Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Post Brexit – this time sad

Anti-Semitism has been a thread running through the last few months in the UK before the referendum campaign kicked in. There has been much discussion in the press and certainly on university campuses. After several members had been suspended for their views, the Labour Party eventually – eventually – launched an investigation into anti-Semitism in the party – we are not very confident, given the lack of cohesion in the party at the moment and its leader’s associations in the past, that this is going to work.  Let’s see.

And that’s why I am sad.  I never thought when I came to live here so many years ago that I would feel uncomfortable – but I, and many of my friends, do now – even though our day-to-day lives have not changed.

I came to the UK from South Africa for a few years in the sixties and then came back in 1977. I was relieved that at last I was in a country where my colour didn’t matter and my religion didn’t matter either.  I was naïve about racism based on colour – it certainly existed but most people got along and my religion didn’t matter to most people either.

There is a rise in overt anti-Semitism in many European countries and in the USA – it has probably always been there but the presence of 24 hour news means that it is instantly available to everyone which encourages others to do the same – if someone else is doing it then it’s OK for me – and leaves us feeling perhaps more insecure than we need. What we are experiencing now is fear of and hatred of the “other”.  The “other” is anyone who doesn’t look like me or sound like me, has a different religion or belief or even a different political view.  See the photo I posted yesterday of a left wing Corbyn supporter calling others “vermin”.

Nigel Farage posed in front of a poster showing a dense stream of people who were allegedly flooding into the UK. The UK has taken a pitiful number of refugees so that can’t be why people voted to leave the EU. People who are smuggled or trafficked in and are here illegally are nothing to do with the EU.

I know people who are not racist, not anti-European but voted to leave because they were fed up with being “told by Brussels what to do” – this is misguided and wrong and we may well end up doing all the same things as before to continue to trade.

But there those who voted to leave the EU because of Europeans coming in and apparently taking their jobs (for lower wages), houses, school places and clogging up the doctor’s surgery etc. If they stop coming we will need to persuade people from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere to come here and do the jobs that you are not qualified for or won’t do – is that what you meant?  If they don’t, our health service will collapse – not only the carers and cleaners that everyone seems to think about but highly skilled doctors, nurses and scientists. You will have to wait longer for your operation or your chemotherapy. Is that what you want?

I do believe that most people are reasonable, don’t hate and don’t abuse – but through the 24 hour news reporting and statements made in the Referendum campaign – racism in its broadest sense is in danger of becoming normalised.

That’s why I’m sad.

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