Monday, 29 November 2010

Racism: a constant value for our times

Walking the dog the other day, I came across a gate on which someone had scribbled the words ‘No Pakis’.

When I was a child, I used to resent the way many people of my parents’ or grandparents’ generation would tell me that ‘things were very different when we were young’, by which they meant things had been far better. This always struck me as slightly odd, because one of the things they had been doing when they were younger was killing each other in historically unprecedented numbers, in a world war in each of the generations in question.

It appals me how often people of my generation now tell me, and expect me to agree, that things were better when we were younger.

The Vietnam war? The attacks on Civil Rights protesters in the States? Apartheid in South Africa? The Berlin Wall? The assassinations of Kennedy, Luther King and Kennedy?

But of course what they really mean is that at an individual level we were so much nicer. When our parents complained about the drug-taking, foul-mouthed long-haired louts who thought society owed them a living, they were just bigots. When we complain about the violent, drug-taking hooded louts of today, we’re being enlightened upholders of civic values.

It struck me that the sign scribbled on the gate should reassure people who are nostalgic for the sixties and seventies. Even though so much else has declined, at least our fascists are as good as the ones we had when we were younger. They have remained true to the values of brutality and offensiveness that we came to appreciate so much in our teens and twenties.

But then I got to thinking about the words themselves. What is about the ‘Pakistanis’ that these people dislike so much? After all, as I’ve pointed out before, a lot of them aren’t really Pakistani any more at all, but wholly English – and by that token, wonderful individuals. And even if they weren’t, so many members of that community contribute so much to our society.

I mean, I agree with the extreme right that the country is overcrowded – after all, this very morning I had to walk for ten minutes along the Euston Road and, because of the tube strike, even the pavements were almost impassable, forcing me to walk far less quickly than I wanted – which didn’t stop me shooting past the cars, gridlocked on the roadway itself.

Clearly, we could do with having fewer people. But why would we choose to start with the ‘Pakistanis’? As well as their traditional occupations, in corner shops, restaurants and minicab firms, members of this community have branched out into other key services – from running our trains to running huge swaths of the health service. Many are achieving prominence in journalism, politics and the law, but hey, no community is entirely without its flaws.

No, I have a much better idea of how we could set about reducing the numbers living in this country. I saw the other day that the public service cuts this year are set to be around £7bn. Bankers, many of them working for organisations baled out by the taxpayer, are about to award themselves bonuses amounting to – wait for it – £7bn. And, surprise, surprise, the total long-term cost of the bank bale-out (taking into account the sums the public purse is likely to recoup from tax or selling shares) is likely to be getting on for £7bn.

It sounds to me as though we’re suffering major reductions in service and forking out money to the banks that caused the problem in the first place and watching the people who run those banks paying themselves about as much as we put in.

In the meantime, every time someone suggests taxing the leeches, we’re told that if we do that, they’ll all head off to Shanghai or Hong Kong or somewhere.

See where I’m going with this one? Let’s do it. Let’s slap punitive taxes on obscene bonuses in the financial sector. Either these fine gentlemen will stick around and we’ll get some useful funds flowing back into the Exchequer, or they’ll clear off to the Far East, and at least someone else will have to pay for them. 

Another advantage? Most of the plans put forward by the fascists to get rid of the people they regard as unwelcome involve some kind of repatriation plan, for which we’d have to pay. The bankers would pay for themselves. Can you imagine? It’s like having your waste bin emptying itself. Win-win all round, I say.

All these thoughts went through my mind as I stood there by that gate. And then I looked at the slogan again – and noticed that what it actually said was ‘Paki’s out’.

Ah, that misplaced apostrophe. It made all the difference. I could push the gate open and pass through. Because I felt a quite palpable sense of relief (as did Janka, my dog, at finally being on the move again).

Why the relief? Well, obviously a semi-literate fascist can be just as vicious and violent as a literate one. But at least he’s less likely to be any good at getting organised.

At the elections last May, the British National Party was soundly defeated in its stronghold in Barking, with its leader failing to make a significant mark in the parliamentary election which was massively won by the former Labour Minister Margaret Hodge, while also losing every one of the local council seats it had previously held. Wipe out.

Well, if you don’t know how to write a plural, how can you be expected to win a plurality in an election?

My advice to those of my compatriots who some like to think of as ‘Pakistani’: while the fascists can’t raise their game any higher than this, I shouldn’t let them disturb your sleep at night. And in the meantime – thanks for providing such an excellent service at my local GP surgery. And such excellent Bombay Mix in my local shops.

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