This is a piece about the recent child migrants entering the UK from Calais, and has absolutely nothing to do with football. I realise this is a football blog (whenever I can be bothered to actually update it) so I’ll throw in a few pictures of Wayne Rooney to keep up the illusion.
We, as a country, have turned into a nation of Jose Mourinhos.
The treatment of the migrants in the Calais migrant camps- I refuse to use the term “Calais jungle”, because of the obvious racist undertones inherent in that label and the allusion to the “Harlem jungle” beloved of white supremacists during the Civil Rights movement- has been little short of appalling (almost as little as the contribution Wayne Rooney makes during England games nowadays). People- and they are people, with all that word entails, no matter how they are portrayed in a frankly disgraceful national media- have been forced to live in diabolical squalor, forced to drink water teeming with bacteria and contaminated by faeces, forced to cohabitate in disease-ridden less-than-hovels whilst governments of two rich, European countries have attempted to ignore them and demonise them in almost equal measure. Those few who have managed to escape have suffered abuse, attacks, and levels of approbation that makes away days at Millwall seem like happy trips to the park.
And now, now, in this country which has one of the highest GDPs in the world (however much 52% of the population are trying to reduce that), which has available land, labour shortages in key areas, and a history of genuine social progression and decency and tolerance, there are news articles in major newspapers which are attacking some of the incoming children for appearing older than they are.
Here is a picture of Wayne Rooney, as promised:
He was 16 when this picture was taken. He looks about thirty, as I’m pretty sure he did when he was about three months old. Some people look older than they actually are, a fact which seems lost in a sea of rabid-mouthed abuse (also known as the Daily Mail).
Attacking children for their physical appearance, throwing hatred and spite in their faces because those faces look weary beyond their years, lobbing missiles of disgust and anger like West Ham fans at a Manchester United team bus… It is disgraceful. There is no other word for it. Stupid, idiotic, bigoted, xenophobic, racist… yes, all of these, but above all, disgraceful.
There are, of course, reasons that these children are being attacked. It is absolutely nothing to do with the children themselves- they are entirely blameless, forced to flee their homes because they have been bombed (illegally, by the UK, I might add), and then forced into a state one wouldn’t wish on an animal, that one wouldn’t wish even on Joey Barton.
No, the reasons are entirely British in nature- small-mindedness and xenophobia that has been bubbling under the surface, fires stoked by the same press which is now goading people into hating anyone who doesn’t fit their ridiculous, narrow, paradoxically rigid and ever-changing and ill-defined paradigm of “British”. They might be redefined by that same press into economic reasons, as if a country with an economy as large as ours to which immigration contributes billions is unable to accommodate a few more people; as if the influx of a few hundred, or a few thousand, people, is what is causing strain on the NHS rather than this institution both depending on immigration to function and being gutted by increasing, Tory-led privatisation which the press is curiously shy to mention; as if slight, debated evidence for a tiny, almost negligible potential for wage depression justifies foulness one would have found extreme in the 1930s.
But the reality is, the reasons for opposing immigration are not economic. They are ideological, a natural progression of a reductionist, backwards-looking ideology that has been on the rise in this country, and others, for a long time. It is an ideology that the Tory government has done nothing to combat and in fact quite a lot to strengthen; it is an ideology that has been seen in greater levels ever since the Brexit vote gave an implicit authority to hatred and discrimination; it is an ideology that has found avatars in Nigel Farage and Donald Trump, in anger and hatred against manifestations of imagined threats, in fear-mongering and isolation and blame-outsourcing.
It’s as if Jose Mourinho became a national identity.
That’s not as glib an analogy as it may first appear, actually. Like Mourinho, Britain- or at least a significant proportion of those who inhabit it- have become insular-, cautious, more accustomed to being compact and defensive than expansive and forward-looking. Like Mourinho, Britain-or at least a significant proportion of those who inhabit it – has chosen to blame others for recent setbacks, to engage in paranoid unhinged ranting rather than working to find innovative and progressive solutions to the problems it faces. Like Mourinho, Britain- or at least a significant proportion of those who inhabit it- has thrown money at things it didn’t need, rather than investing into areas which need investment (the Paul Pogba approach). Austerity, inequality, greed, neo-liberalism, slavish devotion to market forces, globalisation… all have contributed to this ideology, all have certainly contributed to the anger and fear felt by the population at large, but, much like Mourinho blaming referees and team doctors and Luke Shaw, instead of embracing and engaging with the complexities of society’s problems and trying to find answers, Britain at large has chosen to blame immigration and direct their fury at innocent parties instead.
What is happening in Calais is morally reprehensible. What has been directed at people entering, or trying to enter, the UK from Calais is morally reprehensible. What disgraces the front pages of the Mail and the Express, the Star and the Sun is morally reprehensible. There are better ways than this, inclusive, compassionate, hopeful ways, that require little more than a little kindness, a little thought, a recognition that people are people no matter what bit of rock they happen to have been born on and a recognition that, if we take a little time to understand each other, we can help each other negotiate a better future.
Or we can park the bus like Jose across the cliffs of Dover. It’s our choice.