Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Janet Albrechtsen, the BNP, taxi drivers as the font of wisdom, and as usual those damn elites the cause of it all

(Above: first stop shop for transport and fine sociological analysis. Post modernist relativists, please go catch a bus).

The blame game is beloved of commentariat columnists.

And if challenged about playing the blame game, the first game to play is to blame the blamer for blaming them for playing the blame game.

It is, in the end, and however you cut it, always your fault. (This by the way is an impeccable rule for conducting a relationship - usually the woman is always at fault - while it's an impeccable lesson to teach your children, since in later life they will then always be able to blame you for anything and everything).

One of the past masters of the blame game is Janet Albrechtsen, aka Dame Slap, who brings a firm hand to any classroom terror who tries to escape their obvious guilt.

Take for example the rise of the BNP in the European Parliament elections. According to Turning of the tide in Europe, this is all the fault of liberals and the left:

How horrifying it must be for the Left to discover that they are partly responsible for the rise of anti-immigration parties such as the BNP. When people feel disenfranchised, ignored by mainstream politicians who have failed to treat them as adults entitled to a serious debate about immigration and a fading national identity, they will resort to unattractive fringe parties to vent their anger.

Which reminds me of my own very astute analysis of Nazism, which pinned the blame on the dissolute, wretched liberals and artists of the Weimar republic, with their fascination with expressionism, dissonant music and prostitutes as a kind of poetic muse. 

Normal healthy Germans, unable to share in this decadence, and feeling that politicians were failing to treat them as adults, and demanding a serious debate about a fading national identity, naturally resorted to unattractive fringe parties to vent their anger. Oh and of course there's also the healthy question of xenophobia, ignored by the liberals who ran the Weimar republic into the ground.

Now you might try to argue that there were other factors involved, thereby clearly establishing that you are a liberal twit.

Which also reminds me of exactly why Australia has indulged in curry bashing of late. Nothing to do with disenfranchised Australians fortunately, but to do with all those other wogs, spicks, Pacific islanders, and persons of 'middle eastern appearance', and blacks (as if their claim that they were here first somehow gave them a free kick).

But perhaps you dispute this analysis?

For better analysis, you need only jump in a taxi to understand what happens when there is a sense that a nation has lost its way. My taxi driver from Heathrow told me he voted BNP for the first time. The next day, another taxi driver said the same. Another day, another taxi driver, another first-time BNP voter. For them, mainstream parties stopped listening to the concerns of working-class people about immigration. Likewise, you will learn more from the letters pages of British newspapers than from the reams of so-called expert analysis devoted to denouncing the BNP's success as a depressing moment for democracy. "The political process must address such concerns, not simply dismiss them as wrong. Denial simply makes things worse, and repression fuels rage among people who feel they have lost their country and want it back," one correspondent wrote to The Independent.

Well I always jump into a taxi to discover that a nation has lost its way, though in Sydney all too frequently it's more likely that the taxi driver has lost his way, and refuses to switch off the meter. But whenever that happens I usually think this is just a depressing moment in  my day, and then pander to his concerns by giving him an extra large tip. Because after all denial simply makes things worse, and repression fuels rage, especially amongst passengers who've lost their sense of direction and just want to get out of the taxi.

Thank the lord this analysis has nothing to do with taxi-drivers being Britain's grumpiest workers, driven mad by the prospect of ferrying around the likes of Janet Albrechtsen in London, while secretaries are the happiest (I know, I know it was only a survey for a comedy channel, but hey we're not into rocket science here). But as well as the grumpiest, Albrechtsen might also picked the best workforce to sample, because despite what you might hear, little more than five per cent of black cab drivers in London are black or Asian.

What's missing from Albrechtsen's analysis is any sense of post world war 11 immigration patterns in the UK, with mass immigration from the West Indies (and other places such as Poland) heading to the UK in the fifties as a response to labor shortages - having fought for empire, they could also make use of legislation that allowed people from the empire and commonwealth unhindered access to the UK because they carried a British passport. 

Oh those silly deluded empire lovers with their belief in Britain as a cosmopolitan force for world good, mother country to so many people - except when they actually put the rhetoric to the test.

