Tuesday, August 30, 2005

A good Harding fisking...

Following on from the abortion debate at The Sharpener in which, whilst I agreed with some of what he had to say in general but particularly hated the way in which he said it, I had a look at Neil Harding's blog and thought I peruse a few of his posts: this one caught my eye particularly.

The first point is easily dealt with. To be proud of something, don't you need some personal achievement? How can the accident of birth be an achievement?

No, you don't need personal achievement. I am proud of my father, and his achievements are not mine. Perhaps we assume that Neil despises his parents? I am proud of some of my friends' achievements and—although it is closer to home as I have advised some of them—they are not my achievements.

Deep down we all know that nationalism is illogical.

I think that "deep down" is where our emotions generally lie, and I think that many people are nationalist: it is on the surface that they reason that they are not. However, nationalism is not necessarily a geographical, it is cultural. If there is no cultural difference between countries, then why are we being urged to adopt a more "Continental" way of drinking? If there is no difference, then how can we change our habits to... Look, you get the idea. To deny cultural differences between countries is idiotic; there are cultural differences, full stop. Cultural differences and therefore nationalism.

The crimes or achievements of the past residents of the UK hold no more responsibility or source of pride for me personally than anything else humanity has done. For instance the Nazi atrocities are a warning to us all, not just the German people. Also go back a few generations of your family tree and most will find foreign ancestors. The year 1066 is only 40 generations back for instance!

Yes, and your point is? OK, as it happens, my ancestors were Norman, and they came over here with The Conqueror in 1066. That may be "only 40 generations", but a lot has happened in this country in the 939 years since the Norman Conquest. Amongst other things, the whole character of the nation has changed and evolved in a number of distinct phases. Do I feel guilt? Not really. Do I feel pride? Yes.

This may be illogical, but I think that guilt is a far more personal emotion than pride. Besides, we humans have a tendency to look on the bright side of things, and therefore to suppress bad emotions. Apart from anything else, I think that—certainly as applies to Britain—on balance, the good things that we have brought to other people rather outweigh the bad things that we have done. But that, of course, is merely what I think.

The second point, I want to start with one sentence.

"People born abroad are not inferior to people born in Britain."

I'll repeat that!

"People born abroad are not inferior to people born in Britain."

On the face of it, it seems an obvious and ridiculous thing to have to say, but the crux of those arguing against immigration rests on implying that people born abroad are inferior.

No, it does not. I do not think that foreigners are inferior, and yet I am against unfettered immigration. Why? Well, because they are culturally different; not inferior, different. How blind would you have to be to see why that is a problem? Shall we ignore the riots in Burnley? The ghettos in London, Manchester, Leeds? The admission by the head of the Commission for Racial Equality that "multiculturism" has failed? And, of course, the 7/7 bombings?

It is not something you will ever hear them say directly but my god, they leave you with no doubt that this is what they mean. Of course, quite a lot more than this can usually be read into what they say because for immigrants read black or brown skin, which is the real cause of their distress.

I think that you've missed out "yellow" there, son. Ah, yes; here we go. People who oppose high immigration are reactionary, racist, bigoted Tories; not in the least like those nice, cuddly Socialists, eh? Still, having found Neil particular brand of bigotry, let's move on...

The next argument against immigration is 'britain is too crowded'. Which might be the case, but when the same people are calling for a rise in the birth rate it gives the game away what their true motives are!

Sorry, Neil? What are their true motives? Oh, fuck me rigid; is it racism again?

For Britain to have a steady population we need a birth rate of 2.1 births per female. We currently have 1.7, thats 716,000 births per annum. The official net immigration is 151,000 which takes the replacement rate to 2.0, which still means a declining population and all the associated demographic problems. Why are these people not concerned about reducing the birth rate if they want to reduce the population? Indeed a lot of them argue for the birth rate to increase!

Well, fair enough. Mind you, I wonder what economic problems a declining population might cause that Gordon Brown hasn't already prepared for us. Given that most people quote pensions as being the problem, and Mr Prudence has already right royally screwed them up already, how could it get any worse? Still, since I am having to rely on Neil's anecdotal evidence that "a lot of them" argue for higher birthrates, we'll just have to leave this point for now.

