‘Remember, remember always that all of us, you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists’

– Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Today it’s nearly impossible to start a debate on immigration without arousing feelings of racism. The two topics are strongly related and that is probably why immigration became a problem.

History has, over the years, offered plenty of examples of the devastating effect of a racial sense of superiority, yet we are still inclined to take the same actions as our ancestors, we are stuck in a pattern of behaviour. In psychology a repetitive behavior is considered to be a disorder. As a society we are sick.

Looking into dominant economies it’s impossible to deny two facts: firstly immigrants increase consumption enforcing capitalism and empowering the work force, so as opposite to what some people may think it’s unlikely that an immigrant will move to another country and afford to be out of work. Secondly: solid economies first became powerful because of the history of exploitation of poorer countries.

In times of elections, though, many politicians globally seem to forget to mention these facts and instead make use of emotional appealing campaigns to simulate patriotism suggesting that citizens should ‘claim their country’ back by forcing immigrants out, encouraging hostility and unreasonable beliefs.

Remarkably these were the same beliefs used by Hitler to alienate people into ignorance and start genocide. Charismatic leaders since ancient Rome understand that the masses have a poor understanding of politics and keep them amused instead with cheap entertainment and distorted information. Poverty also generates feelings of anger and since there is poverty virtually everywhere it can be easily converted into fuel to sustain they own interests or to become convenient excuses such as “I don’t have a job because someone else took it”.

A practical example would be the £1.5 million campaign founded by businessman Paul Skyes on May 2014, who aggressively exposed his disapproval of non-British citizens living in the country openly.

How could this be constructive when we live in a country where often doctors are Indian? Turkish, Chinese or Lebanese people frequently deliver the take-away? Cars are cleaned by family-run businesses from Eastern Europe? Everybody within major cities is friends with, or at least knows people of different nationalities… We can take it further and think on a larger scale, looking at the label of our clothes and read where they came from… Made where? The food that we eat, the furniture in our house, the cars that we drive, how would that be possible without multicultural interaction? The world as we know it is only possible because of the richness in diversity. No country is entirely self-sufficient.

The label ‘cosmopolitan’ is vastly used to describe openness and sophistication: to learn another language, experiment with exotic flavours, Italian clothes, French food, yoga retreats in India, connecting with nature in the Amazonian Forest, visit monks in Tibet, taking pictures with elephants in Thailand … but what about war refugees, mothers travelling with young children to escape an authoritarian culture, people coming from less privileged places with the intention to see a brighter future for their families…is that unacceptable? Too ugly too look at? Too disturbing for your concept of society?

It leaves us with the conclusion that low tolerance is nothing but fear and lack of knowledge. Normally people complaining about immigrants are also benefiting from a multicultural society but they don’t stop to acknowledge that, in fewer words they are ignorant of the facts. In the age we live in, with access to unlimited information on the internet, ignorance is a choice.

It is undeniable that more people in the country applying for jobs makes the market more competitive, but is true also that some nationalities would not firstly apply for certain jobs, and secondly be qualified to take certain positions, which make the accusation of ‘cheap labour’ stealing jobs incoherent. Immigrants are rather doing the jobs that are no one else would or highly educated and in demand, yet they are being pressured, attacked and being made to feel unwelcome on a daily basis.

On social media sites it’s common to find offensive posts, and these posts are supported by hundreds of degrading comments. All the polemic topics come out to offend together, the religion, the colour of the skin, the supposed benefits, the NHS and the nationality mixed together in a sour jam.

Citizens with distorted knowledge of facts feel entitled to express their hate with political justifications, but again politics and sociology have their roots in complexity and the attempt of their use to justify racism is objectionable.

This is the world that an entire generation are being exposed to: we are teaching them about Mandela and his fight for human rights in South Africa and in the rest of the globe, slavery, American society and their obsolete attitudes still present in some parts the country but at the same time we are claiming that England had its ‘fair’ slice of the refugees cake and are fed up with Eastern Europeans coming to steal jobs and claim public money, that the neighbourhood has declined in value because of Muslims living in the area, that some schools are better than others because of the catchment area is mostly white. It goes on. This sounds absurd but it’s currently discussed with ordinariness in newspapers, between neighbours, estate agents etc.… people who don’t consider themselves racists act in an inherently racist way, and this is one of the most dangerous forms of racism.

There are millions of British citizens living abroad, mostly for different reasons than people who choose to come to Britain as their own country offers great stability and opportunities, but how irrational would it sound if an Australian/Spaniard/American posted on Facebook: “Fuck off back to your own countries Brits! The nice weather is ours, we were here first…” (ironically this is so rarely the case). A bit ridiculous but not too far from what we have been exposed to recently.

Only with a different attitude we will be able to create a world were the interaction with police, employers, neighbours, business owners etc. are not predetermined by a passport but by personal merits. This is what it will mean to live in a better world.

From a personal point of view the United Kingdom is one of the most tolerant and welcoming places that became great by encouraging diversity and spreading widely their true identity: extremely polite and an explorer that understands the personal needs of travelling and experiencing different cultures with a degree of curiosity that made this small island a great influence in arts, music, literature and behaviour. Unfortunately there is a minority resisting because of misinformation or local culture and influences, as mentioned before the false sense of patriotism and financial struggle can stimulate these feelings for these people. It’s important to note that racism will not diminish immigration but education and better distribution of resources in the world will. The only way that people would not leave their countries is when the opportunity became equal everywhere, still as anyone knows there are other human needs such as diversity and for this reason the only thing that should not be welcomed is intolerance, this is the seed of war and unfortunately we have had plenty of it so far.

Image Credit: Emigrants by Antônio Rocco (1910)