Month: November 2013

Asylum

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English: Chart showing in-country UK immigrati...
English: Chart showing in-country UK immigration removals, (failed asylum seekers and others), since 1993 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The media is fond of shining a spotlight on our asylum system, it makes good copy or TV. Its not the best way of running a debate but it does illustrate a reality that should not be overlooked. Britain like the rest of developed Europe is facing increasing asylum demands, probably in the region of 70% increase in the last 8 years.

The influx of asylum seekers is as a direct consequence of the numerous conflicts and wars around the globe. Asylum of itself is not a problem and should never be seen in terms of being a problem, its the fact that there is at the same time massive economic migration going on. Asylum is a tradition of most developed western European nations, a proud tradition in most cases and it must be preserved, it must be accepted that we are fortunate and have the honor of assisting those who need our help. I find it shocking that there are some who reside in this country who feel differently.

Nonetheless, it might be fair to comment that our processing centers are perhaps close to full and stretched for staff. The cracks are becoming obvious. The system is unable to deal with complex situations meaning it slows and blocks preventing those who might most need our help from getting it because we just don’t know they need it.

We should feel rightly proud that asylum seekers come to our countries with the intention of seeking help and maybe even settling on a more permanent basis. The contribute to the wealth (economically and culturally) to our societies. But its clear that the social support systems cannot support these people, those employed to help, the case-workers burn-out with massive levels of sickness absence. All the time the human tragedies build. There is a need to protect the individuals but also there is a need for process which is at best a delayed process.

I would agree with anybody who said reform is urgently needed. Without question we should not settle for half measures, current failures should be corrected, but not at any cost. The economic cost of failure is mounting but so is the probable economic cost of doing the job right. My experience in industry is that doing something right first time is the most economically cost effective way of doing a job. I have no doubt that the same apply’s to the asylum system.

Delays might be necessary, so improved holding centers to accommodate the asylum seekers while the initial checks are being done would be a really good start. Simplification of procedures and processes would also help greatly. These two factors would simply add to the quality and speed of service provided, making it more respectful and certain in outcome.

A win-win in anybody’s language I guess.

At the borders of course better directional control would be needed, this is not a resources issue but probably a training and information issue.

And then once a final decision is made the person if successful should be assimilated into society. With a fully renovated procedure the asylum seeker and society will be both better served.

Final decisions are important and really need to be as speedy as possible. I’m sure most would agree that an asylum seeker should not have to face an almost endless wait on deportation or not. There has got to be clear pathways for those who do not gain asylum, they should not be expected to wait for an appropriate moment for return to their own country.  Our collective responsibility as a European Union should be ensuring those who want and need out help can access it but those who do not are dealt with firmly, fairly and quickly.

Its all about Israel!

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The grave of Paula and David Ben-Gurion at Mid...
The grave of Paula and David Ben-Gurion at Midreshet Ben-Gurion close to Sde Boker. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Great Quotes…

Eric Hoffer“The Jews are a peculiar people: Things permitted to other nations are forbidden to the Jews. Other nations drive out thousands, even millions of people, and there is no refugee problem. Russia did it. Poland and Czechoslovakia did it.Turkey threw out a million Greeks and Algeria a million Frenchmen. Indonesia threw out heaven knows how many Chinese–and no one says a word about refugees. But in the case of Israel, the displaced Arabs have become eternal refugees. Everyone insists that Israel must take back every single Arab. Arnold Toynbee calls the displacement of the Arabs an atrocity greater than any committed by the Nazis. Other nations when victorious on the battlefield dictate peace terms. But when Israel is victorious it must sue for peace. Everyone expects the Jews to be the only real Christians in this world.”

Elie Wiesel: I marvel at the resilience of the Jewish people. Their best characteristic is their desire to remember. No other people has such an obsession with memory.

Benjamin Disraeli: “The view of Jerusalem is the history of the world; it is more, it is the history of earth and of heaven.”

Leo Tolstoy: “What is the Jew?…What kind of unique creature is this whom all the rulers of all the nations of the world have disgraced and crushed and expelled and destroyed; persecuted, burned and drowned, and who, despite their anger and their fury, continues to live and to flourish. What is this Jew whom they have never succeeded in enticing with all the enticements in the world, whose oppressors and persecutors only suggested that he deny (and disown) his religion and cast aside the faithfulness of his ancestors?! The Jew – is the symbol of eternity. … He is the one who for so long had guarded the prophetic message and transmitted it to all mankind. A people such as this can never disappear. The Jew is eternal. He is the embodiment of eternity.”

