Conference Call


A few weeks ago Sunny linked to a conference held at Imperial College London called Sikhs in the UK: Fact, Fiction and Future.

I just read a report about it sent to a mailing list I am a member of. It all sounds pretty innocuous stuff, some of it even interesting. Between 50 to 80 people attended, and it was the usual kind of thing - a few pieties, some interesting academic debate, the usual things about the great Sikh contribution to British life, ‘challenges of the future’, a debate about stereotyping and blah blah blah.

 But what I had not realised was that the conference was sponsored by the government and a home office representative was present. It seems this was part of the inane idea of ‘listening to the community’. So this is how it works - every ‘community’ has to be listened to, every community must be allowed to have their day in the sun. Every community must scramble for handouts like beggars for funding for their projects. Every community must scream louder and louder for attention. And the government pays lip service to any issues raised. I understand that the government is also planning similar thing for representatives of the Hindu community. Thus does the British government foster communalism in British society.

 But in some ways, it is just a continuation of the whole Ken Livingstone GLC ethos of inviting every racial and minority pressure group for tea to lobby for their selfish demands to be met. As if their demands were all that mattered, and making way in British society depended on clamouring for public funds and the ear of ministers on communalist issues, rather than individual effort and initiative.

Despite reducing the dignity of the beggars who jump up and down for their moment in the spotlight, and giving an inordinate amount of pompous self importance to the ‘activists’ who suddenly feel they are qualified to speak for all members of their ‘community’, it fosters a deeply patronising, tokenistic attitude amongst government and wider society towards individuals from those backgrounds. It essentialises and leads to flabby thinking, it panders to who shouts and squeals the loudest.

I can see a theme developing here, and I think it is something that needs to be listened to, and I think it is something that the government needs to hear.

Anyway, I respect some of the people who spoke at this event, others less so. But I do think there is something deeply misconceived about this whole process - even on the terms that the government and others in society perceive it to work I have my doubts about how much can be achieved in this whole ‘consultation and conference’ culture.


One Response to “Conference Call”

  1. rockmother Says:

    Yeah - good intentions but a bit naive in theory.

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