This is how I imagine those who voted for Brexit feel. In reality, I should go out and interview them.
My wife, who by now is probably sick of me opposing Brexit, suggested that people voted Brexit because they might have had enough. Enough of what? I asked. The answer isn’t very clear, but one voice says too many people are coming into the country. Britain appears to have been the go-to country for people from outside the European Union for a long time.
Some think that people come here to draw benefits, profit from the system, get a job. Newcomers join communities and this community identity is both a defensive strength and “identifies” them to racists. And some people come here to join a community but then complain about it and expect the system to change to accommodate them.
The question is how systems, peoples and communities live together and the UK has been a haven for this integration. The Liberal knows that we can accept other religions without changing our values. But Brexit, then, is the backlash to balance this liberalism.
The idea goes that a country can only accept a certain number of people after which point it fills up. I understand that, to some degree; many people live here. In London, prices of flats, houses have risen because of demand because the city is a powerhouse of work.
Would prices go down if immigrants left? I doubt it. London is the powerhouse, the place to get work. And isn’t London so efficient and effective because of immigrants? The streets are clean, the bins emptied, the parks tidied, the public toilets clean because immigrants are doing the dirty jobs.
What of competition for employment between British people and others for the menial tasks? Those who complain vociferously about Brexit don’t target the Indians and Pakistanis. These people provide useful services such as corner shops. The far-right target those who take artisanal jobs such as painter and plumber. They cite the Polish people who “steal jobs” from the local people.
Immigration Fuels an Economy
But the more people in the country, the more we need plumbers. Houses need painters, even with the number of dwellings staying relatively constant. Artisanal jobs depend on the number of people and houses.
Some people think that people from elsewhere change and dilute our culture. That they either pollute it or evangelise such that our children risk becoming gay or Muslim. I don’t understand this notion. If you’re secure in your convictions, then you won’t change or go astray. And what if you convert to Haré Krishna? I wouldn’t like my children to convert to Islam or fight the jihad. But I don’t feel concerned.
Luckily in Britain, Islam is relatively moderate, although some nutcase Imams exist, preaching revolution and death to the infidel. They could be prosecuted, especially if they promote violence. Perhaps they’re just the mad fringe elements – so many nutcases exist in the world – but ISIS played into the hands of the racists. We differentiate free speech from action.
Communities, systems, religions, philosophies coexist happily as long as they don’t seek to squash their neighbours. They should be content to worship their god in relative privacy without evangelising or criticising their neighbours for their beliefs.
The law of the land prevails. And while it remains reasonable and balanced, we should adhere to it and respect it. If not, Justice will require it of us. In Britain, one can still be confident that the justice system is reasonably balanced and sensible because as proved over generations.
In many African countries, the justice system is biased, dysfunctional or corrupt with a poorly functioning justice system. These countries have far greater problems than us.
In Britain, we have our issues of violence on the far right. People like Tommy Robinson deserve more severe punishment and justice than they get at the moment. The establishment panders to their electorate. The establishment doesn’t crack down on them, because they represent an undercurrent of feeling. But most people don’t commit acts of violence.
What are the racist undercurrents? The feeling that Britain is for British people and that Muslims, Pakistanis, black people aren’t British. Racists consider people from elsewhere as “imports”, but they have assimilated, they apply for nationality, and become British, no matter how they came here.
They aren’t the only imported people, come from elsewhere. The Jews, of course, are case in point. Jews were ejected from Russia, Poland, Lithuania at the end of the 19th century. But they were integrated into Britain because they adopted or had secular traditions and clothing (they weren’t all Chasidim). They worked, provided services and found protection in numbers in their communities.
Integration in the 21st Century
So the case is much the same for black communities here now. Pakistanis and Indians have had their trials. How many generations of far-right hooligans have insulted and abused ethnic minorities on the street?
So this question of integration still posed in the 21st century is the liberal intellectual, cultural question of and how we integrate and live together.
Some ignorant pigs who will target with innate violence any group whether Muslim, Indian, Pakistani, Jewish, just because they’re violent and stupid. Britain surely has done a poor job of educating. They still read the Sun. They still sense the need to attack anything.
The Sun itself is an outlet for these feelings. Why do they feel the need to continue this and promote these attitudes? Why do they get such support? The answer is to sell copy.
I’m suggesting here, of course, that these feelings are superficial. Perhaps, but based not on complete ignorance, on lack of thought. Some feel threatened if they see black and brown faces in the street; this is racism borne out of insecurity. I don’t understand it.
Confronting Conflicting Ideas
I suppose if I were a real journalist or prepared to confront these ideas, I would go out and speak to racist communities if they exist. Where would I find these people? Would I go to the pub and talk to white, middle-aged workers? And what would I find? Would I find anything different from what I’m writing here? Would it be conclusive? Perhaps I need to do a poll. Perhaps information exists on the internet? Maybe I could join a group of crazies and ask them, but they would probably tell me to disappear because I wouldn’t be one of them.
So I could go as a journalist genuinely wanting to find out what they feel, why they feel hatred towards others. What a project! Maybe I should ask some Brexit voters on Twitter to tell us what they think; I could surely attract a few to explain.
I should write something provocative to pique their interest. Something like: Are you a racist? Would you be participate in a questionnaire about how you feel about other communities? What is your motivation for voting Brexit? What do you think about immigration? Do you believe that immigrants take your jobs?
I would confront the Brexit party saying openly that I don’t hold the same opinions but that I want to understand. I would have to guarantee to reflect their points of view honestly. I would surely be accused of being a middle-class liberal and elite.
Why the violence?
I genuinely don’t know why people are racist, xenophobic, or violent. Where does it come from? Can damaged childhoods explain it all? Or is that just patronising? Should I keep an open mind as to their reasoning? Is it possible for me to ask open questions without becoming angry, without explaining things for them? Could I listen and hear what they have to say without judgement?