Intimigration; Herd Mentality and the Plight of Refugees

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Facebook; the bastion of modern social interaction. This morning I saw a message pop up in my news feed from a friend from my home town. He was ranting about immigrants in the UK, and how they shouldn’t be here. His post got 30 likes. The likes were from other people in my home town. How had I grown so far away from these people? They were voicing their opinions together like a choir of Sun and Daily Mail headlines, and awash with some outdated ideas of international obligation and expectations. After I thanked my lucky stars I escaped from such a narrow-minded fortress, I had to think. Where exactly did our paths diverge? And really, who’s right here? How can we really know? One of the wonderful things about the UK is you are born in a society where every opinion can be shared. We have that freedom. The world is a richer place for opinions from all corners, and I for one am happy that there are people who disagree with me.

I come from a small town. It has it’s problems, but overall it is a pretty affluent place. There are few people living there who are not white. Is this the reason for such rejection of immigration? I left there a long time ago and have since lived in cities that are much more liberal and open-minded. These cities are full of a fantastic array of cultures, merging into a patchwork of wonderment that enriches the lives of all the citizens. Is it the fear of the unknown that forces these rants from my former friends in small town England? Intimidated by immigration, are they rejecting it from personal experience, from media manipulation or from some primal defensiveness against ‘the other’? I would probably find more of their fears easier to understand if the campaign behind them wasn’t so flawed and, in some instances, racist. I’ve seen a fair amount of EDL posts doing the rounds over social media, with recent posters being people who only a few months ago were condemning UKIP and their anti-immigrant vitriol.

Let’s get something straight though. There is a big difference between a migrant and a refugee. Migrants have made a choice to leave their homeland in search of different opportunities abroad. these people can enrich an economy and make a country a more diverse and fulfilling place to live. These people are under no threat, and are merely trying to better themselves. Refugees, however, are fleeing persecution and danger based on their religion, culture, ideology or beliefs (amongst other reasons) and are desperately seeking assistance. These people are vulnerable and in need of help. How can we leave them all to themselves with no offer of help? Especially, as evidence may show, we may be partly culpable for some of the problems they face?

I’m just one person, with one set of opinions. I’m no more right or wrong than the next person. Yet I find it strange that there can be others who have such contrasting views to mine, when we are presented with exactly the same evidence. That said, I’m sure my ideas about immigration can be brushed off as naive and narrow-minded by people who believe different things to me. While we all call each other wrong, what is getting done to help the people that need it, no matter where they may be?

Nobody likes a scrounger, a dole thief or a lazy sponger. Immigrants are accused of heading to the UK to take dole money away from British citizens. Do people genuinely believe that all the immigrants are arriving to look for an easy life? They may be looking for an easier life, as in, to live in a country not at war, or to have a home that isn’t constantly raided by bandits.

“England!”

If immigration in the UK feels a little out of control recently, that’s because it has reached unprecedented levels since 1997 due to the Labour government’s relaxation of key immigration laws, most notably between 2001-2011. That being said, a lot of this led to foreign workers bringing skills to key industries. It’s no coincidence that we have a lot of immigrants working as nurses. Having the NHS means we need cheaper labour to keep it running.

So how, friends, can you get so angry at immigrants coming here to try and build a better life and build a better country, when Starbucks is here and doesn’t pay it’s share of tax? If you want to hate an immigrant, start there! It’s an American business that is basically gaining an almost monopolous (this wasn’t a real word, but it is now) hold on its industry, and it’s doing it without putting back into the economy it is taking from. Or how about these wars we keep fighting? Is it a Polish nurse’s fault our economy is having a tough time, or is it probably more about a £1 trillion trident defence system?

But I digress. I am getting away from the crux of my point. I’m not here to wholly rally to the aid of immigrants on mass. I’d rather talk about those who have no choice. I wouldn’t get so angry at a Syrian refugee when I knew my country had just bombed the shit out of that country. Some will claim that ‘it’s not our problem to fix these countries and their problems’. Well, that may feel like an easy answer, but if we actively interact with that country’s stability, I would count that as making it our problem to deal with. Again, these are my definitions and not others. Who’s really right? Can anyone ever truly be?

