Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Freedom for whom?

They say that a lie can travel halfway round the world before the truth has got its boots on, and the speed of media in the twenty first century is only adding to the truth of that.  The fake story about Nigel Farage moving to the US is still being shared and passed on, despite having been repudiated almost immediately.  It’s just too delicious a story; something that many of us would like to believe because of what it would say about his honesty and consistency.  And it helped that this particular untruth started in the Times, usually regarded as being rather more reliable than the tabloids where many of expect to read untruths - and are rarely disappointed.
It made me think a little bit, though, about the idea of ‘freedom of movement’ and what people mean by it.  The Brexit referendum was won, in part, on the rejection of the idea by the Leave side, but for the suggestion that someone like Farage could, if he wanted, up sticks and move to the USA to have any credibility one has to assume that he would see himself as being free to do so.  And I suspect that he would so see himself.  They’re not quite so opposed to freedom of movement when it comes to themselves.
And that in turn made me wonder what the reaction would be if a lot of American citizens decided that they didn’t like the idea of a Trump presidency and would rather like to emigrate to the UK.  Would they be welcome?  After all, an immigrant is an immigrant wherever he comes from, isn’t he?  And I couldn’t help but conclude that the extent of any welcome might depend on a range of factors.  The most obvious is wealth – wealthy immigrants are always welcomed more than poor ones.  And I rather suspect that ethnic origin and language might play a factor as well.
And that brings me back to what people mean when they refer to freedom of movement and restricting it.  It seems to me that they are, ultimately, in favour of freedom of movement for some but not for others.  Rich, white, English-speaking immigrants are more acceptable than poor, black, non-English speakers.  Freedom of movement is seen as a privilege for the few, not a right for the many.  In the case of the parties which traditionally stand for the privileged few, that shouldn’t surprise us – but Labour’s position has essentially become the same, quibbling only about a few details. 

But what if we ask ourselves who are the people with the greatest need to be able to move elsewhere in order to escape a “nasty, brutish and short” existence?  That would be a rather different demographic.

1 comment:

Lesley Kay Hanson said...

I agree with you. It's always ok for rich people to come and have access to services. We have been brainwashed by govt and media to think, 'No you can't. It's ours!' We should be saying to people who need to use them. 'Of course we will share with you. You are welcome.