By the seventies, this legislation had been repealed, with a racial bias using the parent or grandparent born in the UK provison. Nonetheless, from 1945, where non-white residents numbered in the thousands, by 1970 they'd reached 1.4 million, with the likes of Enoch "rivers of blood" Powell stirring the pot. In the seventies Idi Amin added to the flow, and by the eighties Brixton riots were all the go, followed by a fresh round of asylum seekers in the nineties and more racial and ethnic tensions.

In what can only be construed as a kind of coded dishonesty, Albrechtsen fails to mention once what the current tensions revolve around, and that's the sense of hostility towards Islamic immigration, especially because of its perceived connection with fundamentalist inspired terrorist acts. Even the bad old days of the IRA didn't quite grip the imagination in the same way.

Instead Albrechtsen piles on a heap of vague generalities, which sound like the usual Colebatchian stuff about end of empire, rather than the straightforward prejudice of a taxi driver. Cop this long winded analysis as an example:

Growing immigrant communities are changing Europe to suit their own cultural identities. They are able to do so only because so many European countries have been left confused and enervated, losing their own sense of self. The march of modernity and globalisation, said the ruling political elites and much of the media, requires an unquestioning acceptance of immigration, regardless of the clash of values. The move away from the old-fashioned notion of solidarity and shared values in favour of diversity and multicultural moral relativism is most apparent in the area of women's rights, where increasing numbers of immigrants from different cultures do not share the West's commitment to equality.

Albrechtsen attributes the analysis to Christopher Caldwell, but there's no doubt she comes across as fervently in favor of the homogenous theory of society - while blaming elites for taking a ludicrously short-sighted view of the costs and consequences of immigration, and talking only about immigration in stupid and dishonest ways.

But perhaps the stupidest and most dishonest way to talk about immigration is to think you can simply say stop it, or we'll all go blind. The world is on the move, the world has always been on the move, and as conditions get worse in some countries, the urge to escape and seek a better lifestyle elsewhere will not go away. And the notion that you can build a wall - as the United States has tried with Mexico - and that it will work, and that this is a solution, is nothing to do with elites or short-sighted thinking. It's to do with practicalities as much as perceptions.

Nor is Albrechtsen talking sense when she starts rabbiting on about people proposing to ban the BNP. Many people don't like it, but racism and xenophobia has been a staple diet of extremists in all countries for generations (try getting a whiff of right wing Japanese nationalism for a dose of xenophobic horror). 

The same could be said of the recent elections for the European Parliament. If the many messages and political warnings that resonate from the results are heeded, then the elections will have served Europe and Britain well. Only a more honest discussion about immigration - and the importance of national identity - will prevent further political gains to parties that know how to manipulate the concerns of people such as my early morning taxi driver. Repressing these parties will be interpreted as repressing the genuine concerns of voters. If that happens, Britain - and Europe - will learn an even tougher lesson about repression when there is an even stronger, more unfortunate backlash against immigration and open borders.

Well ain't that a classic opaque fudge. So is she in favor of immigration and open borders, and against unfortunate backlashes? Or is she against immigration and open borders, and after an honest and open discussion of immigration and national identity, wants it to stop? Is it a genuine concern, or is it something chit chat can resolve, or is it all just because extremist parties have learned how to manipulate concerns?

Well of course the rest is easy peasy. The BNP is the fault of the elites, the large swaths of the west which have failed to discuss the consequences of fast-growing immigration honestly and openly.

Once again we are reminded that multiculturalism rendered such discussion distasteful, where elites presented immigration as a necessary part of a tolerant society, no matter how incompatible the values of these migrants. All cultures were equal, they preached, while deriding Western culture as somehow less equal. Any reservations about the costs and consequences of immigration were discarded as vile xenophobia from the ignorant, intolerant masses.

There are so many straw men in this set of propositions that it's no wonder post modernist relativists are responsible unilaterally for the breakdown of western civilization as we know it. Psst please no one mention Islam or the funny head gear they make women folk wear. As compared to the supreme love of selfless feminism and female equality on display in the west.

But what to do? Well perhaps next time you can afford to catch a taxi, perhaps you should talk about it with your taxi driver. Unless of course he's Indian, in which case forget your multicultural instincts and your willingness to treat all people as equal and bash the shit out of him. Especially if you think blame gaming and name calling is the rational way to begin an open debate.

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