Immigrants are every day people like you and me. Do you know who aren’t? The banks! OK, so I’m being a little hysterical. The banks are run by humans, not lizards or aliens. But, I ask you, do you see more of yourself in a poor immigrant who is trying to work hard for their money and support their family, or in a greedy banker who gambles people’s savings and lives in a separate, meta-world where poverty and war are nothing more than buzzwords on a list of things you don’t need to care about?

Put yourself in their shoes.

We are a spoilt country, one that doesn’t even realise how lucky it is! You popped out of a vagina in the UK and won the lottery in life. You haven’t faced war, destitution, famine; you’ve had Hollyoaks and X-Factor, Cornettos and page 3! Lucky, lucky you! But really, did you do anything to deserve this better life? Are you a better person than any of these immigrants? Is it your wonderful accent? Or your understanding of the complicated intricacies of British social interaction and politeness, or a smattering of knowledge about our mighty history of kings, queens and world war 2? Is it some belief that because your grandparents survived the threat of Fascism, you somehow earned this privilege?

Go ahead and call me one of them. I am a second generation immigrant. My mother is African. She’s South African mind, but her family still left that continent to escape economic hardships, and came to the UK seeking a better future. My granparents were Dutch/Welsh/I have no idea. I don’t really care. I was never one of those kids at school that claimed to be two tenths Arabic, a quarter Irish, a fifth Scottish, a sixteenth Inuit and three quarters English! I am just a white guy who grew up in Southern England. I have a British passport, my own teeth and a degree in a subject nobody should ever accrue £30,000 in debt while attaining. Yet I won the life lottery by popping out of some knickers on the British isles.

“Quick, gimme all your welfare and starbucks, nom nom nom!”

This whole ‘us’ versus ‘them’ thing needs to stop. These are people, just like us. Helping them will not ruin our country. Now is not the time to be selfish. You want more money in the economy? Go on austerity marches, occupy government offices and force the government to change its stance on letting big business get away with murder. Don’t throw stones at other little people and let the government rub its greedy hands together while it watches us in-fight and get nowhere.

I’m also biased because I am currently living as an immigrant in Asia. I work hard for my money, and I contribute to the economy with tax, bringing a needed skill to this country. There is some resentment here of foreign workers, and a feeling that the ‘old ways’ are being eroded by outside influences. I have seen first hand a watered down version of what it must be like for some immigrants in the UK. It’s easier for me because I’m an ‘expat’, so I’m not for a second trying to compare my experience with that of an immigrant fleeing a war zone to look for solace in the UK. I am no refugee. All I’m saying is I understand the feeling of being an outsider, of not being fluent in the local language, and of trying to fit in to a society that is completely different from the one I was raised in.

In this modern world of quick access to information and a global narrative on the problems in the world to do with inequality and the huge difference between the rich and the poor, I am shocked that I still know people who get physically sickened by immigrants coming to the UK for a better life. How can these people still be so ignorant to the reasons why these immigrants come here? The UK has systematically utilised and perpetuated suffering and poverty in various countries around the world for the best part of three centuries. It would be naive and short-sighted to believe that a country like ours could wage wars in these far flung countries and then not expect at least some of the civilians from these states coming to knock on our door for help. When you decimate someone’s homeland, you must, surely, expect them to need your help?

I am not trying to start a discussion. I’m actually sick to death of this whole topic. This was a culmination of listening to so many of the people I call friends ranting about immigrants, and me just wanting to stick my two cents out there. They say you should avoid writing a passion piece. It’s easy to lose perspective, and for your words to be coloured by your own experiences rather than reflecting a semblance of truth. Maybe I’m completely wrong. Maybe I just don’t get it. Though so far, nobody has put anything remotely intelligible forward that has anything near the power to make me think differently. Until someone does, I’ll continue thinking as I do; we are humans, and so are the refugees and immigrants. What would you want for your family if you were the crying father on the Greek beach? What would you do if you were the dead Syrian boys father or mother? If the shoe was on the other foot, I feel we would all be acting the same way. And damn, wouldn’t it just completely suck if we got the same level of compassion as we are giving now.

