Thursday, 8 May 2008

Conversations at work....

. I have to admit that I love political conversations with people who are not overtly political; to me they represent an opportunity to connect with a wider world. It is easy for the politically active to forget that there is a whole world out there which frankly doesn't care for politics, politicians or political issues very much at all. My day at work which included a quite wide-ranging debate on immigration thus was quite an amazing experience.

Less amazing was the amount of unconscious prejudice that was evident in the debate. You know the kind I mean; 'immigrants are a drain on society', 'they put us out of work' and, in a post-9/11 world, the 'they are against this country'. It is easy to dismiss sentiments like this out of hand but to do so would be a mistake especially when we are seeing spotted electoral success for the British National Party. Ok, so that success has been far from spectacular in terms of arithmetic and is usually transient but nonetheless it is there and although they are never likely to become a serious menace the sentiment they are capitalising on could be; especially if it is incorporated into mainstream right-wing thinking.

On the one hand they play the anti-establishment card and on another they feed off the kind of sentiments I heard expressed today. One thing that is made patently clear by the expression of these sentiments is that the liberal media as well as liberal politicians are by no means aggressive enough in attacking the credibility of anti-immigration press 'horror' stories. Another thing is that making multiculturalism the article of faith of the establishment does it no credit in the eyes of people who don't trust that establishment.

Furthermore, compromising on things like a secularist agenda in the name of multiculturalism and freedom for all faiths does far more harm than good. I am thinking faith schools here for anybody who is wondering where that train of thought is leading. Faith schools and the acceptance of them in the name of tolerance are totemic of a left that is more than willing to cut off it's nose to spite it's face. The premise that children of different faiths should be educated separately is deeply intolerant and can only breed further rancour and sectional jealousy.

It is by no means a question of pandering to these sentiments; it is a question of effectively combating them. How do we win the argument for a society which is open to those outside it's borders and welcoming while at the same time can generate a feeling of cohesion and stability??

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