Then there is their economic argument, which makes no sense at all because most immigrants are of working age and go straight into the job market. Unlike the 716,000 births, they are not going to be a drain on our taxes! For at least 16 years and probably longer, these births will cost money.

Hang on! I thought that you'd just made the economic argument? Yes, no, whatever. The trouble is not so much those who are given permits to work (many of whom are actually travelling here to take up a job anyway), it is on asylum seekers who are disbarred from working for a considerable amount of time. This is not, of course, their fault, it's the fault of the government.

All the data suggests those countries with the highest immigration also have the highest economic growth.

Really, Neil? Where are these figures? I mean, France has got a hell of a lot of immigrants, mainly from places like Algeria (or at least, they would do if they didn't keep burning them) and yet its growth rate is pretty appalling. Likewise, Germany has got a lot of Turkish immigrants, and yet it ain't exactly booming either. Good policy helps to ensure economic growth, immigration or no immigration.

For me this furore over immigration and the deliberate blurring of the boundaries with asylum is racism, pure and simple.

Oh Neil, Neil; nothing in this world is "pure and simple", and people's reactions least of all. However, let me try to sum up for you, without being racist, why you are wrong.

Humans are naturally, no matter how enlightened you may think that we are, tribal animals. Anything different or strange is viewed with suspicion; on a really basic level, just look at reaction of many Scots or Northerners to an RP accent like mine. But it goes further than that; many people assume a different culture. I am very middle-class, so working-class people tend to view me with suspicion, because they suspect that I have a culture dissimilar to theirs. Think how much that would be emphasised were I to speak in a completely different language.

Now, you could argue that being suspicious of other cultures is racism; fair enough. However, most of us are actually fairly tolerant of individuals with different ideas and lifestyles. What people are afraid of is when these individuals are assembled into large groups. And this works all ways. Why do Asians tend to ghettoise themselves, to live in large communities? Because they feel that it gives them protection against the native British community, whose ways are different to theirs. This, in turn, creates suspicion in the native communities as they become threatened by a community whose ways are not theirs. Now all of this could be ascribed to racism, but it has nothing, intrinsically, to do with the colour of someone's skin; colour is simply a convenient marker.

You know what I'm going to say here, and it does involve the words "when", "in" and "Rome". It is all about integration. It is not about skin colour, it is about culture. These are very different things. What Burnley has shown us is what happens when integration does not happen; in that town, there are places where white people do not go, and places where Asians do not go. The white people feel a—naturally enough—resentment that there is somewhere in their native land that they cannot go. Why? Becuas it is theirs: because nationalism does exist. It's the old "we were here first" line.

The reason that large scale immigration is not desirable is because it causes confrontation. It actually doesn't matter whether you thinkt that it should or not: the fact is that it does. Unfortunately, we are seeing the results of this culture clash in, amongst other things, the Tube bombings. In Britain, we have a culture of not blowing ourselves up on crowded trains just because we don't like the government's policies. We have, for a few hundred years, had a divorced legal and religious framework (I know it's only a few generations, but—damn!—a lot has happened). The culture clash becomes greater the more equal the size of the opposing cultures. In the end, there is no point in saying that in an enlightened world it shouldn't happen because, when you get down to brass tacks, it does. And it doesn't just happen in Britain.

The economic argument is utterly invalid: as I said before, good policies encourage economic growth. Or are you, Neil, saying that "brown people" are essentially better at business than whites? Isn't that racism? But, as I said before, it's of no consequence anyway, because it's not intrinsically true. It may happen because immigrants are prepared to work for less; yes, that might create a small economic boost. But then, if you have something like the minimum wage, it tends to iron out those benefits to a great extent.

Essentially, you are accusing anyone who disagrees with major immigration of being a racist. That is as closed and bigoted a view as those you criticise. Furthermore, it simply is not a realistic position.

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