Winston S. Churchill: “Some people like the Jews, and some do not. But no thoughtful man can deny the fact that they are, beyond any question, the most formidable and most remarkable race which has appeared in the world.

Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe: “Energy is the basis of everything. Every Jew, no matter how insignificant, is engaged in some decisive and immediate pursuit of a goal… It is the most perpetual people of the earth…”

David Ben Gurion: “In Israel, in order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles.”

John F. Kennedy: Israel was not created in order to disappear- Israel will endure and flourish. It is the child of hope and the home of the brave. It can neither be broken by adversity nor demoralized by success. It carries the shield of democracy and it honors the sword of freedom.

John Adams: “I will insist the Hebrews have [contributed] more to civilize men than any other nation. If I was an atheist and believed in blind eternal fate, I should still believe that fate had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing the nations… They are the most glorious nation that ever inhabited this Earth. The Romans and their empire were but a bubble in comparison to the Jews.”

Mark Twain: “…If statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of stardust lost in the blaze of the Milky way. properly, the Jew ought hardly to be heard of, but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk. His contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also away out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in this world, in all the ages; and had done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it.

The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed; and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other people have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?”

Gender Gaps

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Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, Internat...
Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Christine Lagarde, Director of the IMF, said recently, “In the long race ahead, it makes no sense to simply eliminate half the contestants before the starting gun is sounded. Letting women participate more fully in economic life can yield enormous economic benefits.”

Its probably fair to say that in the developed west that women get a better deal in terms of equality in the workplace than probably anywhere else on the planet. That’s no to say there is absolute equality, there isn’t, but they do experience a much closer to the male experience than almost anywhere else. Of course Asia is probably the most desperate place to be a woman right now but the Middle East offers some hope.

The Middle East is a key region of interest because although increasing numbers of women are receiving a good standard of education, the region still lags behind on the core issue of economic equality. On a global scale, the latest figures from the World Economic Forum‘s Global Gender Gap Report show that although the gender gap in education is 93% closed, the gap in economic equality has closed by only 60%. A problem!

There is plainly a disconnect from the classroom to the workplace. Education will continue to be vitally important generally but it has to be questioned where the focus for women’s education is. What educational support do women need to prepare them for the world of business and work?

Perhaps the Middle East is swayed by overt sexual discrimination? This might be too simple an explanation but nonetheless probably forms part of the explanation. Women entrepreneurs seeking loan capital may have their ideas and suggestions dismissed on the basis of them being a woman rather than straight forward commercial measure of the likely hood of success of the business being proposed. Women’s enterprise then is choked-off at source! The net result is retarded economic growth with only 50% (at best that is) of economically active people partaking in forwarding the economy.

Youth is the key to forward growth and engagement economically. The youth of today shape the future of tomorrow. This despite the political and military challenges facing the region at the present time, youth hold the key.

I am quite sure that each country will need a unique approach, cultural challenges presented by national identities possibly being the most difficult of challenges to overcome, but not insurmountable over time. My assumption is that the majority of countries of the Middle East will face many common challenges, possibly more so than any other region and this then may prove to be the deciding factory in regional success and therefore the model for the rest of the world to follow. Well we can hope I guess.

The exception to the Middle East rule is Israel with an economy broadly speaking similar to developed European and US economies. Although I’m not suggesting that Israel is not without economic issues to overcome, but they are much closer (and in some respects further on) than the close by European economies in respect to equality of opportunity.

Women in the workplace, women in business… it simply makes no sense to eliminate half the contestants before the starting gun is sounded. Letting women participate more fully in economic life will yield enormous economic benefits.

Reaction to Racism

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Christiane Taubira during Ségolène Royal and J...
Christiane Taubira during Ségolène Royal and José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero’s meeting in Toulouse on April, 19th 2007 for the 2007 presidential election. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

France it would appear from recent media reports seems to be developing a resurgence in Racism. French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira is to give an interview in the Left Leaning daily Liberation on Wednesday 20 Nov. 2013. In the article she will attack the rise of racism in France and the lack of the French political classes for not speaking out against racism.

Herself a victim, Anne-Sophie Leclere a candidate from the far-right posted on her Facebook page that she could be compared to a monkey and a 12-year old brandished a banana at her during a rally. Taubira said: “The reactions have not been sufficient….What’s most shocking to me is that there has been no strong, beautiful voice raised in alarm at the downward spiral of French society [when it comes to racism].”

The justice minister’s remarks come just one day after Harry Roselmack, France’s most prominent black newsreader, penned an opinion piece for another French newspaper, Le Monde, accusing France of harboring “deep-seated racism”. “Racist France is back,” he wrote.

