It’s almost as if we’re approaching some kind of turning point. At last, the tide may be turning. People may be finding compassion, empathy, kindness. Not just that, but aren’t willing to do nothing. People want to do something – anything – to help.
We are told too often that we are powerless, that we aren’t able to effect change. But this refugee crisis could change that: forget the government, pandering to racist pensioners and evil little Englanders who want to pull up the drawbridge. If they won’t act, if they will turn their backs, everyone else has to do something. Or to try. To attempt to make a difference. Who knows what help an extra mobile phone, or clothes or money or whatever will do? But you have to try.
Power doesn’t just exist with the powerful. We have to try and persuade them they’re wrong to refuse asylum seekers, to regularly deport them, to want to appear “Tough” on immigration. They think it’s popular and that it’s what the people want. What that means is those of us who care about drowning children, dying families and unspeakable horrors must shout louder and louder. Our voices must be louder and stronger than those saying we’re full up and can’t take any more. Otherwise, the government will turn its back and do nothing. It doesn’t want to help: it will only help if it’s forced to.
I’m writing to my MP, which I think everyone should do. My MP is a tory so needs to know more than most, but all pressure creates momentum. Every word in favour of refugees is important right now. The political class needs to know that British people are not a mass of racists or xenophobic idiots or greedy scum who want to cling on to our unfairly large slice; we want to help, we are kind, we are generous. Yes, not everyone shares our views, but we have been too shy. We need to be loud about it: we want more immigrants. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
For too long, we’ve allowed politicians and ordinary people alike to control the language, to use dehumanising terms like “swarm” and “mass” for human beings with dreams and families and souls and lives who happen to have been born in less fortunate circumstances than us. The debate has been comfortable for those opposing immigration. It needs to be uncomfortable for them. It needs to pick up a critical mass to say: no more, not in my name. Actually, refugees are welcome. I want them to come. I want them to be helped because we can spare it. The garbage about not being able to help, which seeps through everything in austerity times, needs to be questioned, challenged and overturned.
The press, for years demonising immigrants, refugees and foreigners as other, scary, nasty people who needed to be kept out because we’re full up, have allowed a stray fragment of pity to invade their toxic little lives. One dead toddler on a beach and they give a shit. But still the distinction persists as they approach some kind of damascene conversion: there are good and bad migrants, deserving and undeserving.
They enabled this situation to happen. They pandered to the lowest of the low. Now they’re almost approaching a stance that isn’t entirely genocidal, they want a biscuit and a hearty handshake. Fuck them. They should have been campaigning for compassion for years. They had the resources and the platform to make a difference. They didn’t. They chose not to. If anything good comes from this crisis, it wasn’t down to them and their “brave” decision to show a photo of a dead boy on a beach: it was because of the efforts of ordinary people who wanted to make a difference, and who did something.
For years it’s been a source of shame that the country I live in his become more and more hostile to immigrants. All political parties have done it because they thought it’s what we wanted. Plenty of people do want that. Plenty of people do want to turn away from thinking about death and misery, to keep their living standards slightly more comfortable.
Even if we were full, we should still help and offer sanctuary. But we’re not full. We have room to spare. The economy is booming, we’re told time and time again (though we must “live within our means”). Prove it. Use the boom for good. Do one good thing that will make the next generation proud of us. Save them. Because they aren’t “them”. There is no them. They are us and we just had an accident of birth that meant we didn’t have to endure what they have. They are our brothers and sisters and they should live. And we should do it because it’s the right thing to do. Nothing more, nothing less.
Let’s start now. Do something, anything. I don’t know how much it will help but I can’t stand back and do nothing.