Prime Minister David Cameron is set to make a speech on immigration today which, to the very vocal displeasure of Vince Cable and doubtless many Lib Dems, is designed to appeal to the core and right of the Conservative party. According to the BBC article:
Communities have been affected by incomers who are unable to speak English and unwilling to integrate, [Cameron] will argue.
“That has created a kind of discomfort and disjointedness in some neighbourhoods. This has been the experience for many people in our country - and I believe it is untruthful and unfair not to speak about it and address it.”
Granted, I’m probably far from the average member of the public in my opinions, and certainly I’m far from core Tory material. But I see that disjointedness as more of a good thing than a bad one.
Many years ago, I lived for a while in the village of Easton, on Portland. It was blessed with both a Chinese restaurant and a Chinese take-away, as far as I am aware the only two on the island. When I was there, the restaurant was staffed with Chinese people (or at least those of Chinese descent) – whether they lived on the island or not, I have no idea. But the take-away? Well, I guess they ran out of Chinese people. It was staffed entirely by Brits. 96.8% of the population are of white ethnicity.
I come from, and have since returned to, Bournemouth. Just 30 miles away, it has a population more than 10 times that of the whole of Portland. During most of the year it is home to thousands of university students; in the summer it opens its doors to thousands more foreign language students and a never-ending influx of tourists. I live in an area with a high Brazilian population. Oriental and Middle-Eastern shops are everywhere.
It’s part of the world in a way that Easton is not.
By and large, immigrants naturally pick up enough English to get by – instead of imposing requirements on their proficiency with the language, how about we try to learn each others’ languages?
Instead of imposing some requirement to “integrate” with society (presumably that means reading the Daily Mail, drinking tea and moaning about the weather), why not celebrate each others’ cultures?
More to the point, why not stop pretending that there’s a single homogenous British society for people to integrate with in the first place? My comment about the Daily Mail was only partly in humour. How do you define such a nebulous concept?
I don’t read the Daily Mail, and I rarely drink tea. My instinctive reaction to the phrase “Oh dear, it’s come over all cloudy again, hasn’t it? Typical.” is an impotent rage as I realise that no matter how much of a travesty of conversation it is, in the eyes of the law, it’s still not cause enough to legitimately punch someone in the face.
Like most Brits though, I do love French food, German beer, Italian coffee, chow mein, pizza and chicken tikka masala.
If I’m trying to make a point here, it’s this:
Everyone else’s culture is just as good as ours
Everyone else’s language is just as good as ours
And by the way, everyone else’s food is better than ours.
Let’s stop clinging to an idea of British culture that we can’t even define, and pretending our way of life is under attack from Poles or Pakistanis. Let’s not be Easton.
There’s a whole world out there. Let’s live in it.