Tag Archives: immigration

On Immigration

A tale of two immigrants.

A while back I visited the offices of a well-off City institution. The man at the desk, in the usual green uniform, was from west Africa, I would deduce, and probably Francophone west Africa. His English was utterly inadequate to carry out the task required –  identify me, identify who I was visiting and tell the latter I had arrived.

His attitude wasn’t much better. After a while he managed to call the person I was seeing. “Meester Martin, Ee ‘ere.”

It is hard not to get annoyed with that City institution. The man was cheap, presumably, and entirely unsuited to the job. He was keeping out of it someone who, indigenous Londoner or aspiring immigrant, would plainly have been better at it. There is no huge shortage of people prepared to do that work, even in London. You just have to pay them a decent wage.

Daughter is at University. When she arrived, she discovered the Indian shop around the corner. This sold the usual groceries in anti-social hours, but the matriarch of the family also had a line in home-cooked takeaway curries in Tupperware.

These, remarkably cheap, were much appreciated by hard-up students and were a welcome source of nourishment for those who had just left home.

Sadly, the family decided to sell up. Their son, a middle-class professional, had no wish to take over the business. To mark the retirement, they held a street party. The road was closed, the entire college went along. The owner made an emotional speech. He did not want to give up but had been persuaded he and his wife could no longer cope with the work or the long hours.

He was 80.

Enough said.


The Spitting Man Of Wimbledon

I try not to write about immigration. People tend to hear what they think you should not have said, rather than what you actually said. “So you think we should let ANYONE in?” “So you want to send them all back.” No, neither, actually. That wasn’t what I said. Listen to what I did say.

But some adverts from UKIP, which explicitly attack immigrants and the effects of widespread immigration, have been attacked as racist. This attack seems, speciously, to be confusing race with nationality.

The British have a remarkably good record of accepting, if slowly and sometimes grudgingly, new immigrants. But the clear majority have now had enough. Something has changed.
Let me introduce you, then, to the Spitting Man of Wimbledon.

Several years ago I was waiting for a bus outside my local Sainsbury’s. The queue was the usual polyglot London one. Sitting on the ground was a man, dressed in near rags, obviously here to do some menial task the indigenous population was not prepared to consider, or on wages they would not contemplate.

He could have come from anywhere from Casablanca to Kabul. No idea. He was smoking a small, tightly rolled black cigarette and, every 15 seconds or so, spitting on the ground next to him.
Everyone thought the same thing. No one said anything.

His behaviour was probably perfectly normal and acceptable in Casablanca or Kabul. It was not in suburban Wimbledon.

If you take up residence in someone else’s country, even if only for a holiday, it is incumbent on you to observe the local mores and customs. If female and in a Muslim country, do not wear hot pants in a mosque. The Japanese do not like people fiddling with their noses in public. In France, engaged in even a modest retail transaction, it is normal to make small talk over the counter rather than barking out orders.

The trouble arrives when large numbers of people descend on a country from wherever who refuse to observe those local mores and customs. It causes resentment and upset. Some act out of ignorance, such as our Spitting Man. Others are here for purely economic reasons and find no reason to attempt to integrate in the short period they plan to be here.

And others arrive with the belief that those mores and customs are irrelevant to the way they want to live. That the liberal values that are intrinsic to that culture, of fairness, tolerance and a belief that democracy is the best way of ordering a society, are corrupting and are to be avoided at all costs. If necessary, by creating a separate society that never overlaps, culturally or even geographically, with that mainstream culture.

Tom Paine would have understood. The road towards the Enlightenment is not a one-way street.