The authoritarian push for a singular, quantifiable identity with which to credit the Peoples of these islands is a paranoid backlash to a perception that we’ve been too accommodating of too many cultures, for too long and that this has polluted rather than inspired our national character. But how does that actually happen to a whole community – a whole nation – unless you have let it? How does that happen to a strong sense of self unless the sense was either already fragile or false? For sure, this is no small nor simple thing but it is no one’s fault, save ours.
The discourse around freedom of movement, particularly of people, did not and still does not make sense. Despite getting more oxygen than anything else, the EU referendum campaign managed to turn immigration into an incoherent manifesto for xenophobes. I could not – cannot fathom the magnitude of such vague loathing. Besides an overwhelming indignation at how it was my freedom of movement being threatened – and yours – I kept thinking: which is it, then: the numbers, the quality or the culture? But these were never properly broken down and challenged, perhaps because of fears that it would legitimise the racist platform; maybe because the populists were stronger and reliant on keeping things nebulous.
We were a land fit to bursting. A never-ending throng of undesirable unknowables kept getting in the way and selfishly absorbing our best stuff through osmosis. They were coming to take our houses that haven’t been built and they were more likely to be our doctor than in our queue to see one. What’s more they seemed possessed of a magic art, simultaneously able to be idle benefit scroungers but also to steal our jobs and undercut our wages, so it was probably their fault that unemployment has never been so low a gig. Just one more person would surely upend us into a sea, so the tens of millions of Turkish Muslims who have no passport but were definitely on their imminent way to ask Farage to borrow copious cups of sugar would absolutely sink us, even though not a one could simply wander in because we are not even in Schengen and anyway, we’re also an island, so there.
One minute we are told there are too many people and accusations fly about the poor having too many children born with their hands out and fear-mongering about religious devotees being the ones most likely to do so and too, raise children to challenge British values. The next we’re an ageing population so, please, have more babies but no more than two; we only pay for two. No, wait: we need more people, NOW, to do the jobs that, apparently, we won’t do and even more people to do the jobs we are told we can’t. Then they accuse our children of being fat and lazy and imply that people from outside of the EU have higher economically productive value but that Brexit will be brilliant because these islands teem, innately, with can- and derring-do. Yes, we’re all technical-arty-mathematical-entrepreneurial-scientific-innovative geniuses here… All that talent, brawn and skill yearning to be exploited, if only the dear leaders believed in their citizens enough to actually invest in them.
All this othering has been peddled to demographics made increasingly, desperately angry enough to be vulnerable to their own gullibility. Whether paranoia-steered, arrogant imperialist or unashamedly, outright xenophobe, fascism arrives by invitation and there have been a lot of RSVPs.
Yet you may hear a few Brexits emphatically declaring how they welcome fresh blood and its free movement. They don’t ‘see colour’ and ‘some of their best friends are Muslims’. These most patronising, hypocritical know-nothing Brexits will be the most protected from the consequences of their snake oil agency. They are all about the points-based ‘quality’ of people: the more, the merrier men. Ironic, really, because those who sell us that line about a metropolitan/liberal elite being the enemy of the people’s “Will” are intending to upset the it’s the numbers Brexits by liberally selecting immigrants for elite metropolitan types. Probably with dark skins, which will definitely upset the it’s the culture Brexits.
What audacious cynicism that warns us to be terrified of foreign tongues on our crappy trains, as Brexits flee to where the foreign trains are better and you get to turn the volume of your Estuary English up to eleven. We’re told to be confident and proud to buy British but there’s an ardent Brexit over there, fine-dining on tax incentives and stronger yields in any other field but Blighty’s.
And how shall the other people’s quality be defined? How shall we know them? What of the extraordinary qualities it takes to sneak yourself through half a dozen countries and across a couple of seas, mostly on your own nerve and initiative and start your life over, from scratch? And what of our quality? Are we red tractor stamped Are we good enough for our leaders and fellow citizens? Who, among us, will be found wanting and where, then, shall you and I be put?
And how do we square religion and culture with the post-Brexit geography of Commonwealth and Middle Eastern princes? Was it purely about the global equality of right to enter and not about the numbers, at all, or have we come to looking at every black or brown face with a need to know if it’s Muslim? I haven’t. Do we not trust in the secular nature of our system or not understand that spiritual orthodoxy is just politics with added conviction, having a left-right spectrum, where most sit as moderates around the centre? Or do we believe, just because the fascistic section of ALL religions would settle for the end of the world in the absence of global domination, that one’s own spirituality is therefore threatened and one’s god lessened? I hope not, for that is a fool who makes god small and does not respect even their own Self.
If our culture has been undermined or diluted and I am not claiming it has, then it is the fault of the collective weak character that let it happen. Harsh, perhaps but, if our country has been accommodating to the point of its detriment, then the people, their institutions and their governments should have had a better sense and firmness of social boundaries and the application of sound law and sensible policy. For example: why do we complain about segregation, misogyny and fundamentalism but persist in the encouragement of faith-based schools? How can we recognise the dangers of ‘fake news’ and discern that everyone needs access to a body of common knowledge yet allow certain schools to opt out of teaching about vital subjects, such as evolution and sex/relationships to the very generation that will be running ‘Global Britain’ and checking us for bedsores, one day?
Those most vehemently guarding their cultural identity are busily pursuing purity and mass compliance, baring their teeth and flexing paraphobic muscles. Thing is: they have no idea of who they are, never mind of the whole country and, really, who wants to comply with the most psychotic faction of the United Kingdom’s personality disorder and symptom of its nervous breakdown?