Monday, September 27, 2004

84. A Reply from Spain

I agree with your on-the-instant analysis: If only Yurp could get its
act together, especially over more democracy and transparency, we could
perhaps offer a Third Way (oops!) to the bifurcated hell we face. The
Fludd of immigrants is less than the redtops would have us believe, but
it really +is+ about beliefs, isn't it? The Prince of Darkness would
take Ukania out of refugee conventions, which have served us (and his
own family) well over the years. Ukip would take us out of Yurp
altogether, even at the cost of a war if you can believe that. Spain
takes a helluva lot of refugees/asylum-seekers/economic migrants/take
yer pick as they come over from Ceuta and Melilla, many ending up as
corpses on Spanish beaches and it a big issue in the media and, I
think, in the south. Not so up here, where we see few black/brown faces
and most of the peripatetic workers are either Portuguese or
Polish—great wall builders, the latter—although Santa does have its
share of Maghrebis of course. Most of those who do survive the crossing
move on to other countries. Under Zapateros Spain seems to be slowly
moving in a better direction. Examples of state funding for Muslim
schools while cutting down on the role of the catholic church which,
under Aznar, was all set to renew the infamous Concordat with the

Immigrants: Some integrate and some don't, and it's still early days on
this. It took the Jews a long time in parts of London and Manchester
(in parts of Manchester there is a Shabbat ghetto to this day); the W
Indians adapted and integrated more easily, having more in common such
as religion and educational systems. The Pakistanis, Kashmiris and
Bangladeshis I see in Lancashire towns when I get back seem to fall
into two or perhaps three groups: those earlier arrivals who never
learned the language or customs and whose wives and daughters still
live totally isolated lives; those, especially Kashmiris whose sons and
daughters were born here and run all the taxi services, who have been
through UK educational systems and are more or less integrated (some go
to pubs, some don't, most date local girls, etc); and the third group,
mainly Pakistani, whose young people are really half and half—born and
educated in Britain but, for a variety of reasons, never fully
integrated who, now without jobs and reviled by the locals, are easy
prey to the loonies. Why did they not integrate? Partly internal,
familial and social pressures and partly external discrimination, both
personal and institutional. It's far more complex than this, of course,
but I think I have the broad outlines correct.

Barbs at the gates indeed, especially when all we want to do is, as you
say, enjoy what is left of our (in parts admirable and yet in parts
blood-soaked) civilisation: eat decent and healthy foods, drink good
wines, enjoy our national sports and keep our traditions from
languishing (black puddings in Lancashire, Euskera in Euskadi, Celtic
folk music on Spain's N coast, French cuisine everywhere in France and
so on) while at the same time not allowing them to become parodical and
vacuous Disneyfications.

> Why are we being prodded to choose between two CLEARLY idiotic choices,
> neither of which promises joy or delivery from the human condition.
> Why are both sides of this idiotic equation using violence and the threat of
> violence to scare us into complicity? The simple answer, I think, is that we
> are dealing with political gangsters on both sides.

Right, but not so simple. The US is determinedly set under the neo-cons
on an American Imperium, the end of the Cold War (tell that to the
Vietnamese, Afghans and Czechs!) gave the US the position of
overwhelming superiority ripe for advantage-taking, and this has
coincided (?) with a revival of Islam as colonial and subaltern studies
and post-structuralist notions have filtered through. Note the great
revival of Arabic/Islamic literature and music here, the rise of true
intellectuals in the Arab world (even if many of them are working in
the West now) and in many Arab countries determined moves to more
openness. Sadly Wahabism has also emerged from its sleep, but it is
just one manifestation of the Arab Awakening predicted by George
Antoninus and others, the worst one, of course. The festering
Palestinian problem needs lancing, too, to remove at least one source
of justified grievance.

I could go on, I know, but what good would it do? With Blair in thrall
to the Shrub and disdainful as ever of Europe there's no point looking
in that direction. Perhaps we should just drink all that good wine
while we have it before the Muslims pour it down the drain or it is
magically converted in Coca Cola at some latter-day Marriage at Cana.

More in sadness, Stew