Increasingly you wake up in the morning, turn on the TV news, hold your head in your hands and cringe saying to yourself and to no one in particular and the world in general – “Oh for God’s sake.” That’s if you’re not hurling abuse and invective, which is never a good way to start the day if you want to keep your blood pressure low. But nowadays I find myself screaming abuse at the TV news and neither Kay Burley nor Nicholas Witchell are on screen at the time. And this is in the morning, Reporting Scotland doesn’t start until 6.30 pm.
Watching British news reporting and there’s one inescapable truth, GB stands for Grossly Buggered. There’s no escaping the fact that Britain is an embarrassment, the dick man of Europe, the guy that never offers to buy a round, the precious little princ ess who thinks it is special and the standards by which the rest of the world is judged do not apply to it. The rules by while the rest of the world is judged do not apply to Britain, because Britain’s special. That’s why we have telly shows like Great British Bake Off, because no other country in the world has cakes. Britain is so special that British nationalism isn’t nationalist at all. We can refuse to help the rest of the world because we need to look after our own people first, and it’s not nationalist to make your compassion and care contingent on a person’s passport as long as their passport is British.
Britain is the one who is asked to help in a humanitarian crisis but pleads that it might affect its car insurance payments. Britain is the country where the first response of the press to a humanitarian crisis washing up on the shores of the Mediterranean is to complain that British holiday makers had their holidays ruined because they were reminded that there is suffering in the world.
We’re surrounded by water and that makes us special, a barrier which means that we’re exempt from giving a toss about the refugees trekking across the continent as a result of the havoc that the West has wrought. You can walk along a Hungarian highway but Britain has no place for you, unless you’re an global finance company, a multimillionaire, an oligarch, a deposed dictator, an arms dealer, or a banker. Britain only has a place for the rich and the powerful, the people who don’t need refuge. You don’t get to be rich and powerful by being a nice person. Britain only has a place for the utter bastards of this world. Utter bastardy is what Britain expects us to aspire to. Those are British values, and they’re cringeworthy.
But our problems are nothing.
People are dying, fleeing death, escaping from oppression and slavery, risking everything and being left with nothing, and the British government refers to them as migrants who are seeking a better life – as if they were contestants on Wish You Were Here who are viewing properties in Australia and comparing the sizes of swimming pools. Back in the real world that the refugees are in, the swimming pool contains a dead body, face down.
This is one of the richest countries in the world. We have a housing crisis while thousands of properties stand empty, owned by faceless offshore companies as investment opportunities, while outside they install spikes on flat surfaces to prevent homeless people taking shelter. We have foodbanks and poverty while a small number get increasingly wealthy, and the poverty porn on Channel 5 speaks of handouts while turning a blind eye to the tax dodges, bonuses and privilege of the wealthy.
The British government is now trying to fudge the numbers, hinting that they may allow a few dozen more here, a couple of hundred more there to seek shelter in the UK. But they want it to be conditional on adding to the bombs that are already falling on Syrian cities. Kobane and Aleppo already stand in ruins, flattened and destroyed. What they really need are more bombs, British bombs. Because British bombs are virtuous and problem solving bombs. British bombs blow things up in constructive and helpful ways, unlike Syrian bombs.
Britain could easily take in 55,000 Syrian refugees. That’s the same number of people who speak Gaelic, that ‘dead language no one speaks’ according to people who care more about two Gaelic words on the side of a helicopter than they do about drowned children washed up on a Turkish beach. 55,000 is apparently an insignificant number when it comes to speakers of the Gaelic language, but unimaginably large when it comes to desperate people wanting to flee from death. Yet Britain could shelter twice as many.
Sweden, which has a population of just 8 million, has given refuge to over 40,000. Tiny Lebanon has received 1.2 million across its border with Syria. There are 1.8 million in Turkey. Germany has said that it will receive 800,000. 55,000 refugees in the UK is nothing, yet the maximum figure being bandied about by the UK government is 15,000, and even that figure is only being aired after the immense pressure of an outraged populace disgusted by how the UK is showing itself to be the Ebenezer Scrooge of international efforts. Even the Scottish government is only suggesting it would take 1000 refugees – that’s nowhere near enough.
It’s not like there is nowhere for the refugees to go. Britain could house them in the grace and favour spare bedrooms of the royal family, in the thousands of empty flats and houses owned by offshore tax dodgers, in the empty office space built by speculators. But even 55,000 is a drop plucked from an ocean. The British establishment tells us that it doesn’t want an EU wide settlement to ensure that every European country has to take its fair share of refugees because they want the EU to be a commercial organisation. The EU should only benefit big business and capital, not people.
And that’s the sentiment that also lies behind government in this country. The UK exists to service capital, and so does its people. That’s why there’s so much focus on forcing the disabled into work, because unless you’re making money for someone else you have no value or worth in Britain. That’s why we need out, in an independent Scotland we can value human life, not the money they make for big business.
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