The one-two punch from two of France’s most visible black personalities has shone a harsh spotlight on an issue that the theoretically “colour-blind” country, with its proud motto of “liberty, fraternity, equality”, has had some difficulty in tackling.

The problem is I suppose is that just like Britain Racism, Antisemitism and Anti-Muslim feeling and actions are on the rise and are all outlawed, but there is little respect for the law and its not enforced anything like sufficiently. There is no threat from the law so to speak. Racist speech has become more acceptable on the basis of ‘its deplorable but should be allowed as a matter of free expression’. This of course is the negative effect of supporting free speech, basically if the leaders are doing it then it must be okay for the public to openly express these odious opinions right? Well, NO actually it isn’t.

Then there’s the rise of the politically far-right parties across Europe. Media attention on these parties puts a sanitized face on their political propositions and provides a platform for their racist speech. The far-right is no-longer politically and morally seen as marginalized. The deafening silence offered in response allows, encourages even the far-right to go further, to claim to speak for the average man/woman, and the Left, how do they respond? They are intimidated and do not respond.

In her interview with Liberation, Taubira also accused the French political class, but particularly the National Front, of inciting racial resentment with their focus on the “threat” posed by immigration. “We need to stop making a daily soap opera out of immigration data,” she said. “How is immigration a problem? How is it endangering French society?” The same of course apply’s in Britain, the issues are the same.

Where the two nations differ (thankfully) is on classification. In France there are no classification on the census for racial origin. In France race statistics are illegal, to be French is sufficient. For me I find myself agreeing.

The honest conclusion has to be that the recent rise (lets hope its a spike) in racism is related to more multiculturalism, more mixing, more openness to the wider world. Over time my guess is that it will abate, but until that time comes we should not ignore its rise, to ignore it is to feed it. No, it must be challenged and we should implore our political representatives to challenge it on our behalf even more than we ourselves do. The very fabric of our societies are easily stained and could be permanently stained if we allow racism to go unchallenged.

World War I

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Map of military alliances of Europe in 1914. (...
Map of military alliances of Europe in 1914. (English) Français: Carte des alliances militaires en Europe en 1914. (Anglais) Русский: Схема военных альянсов в Европе в 1914 г. (англ.) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

France has often been the center of the known world and war not far from its present.

World War 1 – The Great War – The 1914 – 1918 War

Well I’m not in the ‘Great War’ camp when it comes to descriptions but I’m sensitive to the need for remembering in certain ways for some people.

France lost 1.4 million people during the First World War, a staggering number now but worse still 100 years ago. We are all still feeling the historical consequences of this war even today. Narratives of the war linger on in family histories from all affected nations and the national memory is no less affected, the losses were a colossal and traumatic national loss for all nations involved. Millions killed, millions more maimed, it was a human, economic and demographic trauma on an unthinkable scale with a massive and profound effect on every country involved.

The questions it raises about the relationship between the individual and the state, to what extent should sacrifice be made? What is the meaning of the collective effort to resist? What is the meaning of national solidarity?

Of course the First World War became the foundation on which the Second World War was eventually fought. The impact on Germany was huge, the rise of the Nazi Party, the eventual devastation and destruction, the division of Germany and eventual reunification, the effect on World Jewry, the creation of Israel and a ‘Palestinian’ people… The list goes on and is almost endless.

The 100 years centenary next year is sure to be a difficult time for both France and Germany who were bitter enemies during both World Wars but who are now the closest of European Allies. I’m sure beyond doubt that commemorative events in Germany next year will be a somber and very subdued affair indeed. Not least because Germany is a Federal State, no central Ministry of Culture to whom other potential partners could turn to assure that any commemorative events bear a pan-European sense.

This history of conflict between the now firm and close allies is long and varied going right back to the dawn of real European civilization; back to 718 – 723 when Charles Martel Duke and Prince of the Franks won a series of victories subjugating Bavaria, Alemmania and defeating the pagan Saxons. In fact he offered the Saxons a stark choice of convert to Christianity or die. Some of the Saxons didn’t quite grasp the compelling benefits of conversion and on one occasion 4000 souls were killed in a single day.

From 723 – 728 Charles consolidated his ‘kingdom’ preparing for the storm to come from the South and East. The province of Aquitaine was under Muslim rule and war was inevitable. The battle of Tours was the true turning point where with a smaller army Charles defeated the Muslim cavalry with infantry men by taking the top of a hill with a square formation; he resolutely beat his enemy. Had he not of course European history would be so much different.

