Society evolves with or without immigration
Posted on December 31st, 2016
I have written on the economic benefits of immigration and the mixing of cultures, but I wonder what the impact is on countries taking in immigrants, the changing demographics and the change in the balance of local culture.
The far-right might gain ground on these issues, but the left must address them too. Nobody on the left dares pronounce against immigration; socialism focuses on integration. And rightly so. But would anyone choose positive migration? Some say that we need foreign workers to bolster the workforce. Would it not be better to retrain currently unemployed people?
If not fleeing from war or hardship, migrants do not move country to draw social benefits; they do so to find work. Migrants must always, therefore, be integrated so that they also pay taxes. Clandestine immigration is the worst of both worlds because they are both accused of taking jobs and also do not contribute to communal tax income.
Mass migration is for social reasons, people fleeing war or persecution, but would you call for people to come here? We might like their food and understand that mixing cultures is good for our own, but what is the risk of losing our own culture? Is it at risk of extinction or just improvement?
What is culture and what values do we hold dear? Most agree that the fundamental values are those of justice, that the courts are supreme and that all adhere to their rulings. The UK has a thousand years of history and law. Do right-wingers think that African, Caribbean, Pakistani or Afghan immigrants want to overthrow the state? No more than certain white individuals.
We should not confuse the needs of migrating families with the intentions of ISIS to destabilise the world. And we should not be swayed by a small minority of idiots who tarnish the name of migrants with despicable acts of violence.
What does it mean for a state and a society to evolve? In the Western world states mostly grow for the better such as when they vote for human rights. In Africa many countries are unstable but after having been taken over by dictators - Uganda by Idi Amin and others, the Philippines by Duterte.
But are these fears of subversion the fears of the right and why do they seem so far-fetched? I think it is more an everyday thing, the notion of belonging, perhaps wondering to what group they belong when around them many people seem to be from elsewhere. It is understandable that people look to their surroundings and local communities for their identity.
Is this a sustainable, desirable situation? The solution is to ensure that immigrants learn English, that they adopt local customs and adhere to Englishness - if only we could define it ourselves.
Perhaps many people are clear about what national identity is and to what it refers. History, the law of the land, the habits or opinions of a subgroup or behaviour accepted by the majority. If national identity were clearly defined, it is already both unconsciously understood and yet different for all. Perhaps it is geography, adhesion to some unspoken norm that pervades everyday life. But even if we take a snapshot of society today, any national identity will change and evolve with or without immigration.
For rightists it is perhaps that there should be a high enough proportion of nationals to influence democratic change and maintain a national identity: keep England English and France French.
So perhaps we should define English as white Christian working class, or upper-class, or believing in freedom or values for which it is worth dying. Are Muslims then excluded, not accepted as English even if born here or only after several generations? Fascist ideology.
Perhaps after a while people just become English. I bet people born in England of whatever origin consider themselves more or less English after a while, as do most who accept their host country.
We cannot accept anyone who is against England, or against the state in a subversive manner but then we must beware of not stifling the opposition or dissent. Perhaps only a royal family can guarantee a continued national identity, but although steeped in history and tradition, even royalty evolves.
In conclusion then, if a nation has a national identity most would be hard pushed to define a set of values or beliefs acceptable to all. We do not even agree 100% on anything in elections and referenda or even in everyday parliaments, but perhaps we could go some way to set down in writing some values or beliefs that go to identify a nation. Would we agree?
Perhaps then it is just geography and the maintenance of peace. How could we justify going to war if not to defend ourselves? Some countries such as Switzerland and Sweden do not. It might then be our allegiance to the government and elected leaders. What then if we voted for those who lost the election?
It runs deeper than this. There is some allegiance to the idea of a country even if the law binds us to that allegiance whether we like it or not. Perhaps the only qualification for nationality then is acceptance of the law of the land all the while reserving the right to change that law by democratic means.