In a week where our Prime Minister decided to respond to the brutal reality of Calais by chipping in with some dehumanising blether of his own, Patrick Harvie’s article in The National was like a splash of cool water on the face:
It’s also all too common that this issue is presented not as a problem for the people involved – the people whose lives are at risk – but rather as a problem for us. The simple truth which should underpin our response to this crisis is that to provide safety and security to those who need it is a privilege, not a burden. We’re the lucky ones – the ones who are asked for help, not the ones making unsafe, desperate journeys to ask for it. It’s those who flee who bear the burden, and there but for fortune any of us might go.
I find it impossible to accept that a continent of over 500 million people cannot find a way to share this responsibility, and provide adequate safety for the basic wellbeing of desperate people, while asylum claims and immigration applications are properly and respectfully dealt with.
Still, while Patrick’s response got the balance right between challenging some of the shit that gets talked about immigration and appealing to people on gut level, its argument also brought me face to face with some of the underlying problems we face when making such arguments.
The difficulty here is that a lot of people here don’t feel like they have the benefit of the security and privilege of living in a rich country, and that some others do but can’t imagine that this can be extended to others without it being taken away from them in the process.
It’s a tribute to how much ground has been lost that the idea of things getting better for most of us has been made to look like a lunatic plot, fit only for posh students and straggling hippies.
You see this attitude again and again in the comments for the Scottish Green Party‘s Facebook post on this subject. Responses to a comment about how building houses might provide both a solution to the housing crisis and provide jobs in the construction industry vary from the drearily realistic (“It’s not that easy!”, which here seems to mean “It must be impossible!”) to the bewilderingly outraged (“We need more houses for our own people!”, “For f***ks sake what do you think the construction is, they would not be allowed on site without the proper training and tickets, who is going to pay and provide that?”).
This is how we are told the world works now: if such a thing as society exists, it happens to other people.