from toddlers to foreigners – a very british policy of cleansing ethnicity?

This looks planned, very deliberate, long-term and unkind.

First, in December, we had the announcement that foreign university students wouldn’t be allowed to stay in the UK to find work, once their courses were over.  This, of course, removes the benefits of continued cultural rub; of exchange; of future potential research; of human development more generally (the bold is mine):

While the NHS fee may not appear huge, it’s symbolically pandering to an anti-immigrant rhetoric. It’s one of many measures that negatively affect international students – including attendance monitoring, proposed landlord checks for migrants and credibility interviews.

Almost all of these have come along in the last few years. Is this coincidental? Or is it a systematic attempt to reduce the number of non-EU students, because of the rise of an anti-immigrant sentiment in the UK?

Systematic attempt, eh?  Well.  The proposals and objectives were limited, in this case, to non-EU foreign students.

So maybe we could be charitable and assume the government only had such students as the goal of its plans.

Without wider ramifications.

Some might have wildly argued it was edged with a desire for proactively cleansing future ethnic change.  But we’d probably have accused such accusers of being wild conspiracy theorists.

Today, in the meantime, I read this astonishing piece from the Telegraph:

Nursery school staff and registered childminders must report toddlers at risk of becoming terrorists, under counter-terrorism measures proposed by the Government.

Talk about the nanny state.  Goodness me, but Blair’s New Labour had absolutely nothing on this lot.

Anyhow.  Couple the above with the news on foreign uni students, and the accusations of proactively cleansing possible ethnic change in the future begin to seem less of the tinfoil-hat brigade.

The Home Office appears clear about where it wants to go: killing two birds with one stone, it positions the terrorism frontline in the field of education at the same time as it aims to remove as many “foreign” ways of thinking from the country.

This is surely a long-term strategy, make no mistake about it.  They’ve learned from Blair in another matter too: “Education!  Education!  Education!”  Only, this time we have a rather twisted reinterpretation.  Don’t educate to make society better.  Educate to find out what people are thinking – in the case of toddlers, before they themselves even know what that means!

In bad faith I might observe (as some on Twitter already have) the opportunities that spying on toddlers would present for a paedophile-plagued establishment.

But apart from cheap shots like that, once – at toddler level – a duty of care of such characteristics were imposed, it’d be so easy to move into judging families on the basis of what children exploringly were heard to chatter; to read into so much stuff so much other stuff; to misunderstand from ethnocentric positions the attitudes, meanings and behaviours of those from other cultures; to observe in order to prove preconceptions.

Or simply to turn angry words into fully-fledged positions – and daily conversation into a permanently self-censored balancing-act of citizens, unable, any more, to express their honest dissatisfaction about anything without fearing the serious consequences of doing so.

Spying on people doesn’t make them more likely to engage with you.

Spying on toddlers gives them every reason to distrust.

And distrustful children who grow up unclear of the reasons for being distrusted – because, for Chrissakes, they’re only toddlers! – will never, but never, grow up into trusting, responsible, friendly and confident adults.

All of which a terrorism-free society needs in bucketfuls right now.

So what’s the point?  What’s the plan?  Why is our government attacking so fiercely the very early and very late edges of our children’s development and exposure to the outside world?

What are they looking to achieve with such incompetent and counter-productive strategies?

(prejudging) prejudice as part of the human condition

Nigel Farage apparently claims we are unconcerned about using racist vocabulary, at least as far as the Telegraph reports in this article today.  The paper then digs out a 2013 study, which says the following things:

The headline result from the study was that 30 per cent of respondents described themselves as racially prejudiced. Here is a breakdown of the results, showing which groups are most likely to admit to some sort of racism.

And there follow three graphs which make for interesting viewing.  Before we continue, I suggest you view!

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I’m more interested in the fact that these people admit to racial prejudice than that they are racially prejudiced.  In truth, I’d prefer to drill down a bit more and, of those who openly admitted to racial prejudice, find out which think this is bad or not.

I’ve always had this feeling we are all inevitably prejudiced.  To assert this is not the case is to compound the negatives of the situation.  That people with degrees should claim to be least prejudiced is, to my mind, neither a virtue nor a vice but a cloak made of shame which serves to hide deep-rooted realities.

If this train of thought is fair, the more educated you become, the more capable of hiding your rough and unready edges you are.

It’s not just that prejudice is a part of the human condition; prejudging prejudice is too.  In a sense, prejudice has two faces: one, the reductionist and purely negative one people like Farage love to smother around; the other, a necessary prejudging of our environment – a shorthand, if you like – which allows us to get by in a fast-changing, often confusing, world.

When does prejudging become prejudice?  It’s a good question.  There are a lot of them about.

When does localism become nationalism?  When does privacy become secrecy?  When does dissent become treason?

All of them good questions, with highly challenging answers.