Before I depart, allow me to finish with a quote:

*** drops mic ***

Useful websites:

MigrationWatch

UK Government Immigration Statistics

The People’s Assembly (Anti-Austerity)

Special thanks to artur84 and khunaspix @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net for use of their photos in this blog.

© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2015

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Things to do on a Sunday (besides troll Facebook)

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Who doesn’t love a day off? The chance to relax, unwind, and tick off many of the items on a to do list that have piled up over a busy week.

For some, it can also be a day of regret, however. Shattered from a long week, it’s not unheard of for the day to whizz by before anything substantial is achieved, leaving a feeling of hollowness in us that can’t be remedied until another day with a blank schedule is upon us.

But Sundays can be relaxing and productive. We all have our Sunday routines, and I’m sure many readers have a tried and tested formula for what makes their Sunday a day to look forward to.

For those looking for a little inspiration, or a break from their norm and an idea for something else, we’ve got your back!

Suuuundaaaaaay

Suuuundaaaaaay

Cook a big meal

Every nation has a national breakfast, though one of my personal favourites is the Fry Up! It is somewhat of an institution on the British Isles, and there is nothing I love more on a day off than to prepare one for myself or friends, from scratch.

If breakfast isn’t really your cup of tea, how about cooking a large batch meal that could save you time during the week for pursuits of leisure? Huffington Post has some great ideas for easy to make batch meals to last seven days. You could just cook an old family favourite such as chilli, or how about finally trying to cook Grandma’s secret sauce?

“I’ve been perfecting the grilled cheese for weeks”

Flaneur

A flaneur is, according to the Oxford Dictionary, ‘a man who saunters around observing society’. The woman who does the same is know as a ‘flaneuse’. It was a popular pass-time in Victorian England; a hobby of the bourgeois.

Essentially, it’s walking. But, it’s walking for the experience of walking, not just to get from A to B! The writer Will Self is a proud advocate of the benefits of walking, often linking the peaceful stroll and it’s opportunity to appreciate his fellow humans in passing, as inspiration for his creative works. He also argues that walking through your town or city is important in the ‘fight against corporate control’ (The Guardian).

Aside from a gentle amble on a Sunday afternoon, there is also the night walk. This affords the walker a great opportunity to see the world around them in a different light, literally. With dim street lamps and eerie moonlight our only guide, we experience much more potently the smells, sounds and atmosphere of our habitat. Under the cloak of darkness, all cities emanate synaesthesia. Give it a try!

Under the cover of darkness, many things happen

Beware of the Victorian tavern wench

Catch up on Correspondences

Do you have an old friend who you haven’t spoken to in a long time? Perhaps you are trying to network and are worried that some of your connections are drifting away? Whatever the case, sometimes it is nice to take the time to re-connect with others via letters or emails. The written form of communication, though on the increase in text message and phone app form, is declining in the classical sense. Our grandparents were often semi-Jedi in regards to their penmanship, and could craft wonderful missives that could be handed down from generation to generation.

Think how much of history we know due to the letters that have been left behind! What legacy are we leaving for our children; sneezing panda videos and Candy Crush high scores? Ok, so society is hardly in decline, and in truth technology has made it easier to connect in simpler terms. That doesn’t take away the sentimental value to others of taking moments from your day to fill them in on your happenings, especially with the effort demonstrated in a wonderfully scripted letter. Thoughtcatalog.com make a compelling argument for letters here.

Dear mum, weather is good. Lots love Jay. PS, send money

Dear mum, weather is good. Lots love Jay.
PS, send money

Practice a Hobby

Juggling? Diablo? Yo-yo? Cross-stitch? Fire-eating? Flea circus? We all have little hobbies we enjoy doing when the time is right, so why not use your Sunday to level up your hobby game and get closer to pro-status!

Never underestimate the benefits of practice

Never underestimate the benefits of practice

Spring Clean

A messy room means a messy mind, or so the saying goes. For those among us who already maintain an impeccable level of cleanliness on a day to day basis, how about a deep clean? Move the furniture and get scrubbing on the hidden nooks and crannies. You could even take the opportunity to de-clutter, and chuck away all the old receipts and paperwork that have been clogging up the house.

For the truly brave, you could tackle the ‘man draw’ – the black hole of used batteries, take away menus and half-empty pens.

Yeah, don't put it off for too long!

