Monday, 19 April 2010

The cloud that could corrode and destroy us

Not the cloud of volcanic ash from Iceland that has grounded air travel and caused anxiety and frustration for those trapped far from home. Instead, another cloud hanging over the UK General Election. It is sometimes seen in the British National Party and the UK Independence Party but is mainly hidden in the so-called mainstream parties. But it is there with its potentially corrosive and destructive effects.

We can describe it as xenophobia, racism, ‘me and mine’ism etc but to attach such labels isn’t really helpful. The cloud panders to a perceived base instinct of people as interpreted by popular papers, who are more interested in headlines that sell their papers than any principles. It manifests itself in a desire for a UK that is ‘cut off’ from the rest of the world, particularly mainland Europe. It parades commitments to the UN 0.7% spending on overseas aid yet talks of delivering that in ways that support particular ideologies and of benefit to the UK military-industrial complex as much as anyone else. It holds on to the mega-expensive Trident missile system for its symbolism of being a powerful nation, even against military analysis. It defends dubious military enterprises by unproven appeal to safety on our streets. All examples of a small and mean political discourse which will do us more harm than good.

And it’s all so irrational, even on the politicians' own terms. Without the immigrants we are encouraged to despise and shut out, the health and care services would collapse – a significant proportion of surgeons, doctors, nurses, care assistants and cleaners come to contribute to our well being. Even our football would be diminished by the absence of those who come from other countries – mercenaries, maybe, but ones that contribute to our entertainment. And we British enjoy the opportunity of working or retiring in other countries – yet still often see our hosts as the foreigners and not ourselves as migrant workers or immigrants.

Facts don’t count in a discourse of emotion. We are encouraged to huddle together in fear instead of being engaged with a large and generous political vision than can excite.

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