Thursday 6 July 2023

Lowering the bar. Again.


Just when I start to think that the Tories have gone as low as they can, up pops another one to prove me wrong. This time it’s Jenrick, with his order to staff to paint over cartoons and pictures of animals, designed to provide a degree of reassurance to frightened and traumatised children held in detention centres for migrants, and instead paint the walls in the plain drab colours expected of penal institutions. It’s a declaration that the children are not supposed to be reassured; their fear and trauma is to be increased as a deliberate element of creating a hostile environment.

It's a mistake to see this as being aimed only at those being detained, however. For those of us who’ve ever looked at history and wondered how ordinary people can so easily end up perpetrating cruelty against defined groups, this is part of the answer – the deliberate creation of an environment and culture which is devoid of any measure of care and consideration for those groups. It’s an attempt to remind the staff that they aren’t there to care for those people detained in the facilities, they are there to process them. The detainees are numbers and statistics, not human beings. It sets expectations as to how the staff are expected to behave, and care forms no part of that. History tells us how that can end – staff behaving in accordance with expectations eventually normalises brutality. It’s even possible that Jenrick himself is merely doing the same thing: trying to fulfil what he assumes are his boss’s expectations of him.  But living down to his understanding of that which is expected of him doesn’t get him off the hook – ‘I was only following orders’ has long been discredited as an excuse for anything.

The nearest thing to a bright spot in all this is that the staff are apparently resisting his demands and finding excuses to avoid implementing his order. How long they’ll get away with it remains to be seen; challenges to authoritarian regimes are not often tolerated for long. The episode exposes, once again, the idea that what they like to call ‘British values’ aren’t exactly what they are claimed to be. In practice, deliberate cruelty and inhumanity is part of the current government’s philosophy – and they obviously believe that it’s an approach shared by those who vote for them. It also makes me think that Aneurin Bevan’s description of Tories wasn’t far wrong. We don't have to remain part of this.

1 comment:

Gwyn Jones said...

Why do these tories with their peculiar attitudes and names amuse me. First it was the Hunt now it is the Jenrick. Both of them bring out the poet in me.

Gwyn Jones