Yeah, don’t put it off for too long!

Try Something New

“Life is trying new things to see if they work” – Ray Bradbury.

It could be trying your hand at a new dish in the kitchen, looking for a new park to relax in, or even heading out to a live performance of something you’ve never experienced before; opera, jazz flute, Tibetan dramyin! Other activities worth having a go at include polka dancing, speed dating and orienteering. Challenge yourself to try something you’ve never done before, and just feel the sense of fulfilment overwhelm you as you access a new facet of your skill set!

You might discover your new favourite pass time!

You might discover your new favourite pass time!

Play a Board Game

My favourite thing about Christmas is sitting down with the nearest and dearest to play Monopoly or Risk; the most epic of such memories is of a 36 hour stint of Risk (I defiantly held Kamchatka for the final four hours before succumbing to defeat).

Of course, practice for these epic showdowns is a must, and what better time to do this than on a Sunday?

That said, there is no reason why you can’t just enjoy the feeling of detaching from the TV and other electrical devices and reconnecting with your analogue self. Your eyes and, probably, your mind will thank you.

Be careful with children - they cheat...

Be careful with children – they cheat…

Read

We’ve spoken before about the advantages to reading regularly for pleasure, and also how to find time to do so in a busy schedule (find it here), so why not use your Sunday to get nose deep in a gripping tome, zip through a riveting novella, or even just dip into the autobiography of your hero?

Giving your eyes a break from a screen will do them the world of good, and using a Sunday to reconnect with written text will be an experience you won’t hate yourself for. Plus, who doesn’t love curling up with a good book if the mood is right?

Too many books, not enough time

Too many books, not enough time

Nap

We are very much advocates of napping here at Itchy Quill, and we’ve spoken before about it’s positive effects here. A lazy Sunday is a Sunday well spent, especially if you live a life with few commitments and have the freedom and space to dip in and out of the world of slumber at will.

Not only is there strong evidence that napping is actually part of a more natural sleep pattern for humans, but it also feels darn good in its own right!

“Oi lazy boots, you have to get up before you can nap”

Exercise

This doesn’t have to be an intense two hour work out at the gym, busting sweat and building gains. Why not take a pleasant jog in the park; flaneur on fast forward? Or maybe take a bike ride? If you’re lucky enough to live close to some natural areas such as rivers, lakes or forests then why not go exploring for a day? Any physical activity that raises the pulse is essentially exercise, so use that definition to embrace a healthy day to yourself (or even with others) and explore the wonders of the world around you!

“I prefer the medium of improvised interpretive dance”

Volunteer

Providing a service to your fellow humans is one of the most satisfactory experiences one can have. Knowing that your actions, no matter how seemingly small, have benefited a member of your community, can  really give you a sense of accomplishment and a feeling that your time has been well invested. Who doesn’t love having a positive effect on the people around them?

Suggestions for things to do: go to work at your local soup kitchen, go and walk some dogs at your local animal rescue shelter, or even go and visit a retirement home and play bridge for the afternoon. It doesn’t have to be anything back-breaking or spectacular, sometimes merely spending some time in someone’s company can be enough, or offering to do things for those who cannot help themselves (like tasks around the house for an elderly neighbour).

You’ll make the world a better place! Not bad for a Sunday, eh?

“Pay it forward, you’ll thank the universe later in life”

Learn a Language

Hola! Bonjour! Terve! 您好! здравствуйте! If you don’t understand any of these, perhaps a new language would be a great way to spend this weekend. I’m not talking about total fluency, but learning a few key phrases can benefit you in many ways; for work, for travel, for friendship, for movies, or for the health of your brain. There is evidence to suggest that being bi-lingual can help to stave off dementia in adults, so get a jump-start on your studies now!

Practically, the best motivation many have to learn a language is if they know they are going to be visiting a place where the language is spoken. The way we understand that sentence here at IQ is that we should go and book ourselves a holiday and then use that as motivation to spend this Sunday learning a language. Join us!

