On workers memorial day, we honour the dead and fight for the living, paying testament to those who have lost their life in the workplace as a result of the employer and taking action to protect the health and safety of workers today.
This Holocaust memorial day, we honour the Jews, Roma/traveller and other ethnic minority groups, the disabled and “genetically inferior”, the LGBT people, the trades unionists, and all who were sent to their deaths in Nazi Germany and all other genocides. But we also need to take the same approach and fight for the living. In 2016 the West is becoming an increasingly sinister place.
1. Marking out the unwanted: From stars to black triangles, there is one historical regime we traditionally associate with the labelling of “deviants” for public scrutiny. But in the last few days there have been at least two incidents coming to light that suggest in 2016 Britain it is acceptable for asylum seekers to be singled out for unwanted public attention. From Middlesbrough, where special red doors made vulnerable people the target of vandalism and abuse, to Cardiff, where individuals themselves were being flagged up to the public by being made to wear coloured wristbands in order to receive food, we seem to be increasingly slipping into a cultural acceptance of something incredibly sinister. Whilst both practices have apparently now been stopped following media attention, the big concern is that in both cases someone approved the idea in the first place.
2. ESOL stigma and the Prevent agenda: Tonight London region UCU alongside Stand Up To Racism will be on the streets in protest at comments made by the prime minister alongside his announcement that the government will restore a pitiful 20 million of the huge amount of money he slashed from ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) funding. Educators and students alike were baffled as the prime minister, having led a public school boy government which has plundered further and adult education and especially ESOL, heralded the return of the funds as a new policy designed to prevent extremism – implying it was backwards attitudes rather than the wholesale shutdown of courses under his cuts which were keeping Muslim women out of the class room. This framing of funding fits in neatly alongside the Prevent agenda, an ideologically driven policy aimed at tackling radicalisation by encouraging teachers to spy on students and the enforced promotion rather than deconstruction of “British” values such as “rule of law.” The sting alongside this stigmatisation from Cameron, which is outrageous but hardly new, is the threat of deportation for learners who don’t progress. It’s a bit more scary than being kept in at break. You can hear the demands of the demonstration in the Action for Esol manifesto here.
3. Deporting undesirables: Growing up in ultra white South Staffs in the 1980s, one of my earliest memories of direct racism is watching my dad peel down some Combat 18 stickers which had been stuck on lampposts while we were walking to the Spar shop. One of the stickers featured a racist caricature with the words “send them home”. Whilst deportation is nothing new, it’s getting a big ramp up from the “respectable” right. It isn’t just women who don’t pass courses under threat – “low” earners (i.e. anyone under £35K, which includes nurses) will face deportation. Presumably because “feminine” skills like raising children, care work, admin jobs etc. don’t do anything like enough for society, unlike raking in high incomes and getting paid to make racist announcements and draw up policy to keep the poor fighting each other.
4. Bad press: Katie Hopkins may be the respected columnist of choice for certain terribly-hair-doed future global collapse threats, but the language of cockroaches and constant fetishisation of drowning scenarios belong in a far right pamphlet, not the main-stream press. Calls to sink boats full of vulnerable people are the things Orwellian nightmares are made of. Meanwhile, after the liberal West couldn’t get enough of Je Suis Charlie in the aftermath of the tragic incident with the cartoonists, one of their more recent offerings depicts Alan Kurdi, the drowned toddler who finally engaged human sympathy for the Syrian refugee crisis in the West, and asked the question what would have happened to him if he lived. Their answer? A sexual molester, because of course white European men never engage in any of that, and sexual assault is caused by brown people, not the patriarchy.
5. And finally… Denmark: Yesterday brought the news that Denmark has approved plans to enact a law allowing police to seize refugee property. I don’t know much to say about that other than hearing it made me cry.