While this is not solely a political commentary blog, I want to incorporate the side of me that is interested and engaged in politics and the news (I studied Journalism). I will post things that incense me from the news from time to time in amongst all the lovely stuff like books, food and travel. Life is like that, the good mixed in with the bad, so here goes.
I just read an article on The Guardian´s website quoting Philip Hammond, the UK foreign secretary claiming that “millions of marauding African migrants pose a threat to the EU’s standard of living and social structure.”
Now, I acknowledge that immigration is a problematic issue in the UK and we cannot simply open our borders to all and sundry, but his statement is heavy with implications. A quick thesaurus search on the word marauding and it brings up words like pillage, plunder, despoil, harass, loot, ransack and ravage. The implication is that these desperate African migrants are coming in hordes to destroy our country. It brings images of war, destruction and decimation. I wonder if he imagines these millions of barefoot Africans running towards us bearing clubs and machetes ready to destroy us all?
He is setting up a clear divide between us in the EU: the nice civilised land where we all have plenty, and them, the “savage” multitudes that are going to bring us down to their level; to debase us.
While I was studying I took a module called Reporting Africa, during which we studied the historical narratives that exist in the reporting of African countries and conflicts. When I read Hammond´s comment it immediately brought back many of the things we studied. One of our core texts was a book on colonial discourse in journalism called The Rhetoric of Empire by David Spurr.
He says on page 82, “The principles of exclusion, boundary and difference which enter into the debasement of the primitive are connected to the fear that the white race could lose itself in the darker ones…” This means Europeans have to set up borders and differentiate themselves from the African, in case they destroy the order and society that the white race has set up. He continues “The supposed danger of the European´s degeneration […] becomes both the source and pretext for an obsessive reprehension of the Other.” This danger then becomes a reason and justification for comments like Hammond´s which paint a picture of Africans as dangerous outsiders that are coming to destroy us.
Here Spurr is commenting on texts from the early 1900s, so not sure how far we have progressed since then!
I think Hammond himself reached the crux of the matter when he said “The gap in standards of living between Europe and Africa means there will always be millions of Africans with the economic motivation to try to get to Europe.” (The Guardian)
The last few years have seen a drop in foreign aid from rich nations and presumably this leads to African standards of living falling. Although Europe itself has being going through a crisis and governments are cutting budgets, do we still not have a responsibility towards the very African nations that we helped mess up in colonial times? I am by no means an expert on foreign aid and international relations, but I think this is possibly the key to this mass migration issue. Richer countries have the responsibility to help poorer African countries to improve their standard of living in their own lands.
Othering migrants with divisive language and rhetoric will do nothing to help this issue. As Jeremy Corbyn, Labour leadership candidate said, politicians should “explicitly recognise the contribution of Africans and other migrants to our society, not speak in these disgraceful terms.” (The Guardian)