What’s undeniable, at least to my mind, is that if we cloak, degree-like, our attitudes with fine words, then we shall never come to understand those others who are unable to speak so cogently.

And this is unfair.

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One final train of thought I stumbled across today – this time from the Spectator.  Giving examples of where this has not taken place, the article’s author concludes by saying:

[…] It is surely not unreasonable to expect internet companies to be as vigilant against terrorism as they are against paedophilia.

My immediate response is to assume that whilst paedophilia may be considered a crime against individuals (though the Savile case and other recent revelations seem to suggest that perhaps a war of sorts was being waged at a far more societal level), terrorism is always a crime against a civilisation.  Not only that: paedophilia is far easier to define, whatever the nation-state you occupy; terrorism, meanwhile, does sadly, even today, find its definition inflected by history, ideology and point of view.

A private corporation which depends on individuals for its income will always choose to rid itself of paedophilia before it does of terrorist verbiage, precisely because the latter depends on the history, ideology and point of view I mentioned – and, in so depending, is therefore more difficult to cover in the online legalese of webby terms and conditions.

Paedophilia, meanwhile, is (I assume) equally revolting to all civilisations, wherever they find themselves – and so simpler for an Internet company to typify and reach the decision to exclude.

Are the above two cases further examples of the slippery and uncertain dividing line between prejudgement on the one hand and prejudice on the other?  I think they may be.

In the case of paedophilia, it’s prejudice that necessarily operates – especially as for most people conclusions are reached in the absence of personal experience.  The situation is so grave as to make us react with our emotions full-on, even though all our knowledge is second- or third-hand.  We cannot think in a measured way about such situations: they are too awful to imagine.  Yet such prejudice allows us to reach logical positions: this mustn’t happen now; it mustn’t happen again; it shouldn’t have happened in the past.  Let’s stop it.

In the case of terrorism, the situation is far more complex.  Those of us who find it impossible not to support the state of Israel will never find it possible to describe Palestinian terrorism as freedom-fighting.  And with the positions reversed, the quandary is equal.

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So we see that the people who work for the state on our behalf, and whose job it is to take ultimate decisions over the lives of others, must in some way strive to step away not only from prejudice but also from prejudgement.

Even the latter’s not enough to take decisions with the necessary objectivity.

From prejudice to prejudgement to simply, flatly, judging, the line of progression isn’t an easy one to pursue.

A progression which no one can really achieve unless they fully admit first their instincts to prejudgement at the very least, and more than likely prejudice too.

As I say, a part of the human condition.

You don’t need to be educated to recognise your permanent faults, either.

You just need to be humble; which ain’t an easy task for anyone.

And maybe least of all for the educated.

how do we define “public-sector minded”? serving vs self-serving, perhaps!

Yesterday, I suggested that Francis Maude was being disingenuous:

No, Mr Maude.  You’ve got it wrong.  And at the very least (if I’m of a mind to be charitable), really not bang on the button.  For far too long (a notable some of) our defence and police forces have been run about as outside the public-sector ethos as you could possibly get.

There’s nothing public sector-minded about sleeping with environmental demonstrators, collaborating in phone hacking, shutting down investigations into paedophilia or torturing people to little productive end

Today, what looks like a sock-puppet account (no followings at the time of writing – though twenty-two “followers” and three-thousand odd tweets does suggest some kind of organisation) describes in a response to my piece that the above is tosh:

@zebrared What does ‘public sector minded’ mean? Was North Staffs public sector minded? Striking teachers – are they? Tosh!

The point is important.  I’d argue that the yardstick, the marker in the sand if you like, should be as follows: if the action being questioned serves the person or org carrying it out more than the voters, their friends and their families, then it’s not public-sector minded.  I’m sure even my complainant wouldn’t argue that a public good was served by “sleeping with environmental demonstrators, collaborating in phone hacking, shutting down investigations into paedophilia or torturing people to little productive end …”.

Or would he or she?

What about North Staffs?  A difficult situation, but if what was done or not done worked to protect the hospital’s institutional integrity from proper criticism more than serve its patients, in my litmus test as described it’d tend to more self-serving than serving.

Therefore, not of the public-sector mind being questioned.

Striking teachers?  Now you’ve got me; and closer to home.  Imagine a situation where the government decided unqualified teachers should be teaching our children (even as stronger controls over web usage were put in place to defend us from paedophiles and terrorism – undeniable challenges, as I made clear in my original post).  Or that schools and their grounds be sold off for derisory sums to private transnational companies.  It could be argued that such a government was failing (as it did with the sell-off of Royal Mail) to maximise public-sector value for money; that it was serving itself and its business sponsors far more than it was serving the public-sector sphere.

Wouldn’t it be possible to argue that, in such circumstances, where government was failing the “serving vs self-serving” yardstick, striking teachers could – by their striking! – just as easily be passing it?

You’re gonna say it’s quite not so.

There, I fear, we’ll have to agree to disagree.