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  • Technorati: graph / links

    When racism is not racism


    by guest on 21st June, 2009 at 7:54 am    

    This is a guest post by Elliot Borges

    The shocking attacks on Romanian immigrants in Northern Ireland this week have again raised the inexhaustibly contentious issue of immigration in 21st century Britain. The issue made me instantly think of Slavoj Zizek’s excellent book Violence, in which he propounds the thesis that such acts of violence with a clearly identifiable agent are generated by a hidden violence; namely the one which sustains our political and economic system.

    Have a good think about the new Points Based System of immigration, which was launched last year. What is the official government line on the PBS? The introduction and application of the Points Based System of immigration to non-EEA nationals is apparently justified on the basis that because the UK is legally required not to close its borders to EU nationals, it has to apply stricter controls to immigrants from outside of Europe. Whether or not one agrees with the need for this type of immigration control, it is hard to contest that this is good law or indeed that it is not inconsistent with the principles of equality and non-discrimination that the government claims to abide by.

    The legal position of the UK is reducible to saying, because EU law means that we can’t discriminate against Eastern Europeans, we have to discriminate against non-European workers instead.

    Whether or not this shift in tack by the British government was guided at least in part by fears that the ethnic composition of this country is becoming worryingly heterogeneous is debatable (although I am sure that the government appreciated the political potential the PBS would have to placate such fears which were heightened by the race riots in the North West of the UK at the start of this century and July 7). One thing which is not up for debate is that the guiding principles of immigration in this country and much of Western Europe have shifted from towards egotistical economic ones: the fundamental divide now being between those included in the sphere of (relative) economic prosperity and those excluded from it.

    Is the violence we saw against Romanians this week really so out of line with our moral zeitgeist? Ministers placed restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian workers in January 2007 citing pressures on public services as part of the reason. Again the restrictions upon the free movement on these two countries means, in effect, that Romanian and Bulgarian workers are being discriminated against by virtue of their nationality. The differential in the treatment of A2 nationals as compared to A8 ones has the result that a girl born in Romania will in 2009 have less rights to come to the UK to work than a girl born in Lithuania - simply because they joined the EU a few years after the A8 countries.

    If the British government is capable of discriminating against Romanian people, it perhaps isn’t surprising that a few thugs are too.



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    13 Comments below   |   Add your own

    1. Rumbold — on 21st June, 2009 at 8:48 am  

      We need to work out what sort of immigration system we want. Too often the debate is framed in simple ‘pro’ or ‘anti’ models, with a focus on ’skilled’ immigrants.

      Yet many of the so-called unskilled immigrants who came here originally, particularly those of South Asian origin, who might not get in under new plans, ended up working long hours in useful jobs (like running cornershops), while raising a generation of doctors and engineers (the very people we are said to need to attract).

    2. David Jones — on 21st June, 2009 at 9:14 am  

      ‘a hidden violence; namely the one which sustains our political and economic system’

      I thought this language-mangling had disappeared with the retreat of PoMo and the decline of the loonier fringes of the social ’sciences’.

      I don’t intend to buy the book so could you precis? In what way is our politicial system sustained by violence?

    3. billericaydicky — on 21st June, 2009 at 10:18 am  

      Well said David Jones, this article is redolent of the drivel that came out of Polytechnics in the sixties and seventies usually from the kind of Marxist lecturer portrayed by Posy Simmonds in George Webber.

      I am going to take a guess and say that eventually after more of this quasi Marxist rubbish the writer will retreat into claiming that he practices such a specialist branch of whatever svience he is claimg to that us lesser mortals will never really understand it so we will just have to take his word for it that what he is saying is true.

      The arguments about immigration are simple. We need people with certain skills that we lack in our own workforce. Over the last three years I have suffered a series of things going wrong with me from TB through a prostate operation, badly broken leg and am now, hopefull, next week going to be told that I don’t osophogal cancer.

      The vast majority of people treating me were not only not British most were not European. My TB specialist was a Vietnamese who had got out as a child with the “Boat people”. The surgeon who bolted my badly broken left leg together was from Iraq and there have been Chinese and Indian anaesthetists, a Lebanese Christian gastric surgeon and more Phillipinos than you can shake a stick at.

      The thing about all of these people is that they have skills that we need and want to work here as opposed to where they come from. No problem there. Where there is a problem is with the huddled masses camped outside the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Mellila in North Africa and the thousands that are now making the journies across the Sahara to the coasts of Libya and Tunisia.

      Ditto the ones in camps in between Calais and Boulougne trying to get onto the backs of UK bound lorries. They bring with them no skills other than the ability to do the most unskilled work which has resulted in unskilled construction industry wages being at the levels they were twenty years ago.

