|Mt Kenya from Chogoria|
Monday, 13 January 2014
Oh for goodness’ sake! When will our politicians and pressmen stop frantically whipping up this pernicious xenophobia which apparently lurks like a virus just beneath the skin of us little Britons? Scarcely a day passes when the spectre of an island overrun with scarcely human “foreigners” is conjured up by the three main party leaders, like Macbeth’s witches, with Nigel Farage like a malign Hecate pulling the strings, abetted by the oh-so reasonable Sir (no less) Andrew Green of the avowedly “non-political” Migration Watch.
Ken Clarke, one of the few Tory ministers with guts enough to resist the populist tide, asserting that immigrants had made Britain “far more exciting and healthier”, had No 10 Downing Street (presumably his nibs himself) quickly ticking him off, and at the same Nick Clegg (Lib Dem) and Rachel Reeves (one of Labour’s rising stars) denouncing the supposed epidemic of benefit immigration. Our Ken had it about right when he said, “The idea that you can have some fundamental debate that somehow stops all these foreigners coming here is rather typical rightwing, nationalist escapism, I think.”
What a sad day it is when we have reached the point of closing what used to be known as our bowels of mercy because of someone’s skin-colour or language or preferences in food – and country of origin! Continually closing your bowels leads to constipation. I was reminded watching Simon Reeve’s The Tea Trail on BBC last night, traveling through Kenya from Mombasa to Kericho, of my gap year which I spent on the east side of Mount Kenya. It was within very few years of the end of the Mau Mau internments – about which I remember one of my fellow-teachers had family experience. He and many in that part of Kenya would have had good reason to hate an Englishman like me. And yet he was consistently kind and friendly to me, and wherever I went I was welcomed with the utmost hospitality. If one of the teachers' cars came a cropper on the potholed murrain roads, there was no lack of willing hands to rescue us. It’s a sobering fact that “Great Britain” is now less hospitable than the former colony, which we once sought to civilise. Our policy-makers now are seeking to make conditions on access to medical help or social care for the alien and sojourner. We consider such things our right and ours alone. We seem to have lost any humanity we once possessed, and become introspectively constipated.
Keep administering the laxative of common sense, Mr Clarke, and common humanity. As Charles Kingsley put it, "Do as you would be done by."