“I learned Swedish because, you know, stereotype”

Call Family

The big one; the phonecall to the ‘rents. As time marches on, we still need to reconnect with family as often as possible, no matter how much life tries to get in the way. Maybe you’ve got a younger sibling who’s off in the city and might appreciate a little chat, or a grandparent who’s retired and spending a lot of time gardening but might fancy a little chin-wag. Don’t forget ma and pa, who I’m sure will always appreciate a chance to chew the cud with their spawn.

“Don’t forget all that your family did for you”

What do you like to do on a Sunday besides veg out in front of a computer or TV? Do you feel something essential is missing from this list that you can’t stand? Or is there something here you think is utterly ridiculous. As always, comments are appreciated.

Let us know what you are planning for this Sunday!

Special thanks to anankkml, arztsanui, Feelart, Gualberto107, imagerymajestic, khunaspix, Serge Bertasius Photography, stockimages, tuelekza, vectorolie, vegadsl and Witthaya Phonsawat @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net for use of their photos in this blog.

© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2015

Getting Lost to Find Yourself; Why You Should Travel Solo at Least Once In Your Life

The journey not the destination matters - T. S. Eliot

The journey not the destination matters – T. S. Eliot

I was in Shimla, Northern India, about five years ago. Sipping a warm Chai tea at a curb-side café and enjoying a glorious sunset over the mountains, I patted myself on the back for completing such an epic journey. It had taken me three weeks to get there from the UK, slowly meandering my way and stopping to see everything that presented itself. I was alone, as I was convinced that I only needed my own company after many trips before with friends and various organizations.

As the sun fully set, and the last dregs of my chai were cooling at the bottom of the cup, I realised that I had nothing to do. All the bustle and excitement of crazy Tuk-Tuk drivers, the double-crossing travel agents, the cramped train carriages – they were all done. Now, I merely had time to sit and relax, and ponder. Is this what I wanted? I didn’t want to admit it, but I was already missing the craziness of my journey. Arriving there, knowing the journey was over, it made me feel… sad? Sad at the end of a journey that was terribly fun. Sad at the end of an experience I hadn’t realised I could have.

After a few more drinks I got chatting to a man, let’s called him Jez, about what it means to travel. He was a well travelled man, a Ramblin’ Man, who’d seen more of the world than most, though he remembered little. He had recently crossed into India from Bangladesh, having spent several months moving around the rural parts of the country. After chatting for a while, I felt my frustrations bubble to the surface, and I admitted to him my feeling of unease at arriving. He just smiled at me and said:

“It’s empowering, isn’t it? Seeing who you really are, when nobody is around to remind you what you’re supposed to be. Why would anyone ever stop moving?”

From then on I realised one thing about myself; I was destined to wander on, possibly forever. Our history is riddled with idioms and tales that have shown us this is the truth. I wanted to be the rolling stone gathering no moss, the leaf on the stream.

I have been very privileged to travel widely in my relatively short life, and I have many places yet to see. The reasons? Why, they’re myriad!

So here’s your Itchy Quill breakdown of some justifications for why you should travel solo at least once in your life!

... it doesn't look that far away Dave

… it doesn’t look that far away Dave

1. The challenge

There is no greater feeling than accomplishing something (well, nothing safe for work anyway), and the opportunities to accomplish while travelling are endless. It could be anything from finding an address in the Souks of Marrakesh to ordering food in rural Mongolia. Whenever new challenges present themselves, you will amaze yourself at how you adapt and survive. It can be hard, frustrating, and sometimes lonely, but it’s not forever. The person you come back as will be far superior to the person who left. Things you never thought you could achieve become commonplace, you just need to show yourself you can do it!

"Make sure you get the view... no, no, get the view... I mean the view behind me... make sure I look dignified... yeah, the view though

“It’s so peaceful, you just forget about the world up here, with no technology or- quickly, this would be a great profile pic!

2. You will appreciate what you have

It’s easy to focus only on first world problems, and forget how good your life actually is. Returning from work, you open the freezer door and see that your house mate has finished the chilli pizza bites. You cry out “why lord, why have you punished me so?!” Equally, running for the bus you see the no. 888 pulling away and cry up to the heavens “my life is ruined!” as you accept you will be ten minutes late for work. Ok, so maybe I’m exaggerating, or maybe I’m not. Either way, after spending a few weeks travelling around a backwater of Peru, you’ll quickly forget about deodorant and shaving, and picky food habits you might have had will soon vanish when you become aware the only thing the tribe you are staying with eat is goose guts and chicken feet.

