Bring in the sniffer dogs and army, fund more fences, use degrading language (e.g. swamped) are all things either being suggested or being done to ‘deal’ with the so-called Calais ‘migrant crisis’ whilst people who are escaping situations of absolute destitution are left to fend for themselves. There is no care or concern for understanding why people make such a dangerous journey to the UK (western intervention in countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq etc. leading to social, economic and political chaos with people wanting to flea persecution for a better life but also be in a country, the UK, where they can speak the language – unlike in France). Rather, we are more bothered about how much it’s going to cost to stop vulnerable people from coming in – like they are a dangerous virus or something – and how we are going to ensure that people can still go on their holidays too. Priorities hey.
It ties into the increasing divide and rule culture we are breeding in this country. We see the usual suspects such as Farage being taken out for a spin by the media to reinforce the racist narrative. It’s a bit like asking Hitler to talk about Jewish people, it’s not going to be anything but hateful and irrational. I think it’s quite ironic also that we promote ourselves as a ‘free, democratic country’, you know the ‘end of history’, capitalism beat communism, woohoo type of rhetoric. But if you look at what happened in Berlin during the Cold War, when people were leaving the East to go West in order to access things they couldn’t under the communist regime and also see their friends and family, you know for a better basic life much like the people trying to get to Britain, they built a wall. A wall the West condemned. What are we doing in Calais? We are funding more physical barriers and security to build a wall to stop vulnerable people accessing our services and support. What’s the difference? Why are we suddenly against people accessing a better life? They are different times and contexts but the principle is very much the same. There is nothing democratic, free and fantastic about that. Why do we not want people to come to our country? Why do we hate ourselves so much we’d rather build a wall and get sniffer dogs to attack people desperately trying to have a better life?
No, before you say it, it has nothing to do with us having ‘no money left’. We have heaps of money left, just look at how the rich have got richer since the 2008 financial crisis. This government is relying on an explosion of personal borrowing and debt, through mortgages (you know, Help to Buy), credit cards and loans whilst claiming that they are tackling the debt crisis. What they mean is they are cutting the state, this is purely for ideological reasons too as private debt – which includes personal debt that is rocketing and needed for the Osborne so-called ‘recovery’ to work – is around 450% of GDP whereas public sector, state spending, debt is only around 80% (it was over 250% after the Second World War and we built the welfare state and the NHS!!). In terms of welfare, migrants put well more in than they get out and we have more unclaimed benefits than we have fraud. It’s all ideology, whilst the rich get away with reduced corporation tax, income tax and lax consideration of tax evasion and avoidance as HMRC is cut in terms of staff and resources to be able to track this down.
For me it relates back to a very simple but important concept of ethics by Judith Butler. For her, ethics is about considering everybody’s vulnerability to things they can’t control – and let’s face it that’s a lot of things in life. When someone’s or a group’s vulnerability is discarded, say for instance people trying to cross into the UK to access better social, economic and political support, they are treated as having unliveable lives. People’s whose vulnerability is respected, of which the list is rapidly decreasing, are seen as having liveable lives. This is where Jeremy Corbyn’s quote on welfare resonates a lot with me.
All of us are an accident away from needing a benefits system that sustains us – Corbyn.
Corbyn’s simple quote makes a very important point. The very reason a welfare system exists is to ensure collective help for people that need it say if they experience a tragic accident or if they develop a mental health condition etc. People that have little control over what has happened to them, say they have been forced into redundancy, need that support available. And we are all vulnerable to these forces in life. There are plenty of stories of people that we’d considered to have ‘made it’ then went on to lose all their money to an addiction or just through bad luck, for instance. Yes, there are people – people like those stuffing the current cabinet – who are less likely than others to be vulnerable to such changes but we are all vulnerable to some extent.
What we have seen is this respect for vulnerability, the care for the fact that we help each other out in hard times, is quickly being replaced by a selfish, individual ‘I’m all right Jack’ attitude. This is something that has obviously been happening since the 1980s but it’s getting worse under this current government who care for nothing more than cutting the state to a bare minimum. Whether that be through so-called devolution where a lot of resources will not be matched with new responsibilities, or whether that is through instigating additional cuts to non-protected departments up to 40% to a point where even Robert Peston says will see services we take for granted being fundamentally changed (or most likely gone) this government is making sure to cut collective support. We are being left to fight it out whilst also being encouraged to hate people that the government conveniently scapegoats for this supposed ‘needed’ set of changes. This is what happens with Calais where scapegoating, divide and rule and media sensationalism make people ignore the real causes of people fleeing for a better life. We forget what we say we actually stand for: equality and fairness. We fail to empathise with other human beings and think about what we would do in a similar situation. Rather we choose to see such people as having unliveable lives, we do not respect their vulnerability or desperate need for access to basic rights and support. We forget our responsibility, as a country, in causing this.
We have to fight back against this hate and fear and promote a sense of collectivism and hope so that everyone is considered within a fair and balanced vision of ethics.