Thursday, 28 July 2011

Lessons to be learned.

I would just like to express my horror about what has happened in Norway. Over the last few days I've been watching the coverage with increasing unease. It was such a chillingly calculated attack - that sort of coldness really scares me.

But what really scares me is the increasing racism I see about me every day. Breivik was a Nationalist who attacked the Labour party because he believed they were allowing "the Islamification" of Norway and Europe. It would be a relief to be able to dismiss this as the belief of a crank, someone who - given his actions – was clearly an extremist. But...

Only days after the attack someone told me that they sort of understood where he was coming from - "foreigners taking over and all that". I was stunned. I mean, apart from the comment itself, when did it become ok to voice those views to someone you barely know? I - perhaps naively - thought that was the kind of sentiment you only revealed to people you knew well, who you trust to have similar views. The fact that it's now something that you can casually mention to someone you barely know suggests that this is a feeling that is growing in acceptance and that really scares me.

I grew up and still live in a very multi-cultural area. As a white girl at my school, I was actually in the minority. It never bothered me - it never occurred to me to be bothered. Everyone rubbed along well enough. But in the last couple of years, I've heard derogatory words bandied about like it's nothing. Racist sentiment seems to be on the rise, I’ve heard it and my friends have been on the receiving end of it. It is disgusting.

I really think we need to stop and think about this. I'll be honest - I am frustrated by people who move to our country and then just go on benefits. I'm as annoyed with them as I am with Brits who do the same. But I have no problem with people coming to our country, looking for a better life for their children, more opportunities. Surely we should be proud that when people want to get a better life for themselves they think this the place to do it?

We're all grown ups, can't we be mature enough to respect each other? When I mentioned this to a friend she said "It all kicked off with September 11th, didn't it?" The so-called "War on Terror" started and what it's mutated into is a war on difference. Why are we so terrified of people being different? This is the 21st century - we should have learned by now to be more inclusive, accepting and understanding of all walks of life.

I applaud the Norwegians for deciding that they will respond to these attacks with democracy rather than violence. There's definitely a lesson to be learned there.


  1. I agree with many of your sentiments wholeheartedly. However, I think life on benefits is very tough and not as many people as you might think want to be on them. When I was on them, I was desperately unhappy. Immigrants tend to work harder than a native population (they have travelled a long way to make a new life) and legislation means that they are not always eligible for benefits any way. That said, I love the rest of your post so very much and the bit about the 'war on difference' was worthy of a newspaper column. Thank you so much for your inspiring attitudes.

  2. John, life on benefits is horrible. I've been there and I know how it can destroy your confidence. My two periods of unemployment made me realise that work is essential. Unfortunately there is a minority who don't want to work and are happy for the support. I don't include people who are genuinely struggling to find work or are unable to work due to ill-health or caring for someone. Yes, I've noticed that immigrants work very hard. But sadly the people who work hard, who can't work for good reasons, who are distraught because they are unable to find a job don't make up the column inches. Those on the make do! There's a lack of positive news in the UK that does frustrate me.

    My point was that I understand why people get frustrated by this, but we need to realise that this is a small minority and should not be an excuse for prejudice. If a man goes and steals a car, we don't assume that every man in the entire world steals cars. It's the same thing really, but one is considered daft and the other isn't. So I think we're in agreement there! In fact I might write a post on racial cliches...

    And thank you for the compliment!