About a month ago, I was at a party, and was introduced to a group of people I’d not met before, but who all knew each other, and who had very good reasons for wanting to make a good first impression on me. We’d been chatting for maybe two minutes, and then the following exchange occurred between them.
“Did you see about that migrant dying after hanging on to the bottom of an aeroplane to get here? I felt so sorry for him.”
“I’m KIDDING! Of course I didn’t feel sorry for him. Serve them right for trying to come over here. I wish a few more of them would die, might stop them coming over.”
“Yeah. I don’t know why they don’t put all the immigrants on a big boat, sail it out into the middle of the ocean, and sink it. It’d get rid of them and replenish the fish stocks.”
“Good idea. I don’t know why they don’t do that.”
Now, the thing that really appalled me — far more even than the sheer lack of human decency involved, far more than the fact that I was stuck talking to people who were advocating the murder of my wife and couldn’t tell them what I think because neurotypical social rules apparently make advocating genocide less of a faux pas than calling an inhuman, monstrous, bigot an inhuman, monstrous, bigot — was that they seemed to think this was an appropriate way to talk to someone they’d only just met and wanted to impress.
These — admittedly stupid, admittedly ill-educated — people seemed to think that calling for the death of every immigrant was as uncontroversial a position as remarking on it being a hot day. Indeed, they considered preferring Man United to Man City considerably more controversial.
Meanwhile, the fact that there are roughly 5000 people in Calais who are desperate to come to this country — so desperate that they are willing to risk their lives to do so, and several are actually dying — is causing so much anger among politicians and the media that we’ve actually had elected politicians calling for us to go to war with France. Because of a “flood” of “cockroach-like hordes” of “migrants” (as we now apparently have to call them, rather than” people”) wanting to come here.
To put that number into perspective, it’s about a quarter of the number of people who were at a Beach Boys gig I was at in 2011. It’s such a small number that it’s not even a rounding error in the population figures. Yet the Conservative Party are currently screaming about how we need to make it harder for these people to get into the country (because apparently people regularly dying is just a sign that it’s still not hard enough), the Labour Party are screaming (with the honourable exception of Diane Abbott) about how the Tories aren’t going far enough, UKIP are calling for war with France, and Tim Farron has talked sensibly but everyone seems more interested in trying to trap him into “admitting” he’s a homophobe (he isn’t) because of his religion than in listening to what he has to say.
Now, I’m not Panglossian enough to say immigration has no downsides — nothing does, and I’m more than happy to have a proper debate on how we balance the right of free movement against the desire for community cohesion and the extra responsibilities immigration causes local government.
But the debate in Britain moved on, a long time ago. Now it’s not about immigration, but about *immigrants*. And it’s vile.
This country is getting more mean-spirited, more xenophobic, more unpleasant every day. I’m terrified we’re heading into actual evil, actual fascism, and accelerating more in that direction every day.
I don’t like it here any more…