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Something Forgotten

I have so much to do today, and some of it is finished but suddenly we have guests this evening so I must make extra effort. And yet there is stuff mulling in my mind that I find hard to deal with.

Left of centre politically, I have plenty of friends who are right of centre politically. We may disagree ferociously, but there is a base line of decency between us or why would we be friends at all? Ah but FB friends. And the unknown friends of FB friends who have plenty to say...and there they are, the Mosley lovers, the Enoch believers, the EDL and the NF and the BNP as was and Britain First and all the rest of them.

Not that there wasn't always racism and the fear of the outsider. My mother faced it, I faced it, my family had to deal with it. Not in its worst form, cos Dad was a Scotsman in the RAF, but still it was there, and not very pleasant. It helped me understand the need to fight in the school playground, where I learned that the stupid learn more from a smack in the mouth than they do from a library.

And some people were very kind to my mother, and some were not. There was great decency, but also lots of little Englander syndrome, a kind of wistful wish that you had been born here... and when you said you were born here, when you could point them to the house where you spent your first day and night in this world, there would be a moment's bewilderment, looking at your mother. What they meant was, they wished you had light grey eyes and light hair, they wished you didn't feel different to them. Difference scared them. Not all of them, but many. They would listen to my voice and laugh, saying, 'What a posh accent! Anyone would think she was...' they had no idea what I was. Mine was received pronunciation learned in Singapore. It was enough to displace me, confuse everyone and set me firmly outside of the tropes of a conservative little west country town.

My mother's laughter grew sharper when she saw what seemed like a population of people who worshipped a far away rich woman, yet put their own mothers and grandmothers in geriatric/psychiatric hospitals for strangers to look after... strangers they resented at first for being different, and then resented for having jobs when jobs grew scarce. Suddenly we had to take care of our own. They said it over and over again. It meant that the foreigners should go away now that the jobs no-one had wanted were worth coveting. And looking after patients? They cared as much about those people as they had done when they had plenty of money and never looked twice at the hospital.

The atmosphere was a little toxic. Perhaps it always is in any small town. London had its racism but a lot less of it, because Little Englanders get eaten by the Big Smoke; if they were adequate in the first place they wouldn't need someone to look down on, and London does few favours for anybody, let alone the inadequate.

But the country's slide to the right has brought out people who speak about foreigners and refugees in a way that is reminiscent of 1930s German propaganda. I won't say it is really new, because it has always been here, but there is either a lot more of it, or maybe a few loons just got much louder courtesy of social media. Maybe it is the movement right of centre, or maybe it is just because so many of our war veterans aren't around to say, 'Don't talk that sh*t in front of me.'

The fear of other though, was always there. I have never know the landscape entirely empty of it. It was much more pronounced than in Singapore, or in Spain which was the other place where I spent much of my early childhood. Some were afraid when the Windrush came. They were afraid when Enoch made his 'Rivers of Blood' speech. They are afraid now, all they have done is transfer their fear of black people to Muslim people.

That is how much has been lost since 1945. It is a question of how common, how wide, how deep this loss is. I like to think that the internet magnifies all things and has magnified this too.

The best commentary on this comes from the world of GB's most famous immigrant;

Aunt Lucy: Long ago, people in England sent their children by train with labels around their necks, so they could be taken care of by complete strangers in the country side where it was safe. They will not have forgotten how to treat strangers.

I hope so, Aunt Lucy. I do hope so.



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