Friday, December 9, 2011

British woman spews hate

You may have heard about this. Old Guru brought it to our attention. A British woman, one Emma West, evidently lost it on a train and started ranting about the number of non-British people in Great Britain, including but not limited to Polish, Caribbeans and Africans. Basically like Eric Clapton and John Cleese before her, she noticed a change in the British demographic and weighed in against it.

West was arrested and charged with a racially aggravated public order offense. She was denied bail and remains in jail.  If convicted she could face anywhere from six months to two years behind bars.

Now from a US perspective  that sentence may seem outrageous for someone who is ultimately just speaking her mind, racist though it may be. But the UK is a different country with a different idea about which ideas may be publicly spoken. The British National Party, an ugly right-wing explicitly white separatist political party, is making noise of support for her.

The problem I see though is that whether we like it or not, people are not fungible. You can not just move millions of people from one culture to another and expect that people won't notice or occasionally have some issues. Most European countries are effectively tribal homelands of one kind or another. With a few exceptions (The Austro-Hungarian Empire being the most obvious) most European countries did not traditionally have a huge difference between country and ethnicity. To be a UK citizen (exceptions noted) was generally understood to mean you were of predominant Anglo-Celtic heritage. This sort of blood based citizenship was common across Europe (and elsewhere) and was essential to some cultures' embrace of the modern nation-state. The US is different.

With the creation of the European Union and increasing immigration from poorer European nations into richer ones as well as immigration from the Global South into the Global North, the meaning of the European nation state is being challenged and transformed. That may be to the best; it may not be. But West's rejection of it is not just a Western European trait.

  • Black South Africans complain of (and riot over) illegal immigration by Black Zimbabweans. 
  • The Uighur deeply resent the influx of Han Chinese into their areas.
  • Russia isn't overly fond of movement of Central Asians or people from the Caucasus into Russia. 
  • Dominicans have a history of trying to prevent Haitians from entering.
  • The Libyans aren't crazy about the presence of Sub-Saharan Africans within their country.
In short, everyone on the planet has some in-group and out-group thinking. And I think that there are definite limits to how far this can be either suppressed or reworked.  Globalization may increasingly start to run up against those.

1) Is it permissible for citizens of one nation to want to keep their nation's current ethnic/cultural balance as is?

2) Should West have been arrested? What should her sentence be if any?

3) Have you ever run across vulgar public hate like this? If so what was your response?
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