Friday 19 June 2009

Economical With The Actuality

Over on ‘CiF’, Fionola Meredith has this heartrending (and disingenuous) sob-column about the Belfast ‘Romanians’:
At a south Belfast primary school many desks are standing empty today. The Romanian children who attend this richly multicultural school have suddenly vanished.
Notice that a ‘richly multicultural school’ is taken as a desirable thing in and of itself…
The other children wonder where their friends, who arrived after Romania's accession to the EU in 2007, have gone.
Do they? Have you asked them, then, Fionola?

Or are you just indulging in a wee bit of hyperbole there?
The scenario demonstrates the two faces of Northern Ireland.
It does…?
It's the one where newcomer families from other cultures are made welcome, where the children play trombones 10 sizes too big for them in the school orchestra, where mums bring their own speciality dishes to the summer fair. It's the one where a friendly, community-minded local church took in those bewildered Romanians, numbering more than 100, fed them and tucked them in for the night.
Ah, yes, of course.

The typical progressive view of ‘multiculturalism’, where a rainbow of smiling cherubs play together, and a whole world’s cuisine is spread out for their choosing. Everyone gets on with each other, no-one’s views impinge on anyone else’s and the only fly in the ointment is the stuck-in-the-mud Brits who unaccountably whine about the loss of their culture.

As if that was worth preserving, or something…

But please, Fionola, continue:
This Northern Ireland exists episodically, and in patches. Then there's the old, familiar, insular Northern Ireland, rooted in tribalism; fiercely territorial, truculent, self-loathing and hostile to outsiders. The racist intimidation of the Romanians – the latest and most visible in a sustained campaign of attacks against migrants in the area since trouble broke out at a World Cup qualifying match between Northern Ireland and Poland in March – has been described as the new sectarianism.
Notice how it’s only the ‘natives’ that are viewed as ‘rooted in tribalism, fiercely territorial, truculent’.

Never the incomers, who are, presumably, made of sugar and spice and all things nice. Quite unlike the slugs, snails and puppydog tails that make up those damned Northern Irish!

I’m sensing a pattern here:
Such sentiments have been evident in the tortuous logic used by some to justify the attacks, from well-spoken callers on radio shows claiming that a Romanian once looked sideways at their granny, to comments such as this one from a political blog ers-continues-unabated-in-south-belfast/P50> :

The attacks were wrong and unacceptable but sometimes it's the only way that some people can express themselves when they are powerless and disadvantaged by the political system and political elites.
Ummm, isn’t that view not too unlike that expressed by the likes of Guardian stalwarts like Milne and his ilk, when they are ‘resisting the imperialist forces of the West’?

Or is it just applicable to Third Worlders, and never to anyone else?

But Fionola almost, but not quite, lets the cat out of the bag here:
Even where an embryonic form of integration is working, it's not all sunshine and clapping games. Despite Paisley's beguiling vision, the journey towards a truly culturally diverse Northern Ireland will inevitably be marked by suspicions and embarrassments. Yes, it is uncomfortable to see a Romanian mother at the school gate, then later begging outside the market, or on the street with her kids at 2.30am, trying to flog plastic roses to drunk students coming out of clubs. But that's the reality. It's difficult and complicated.

Two things – firstly, here we see the first glimpse of the truth behind these attacks that Fionola doesn’t mention in her article (but which is mentioned by the commenters to it) – this isn’t targeted indiscriminately at immigrants in general, but at one section in particular. Roma gypsies.

Secondly, that the Northern Irish must simply accept that these people have a right to come to their country and beg, and not raise any kind of fuss about it. This leads, inevitably, to the kind of simmering tensions that cause the kind of acts we’ve seen.

And while we are on the subject, when did the Northern Irish people vote to make their country a ‘culturally diverse’ one? Were they ever asked?
Was it ever debated whether this was something worth pursuing?

I think we all know the answer, though…


Angry Exile said...

Migration isn't a problem in itself, it's the failure to integrate. The debate is had here in Australia from time to time (been a bit of recently in fact) but after a few years here it strikes me that there's a bit of a difference. Keeping to your traditions is one thing but cultural respect is a two way street, and respecting the traditions and culture of your new country is only courtesy. And that courtesy generally requires a bit of adaptation on the part of the migrants - I speak from personal experience of being a migrant, though it was pretty minimal for me. Australia seems to attract a larger proportion of migrants who really want to be here and so have the courtesy to adapt than the UK gets. The long and short is that groups who move and adjust to the locals will fit in and be welcomed nearly anywhere, while those who expect the locals to change for their benefit will encounter resentment and hostility wherever they go.

In my opinion this too is a lifestyle choice.

North Northwester said...

"...when did the Northern Irish people vote to make their country a ‘culturally diverse’ one?"

When did any of us? We were never asked - lacking the imagination and education to see that settlement is all for the best - except in Jerusalem, the West Bank and in Transjordan generally.
Oh, and all of North America and Australia apparently. That was all permanently and unforgivably wrong.

And as the Northern Irish have a bit of a history of community tensions, just which bright spark decided that Belfast was THE place to settle?

But apparently and strangely (according to a teacher friend who works with their children and a gypsy friend of mine), the true gypsies don't do history.
It may not be a survival trait.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Worth pondering.
A commenter on another blog,( which I can no longer find )

Suggested that this was an extended Roma gypsy clan and were involved in begging , lucky heather selling and accompanying traditional Roma shenanigans.

As such being as most organised crime in NI is still run by Paramilitary’s ( both Republican & Loyalist ) and any poaching is dealt with swiftly and harshly.

That perhaps they stepped on somebody’s toes and were duly handed a lesson on who owns the crime in NI.

JuliaM said...

"Migration isn't a problem in itself, it's the failure to integrate."

Indeed. Also the amount and type of migration.

"When did any of us? We were never asked - lacking the imagination and education to see that settlement is all for the best - except in Jerusalem, the West Bank and in Transjordan generally."

Yes, there are always exceptions to every progressive rule, aren't there..?

"...any poaching is dealt with swiftly and harshly."

An old-fashioned crime family turf war? Hmm, sounds plausible.

And even more reason for the MSM to want to make this a 'nasty NI racists!' issue instead of looking a little deeper...


Dangerouslysubversivedad said...

Tis funny how the columnist manages to ignore the fact that the commenter in question cited specific, personal and anecdotal evidence as to the equally criminal behaviour of the poor ickle Roma darlings. Really, really bad example.