Hey, water fight! Wait, is that tear gas?!

Hey, water fight! Wait, is that tear gas?! Ruuuuuun!

3. It gives you perspective

Every country teaches it’s children about history from that country’s viewpoint, and the media comments on the present using words sourced locally. This is why travelling is crucial in giving you a better understanding of the world by simply showing you that the way you see things isn’t necessarily how the rest of the world does. Cultural, traditional, economical and historical factors all play a part in shaping national identity, and consequently local worldview. Challenge your idea of the world!

top of the world

4. You can see a new culture from the inside

Speaking of within, as clandestine as it sounds, you get to be ‘behind enemy lines’ and discover from the inside what a country or culture is really like. As ridiculous as it sounds, you will often be surprised at how redundant stereotypes can be, and how wrong your perceptions of the world are. Peel back the surface, scratch underneath and dive right in. Look back on your culture from the outside while people show you theirs from within.

Probably should have mentioned the fear of heights before we left, right?

Probably should have mentioned the fear of heights before we left, right?

5. Your ability to communicate will change

While not speaking any other language than English will not always completely stop you, it can sometimes make things take longer than they would if you were a native speaker of the country you are in’s language. You will pick up local words, often colloquial language that you wouldn’t be taught in schools, plus your ability to read people and understand gesture and intent will sharpen. Your ability to express your feelings and desires will greatly improve too.

I'm so f#cking lost :)

I’m so f###ing lost

6. You’ll have tons of story-topping tales

Nobody likes a story-topper, and yet everyone does it. And while nobody likes people who return from travelling and boast about how amazing their time was, you can be safe in the knowledge that your stories are probably better! Regardless of that, travelling is becoming more and more of a great icebreaker as more and more young people look to faraway lands as the places to spend periods of their early twenties. Join the conversation!

Remember that time I ran away from home?

Remember that time I ran away from home?

7. It teaches you… a lot

The merits of education cannot be taken for granted, but let us not forget that any form of schooling is no replacement for experience. Truth be told, there is a strong argument that the closer you get to education, the further you are from wisdom. I won’t comment, but I will say that some of the skills you will learn from travelling can seldom be learned easier elsewhere. Some learn how to be humble, some learn patience. I learnt how to play Mah Jong and how to spot fake diamonds. The point is, there is a world of knowledge out there. The onus is on you to go and find it.

Who knew I loved sleeping so much?

Who knew I loved sleeping so much?

8. You’ll grow

Now, I’m not talking about the ‘my, haven’t you grown’ kind of growth only grandmothers seem to notice. I’m talking about the undeniable personal growth you will undergo from broadening your horizons. Your mentality will widen, your worldview will expand, and your appreciation of the other will advance. The strength of character and confidence you will gain from surviving on your own will become a backbone to future conquests, and you will have travelling to thank for it all!

Auld map of Africa (pre-1800)

Auld map of Africa (pre-1800)

9. You might find yourself

And this, I guess, is the clincher. It sounds so horribly tacky to say it with a straight face, but it is so true; sometimes you’ve got to get lost to find yourself. I spent my late teens and early twenties wandering the globe in search of god knows what, and I couldn’t find it on the beaches, in the fields or at the end of the camera lenses where I was looking. What I did discover was many things about myself I would probably never have learnt by shaking cocktails or typing in an office.

I am not saying life sucks, and I am certainly not looking down on those who haven’t travelled. We all have our own path, and we are all our own mysteries. I just know that for me, travelling made the difference in my life. And as it did, and continues to do, exactly that, I just want to share it. So what’s stopping you? Book a flight, pack a bag, and see where you end up. It will be the best decision you ever make.

This list is by no means definitive, and I am sure there are other advantages to think of. What do you think? As always, comments are welcome. What would you add/subtract?

Special thanks to PhoTrablogger for reminding me why I love (and dearly miss) India.

taj silhouette

Not all those who wander are lost – J. R. R. Tolkien

Special thanks to africa, graur razvan ionut, khunaspix, taoty, naypong, num_skyman and varaorn @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net for use of their photos in this blog.

© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2015