      One of the reasons that the people who treated me and the others want to come to this country is precisely because it is not a country or a society sustained by violence but one that operates under a rule of law.

    4. cjcjc — on 21st June, 2009 at 11:33 am  

      That Zizek is a real charmer.

      “What is the worst job you’ve done?

      Teaching. I hate students, they are (as all people) mostly stupid and boring.”

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2008/aug/09/slavoj.zizek

      I’m not sure what is the precise point of this illiterate post.
      It is possible to oppose open borders without advocating violence to those already here.

    5. David O'Keefe — on 21st June, 2009 at 1:46 pm  

      BD:How about engaging with the argument, instead of dismissing it out of hand because its left-wing?

    6. marvin — on 21st June, 2009 at 3:15 pm  

      Is the violence we saw against Romanians this week really so out of line with our moral zeitgeist?… If the British government is capable of discriminating against Romanian people, it perhaps isn’t surprising that a few thugs are too.

      I am sorry but I haven’t heard such student-marxist pontificating liberal group wank on the blog in some time!

      Northern Ireland has in recent history a been a terrible place to live in your not in the favoured group in the local community. The attacks on this Romany have nothing to do with the governments attempts to redress the sudden and unprecedented Polish immigration wave, and everything to do with sectarian mentality and familiarity with an all-white and all North Irish environment.

      The govmt suggested 13,000 would immigrate, and well over 1 million did, which caused problems with local education, health, etc.

      Anyway the whole immigration system is fucked, some of the best suited people are turned away at our ports whilst the worst suited are given residence.

    7. Sunny — on 21st June, 2009 at 6:33 pm  

      It is possible to oppose open borders without advocating violence to those already here.

      The point is that once you start feeding that discrimination in official establishment language - it’s not long after that the thugs get the message.

      I thought something so obvious wouldn’t be that difficult to understand cjcjc?

    8. Cjcjc — on 21st June, 2009 at 7:37 pm  

      I understand it OK - it’s just bollocks.

    9. marvin — on 21st June, 2009 at 7:53 pm  

      Ah of course, the thugs take their cues from the establishment language. That last 200 page whitepaper on pushed the thugs over the edge. :P

      What’s the betting that none of these thugs have any idea whatsoever that the government have tried to redress the phenomenon of sudden mass immigration of countries on newly joining the EU.

      Typical liberal fail; assuming that the lumpen proles actually listen or give a f*** what the government says. Especially a Labour government in it’s last death throes!

    10. Ravi Naik — on 21st June, 2009 at 11:35 pm  

      The point is that once you start feeding that discrimination in official establishment language – it’s not long after that the thugs get the message.

      I think this article misses a few points, and then some. First of all, let’s be honest here: the official concepts of nation and citizenship are themselves discriminatory. Is the author calling for complete open borders? Can any rich country sustain any number of people that wants to live here? I don’t think so.

      What happened in Belfast is the result of racist thugs. They do need any sort of cue to act the way they did.

    11. damon — on 24th June, 2009 at 9:19 am  

      I agree with Marvin here that the violent reaction to the Roma people in Belfast was a particularly local phenomenon. After fighting for ascendancy and turf for so long, (those red white and blue painted curbstones do mean something afterall), I would have been so surprised if former supporters of paramilitaries just rolled over and let ‘outsiders’ move into the neighbourhood in the way (let’s face it) that dozens of Romanian Roma families would have obviously had some impact on the locality of the streets that they moved into.
      As despicable as attacking people (and running them out of town) is, those kinds of Belfast people have put their (sick) idea of what is in the interests of their community, first.

      I would be more interested to hear what are people’s opinions on what the wider European society should do to intergrate Roma people into general society.
      Some Belfast people showed that they weren’t willing to allow the experiment to take place in their streets, as the more of a welcome and an easy move for Roma people to get houses and a means of sustaining themselves in Northen Ireland (even though they are not actually entitled to work or recieve benifits), then surely more of their community would show up in Northen Ireland looking for the same.

      Things got out of hand in Rome in the last couple of years, with Roma turning up, and just setting up camps along the banks of the river Tiber.
      http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=atPWXZTr0O58
      But I can understand why the local authorities might have been reluctant to have a policy of immediatly putting them into local authority housing (on their arrival in Italy).
      Because that news would be heard very clearly back home in Romania.

    12. chairwoman — on 24th June, 2009 at 9:54 am  

      When is Racism not Racism?

      Quick answer, when Sunny posts on Israel apropos to nothing again :)

    13. dashenka — on 24th June, 2009 at 10:30 am  

      oh, come on you are such hypocrites, all of you!



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