So I return to my starting statement France is oft the center of the known & developed world for knowledge, religion and war. Without the French and proto-French, Europe just wouldn’t exist in its present form and civilization would be a very different thing indeed.

The world owes the French, or more accurately The Gauls, The Franks & The Normans et al  a debt of gratitude, we should be thankful for what we are because the French are the French.

Live Together not Side-by-Side

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"The Naughty Step": or, Religion ove...
“The Naughty Step”: or, Religion overthrowing Heresy and Hatred III (Photo credit: Nick in exsilio)

In Britain today there’s a celebration which on the face of it is enormous fun, especially for children. Bonfire Night; a night when there’s a bonfire, fireworks and a communal gathering. What’s often (almost always) missed is the underlying reason for the ‘celebration’ – the conviction and death of a Roman Catholic (Guy Fawkes) for trying to overthrow the monarchy in 1604 by blowing-up Parliament.

The purpose of this post is not a lesson in English history but to point out the divisions in society.

400 years ago Roman Catholics were in the minority in England and were treated in most cases worse than the Protestant owned farm animals, so not even second class citizens. In fact even today it isn’t constitutionally possible for a Catholic to be the Monarch! Yup, that’s right 2013 and a Catholic cant sit on the crown thrown!

The point is that communities live side-by-side and not generally speaking together. The present day situation often revolves around immigrant communities, large and rapid in-fluxes of peoples who’s sole aim is a better life. The Protestant/Catholic question has largely been resolved, well in England any-way, Northern Ireland and Scotland may be peaceful places but I’m quite sure the tensions remain even today.

Its probably true to say that ‘birds of a feather, flock together’ and its to be expected that new immigrants will naturally coalesce into mini-communities centred on the familiarity with those from the home-land, and traditional customs. This is to be expected and initially at least accepted. However, the behavior of the native ‘do-gooders’ does seem to encourage difference, it encourages the whole-scale preservation of cultural practices from far away places. It might even be that these ‘do-gooders’ have a sense of neo-colonial social condescension flowing through their thoughts and ideas. Of course if this is the case then they are guilty of prejudice of an intellectual nature; I’m not sure which is more damaging the thug on the street practicing violence or the intellectual who constructs social barriers to progress.

The politically far-right has begun to take a-hold over some sections of society and intellectually they have been clever in claiming secularism for themselves.  They use the cloak of secularism to hide their ‘hate talk’. Yet it is also true to say they pick their causes, they will often march shoulder to shoulder with religious fundamentalists against causes such as same sex marriage or gay rights. Non-the-less when it comes to some religions the message is in no way complex; The Jewish and Muslim faiths come-in for some very pointed accusations from the far-right.

The realities of every-day life in a multi-cultural society play into the hands of these people, communities living side-by-side in mistrust fueled by the hate speak of the far-right lead inevitably to these divisions being exploited for the benefit of hate. Cultural symbols become a metaphor for religious and cultural intolerance. Those of hate who hide in the Churches and Mosques openly accuse and attack those who do not practice as they do. The phobias become pervasive, leaching into everyday society, the press, the media and yes even into everyday conversation. Difference becomes a topic of conversation, it becomes a main event, a reason to hate, to mistrust, not to live together.

The issue really isn’t the head scarf or whatever symbol is chosen, its the definition imposed by those who might wear and use it as a justification of their personal being and by those who do not wear it and point to their own justifications for its removal. The head scarf, the golden crucifix, the yarmulke… these become the very things that generate hate, the ideas become something obscured.

The dominance of a Protestant culture remains in the British legal system and it could possibly be argued that strengthening of this could actually lead to greater harmony. Those with conflicting views would have a firm rule to live by and if they cannot may seek out less difficult places to dwell. The cultural gaps that have been allowed to develop are where those who hate have come to exist, to thrive, to push out from. The cultural gaps are often defended as the places that freedom exists but is this so? Well, yes actually, but its the freedom to practice hate that gives them a bad name.

The current situation is difficult and set to become even more difficult with further removal of barriers to migration. The far-right I’m sure will gain more favor over the coming year after the in-flux of Romanians & Bulgarians. It seems inconceivable that the bonds of kinship will be broken on arrival in Britain (or France or Italy or anywhere else for that matter) and I’m sure it will provide food for the far-right that these people fail to integrate with immediate effect. I’m sure that they will fall prey to the emphasis on skin-colour, on religious difference, on cultural practices but most importantly that they are just plain different.

In my mind, equality, emancipation and universalism should be the goals of society applied evenly to all, the immigrants, the far-right, the far-left and those in the centre. Assimilation should be the aim of all peoples, to live together not side-by-side.