Immigration

face-screaming-in-fearImmigration.  There, I said it.

Surely one of the top ten most inflammatory words in the English language or, indeed, in any language it’s translated to.  Merely to utter the word is to be accused of racism, whatever that is, whatever people think it is.

There are many entire books written on the subject, there are innumerable articles for every perspective.  Personally, I subscribe to the concept of one race, the human race.  As a gardener I’m very well acquainted with familial variations and similarities both of the genus and its variants.  I can only view human beings in the same way.  One genus, one “race”, a word coined specifically to identify the human genus and later adopted for pseudo-scientific and political purposes.  Indeed, with our relatively advanced understanding of genetic science (a word derived, fairly obviously, from the same root as genus), DNA, phenotypes and genotypes, one could say it has now become part of mainstream science.  That’s a shame, giving the word a false importance in the hands of the wrong-minded. Having now entered the realm of establishment science it is thus with us, probably forever.

‘Race’ is actually only about “other”, nothing more.  It’s a word that is used for political and social manipulation and readily adopted by those looking for a way of expressing hatred for their own neighbours.  Do sentient beings *actually believe* that those with a different skin colour, nose, hair, whatever are somehow a sub-species?  Yeah, some do, but the rest of us encourage that to gestate and to mature, every time we buy into the word’s use in this context.

Let’s see if I can find any common ground with my reader.  It is patently true that people, whose appearance separates them out from other people, have genes that demonstrate their geographic origins that we can now identify and whose movement across the globe through history, we can map with significant accuracy.  Genes, we know, adapt through evolution, as a result of the environment in which the organism exists.  Cross-fertilisation, cross-breeding and the processes of evolution themselves cause mutations/variations to occur over time.  Does any serious thinker believe that any one of these variants is any less human than another?  Less humanitarian?  Less intelligent?  If you’re one of those, please don’t read any further as I’d feel tainted by the thought.

There are of course substantial differences in human beings from different regions of the earth, different countries even. Not just in appearance, in perspective, in attitudes, in practices but these are entirely cultural and have nothing to do with genetics, nothing whatsoever.

Ultimately, human beings are tribal and we are tribal for good reason.  Recognising that we are tribal is the beginning of an understanding of difference, of other.  We are referred to as social beings but many animals could be described that way because, for most of them, the genetic drivers are the same: survival.

We associate with our families and are ultimately protective of them.  Survival.  We associate with other families that we come to know, who seem to share common purpose and values.  We form societies based on various concepts (be they behavioural, geographical, political, organised by belief structures) or common interest.  Survival.

We can all think of such structures, from the extended family, to the village.  From the bridge club, to the football team.  From a religious faith, to a political party.  Our life is made up of a series of tribal/familial bonds with others who share similarities, of one kind or another.  We are naturally cautious of other.  Other, historically, has tended to be a portent of doom.  Of invasion, of subjugation, of violence, theft, rape and death.  Our genes are locked into recognition of other and of erecting protective strategies in defence of our tribe, of ourselves.  Luckily, it’s not our inclination to socialise that brings us together, it’s our common defence, of which socialisation is a tool, as it is for almost all animals.  What gives us the edge over those other animals, what offers the possibility of finding ways to overcome our fear of other, without surrendering our common or even personal defence, of thereby being able to harness and exploit other, for the betterment of our race, is our sentience, our ability to rationalise.  As a sentient, rational human being, I know that there is no earthly reason why the colour of my neighbour’s skin, eyes or hair, the length of his nose or the language that he speaks, should, of itself, pose any threat to me or my family.  Were that this was all we had to address but sadly, it’s not.

We rarely exist in one tribe, these days, as once we did.  In the past, everyone in our tribe looked like us, spoke like us, pretty much shared the same cultural views as us.  Naturally, being human, we are an inventive bunch.  We have invented plenty of divisions within each tribe such as class, gender, physical prowess, wealth and so on.  Being competitive creatures we can use this for sport and entertainment but, inevitably, it turns into distinction, identification, separation, other.  We hardly needed any external other to feed our innate s but that external “other” is orders of magnitude more threatening than anything we could create for ourselves.

Today, few societies in the west exist in such an homogeneous tribe but some smaller, constituent parts do, some towns and villages very much do.  Some whole countries do.  If we were for a moment to agree that a more enlightened, sentient acceptance of other is a good and beneficial thing to strive for, then we must agree to consider how *best* this could be achieved.  I would make the suggestion that forcing those communities, those societies to adapt by thrusting “other” upon them rapidly, in substantial numbers and without carefully thinking through of the wide ramifications that will impinge on their established and relatively undisturbed way of life, is perhaps not up there in any definition of “best” that most of us could recognise.

In short, immigration has been botched.  Both the indigenous populations and the immigrants themselves, have been very poorly served by their hapless leaders and by the structures of authority.  The damage that has been done will take decades or generations to put right and no amount of authoritarian reaction or “liberal” heart-bleeding will help.  Communities have been damaged, cohesion has been damaged, the dream of cultural integration has been, potentially, fatally wounded.

Human beings have big hearts.  Human beings recognise humanity, they recognise their brothers and sisters in different skins and with their many different tongues.  But appearing to take someone’s job, their home, their livelihood, is about as close as it gets to confirming the genetic fear of rape and pillage.  When some of those “other” human beings form themselves into gangs that systematically and purposefully, set about actually targeting and raping the children of their host nation, we have a problem.  When all the structures of authority, designed to protect society against such things collude, through fear of nothing worse than being branded racist, we have a problem.  When “the system” allows such things to carry on year after awful year, with hundreds, even thousands of young girls being raped and abandoned, we have a problem.  When we are no longer allowed to call a spade a spade, we have a problem.  When our elected politicians are hounded and forced from office for having the temerity to speak the truth on such matters, boy do we have a problem.

You might notice that I skipped over the deployment of terrorist atrocities within the host nation.  I chose instead this example of ‘tension’ in our communities, to use a consciously downplayed adjective.  Terrorism, which some would hold as clear-cut, simple and readily condemned, is potentially defensible in the minds of some.  One man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.  However deluded the individual may be, there is always some tortured justification that can be conjured in his own defence.  One woman’s rapist, however, is a rapist to all men and women.  One man’s paedophile is everyone’s paedophile.  There’s no possible room for ambiguity, for justification, for defence.  This is the worst possible crime that any guest could perform in the home of their host.

Most of us get that not all Pakistani Muslim men are rapists and paedophiles.  Most of us also get that such perverted cultural and religious beliefs did nothing to stand in the way of these atrocious crimes.  Not all of us believe that, were similar occurrences to arise again – assuming of course that they’ve stopped – that our government and its institutions would behave any differently.  Personally, I am fully expecting to discover that individuals in positions of authority, did more than turn a blind eye but may also have profited and/or partaken for themselves.  Human beings are as capable of the grossest acts of indecency, wherever they originate, as they are of the most glorious acts of selflessness and humanity.  What protects us, we all know, is our culture.

Culture is formed by society, by the base constituency that inhabits the tribal domain.  We bring our children up, hopefully, steeped in that culture.  We create laws and structures to express what we believe to be acceptable behaviour in that society and we trust one another, for the most part, to be imbued with a greater or lesser degree of similar culture.  Adults do not arrive fully formed into our culture.  They arrive inculcated with their own and the fact that it is not our culture does not make it bad or wrong, as a whole.  It does inevitably mean, however, that it’s different and how great that difference is determines the scale of the challenge. If we believe our culture is reasonably well constructed, reasonably representative of the values and behaviours that we believe to be acceptable, if we believe it takes some eighteen years to fully educate our children in such ways, then we should expect to take a little time to assist those from other cultures to assimilate into ours.

I’m not suggesting that Pakistani society dictates that it’s okay to form gangs and rape young, vulnerable women on an industrial scale.  I do know that they have some pretty strange notions, though.  Stoning a girl to death for being raped, being one such anachronism.  You get the picture.  When an adult male arrives in this country, inculcated with such aberrant notions, it’s going to take some gentle and prolonged absorption in our culture before that prejudice mutates.  One could make such a case for a very long list of cultural differences amongst the populations of the world’s countries.

I, of course, choose the hard case to illustrate my point.  The hard cases are the most difficult to address and are the ones that will sink deeply into the psyche of the host population, proving all the more difficult to erase.  They are the ones it is easy and obvious upon which to gain consensus but there are a plethora of other, sometimes subtle issues, sometimes not so subtle.  This week, a headline appeared suggesting that a young “christian” (read non-muslim) child was placed into the foster care of a devout muslim family.  Pictures of a woman cloaked from head to toe in black garb, rather foreign to the western taste, accompanied the “horror story” which suggested the child will have to learn Arabic and to recite the Kor’an.  I’ve no idea how much truth (or mitigating factors) there is in the story but if there is any truth at all then it is a symptom of an authority that has no understanding of society, whatsoever.  It would provoke the same reaction as an article, featuring pictures of “Strange Fruit”, published in a Mississippi chronicle, alongside the headline “They’re coming for you!”.

Newly arrived immigrants to any country, face a range of challenges which vary in intensity, in direct proportion to the difference in cultures between theirs and their host country.  A black face in a culture which is predominantly black, raises less obvious appearance of “other”.  Some seem to think that’s all it takes to assimilate but ask any black African and he will tell you that the language that immigrant speaks, his dialect, his facial appearance, even his name, all these things label him as “other” and may to a greater or lesser degree colour the extent of the challenge he faces, in his path to integration and acceptance.  Make that a black face in a culture that is predominantly white and the scale of that challenge escalates dramatically.  Hopefully, no one is asking themselves “Why?” but just on the off chance, lets delve a little.  This could get a little hairy.

If I call a fat, black man a “black bastard”, I will be accused of racism.  If I call him a “fat bastard”, I probably won’t.  Go figure?  If I call him a “fat, black bastard”, I think I’m back in the racist camp, why?  If he wore glasses and had red hair (shock horror but it happens) then I could call him a “Fat, four-eyed, ginger bastard” and I’d be ‘okay’ but if I bring the word black back into that list, racist.  Could it be that I’m just being abusive and that as in most forms of abuse the person’s most obvious characteristics are the ones we choose to belittle so as to cause the greatest possible reaction/offence?  Correct.  Abuse is abuse and there is no need for any sub-species of abuse as there is no need for it in human beings.  Racist abuse, fatist abuse, hair abuse, spectacle abuse, it’s all just *abuse*.  It’s all offensive, it’s meant to be and for that reason, it’s just not pleasant or polite.

All of this simply reflects the unpleasant nature of human discourse by certain people, in certain situations.  It’s no different, and no less unpleasant, than the abuse delivered by a Rangers’ fan at a Celtic fan, by one boxing protagonist at another, it happens all the time in every walk of life.  It is not racism.  It is abuse. It is used by feminists and misogynists, by warring nations and Anti-Fascist “protesters”.  It’s very unpleasant.  It is not a crime.  Abuse could be deemed common assault.  It is certainly not a special category of crime, worthy of the pronoun “hate”.  We are debasing our language.  Let’s keep it simple and unadulterated.

If a bunch of thugs wants to march through the streets, shouting abuse at any particular group within our society, or indeed without, then I would cheerfully see them all rounded up and charged with being thoroughly unpleasant.  For this indiscretion, the penalty would be community service, performing good deeds for the very group they have insulted.  In the process, they might learn a little about their target group and lessen their ignorance.  I would not want to see such things designated as a “hate crime” with all the Orwellian connotations of the term.

If this same group is set upon by a bunch of masked, middle-class gangsters, beating individuals into a coma with placards emblazoned “NO MORE HATE” then please arrest them and have them charged as appropriate with Actual or Grievous Bodily Harm and make the parents pay a substantial fine whilst attending remedial parenting courses.  Folks, there is no rocket science in any of this, there’s just politically and ignorantly motivated hysteria that confuses us into thinking there has been some enormous, evolutionary jump backwards.  None of this is new, aside from the stupid words we use.  It is all evidence of the fact that “progressive societies” are no such thing.

So, back to immigration and to this much misunderstood, grossly over used and abused term “multiculturalism”.  I’ll leave you each to find your preferred definitions online but don’t blame me if you come away none the wiser.  For me, multiculturalism is an anachronism.  I view it as the opposite of integration and thereby an enormous mistake.  It’s very ambiguity is an intentional confusion foist upon the world.  On one reading, it is the goal that each nation should welcome distinctly separate cultures, to be continued and celebrated, amongst and beside diverse immigrant groups within a single host nation.  The easiest way to see it is in the modern American concept of prefixing all Americans with their sub-species as in: ‘African American’, ‘Italian American’, ‘Irish American’, etc.  ‘Native American’, not so much anymore, ‘Jewish American’, never really caught on.  Jews prefer to be called either Jews or Americans. Good for them.  I think the social-engineering consultants picture quaint little festivities, ostensibly exhibiting the supposed culture of each sub-species, whilst dressing in native costume, singing rather silly, ancient folk songs in a language no-one understands whilst stuffing themselves with salmonella-infested replicas of the peasant food of their homeland.

Here’s a thing though.  There are some 200 separate countries around the world.  Each one of them would claim at least one national culture, some of them many more.  Every immigrant came from one of these countries to his chosen (or not) host country, generally to “make a better life” for themselves and/or their children.  Their motivations may be exploitation, may be to escape war or persecution aka security but, in all cases, they see the host country as offering something their previous country does not.  So, I’ve got a radical idea.  If you prefer the culture of your country of origin, stay there.  If you prefer that of your host, move there and integrate with it.  If you yearn for your home culture and hope to return to it someday, do your hosts the courtesy of trying to fit in whilst you remain their guest.

I say this as much to white European and other ‘colonial’ “expats” in the Middle-East and Africa as I say it to Jews, Muslims, brown, black, Asian, African, eastern peoples in Western Europe or America/Canada/wherever.  To everyone equally.  If you want to put on a play or other display of art or culture for the education and enjoyment of your host, please feel free.  But please, try to integrate with your host, don’t ghettoise yourselves, don’t demand separate schooling or places of “worship”, separate structures of law and justice.  If you want to live in a Sharia country, Pakistan and others will provide for you.  If you want French to be the national language, move to France.  If you want your child to spend their life in religious supplication to Mohammed, there are many Muslim countries from which to choose, not all of them completely barbaric.  If you want your neighbour to respect your observation of the Sabbath, Israel is probably the place for you.

If you recognise that such arcane practices are what brought you to your host country in the first place, or even if you don’t but still want to obtain of all the benefits of your host country then, for heaven’s sake, INTEGRATE!

I could fill pages with anecdotes but I’ll let this one suffice.  Thirty years or so ago, I was attending some cocktail function that Barclays Bank had thrown and, presumably, they wanted to sell me something, I don’t recall.  I very much recall though, the Tanzanian guy I met there, the only black face in the room, and with whom I enjoyed ten minutes or so of conversation.  I asked him where he lived, he was clearly well educated and his English was very good and whilst many of his compatriots speak English it’s rare to hear it this anglicised, with someone not actually living here.  I assumed therefor that he lived somewhere in England.  “In the Isle of Man”, he replied.  I was more than surprised, I was actually worried for him.  The Isle of Man was/is, shall we say, not known for its progressive liberal politics and I imagined a black face in the late eighties to be something of a rarity there.  “Um, how do you, err, find it there?”, I enquired, trying desperately to allow lines to be read between.  “It’s wonderful!”, he declared. “I’m something of a celebrity on the island.  Everyone wants to be seen with me, I get invited to all the best functions, it really couldn’t be better!”.  “Are there many black people on the island?”, I asked.  “Oh no”, he countered emphatically, in case I had any lingering doubts, “I’m the only one!”.

That, right there, tells you everything you need to know about tribalism, discrimination, integration, oh and an early version of what we now call ‘virtue signalling’.  “I’m not a racist, look, I have a black guest at my soiree.  I’m so cool, ice wouldn’t melt.”.  Nobody minds one immigrant but at some point there’s a variable number that becomes ‘an army’, ‘an invasion’, ‘a flood’.  One is a celebrity, two is probably just a way of more soirees having a black guest in their number but three?  Maybe three is too many for one small, rather insular island, who can say?  One strange African face was never going to threaten an entire community, especially when that one spoke like them, understood their culture and was so highly prized and sought after.  There comes a point though where one more is one too many or too fast or too much ‘other’.  Numbers are important, speed of arrival of numbers is also important.  Assimilation or integration is crucial.  If we want, as I do, to live in a society that is tolerant of all its members, regardless of colour, ethnicity, origin, indeed effectually blind to such things, then culture is the magic glue that will bind us.  It will dispel fear and ensure faith and unity.  To suggest, to even hint at the concept that separate, disparate and rigidly maintained cultures can exist cohesively as one nation state is, at our current level of evolution, a very dangerous pipe-dream.

The children of immigrants and even more, the grandchildren, these are our future and “good immigrants” (hold that thought) have no other goal for their children than that they should grow up in the culture of the parents’ chosen host, indivisible from the society that surrounds them.  So, what’s a “good immigrant”, then.  Essentially, just as I portrayed them.  They are people who have, either by force of unpleasant circumstance or by choice, migrated to another country which provided them with an opportunity for life, security, safety and prosperity in return for honesty, diligence and respect for the laws and customs, the culture of that host nation.  They don’t have to be perfect, few humans are ever likely to be, and no migrant is likely to be any more perfect than the indigenous population.

No-one is asking that they erase all memory of their country of origin, of the culture of their forefathers.  Tales will be told at home by the old folk, handed down through generations.  Societies and clubs will be formed to celebrate aspects of their culture that are worthy of preservation.  Language and art, history and folklore, all these things are worthy.  Restaurants will add diversity of cuisine, theatre will shine a light on movement and expression. They are all the stuff of humanity, of this incredible species, this genius.

So, what now?  A country like the UK, has stored up many problems for itself that will take many years to resolve, a generation or two at least to put right but if we are to achieve even that, our government and our institutions have to effect radical change.  We have to draw lines.  We have to recognise that we have made many huge and catastrophic mistakes.  We have to do things differently, better.  The recent report by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration, entitled: INTEGRATION NOT DEMONISATION, is a welcome start but I fear that hapless politicians are never actually going to get this right.  The thrust of the report is still, “We know what’s good for you, stop griping about immigration whilst we tweak things around the edges to make us feel superior about ourselves.”.  The full report is available at http://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/themes/570513f1b504f500db000001/attachments/original/1503672973/TC0016_AAPG_Integration_not_Demonisation_Report_1-Page_view.pdf?1503672973

It’s not as if this is a rarity.  There have been many reports and debates in all sorts of government-led forums as well as in and by other interested groups and organisations.  It’s not that there isn’t recognition of a problem, it isn’t that it isn’t talked about but there’s scant sign of anyone willing to stand up and spout home truths.  As we’ve proved, time after time, those that do are politely asked to impale themselves on their sword and never to show their face again in public.

Let’s talk truths.  Around two hundred years ago there were a little over one billion souls on this earth.  One hundred years later there were more than 2 billion.  Today that number is estimated at 7.5 billion and we’re due to hit ten billion in around thirty years time.  Notice how population growth slipped off the public radar in the last forty years?  A very large proportion of those ten billion, will be living in countries with governments and economies much less stable than our own – and with a climate much less temperate.  Whether by virtue of poverty, war or climate change, there is destined to be a large number who are determined to beat a path to our door in search of that “better life” or possibly just an innate desire to survive.  We are an archipelago of a little under seventy million inhabitants and we are quite crowded, as things stand.  If we doubled our population, by taking in another 70 million, we wouldn’t make the teensiest dent in the numbers wanting to come here but we would make the country we know and love, totally uninhabitable in any way that any of us, alive today, could conceive.

What to do?  Well, it’s been four years now since James Lovelock, the Granddaddy of the Environmentalist/Green movement, stunned his faithful by recanting their philosophy.  In January of 2013 he said: “I am an environmentalist and founder member of the Greens but I bow my head in shame at the thought that our original good intentions should have been so misunderstood and misapplied. We never intended a fundamentalist Green movement that rejected all energy sources other than renewable, nor did we expect the Greens to cast aside our priceless ecological heritage because of their failure to understand that the needs of the Earth are not separable from human needs. We need take care that the spinning windmills do not become like the statues on Easter Island, monuments of a failed civilisation.”

He went on in related passages to describe what amounted to “hoards” of peoples from the equatorial south, beating a path to our door, in search of dry land as much as anything.  The environmentalists quickly organised a symposium of the great and the good to debate this revelation and to discuss what could be done, given this new-found wisdom.  Predictably, this being England, discussion focused mainly on, “Where will they go to school? Can the sewers cope? What about the NHS, do we need to build more hospitals?”.  No, you muppets, you missed the point.  What Lovelock was implying is that if you plan on surviving, on continuing to simply exist, then you need to build defences, walls, fortifications, you need to turn these islands into a self-sufficient fortress.  Not a pleasant thought, right?  Of course, we won’t.  It would be frowned upon, don’t you know, as is any act of survival, these days.  “Petty nationalism”, “racism”, “fascism”, “isolationism”, every epithet of “liberal” abuse would be heaped upon any such suggestion – as I risk here.  Well, I hope my Grandchildren don’t have to pay the price for such high-minded idealism but I fear they will.  How merciful that I won’t be around to witness it.

Tackling immigration?  The ideal placement of deck-chairs on a well-known and long-since-submerged, ocean-going liner, spring to mind.

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From Avowed Internationalist to Brexiter in a few easy steps

It was 1975, I was not quite 22 years old and my then wife and I were running our own retail business. Courtesy of what became the runaway inflation of the then Labour government, we were about to do rather nicely, thank you, as prices the following year would start to go up every week without fail. In truth, the inflation was of course a legacy of both the past Conservative government and our joining of the EEC two years earlier.

I had never taken part in the democratic process. I’d had a chance or two, both general elections in the previous year, but I felt no particular motivation to participate. This one was different. Despite the Brexit campaigners being wheeled out onto my TV screen today – who insist that when they voted in ’75 they thought they were just voting for a free trade agreement – I have a totally different recollection. A very vivid recollection, actually. I was born just a few years after the war, the second world war. My entire life to that day, and this, is significantly coloured by the events of that time. Back then, I was told all day, every day as a boy growing up in that depressed and shattered world that I should be grateful to every adult, grateful, respectful and obedient, because each and everyone had “fought and died” for my freedom. Well, apparently not. Given that they were, to a man and to a woman, standing there fully flesh and blood giving me this well-worn lecture. Of course they had a point but when you hear this, day in day out from the day you were born, well, it wears a little. I learned a lot of history, a lot about religion, about kings and queens and governments and the disagreements between each. I noted that in none of the recent wars of our continent had any of the protagonists actually sacrificed themselves for these fanatical beliefs they held but it seemed to me that they had been more than willing to sacrifice a great many others. Windsor

Much of it seemed to revolve around the incestuous sexual and familial relationships of Europe’s aristocracy and other hanger-on wannabes with rather too much wealth, power and privilege. You’d think that could turn me into a rampant socialist but I was lucky, I was born with a little too much savvy for that. I wasn’t, however, born with any more power to resist all this nonsense than any other mortal being. Those in power had power over me and I resented it, I opposed it and I shall continue to do so till my dying day which, thankfully, is a little further off than it might have seemed on some previous occasions.

It became clear to me at a very early age that it must take an incredible power to be able to convince lovely, warm, innately nice human beings to commit such acts of savagery and brutality as it takes to kill just one other lovely human being, let alone to kill them in their tens of thousands. Though there is of course much more to it than just this, the culprits, the real weapons were blatantly evident to this very young boy and thus to anyone with half a brain and the questioning need which we are each born to sate. Every army had a rallying call.

Every army needed a uniform to wear, a flag to march behind, and a god to fight for.

UnionFlag

For a light-hearted interlude on the topic you must check out Eddie Izzard  on the subject of flags and conquest but for now you’re stuck with this more serious rendition.  Is it any wonder that I grew up with an abhorrence of national borders, patriotic identities and don’t get me started on the religious nutters.  Here’s how passionate about this, I was.  I have in my hand my passport issued by the World Service Authority on 13th April 1973 in Basle, Switzerland.  Now here’s one for autograph hunters everywhere, it’s signed by the one and only James Haynes.WSA Passport 3

That’s Jim Haynes, co-founder of IT (International Times) and also co-founder with Garry Davis of the World Passport Authority whose document number 03543 I possess and cherish. Amazingly I discover Jim is still very much alive and well and some eighty-two years old but still the coolest of guys  who, it appears, is about to invite me to Sunday dinner at his home in Paris. In March of 1974 I travelled out of the UK (that was the most difficult part and a whole chapter in its own right) for the very first time in my life and through France where I was greeted as travelling royalty and then into Spain, where the immigration officer was too busy picking his nose to care about what passport I was carrying or even whether I had one at all. My wife (to be) and I had made it to Ibiza, where we would later have to run for our lives due to the lack of a work permit and the then legal foundation of denunciation. Later that same year the French government put an end to my most favoured passport office and found both Jim and Garry guilty of “confusing the public” – only in France, and after they’d been so magnanimous to me at Calais!

You might think I digress but I assure you not. The point is this, albeit a very long point and I’m sure to some a tedious one. It’s about the EU referendum. You see, what I recall of that matter in 1975, the very first referendum ever held in this country and, as now, for all the wrong reasons, was that a great deal was made about peace and security. Something which played to the heart of what I’ve been talking about. I probably didn’t mention it but I was also, at the time, a great advocate of coalition government. I’ve just had one recently, the only one in my lifetime and I must say, whilst far from my idea of perfect, it was probably the best government of that lifetime – and for exactly the reasons that this, then, seven year-old figured it would be, way back then. Not holding political parties in any esteem whatsoever, that’s another chapter, and not being a lover of monarchy or, in particular, the Pan-European monarchy headed by that illustrious family from Hapsburg and belatedly of Windsor, that most of us call simply “The Germans”, the idea of a coalition of nation states across Europe – especially involving the two key protagonists, France and Germany – seemed to me like a bloody good thing. A lot less chance of bombs across the border and a lot more chance of a good debate across the dining table. The clincher for me, however, was the promise, and I remember it as if it were yesterday, of “the dissolution of national borders, freedom of travel across Europe and the lack of any need to carry a passport”.

Coming just over a year since a Special Branch officer did everything he legally could to stop me leaving my own country and then, three month’s later, everything he illegally could to stop me re-entering – all because I’d had the audacity to carry a “Mickey-Mouse passport” as he put it – what other way could I possibly vote? I took up the democratic challenge with gusto and made my mark on the ballot paper. The very next day it was announced, I had been on the winning side! Any day now I would get my wish….my right….the fruits of my democratic labours…. One year …and then it went, a decade or four passed and to this day I still cannot leave my own country, despite any law to the contrary, without presenting a valid passport to, well, not even to the authorities, no, just to a fledgling flight attendant who will then allow me to board a plane, a bus with wings. Those with wheels are perfectly safe, apparently.

I could feel harshly treated. I do. I could feel that they didn’t exactly play the game, that this wasn’t exactly cricket. It wasn’t and I do. I actually feel cheated, rather badly betrayed. But then I remember, it’s democracy, init.

..and now I feel foolish. I played their game by their rules and I should know better. In 1979 it was too early to realise that. I was still giving them the benefit of the doubt, still waiting for it all to come to pass so when someone suggested that having a woman run the country might be a good idea, I agreed. I voted. I won. I’ve never regretted anything more in my entire life. Frank Skinner got it right on the eve of the ’97 election when he said, “The thing about Margaret Thatcher was, you always knew where you were with her. Shame I didn’t have a paddle”.

It was clear to me that this democracy thing was a tricky old bugger and perhaps I wasn’t clever enough to play this game. Or perhaps that’s all I really realised, that it was a game and that I was winning was just an illusion, shurely shome mishtake. I could cope with all of that but what really pisses me off? really? well it’s the fact that I’m now being told that we’re to have the same vote all over again, oh and why? Because people younger than me were never given a say, last time. This is true but only because they weren’t fucking born, you muppets! There must be a great many things they missed out on for the same reason. Luckily for them, penicillin was invented before they (and I) were born, should we do away with that too so they can experience life before antibiotics? Perhaps we could restart world war two, I’m sure Putin would play ball, then they could pick up a gun and play a full and equal part in that little tea party? Why stop there? We could bring back the Spanish Inquisition, restart the Crusades (oops we tried that didn’t we) the Witchfinder General, the Plague, the Great Fire of London, re-stage events at Runnymede and have the kiddywinks redraft Magna Carta in text-speak. Fuck it, Tony Blair got to do that, rewrite our ancient constitution and he’s the same age as me, much as it galls me to acknowledge it. The real “why”, of course, is anything but. That first referendum, the first the country had ever had, was all because the Labour Party of the day was split down the middle over Europe and Harold Wilson hoped to cling on to leadership of his party….and the real reason we’re having another one, the third in our history, (not to forget the little one on changing the electoral system) is because the Tory Party is split down the middle over Europe and David Cameron is desperate to hang onto leadership of his party…. But even that’s not it, no, what really pisses me off – apart from democracy, political parties, the European monarchy and religion, well it’s workers who won’t do the job they’re paid to do, continue to take the shilling but are constantly asking others to pick up their slack.

Call-me-Dave is currently paid £142,500 a year – by me personally, I think. Honestly, you should see my tax bills. On top of him we have twenty-one cabinet ministers and an unknown but ever increasing number of government ministers who are each paid £134,565/year. To that we should add that there are some six hundred more MPs each paid £74,000/year and then there’s the civil service….I can’t readily obtain a number but it runs into billions of pounds…

So, let me get this right. We all pay all of you. We pay you to keep the streets clean, keep us safe in our beds and to keep the hell away from our bank and Internet accounts. We let you play in “The House”, wield your “power”, enjoy your games, declare war on smaller defenceless countries when you feel like it and to keep the lights on, if you would, please. In short, we pay you to run the place whilst the rest of us are busy trying to earn enough money to keep you in this comfortable lifestyle. We pay billions of pounds so that you can be surrounded by the brightest and best university-educated civil servants, statisticians, researchers and economists so that you can do your job and have, at your fingertips, the very best information on hand to help you make decisions in the course of your work. Well, frankly, if all of that doesn’t buy enough knowledge and brainpower to figure out whether we’re better in the EU or without, then I hardly think the rest of us can help you out much. Nonetheless, you want us to make this decision for you so as to deflect blame or responsibility from you and your legacy? Is there anything you can do on your own? What is it exactly that we are paying all that money for? Didn’t we just spend a big fat sweaty wad of cash having an election to put you into those jobs in the first place? There. That’s what really pisses me off.

A plague on all your houses oh and while I’m at it, well done. I’m now an avowed Brexiter but it’s nothing that any of you said. No, it was Angela Merkel’s unashamed electioneering, handing a despotic nation like present-day Turkey the keys to our front and back doors (and another big fat sweaty wad of cash) using shell-shocked migrants as pawns on the European chess board and under the heel of her legacy. Closely followed, two day’s later, by Mario Draghi, head of the ECB, printing yet more imaginary, digital billions to hand out to zombie corporations and hapless banks. He and his lunatic colleagues in about 20 or more other EU nations, of similar philosophical belief, genuinely think that the route to prosperity is at the expense of the EU m, our children, and our great-grandchildren so he and his ilk can carry on riding this massive gravy-train. The truth, that neither he and none of these Central Bankers or politicians will admit to, is that they don’t have the faintest idea how to resolve the global mountain of debt they have collectively accumulated and under which we are all being suffocated. Their favoured weapon of choice is to create as much inflation as they can – that’s inflation that every man woman and child will have to pay rather than the real culprits. They do this in order to devalue that debt to a manageable number…and that’s going to require a great deal of inflation for a great many years. You know what happens to the rest of us when we can’t pay our debts, dont you? Unfortunately, as they very well know, if every over-indebted country in the world were to declare the truth – bankruptcy – it would be the end of civilisation as we have come to know it. Some claim he came late to this s conversion having had eight years to study the failure of similar policies elsewhere in the world….personally I think that after procrastinating for so many years, and in the absence of any good idea, just following the lead of others seemed like the one option he could take and claim that he was just doing the same as every other country. What he doesn’t seem to realise is that it hasn’t worked, anywhere so far. Japan is still in the same position as they were three decades ago but hey, at least he won’t be blamed for coming up with such a bad idea all on his own. So I’m for out and I can hardly believe I’m uttering those words but I am, I really am.

The one thing I promise I won’t be doing in this election/referendum, and haven’t since learning my lesson all those years ago, is to vote.  I would probably end up on the “winning side” but we’ve learned that lesson now, haven’t we.  As someone far better known than I once said, “You really shouldn’t vote, you know.  It only encourages the bastards”.