Archive for March, 2005

Understanding “immigration”

I’m trying to put together a mental picture of the sort of person Michael Howard is talking about when he says things like

“Our immigration system is being abused – and with it Britain’s generosity.”

and proposes 24 hour surveillance at ports, barbed wire around every village green etc etc. The thing is, I’m really not quite getting this immigrant thing. I’m constantly told that immigration and asylum will be “key issues” in the coming election, and I need to understand why this is.

I mean, clearly they’re not key on a rational basis, I know that. Similar xenophobic movements have been created and exploited for centuries and it’s just a tad hard to accept that, no, really, this time it’s true that they’re going to take our houses and jobs and outbreed us and we’ll all be worshipping $other_god and eating $smelly_food. I’m not looking for justification on the basis of “it really does matter and this is why” because it doesn’t, and even if you were to think it important, considering it more important than, say, invading other countries or selling off public industry seems pretty irrational. Unless you’re just simply a racist, in which case I suppose it would be rational but not really something I could debate with you.

No, I’m trying to understand who these “immigrants” are. I’m fairly sure what a “good immigrant” is. Quiet, doesn’t kick up a fuss, might worship $other_god but does it in private and wouldn’t mention it in public, doesn’t waft $smelly_food fumes in your direction, has well-behaved kids who do well in school, and works hard all hours of the day for not very much money. Speaks English when necessary for the job, though might have a comedy accent.

“Bad immigrants”, though, the ones who abuse Britain’s generosity – who are they? I’m confused. There seem to be five basic groups mixed into one scary but contradictory menace.

  1. Bogus Asylum Seekers

    The old favourite. Drawn by the legendary softness of the British immigration system, which is whispered about in souks and brothels across the world. Pretend to have been tortured and/or persecuted, but in fact just mean to come over here, claim benefits and get houses that should go to British pensioners. Even if they are rejected, they disappear and then claim benefits. Somehow. Frequently have AIDS or TB. Eat swans.

    May also be Gypsies – steal from chain stores and beg on the tube with their babies.

  2. Illegal Welfare Cheats

    Like bogus asylum seekers, but don’t bother trying to claim asylum, just get over here somehow and exploit the system somehow. Frequently have AIDS or TB.

  3. Illegal Workers

    Uneducated people who are here to steal our jobs, but can’t do them as well due to foreignness. Hide in lorries and suffocate occasionally. In fact, are frequently killed in industrial accidents which is of course terrible, appalling etc but basically their own fault when you think about it. Frequently have AIDS or TB.

  4. Legal Workers

    Uneducated people who are here to steal our jobs, can’t do them as well due to foreignness – but are actually here legally, because of the legendary softness of the British immigation system (see above). Shoddy workers, also thieves and rapists. Exploit the NHS. Frequently have AIDS or TB.

  5. Terrorists

    We all know who these ones are – those Muslim fanatics we hear about all the time who want to destroy Western civilisation. Very hard to spot in practice, as the vanishingly small number of people even convicted of terrorism-related offences means that there isn’t much to go by. Clearly the country is actually full of them – Mr Tony says so – thus it behooves all citizens to keep an extra-special eye out for anyone displaying any tendency towards being Muslim in public. Probably do not have AIDS or TB, though you never know.

    It should be noted that you can be a Terrorist and born in this country, but you are still really a Terrorist Immigrant because you should go and live in Iran if you like it so much.

The thing is, you can’t really be a combination of these, and a proper xenophobic movement needs a well-defined enemy, or at least a better-defined enemy than that. (You could technically be a bogus asylum seeker and a terrorist, but you wouldn’t fit the stereotype of the former – “technically” isn’t important here.) Some movements have a number of targets which they group under a general banner; neo-Nazis have different reasons for disliking homosexuals and Jews, but they’re all enemies of the Aryan race. It just doesn’t feel to me like that’s what’s going on here, though. It feels like there’s this vague mashed-together “threat”, which nobody’s really examining for consistency, and there’s not even a pretence that it’s consistent, yet it’ll do. News reports and statements, let alone casual conversation, often refer to “illegal asylum seekers” for instance, which is impossible; you’re either an asylum seeker, in which case your appeal is being considered and you’re here legally, or you’re not and you’re something else.

Maybe I’m missing a few details, or a few stereotypes, or the connections between the stereotypes. 1-4 are sort of vaguely similar I suppose – maybe the blending of them is more effective than I think it is. But I’m trying here, okay? I’m being a good citizen, I’m trying to understand what it is I’m supposed to be believing.

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Sick building

weekend withdrawal (n.)

Syndrome brought on by sudden deprivation of weekends. Symptoms include sneezing, headaches, irritability and confusion, and are more acute when the previous weekend was of unusual length. Sufferers frequently suffer from memory loss, becoming unable to remember why they are wasting their time on this shit.

No known cure: symptomatic relief only.

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The morning after

Feels like a Monday.

I should go to work, I suppose.

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Drugs I have taken

In a confessional mood tonight. Well, not terribly confessional; “self-indulgent” would probably cover it better. This is only illegal drugs – I’ve taken and continue to regularly take the legal non-prescription ones.

