Well played, Romania

I’ve never got why so many people get worked up over immigrants, it might be because I’m a fairly secure middle class guy, but I just don’t understand some of the fuss people kick up over things like Polish being the second most widely spoken language in the UK.

The fact is, for many people in Eastern Europe the UK must seem like an attractive proposition- they can earn more money here and if they work here for a few years they can send cash home to support their families and maybe save some so they can live well when they return. If it was the other way around I’m sure Brits would flock to these new opportunities as we did in the US and Australia back in the day, and still do in some cases.

That’s capitalism and following opportunities.

I’m often saddened and surprised by the level of anti-immigrant feeling that I encounter, often from people I actually like, and it boils down to this whole idea of “our taxes” being spent on “them”.

taxpayer

 

The thing is, I’m 27 and I’ve been in employment for about 4-5 of those years, and while I was paying tax before that (VAT and on booze mainly) I know that I’ve taken out far more from the system than I’ve put in- full time education until I was 19, dole money for about two years, free health care (and I’ve thankfully been lucky and never been seriously ill) and a free dentist for most of my life (although aside from having a tooth pulled as a child and check ups I’ve never really been much of a drain on dentists- 27 years and no fillings, call me Jaws!).

And for most people this is the same. Someone I know whinges about immigrants sponging off the tax payer, but has 4 kids who are in school, get’s child benefits and their healthcare covered, along with their own and their partners. They also use the roads, public transport and countless other tax-funded benefits of living in the UK. They’ve probably taken out more than they’ve paid in, as do most people.

Here’s JK Rowling explaining how the tax system works and why we should all pay in.

I get that nobody likes to pay taxes, I feel a little down when I see my payslip and the pre and post tax amounts, I can’t help but thinking of all the things I could spend that money on, but at the same time I like to know that if I or a loved one get ill that there’s health care available, that if I get robbed there are police officers I can call and that if I have kids they will be able to get an education. I think in Britain we forget how lucky we are to get these things, and don’t think that for many millions around the world these things are not available.

So, while I may disagree with some of the things my taxes are used for, and mourn the fact I can’t go to the cinema twice a week and gorge on Domino’s on a more regular basis, I know that the tax system is good.

And I honestly don’t mind if my money goes towards Kelly the single mother born and raised in Swansea, or Dimitri who’s just got off the boat. I just feel that as one of the more comfortable and stable members of society it’s my duty to help those less fortunate, it’s the decent thing to do, and despite the UK’s problems, we are, on balance, one of the lucky countries so we should help those that struggle, both home and abroad.

However, politicians and the press are quick to demonize people who move to the UK, we’re told their to blame for the money we’re losing and the job shortages. And that they’re diluting our British culture.

Is that so terrible? Is it bad that our culture is becoming more varied and diverse?

I’ve always regarded that as a positive, and it’s a bit late for us to start worrying about our “purity”. The British people are, to steal from Bill Murray in Stripes, mutts. And I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, I love that about our culture- Vikings, Romans, the French- our whole culture is a melting pot of all these things. And since then we’ve welcomed in others, usually after we’ve pinched their own lands.

I look around Swansea and I can see the evidence clearly- we speak English, itself a mix of other languages, Indian restaurants are everywhere as are Chinese restaurants, one of the symbols of local pride Joe’s Ice Cream was set up by an Italian and we walk around listening to music which draws on influences from Africa, South America and Asia. We’re already mixed up and I love that.

There’s all this fear mongering about how our traditional Christian values are being destroyed. Bollocks.

Traditional? Christianity ain’t anymore British than Islam or Buddhism, it’s Jesus of Nazareth, nor Norwich. If anything, if you’re going to be one of those right wing, intolerant douchebags you should be campaigning to get the Archbishop of Canterbury kicked out so we can all return to the good old days when we worshiped trees and were scared of the Sun.

I’ve been to the Eisteddfod, and trust me, you don’t want the druids running things.

Mankind is moving forward, our culture is becoming diverse, and yes, there are going to be problems, but to isolate ourselves and to discriminate others is not the way to go. I’m sure whenever society changes it’s difficult for those involved, I can’t lie and act like some perfect figure because there are changes that I find difficult to get my head around, but I try, and that’s what we should all do.

Going backwards is not the answer. These people are here, and why don’t we try and understand why they’ve come here? Some people forget that, they don’t understand that things must be pretty bad back home if Blighty becomes your golden land of opportunity. Some of these people have traveled great distances and risked a lot to get here, whether it’s trying to build a better life or to escape persecution. Nobody can deny that faced with the same situation we wouldn’t all be trying to get into France or somewhere else, and we’d hope that we got a fair crack when we got there.

(I’m not even going to go into how annoying I find American anti-immigration feeling and the hypocrisy at it’s heart)

I know we can’t take them all, and we need to be careful about who we let in, but it annoys me that some of the anti-immigration bunch are the same ones who whinge about the fact that we’re sending money abroad in the form of foreign aid.

Well, that’s just stupid.

Surely if you are worried about the influx of people moving here you’d want us to spend money abroad. The better we make life for them in their own country, the less of them are going to want to travel here, so pick which one you can live with more and stop whinging about both.

Man, this post is turning out to be a lot longer and more serious than I’d intended, so let’s get back to the point.

With Romania and Bulgaria’s immigration restrictions about to be lifted some are fearing a mass influx from these two countries, especially as being EU citizens makes it easier to travel through Europe, and an idea has been floated that the best way to combat this is to run negative advertising highlighting some of the UK’s failings and unattractive aspects, my suggestions for what they could use include:

  • The weather
  • The fact we’re always complaining about the weather
  • Every 2 years you have to deal with jingoistic English fans talking about how great they are and how this is “their year” followed by weeks of whinging about how unfairly they were eliminated or how some ref/player robbed them (God forbid it’s your home country who knocks them out)
  • Leeds United fans
  • The fact David Cameron is in charge
  • That many of the locals will be intolerant and ignorant towards them
  • People playing music through their mobile phones
  • The fact that the most talented act in the country is a bloody dog
  • The Go Compare adverts
  • Cliff Richard
  • Jeremy Kyle, his show and the guests on his show

Anyway, Romania seemed to get a little miffed that we assumed that at the first chance they’d all flee like rats from a sinking ship and one of their newspapers has responded by crating a pro-Romania tourism to encourage Brits to check out their country and highlight it’s strengths, and why they might not want to leave their homeland. With the slogan “We may not like Britain but you’ll love Romania”, their ad campaign highlights things like the fact that Top Gear stated it had one of the best driving roads in the world, that beer is cheaper there than bottled water is here and that Prince Charles has a place there. The most attention grabbing one however, concerns HRH the future Princess of Wales and Queen, professional heir-maker Kate Middleton:

kateposter

Amusingly done by them, and also kind of punctures this kind of arrogant idea that everyone in these two countries is sitting on their suitcases waiting to rush over here. Yes, we may see a rise in their numbers, but I’m sure as with the Poles many will decide after a while to head back home as they get sick of us.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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