigrants, using inflammatory language that makes out immigrants to be a mass undifferentiated horde overrunning the country is, in fact, racism, no matter if you preface it with "I'm not racist but" or "I don't have a problem with genuine, hardworking immigrants, but".

Now, obviously politicians should be careful of their language and treat voters with respect. Brown is a professional, he should have known that there's no such thing as "off-the-record", that there can always be a hidden mic anywhere. So I don't think his comment was particularly admirable, and I do think he needed to apologize. However, the Murdoch press is trying to whip the incident up into something much bigger than it is, partly as general anti-Labour propaganda, and partly to distract people from actually discussing political issues in a meaningful way. You might say that I'm contributing to this by mentioning the incident at all, but I want to talk about the larger issues of immigration and xenophobia and I have to say something so that people don't imagine something false about what I'm saying about Brown. Also because I do very much accept [ profile] elmyra's point that silence on this issue can look like assent.

Also, the comments making horrible generalizations about people with "low intelligence" or people from the provinces or working class folk all being racists are very much part of the problem. Get off my side, bigots!

The point I really want to make is that I really wish we weren't having an electoral debate about whether we should hate immigrants a little bit, or really really hate immigrants. I want a pro-immigration party, not a slightly less xenophobic one, to vote for. I don't want to discuss how we can reduce immigration, and whether it's reasonable to do so by using incredibly inhumane measures like deporting asylum seekers back to countries where they will be tortured and killed. I want to discuss how we can encourage more people to come here!

True, I personally am fairly recently descended from immigrants and I'm proud of that. That's not the whole point, though; politically and philosophically I'm committed to the idea that people should be able to choose where they want to live, and they should be able to choose which country they want to become a citizen of. Further, a lot of the reason why Britain is more economically successful than the countries of origin of immigrants is because Britain was complicit in oppressing these countries, so we have a special obligation to welcome immigrants. And Britain has always been multicultural, always had a mixed population, always been a destination for immigrants, and that's exactly what's so good about living here.

Immigration is a good thing. Let's have more of it, please.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-04-30 01:28 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] snowsurrounded
And Britain has always been multicultural, always had a mixed population, always been a destination for immigrants, and that's exactly what's so good about living here.

Immigration is a good thing. Let's have more of it, please.

Thankyou. I love this post.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-04-30 02:08 pm (UTC)
pseudomonas: (Default)
From: [personal profile] pseudomonas
I'd quite like the buzzword to be "freedom of movement" rather than "immigration". It's one of the good things about the EU, and would be good to see happening more widely.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-04-30 02:32 pm (UTC)
pseudomonas: (Default)
From: [personal profile] pseudomonas
Ah, maybe you're right. I think of it as meaning freedom to move to somewhere to work, at least, one often sees "freedom of movement of labour". I agree permanent settlement/citizenship is slightly beyond what's implied by that.
Edited Date: 2010-04-30 02:33 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-04-30 02:33 pm (UTC)
lethargic_man: (serious)
From: [personal profile] lethargic_man
I want to discuss how we can encourage more people to come here! [...] Immigration is a good thing. Let's have more of it, please.

No, let's not. Or at least, not except in a managed framework. Due partly to politicians not looking beyond the next general election, Britain is currently heading towards not having enough housing to house its population, and not having enough power generating capacity once the current crop of nuclear reactors are decommissioned to provide for its electrical needs. These are both problems which can be dealt with, but we don't want people coming to live in this country faster than the infrastructure can be expanded to deal with it.

(Just consider how for what you spent on a three-bedroom house, I could only afford a one-bedroom flat in London, and then roll that out across the rest of the country in twenty years' time.)

Now don't get me wrong; I'm not against immigration, being a fourth- to sixth-generation immigrant myself; but there's a difference between having a managed system of immigration and throwing the gates open to anyone. What the government did in 1905 to slam them shut was wrong, but the alternative is just as wrong too.

There are other issues too, but those will do for a start.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-01 07:23 am (UTC)
ewx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ewx

I don’t think housing shortages are much to do with immigration.

There are hundreds of thousands of empty homes in this country. I infer therefore that the problem is not the supply of homes, it’s that they’re in the wrong place compared to where people actually want to live (for instance, because of where the jobs are). Unless the migration you want to control is purely internal migration, you’re not going to fix this one by preventing movement of people.

We’re also at the end of a substantial change in social structure; lots more people are living alone than they used to, and when people do live together they much more often have two incomes. The first of these increases demand on housing, the second means that costs go up. These are changes in native society, not a consequence of immigration.

And of course, if one tries to fix this by building more houses (rather than, say, encouraging jobs to move to areas with spare housing) then immigration lets you fix it faster, because it increases the supply of labor available to the construction industry.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-04-30 02:36 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] dsgood
I'm adding "racism" to my list of words whose meanings differ between the US and the UK.

In the US, prejudice against Eastern Europeans isn't classified as racism. (At least, not when the prejudiced people are white.)
From: (Anonymous)
I do not have a Dreamwidth account but, as a member of Liv's family, I was reading this post.

As a complete side issue, I hope you can help me with a legal term which has diametrically opposite meanings in UK and USA.

