Eliot: Gravy Train or Mercy Dash?

September 20, 2015

It looks like ‘people power’ pressure is mounting upon us in UK as the migrant influxes from The Middle East and Africa are seeking and are finding new ways of establishing themselves within EU boundaries; and the camped-out occupants of Calais continue to push their bids to reach UK soil.

They cannot be ignored – anymore.  The electronic revolution has globalised everything; including everyday daily life.  Anyone with an online gadget or access to one is able to peek quite intimately into the lifestyle of the average Joe in the Western world, whether peeking from Sudan or Libya or Senegal.

No longer is the daily round we Westerners enjoy merely heard of by distant peoples by report and rumour and hearsay; they are now able to plug into and see our lifestyles and sample them at least virtually from their situations outside the realm of the privileged.

So what does it look like when a guy brags of his Saturday morning being occupied spending more on a pair of shoes than another guy whom he is bragging at has in his pocket to feed his family for a complete year?     What does it feel like when a girl has no access to medical treatment and she is able to see girls her age casually embellishing their appearances with cosmetic operations, getting facial remodelling and so on?

And when the guy and the girl watching so astonished and amazed get to understand, as they quickly do, that this sort of self-indulgence in the use of an oversupply of scarce resources by their wealthier opposites is not exceptional but rather is becoming the rule in the West; and that no longer are these pamperings confined to a restricted realm of movie stars and High Society, but are become commonplace and general here, now, in our affluent commercial consumer economies.

These guys and girls are only human – they are not paragons or eremites – and they feel quite naturally and even quite justifiably, that they too would like a share in these forgone and attractive goodies and of course a part in the lifestyle and societies which support such profligate consumption.

And these guys and girls are not inhuman – they have elderly relatives and growing cousins, who in turn could well use a few American dollars or French or German Euros or British pounds to make their lives that bit more comfortable; and the girls and guys envisage sending home a few regularly to meet the overwhelming demand there.

Like our own Dick Whittington in fiction and our own David Garrick in fact; the draw of plenty and security, of comfort and of peace of mind, which a city or nation paved with gold presents is fiercely powerful and scopes widely across vast areas and captivates massive numbers of would-be takers.  Dear old Dr Johnson was frank enough to say in 1750 or thereabouts ‘The finest sight a Scotchman ever sees is the High Road to England’. So the phenomenon we are talking about is not new; in fact it is as old as humanity is.

There are plenty of good reasons why this attraction of people from poorer nations towards the richer ones should not be encouraged; indeed should be stopped.  Unfortunately they are all reasons based on an aversion in us to sharing with and making accommodation out of our amassed wealth, some of our resources for these seekers who are going under the name here in the UK of ‘economic migrants’.

This term is becoming a pejorative term here as its use becomes better understood and accepted by us.  It is becoming a term which is used to dismiss these people as ‘undeserving poor’; and out of hand to label as unjustifiable their claims to a piece of the pie.  If one is able to attain to the status of ‘refugee’ one is able to overcome this obstacle presented by one being labelled ‘economic migrant’;  although even ‘refugee’ might be a dirty word in the opinion of some British people living here and abroad.

Many economic migrants have taken great personal risks to take hold of the means to bid for Europe, and have paid huge a sum to the unscrupulous for the unscrupulous to traffick them in conveyances such as leaky and unstable boats or noxious and dark lorry trailers or in the frozen undercarriages of airplanes.  The fruitions of success are such that a real sense of ‘all or nothing’ is involved in their rough and ready weighing up of whether to go for it or else not to try.

Economic migrants who arrive from outside the European Union are by policy sent back and deported – if they are caught by the authorities.  Many who come clandestinely are caught instead by Gang Masters and Slavers and so enter involuntarily into the lurid sex trades or into enforced labour or domestic service.  Indeed, the devil and the deep blue sea.  Even once here then many continue to be exploited and spiritually and physically are crushed by oppression and greed, and so become wholly disenfranchised and helpless; in effect without rights or an official existence.

Don’t you think we owe them? Don’t you think we are hogging the best to ourselves very meanly and inhumanely? Do you think they are lesser beings than we are? Somehow not civilised?  What would you have decided to do had the boot been on the other foot and you had been born into the general penury of the southern latitudes?  Would your situation then have justified you making an attempt for what looks afar something like An Earthy Paradise?

These guys and girls don’t come here to make trouble and to grab back violently some of the world’s goodies from us for themselves. They come with every intention of making a life for themselves, by taking a job and living conformably and trying to blend in and adopt and be adopted by their new home. This is the case for the far greater part of them.  They don’t want or are not looking for a second chance; they have not had a first chance yet, in our own terms that is.

I don’t want to lean too much on what I say next; it is sensitive and is too often loaded with moral blackmail.  The guys and girls whose homes, families, nations, our governments this century have been instrumental in systematically destroying and so making a distressed multitude of vagrant dispossessed; if we are worth our own good opinion of ourselves should be not feel we want, as ordinary joe-public, to step in and make good a little that which we disapprove of and disapproved in our governments at the time; so as in a small and individual way to give a hospitable welcome at least to a manageable annual quota of these resourceless peoples?

Does our charity begin and end at Dover? And is it indeed charity that is advocated for being exacted here; and not rather an amount of restitution?  An essential element in passing by on the other side, just as the guys going down to Jerusalem on the Jericho road passed by, is a defensive and self-flattering artificial psychological separation from, and denial of empathy with people whom we meet who are in distress.  Issuing from this stance our thoughts usually form in the manner of ‘I will never be in that situation’; or ‘I don’t know this fellow; he might jump me?’ or sometimes simply ‘This is not my business’.

In the broadest view there is no business that is not our business. If we as ordinary people are not responsive and so accept some responsibility, who might we expect to do so at all, ever, and maybe for some person whom we love?