Thursday, August 04, 2005

Send them not home

Brits are fond of parrotting that they have a "proud tradition" of tolerance. Usually about ten seconds before they display a lack of that very quality.

The reptilian David Davis, challenger to become chief loser at Britain's next election, has trotted out the usual bullshit. You generally have to go to the East End or a northern sink estate to hear this nonsense outside a BNP meeting.

It's "make the blacks sing the anthem". It's "their cooking smells". No, it's "they smell". What these people don't grasp is that it makes no difference to them whether their neighbour espouses "British values" (I shudder to think what Davis thinks those might be), so long as the neighbour leaves you in peace to have whatever values you want for yourself. It's when you try to make someone else share your values that a problem arises.

He was topped by Gerald Howarth, the shadow defence secretary -- yes, the man who, were he empowered, would be defending the UK, one shudders -- who suggested that if you don't back the party line, you can fuck off to, well, somewhere else.

"Meanwhile, Mr Davis's colleague, the shadow defence secretary, Gerald Howarth, called on British-born Muslims who did not feel an allegiance to the UK to leave voluntarily."

He wasn't clear on where they should go, given that they are British citizens. Howarth clearly doesn't feel that it's permissible for citizens of a nation to be dissatisfied with the way things are, and to want change.

Hang on! He's a member of the opposition. Doesn't that pretty much define him? By his reasoning, he should be invited to leave if he's not happy with the policies of the government of the day.

"In an interview with the Scotsman, he also said Muslims who saw the war with Iraq as a conflict against Islam were akin to Soviet sympathisers during the cold war."

Well, history shows us that the Soviets were rather more sinned against than sinning, because the Cold War was founded on deception and the creation of anti-Red hysteria (hmmm, perhaps he's onto something).

Personally, I feel that "British values" must include a willingness to debate the issues of the day, or they are nothing. Men like Howarth -- natural born fascists -- love a dogma though. They enjoy having an inflexible party line, a shibboleth they can use to out "traitors" and "foreigners".

Howarth doubtless feels he would be safer if we expelled all the Muslims. He has convinced himself that their war against us is entirely baseless. He probably doesn't think there is anything wrong with our installing and supporting puppet regimes in the Middle East, so that we can profit from their oil -- the bedrock of our economy.

Well, maybe we would be safer at that. A Muslim can't blow up the 8.15 if he can't get into the country. We could ship them all to, well, bugger it, Iraq would do.

The worrying thing is that, I think, secretly the likes of Howarth do fondly imagine that solution. They don't see any problem with it because they conceive of the problem as being that we have among us people who just don't share our "values". Of course, when it comes down to it, Brits are so lacking in shared values that what we have in common would boil down to "we're not Muslim". But that, I rather feel, is the core of Howarth's position.

"Mr Howarth said the majority of Muslims adhered to British values and he described how the union flag had been flown at a meeting he had with Muslims over the weekend."

It's the cricket thing, isn't it? If they fly the flag, they belong. If they feel any fondness for another nation, they're traitors.

This view is of course an entrenchment of the notion that the enemy is the Other. People not from round here. Foreigners. It's not that they don't "share values" -- flying a flag is not a "value" and only a dumb Tory could think it is -- it's that they feel part of something else. No one ever explains what the problem is with that: in the Ottoman empire, it was considered a strength that people brought their own culture to the empire, the skills of home.

Clearly, I could never subscribe to the Howarth line. I'm an expat and I doubt I would share a Tory's idea of "Australian values". I think the Aussie worship of death -- demonstrated on Anzac Day, where they claim that the sacrifice of their youth, who died in someone else's war for reasons they were too stupid to understand, made them a nation -- is risible; their racism abhorrent; their conservatism will in time leave them far behind in terms of competitiveness, and will drive the country into ruin ecologically; their frank intolerance to other cultures, which they describe as "multiculturalism" distasteful; their haircuts unbelievable. I cheer for England in the cricket and always will, no matter how native I turn.

"But the Aldershot MP said that if some Muslims "don't like our way of life, there is a simple remedy - go to another country, get out."

Erm. Or just live how you please? Isn't that what tolerance means? We mark the boundaries with our laws and within them we allow whatever you wish.

Not in Howarth's world. I have no idea what his "way of life" is. I suspect it's something like "pursue wealth and status headlong, fuck everyone else". I don't like that way of life myself. I have gone to another country (for other reasons). They do it here too.

I think what Howarth is saying is, You can be a Muslim if you pretend it means nothing, the way that Christianity means nothing to Christians. You can be a Muslim if you don't feel that gives you a sense of community with other Muslims -- just as the notion of "Christendom", feeble as it was, was shattered by Europe's religious wars. You can be a Muslim if you are called Geoff, Phil or Trevor and not one of those foreign names. You can be a Muslim if it's just a label, like your skin colour.

The thing that the Howarths and Davises of this world never consider is that they don't do a thing to make what they want to see happen. They want "foreign" cultures to be assimilated. They want Muslims to eat bacon sarnies and join us down the pub for a good singsong around the joanna and stop with their silly Allah wills it nonsense. But they don't do a thing to make that "way of life" attractive to outsiders. They don't reach out a hand. They talk about "tolerance" and show none. They stir up the reactionary, dumbarse proles, who would sooner believe that the blacks are taking all their jobs than that people like Davis have created conditions in which there are no jobs for them, black or white. (They resent Asians for having successful small businesses, running cornershops, chippies and discount stores -- the more visible side of their economic activity -- but they do not open up their own businesses, work long hours themselves, make their own fortunes. No one is stopping them; there is no "only Asians are allowed to run newsagents" cabal.) They treat "foreigners" with suspicion and coldness, and then wonder why they don't feel warm to them. They hope somehow that by a sort of cultural diffusion, the "foreigners" will just become "British" (as though that actually was something!).

Ultimately, Mr Howarth never asks himself the key question: why would anyone want to be like him? It doesn't seem much for an immigrant to aspire to: canting hypocrite, despicable toady, racist, arsehole.


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