  • Spliff, of course. Boring. Don’t really like it; I have enough trouble with ambition and attitude as it is without adding to that. Still, I like to think I gave it a good try. A few years of smoking on and off and eating some (the yoghurt trick – heating in oil in a spoon, then putting the spoon in a yoghurt pot, mixing up and eating). I just never really enjoyed it an awful lot. Booze was much better. Have not had any for years now in any quantity larger than a puff.
  • Speed. I liked speed. This was cheap Scottish speed, probably 10% or less pure, but it did the trick i.e. allowed me to dance for a few hours longer than usual without untoward side-effects. I always felt fine in the morning… okay, afternoon, but it would have been the same if I’d just been drinking. Amphetamines are skill. Not had any for years. I don’t dance much nowadays.
  • Acid. I don’t like acid. I don’t hallucinate visually at all beyond some very light effects, so that fun element is taken out of it, and the last time I took any (to “help” a friend who was trying some) it was a lot stronger than I thought and all I ended up with was an inability to understand normal human conversation – couldn’t judge what was going on so I insulted people or otherwise acted the twat – vicious paranoia and a lack of depth perception, which made crossing the road a big laugh, I can tell you. I’m not built to take acid. You take it if you want to but I’ll pass, thanks.

Things I haven’t really taken:

  • Pills (meaning Ecstacy, or things supposedly involving MDMA). I had something like a half or a third of a pill in Heaven once, which doesn’t count since who knows what was in it anyway. Did nothing at all, as you’d expect. There was a survey that was trying to get volunteers in Edinburgh who’d taken other drugs – i.e. were “polydrug abusers” – but hadn’t taken E, and they were having real difficulty finding anyone. I think I would have been about the only person. No, I didn’t volunteer.
  • Coke. From what everyone says, and the chemistry of the drug, I would like coke way too much, and I would fuck myself up on it. I actively avoid coke. Anything which costs a lot of money and solves your problems with self-confidence for a short period, I’d be off to the loos every half an hour. Besides, I’ve known more than one person who was very nice not on coke, and an absolute arsehole after a few lines, so that’s not very encouraging either.
  • Stronger hallucinogens. Fucking hippy shit. Count me out. Go explore your consciousnesses on your own – the phenomenal world is enough for me right now, I just want drugs that will let me deal with that a bit better.

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Penguin warning

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Places I have lived

  • Just off Clapham Common, before it was trendy. Up to the age of three. I don’t remember it very well; I have some vague memories but quite likely they’re actually derived from photographs I’ve seen of myself at the time.
  • Tulse Hill, most of my school life.
  • Edinburgh, in student areas – Buccleuch Place and just off the Meadows, five years total. Events here could be the subject of a number of different posts.
  • On return to London and starting work with Global Megabastards Plc – Bethnal Green, with two women, one of whom with I had a very occasional and very pointless physical relationship.
  • Two places in Seven Sisters – one room in a house owned by a couple who lived there, and one shared house with a number of frequently-changing reprobates, very few of whom paid their rent and bills.
  • King Of Prussia, PA, USA, in a block called The Marquis. The middle of nowhere. Occupied by similarly confused and desperate twenty-something professionals and families from Southern Asia. Strip mall across the road, if you fancied trying to cross the road.
  • Manayunk, PA, USA, on Main Street, in Canal House. Gated, tiny, with a restaurant outside the window emptying bottles into a dumpster at 5am every morning.
  • Spare rooms of very generous friends in London, in Brixton and briefly in Oval.
  • Hammersmith – well, more in the Ravenscourt Park/Queensway area. Three gastropubs within easy walking distance.

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And you might have realised

…that this blog has just turned all WordPressy. Yes indeed. For the record, the reasons could include:

  1. trying out WordPress 1.5 and finding it’s actually quite good;
  2. non-LJers whinging incessantly about how they don’t want to join LJ, and others forgetting to sign their anonymous posts so I think everyone is from my family and insult them;
  3. it Googles better;
  4. I spend half my bloody time hacking PHP anyway to get my LJ embedded in my site, the feeds working etc etc and it still doesn’t look how I want it to, so I might as well hack PHP on WordPress instead.

Of course, reasons could also include:

  1. threats from mysterious XHTML-obsessed ninjas, unhappy with non-compliant LJ pages and threatening to position: relative; top: -20cm; my <head>;
  2. lack of anything to do on the fourth day of a four-day weekend – Jesus, it’s like Sunday Plus, I might be tempted to have a bath or something soon to relieve the boredom;
  3. paranoia about people deleting their comments, and megalomania that makes me want to own their comments;
  4. Brad objects to me storing naked pictures of him and his astroglided Afghan on LJ Scrapbook.

Of course, you LJers can always friend fridgeblog which is still working. And deliciousfridge and flickfridge of course.

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A penguin video update

Largish music video for a song called “So Says I” by The Shins. Involving penguins! Lots of penguins! And Communist penguins!

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I'm going to make an Easter Curry, out of bunny rabbit, with little deep-fried chicks as a side dish.

Discovery Civilization appears to be taking the opportunity to broadcast a whole load of credulous shite, under the pretense that it's “anthrolopology” or “archeology” or some other “ology” that's not “theology” or “abnormal psychology”. Was the Garden Of Eden real (obviously yes, must be) and where is it? Are there secret messages in the Bible? How can I become a sunbeam for Jesus?

No chocolate for me. Chocolate is not Biblical. Wine, I think (and none of this “the word doesn't mean wine it means grape juice” nonsense from the pussy puritan US fundies for me) and, well, lamb seems more historically appropriate, but I've only got beef, and Jesus would have eaten whatever was in the fridge. Besides, I did try to buy some lamb yesterday at a Middle Eastern butchers but the queue was so long I didn't bother.

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Reasonably funny pre-election campaigning – mistake surely?

I read about somebody sending the contents of this page around by email yesterday, and I assumed it was a fake, because it's actually fairly amusing – but apparently not. This is not what one expects. Normally, politicians should avoid humour at all costs, because it's one of those laws of the universe that politicians making jokes are never funny (a corollary of which is Lilley's Law, stating that one should never sing “comic” songs at party conferences if one does not want to appear a twat).

I can only conclude that either they've managed to employ some external agency with a sense of humour, which will probably go under, or they've stolen the whole thing from someone.

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