The word is "moot". Historically, a moot was a formal assembly, usually judicial. (cf a Scout Moot) By 16th century, the term was confined to law students' hypothetical discussions and especially mock trials. This is still current usage.

My problem is with the adjective.

"Moot" means that which can be argued [sc at length], but the implications are different in the two countries. In England, a moot point is one that is still open for active debate. In USA, a legal issue is moot when it is dismissed from further consideration because any discussion would be of academic interest only without practical application.

Both senses are historically legitimate. However, Webster (1930s edition) admits only to the English usage. My question is when did USA reverse usage? I once noticed a US Federal Court decision of the late 1940s which used the modern American usage as if it were long-established.

Legal colleagues on both sides of the Atlantic are unable to help.

From: [personal profile] dsgood
If you give permission, I will pass this query on to the American Dialect Society mailing list.
From: (Anonymous)
Thank you for this fast response.

Yes please; do pass this query to the American Dialect Society or anyone else who may help.

lethargic_man: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lethargic_man
Heh; this is one of those terms I've had to stop using because I always get completely confused about what it means!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-04-30 02:37 pm (UTC)
marshtide: (Default)
From: [personal profile] marshtide
Thank you so much for this. I've been following all of this stuff from a distance (and not as closely as I might since I found out that, thank you bureaucracy, I don't get to vote this time) but you've articulated a lot of things I've felt about this. I get so frustrated at the way in which the immigration question is addressed - which is to say, with many politicians taking the basic standpoint that of course it needs reigning in - it's just a question of how much. Which isn't what I feel at all!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-04-30 03:05 pm (UTC)
syllopsium: Carwash, from Willo the Wisp (Default)
From: [personal profile] syllopsium
Immigration is absolutely a good thing overall, but I'd hesitate to say it should be completely unrestricted.

The problem, as I see it, is that very few people are prepared to look at the actual issues, of which there are several and I don't pretend to understand them all :

1) Influx of new people. This is not about immigration, as precisely the same thing would happen if a town five miles away suddenly became uninhabitable and the residents had to colonise the next town. The actual fault is with the lack of local and central planning to cope with the new people.

2) Historically poor decisions. As Radio4 mentioned the other day, certain councils used to run unfair policies where relatives of council house tenants were favoured. Now they aren't this is seen as pandering to the immigrants, even if they have greater need.

3) Employment. Now this is the one it's hardest to counter without racism creeping in.

It's undoubtedly true that the global market may lead to some professions being devalued, and this is only likely to increase from unskilled, to semi skilled to skilled. This will necessarily result in some people losing status, because skills are not always possible to increase or change. Those in well paid unskilled jobs are particularly in danger.

There's also some vast cultural differences, where some groups of people are prepared to do work others are not.

The point I struggle on, as I can't make out the line between outright racism, padded truth and objective truth, is that workers from Group B are cutting legally mandated corners as opposed to Group A. I tend to think there are probably bad apples in all groups and that people who complain about it are conveniently ignoring that, but can't discount the fact there may be an element of truth in certain cases.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-04-30 09:41 pm (UTC)
nanaya: Sarah Haskins as Rosie The Riveter, from Mother Jones (Default)
From: [personal profile] nanaya
(Now, some Americans don't like discussion of racism against white people, and I have some sympathy for this position, but I do want to be clear that the fact this issue of xenophobia and hatred towards immigrants is important does not at all mean that I'm treating all the history of oppression of African-Americans and other PoC as trivial.)

Some Americans are infuriatingly US-centric and seem to lack much in the way of historical or social understanding of issues outside their immediate scope.

Just like an unpleasantly significant number of Brits.

That particular misinterpreted-to-simplification internet anti-racism meme annoys the hell out of me, because it is so gob-smackingly presentist in scope.

I like immigration, and I'm closer to being on the No Borders end of things. People seem to want to blame immigrants for things like the housing market, instead of looking at some of the other relevant factors, such as the dispersal of government and private industry investment, the reduction in social housing, the positive encouragement to treat houses as accumulating investments rather than homes, etc. There are quite a lot of extremely affordable homes in, say, parts of Sunderland or South Wales. There just aren't the jobs and the infrastructure's been gutted.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-01 12:07 am (UTC)
pensnest: Martha drawing: also saves planets (Martha saves planets)
From: [personal profile] pensnest
Yes. Yes.

I want to live in a country that says, Hey, if your government wants to *kill* you because you speak out against them/you're gay/they just don't like you, you are welcome here.

And I want to live in a country that says, Hey, if you want to come here and work and make a better life for yourself and the people around you, you are welcome here.

Tabloid attitudes are foul. I wish our 'newspapers' had a sense of responsibility.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-01 07:28 am (UTC)
ewx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ewx
Curious how the answer to “more immigration please” is, rather often, ”unrestricted immigration would be bad”, glossing over all the possible configurations between where we are right now and totally open borders, and as if the entire population of South Asia would up sticks one day and settle here given the chance.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-01 09:11 pm (UTC)
monanotlisa: Diana as Diana Prince in glasses and a hat, lifting the rim of the latter rakishly. HOT! (Default)
From: [personal profile] monanotlisa
Thanks for this post.


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