Saturday, April 22, 2006

Racism or culture?

A few days ago, Margaret Hodge said that many voters in her constituency of Barking were considering voting BNP. She added

The political class as a whole is often frightened of engaging in the very difficult issues of race and...the BNP then exploits that and try and create out of a perception a reality which is not the reality of people's lives.
This, together with the Rowntree Report claiming that 25% of people had said they might vote for the BNP, has roused the usual fuss. It seems to come up every few years, and then die again as we realise that no-one in their right mind would vote for the BNP except to thumb their nose at the powerful.

Immigration is permanent and desirable. Well, we should hope it's permanent; it's a strong economy that magnetically draws immigrants. This one needs more, especially the building industry. Immigrants are also desirable. I suppose that, being one, I would say that, but just think of the type of people who leave their homelands for economic (or any other) reasons. I can assure you, it ain't an easy transition.

Another Australian (Scott Wickstein, who nevertheless stayed at home), writing at Samizdata, puts it well.

... the society that receives immigrants is usually much better off for having them. Immigrants are usually the best and the brightest of their societies, and the most driven. Having uprooted their lives to make a fresh start, they are open to new ways of doing things, and are thus an engine of innovation. In this era of ‘baby drought’ they boost the population and the dynamism of their new societies, and increase the purchasing power of their economies. However, because these effects are spread widely, few people identify their prosperity with immigrants.
Now I wouldn't exactly 'identify' prosperity with immigrants (I think they're a consequence as much as a cause), but I agree with the thrust of his argument. More so, because he doesn't ignore the fact that, while the economy as a whole benefits, many 'homegrown' people feel immgration as a cost, an undeniable one. This is true in competition for jobs, competition for housing, property values, and also in the perception of those whose stake in the society and economy is shaky.

There is also another point, one that I haven't heard put. Is it not possible that this recent panic is not so much about race, but about culture? Could it not be the nervousness felt by many who, in the rhetoric of multiculturalism that seems to accord no primacy to the home culture, see the threat of a section of the population that does not recognise the rules that everyone else must live by? Of a group of people who ask for special consideration, special dispensation for their sensibilities? Isn't it possible that the outrageous reaction to some cartoons, and a lot more, on the part of one group among us is partly responsible for this reaction?

Tagged: , ,

No comments: