The great ‘Immigration debate’ is one of those great drunken Jacks-in-a-box, one of those recurring national issues which won’t stop rearing its head every once in a while in ‘developed countries’ (God, I hate that term). Being a teenager living in a town/multicultural town/ghetto/failed liberal experiment/ticking timebomb, delete as is your political ideology, and being the child of a parent born in England but with ethnic roots elsewhere while the other parent naturalised and well, naturally I have something to say about it.
If you’re British, you’ll of course have heard of the renewed debates over immigration, particularly Channel 5’s attention-seeking live one the other night. If you’re not British but live in a ‘developed country’, you will of course also be aware of some kind of national immigration worry which also revives itself in your country every few years. You might also have noticed that such debates tend to revive themselves during times of economic crisis, or political crisis a.k.a. the elections are coming up and we need a convenient scapegoat on which to blame our inefficiency.
Arguments (in Britain, there’s a slight variation elsewhere) usually fall down to either:
The immigrants are taking OUR jobs, using OUR resources, and taking away from OUR culture
We need immigrants to do the jobs many British people are unwilling to do/the native British should work harder, immigrants bring diversity and economy to our nation and add to our culture.
As an aside, I think it’s a shame that the word ‘immigrant’ has become such a loaded word. Because quite often, when you see or hear that word, the immediate connotation is of illegal immigrants or of vaguely brown foreigners escaping a poverty-ridden land with a backwards culture. It’s a terrible, single picture which politics and the media has taught us to see every time this issue raises its head, and it not only dehumanises the people involved but stifles debate because everyone has a pre-conceived notion of who these people are as human beings.
To be frank, I don’t think immigration is either a bad or good thing. Like every single issue or ideology or action out there, it has good points and bad points. Both are frequently misconstrued, both are frequently misunderstood and both are frequently exaggerated. People who immigrate bring a lot of things to their community, and naturally they also take some away. Some people who immigrate are horrible people, but many are quite obviously not. Cultural dissonance and the fear of the unknown often blind us to the good of immigration. Multicultural normalcy and an overzealousness towards diversity often blinds us to the bad.
Mass immigration as a sole factor does not and will not destroy nations or their culture. Many people seem to believe immigration is destroying their native culture, but it really isn’t at all. What many people are slow to realise is that culture, like the words we speak and write, is a living thing which changes and grows and expands with each generation. The common assumption is that when another culture comes over here to England, it destroys surrounding White British culture. What is often ignored is that these cultures actually blend with White British culture to create and advance a growing non-race-specific British culture. The same is true in any other country. British and American Pakistanis, for example, are vastly different in culture both from each other and in comparison to native Pakistanis. Being British Nigerian, I found my American relatives strange when they once visited because they were so different to us lot in England, and I can’t imagine the lives or cultural habits of my Italian and German cousins. While actually living in Nigeria for a bit to ‘experience our culture,’ my siblings and I were acutely aware that Nigeria both was and was not our country or our culture. Sure, some first-generation immigrants don’t ‘integrate’ and maintain a proud nationalism or cultural bubble within their host country, but again both the dangers and the existence of this kind of person are overblown, and it is ignored that their offspring will inevitably adopt many of the mannerisms and the culture of the country which is now their own. There’s also the delicious irony that while the native British are worrying about their culture being eroded by foreignness, the children of such immigrants have to deal with their parents worrying that their ethnic culture is being eroded by Britishness. Go figure.
We need immigration and we don’t. We love it and we hate it. When it comes down to it, we cannot simply close our borders to the world and pretend other countries don’t exist. Arguments for there being ‘no more room in England’ are rather nonsensical. Immigration has always existed where two or more nations have met. People have always flocked to places of opportunity and strong economic growth for better lives, as people in small towns and villages did when cities sprung up. People move to the West if it’s viable, economic growth has seen a large number of Western immigrants (often immediately labelled as expatriates, despite many choosing to remain in the countries they move to) living in different parts of Asia and Africa for work as well. Immigration is only in the news again in Britain as a scapegoat for our economic recession, and political parties here grab onto it to mask their failure to do anything about our economic situation. It’s the same breed of beast as the sexuality witchhunt going on in Russia, Nigeria, Uganda and elsewhere; those countries also use those issues to hide governmental corruption and inefficiency. It’s a façade humans have used for centuries – when you’re looking at a red herring or for a scapegoat, you won’t see the failure of your leaders to combat the problems which plague you.
Note: I’m aware of the long gap between my posts, and I’m actually endeavouring to get another two posts out before the end of this month. Unfortunately, my education system hinders my blogging; fortunately, I’ll be free in just under four months…for another four months.