Tuesday, November 06, 2007

made up stories, immigration blues & democratic hypocrisy

I am watching the couple as they walk to the station with their big shaggy dog lolloping beside them. He is dressed in a business suit, sharply cut, formal. She is blonde, more casual in a jogging suit and yet there is something carefully groomed about her. I glance at my watch; I am still a few minutes too early for my meeting. I look up to see the dog depositing a steaming pile on the pavement, she immediately whips out a plastic bag and tries to scrape the offending mess off, but she struggles, hampered by the dog lead in her hand and the active squirming creature at its end. He moves just after a second’s hesitation to take the lead from her, give her room to clear the pavement properly. I make up a life for them- he never wanted the dog but she insisted, and so he is irritated. Minutes later, I see my colleague approach and as I walk over to meet her I see the man disappearing down the stairs into the station having given the dog a last friendly ruffle. The man’s face is transformed, as he tickles the dog’s belly and I am forced to rewrite my made up narrative….

Such a long time away from blogging- busy with work and the million little things that seem to have piled off and need to be dealt with before the year’s end- November- where has the year gone?

Immigration issues fill the front pages again and I can’t help but feel uncomfortable. No, everyone explains, or hints, it’s not people like you we mean, it's the others.... but hearing people speak (not in so many words) about "us" and "them" I can’t help but feel uneasy- hoping that someone else speaks out instead. When in any case does one stop being "them" and become "us"- 5 years, ten years, never?

It is all about the pressure on public services- housing, hospital, council services- very little about how the booming English economy is surely in part due to the immigrants. Do the Mittals and Abramoviches and the American investment bankers who swell the streets of Chelsea count in these statistics at all? Perhaps there needs to be a trade off but maybe the Mittals and their ilk are comfortable here precisely because of the openness and diversity that London offers… maybe it is one or the other….

In spite of the hectic pace of life, there has been time as usual for some reading- In the library one weekend I stumbled across Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee, an account of a young Korean American woman newly graduated from an Ivy League university and caught between her poor Korean parents and the glittering lifestyle offered by her peers- there were I thought lots of echoes of Nigerian immigrant family tensions but I suppose in some ways, all immigrants face similar issues. The writing was assured but I’m not sure that Lee did her skills justice in this book- I’m not sure if it’s the plot but there was something that didn’t quite ring right….

I’m currently reading Hari Kunzru’s- My Revolutions which is beautifully written- I think it’s the best of his three books so far. While I loved his first two: The Impressionist and Transmission, it is in this book about a Sixties activist living a comfortable bourgeois life in 21st century Sussex who finds his past catching up with him….I’ve always had a soft spot for Kunzru ever since he won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for Transmission and turned it down because it was sponsored by the Daily Mail. Instead he asked for the prize money to be paid to the Refugee Council- an action that must have riled the Daily Mailers no end…

Glad to see that Etteh finally did the decent thing and resigned as Speaker and even “gladder” to see the House members ignore the PDP order to vote for her self-nominated successor and elect someone who appears to be articulate and intelligent instead. Now the House members must prove their vaunted patriotism and get to work and not start squabbling over committee memberships…

In Pakistan, the hollowness and hypocrisy of the champions of democracy is again put on display – lawyers are beaten by the police, judges are sacked and the opposition are put under house arrest- all for speaking out in favour of democracy- you would imagine that for the self-appointed supporters of democracy- these stirrings in a Muslim country would be heart-warming and deserving of support. But no- it’s too complicated, cutting off aid would not be constructive, etc etc Pity the poor young Pakistani lawyer who believes the rhetoric about democracy and finds himself bruised and battered tonight in a police cell…..If you are in any doubt, go and ask the monks in Burma…

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15 comments:

@themill said...

As a 'white native', I too, am appalled by the immigration rhetoric that suddenly seems so endemic. How can we have become so intolerant in only a few short years?

Ekoakete said...

The immigration has been the news many times in the past and will continue to do so. It is the intensity of it the varies depending on how satisfied the working classes are. The politicians just bandy the issue around when it suits their purpose of winning votes. Most people of the middle and upper class aren't threatened and so aren't particularly bothered by immigration...

As for Pakistan, the champions of democracy will only act when it suits their country's interest.

Nneka's World said...

Glad to see you back.

I heard about the immigration issues in UK. All i can say is wow!

I was appalled when i read and also heard from my fellow friends and family about the immigration stance.
As ekoakete pointed out it will always be an issue....

Abuja Walkabout said...

Engaging post, as usual... and there will always be millions of stories that can come out of one scene. How about telling the story from the point of view of the dog? It will be fun...

uknaija said...

@themill-glad to see you here and it's reassuring to see that there are dissenting voices
@ekoakete- ever since I moved here, people tel me the same thing-that it's a cycle- but it still upsets me...
@nneka's world- thanks
@abuja walkabout- I hadn't thought about the dog's perspective. Interesting thought. Have you disabled comments on your page? I hear India is the place to go for cheap, high quality printing

CATWALQ a.k.a LAGBA-JESS said...

Once again I return to bathe in your sea of words....

Immigration is the same every where. In the US, I watch in increasing alarm as the news promotes a thinly veiled antagonistic attitude towards immigrants. Where I interned this summer, I was the only black but I was not the only foreigner. The Americans were only about five or six in an office of about fifty people. Even as I waited for the bus in the evenings, I was able to observe the different languages spoken as people exited the building (or maybe it was one language...I am not sure. I don't speak it)
Nonetheless, I knew then that just because one is white does not make them the white of that land. So who are these parasitic foreigners that politicians are lobbying for and against who are "bringing the nation to its knees"?
I guess it is when there is a majority of "them" who look different from the norm and gradually start to outnumber the "citizens"

Pakistan: What on earth is happening to this beautiful land? Since the British left, have they had peace? I am so hurt

Abuja Walkabout said...

Thank you for the tip...we will check the Indian Connection. One of them Indians actually owns one of the most modernized printing presses here in Nigeria - Digiprints. But they are in Lagos and I dont know if they have an office here in Abuja. (As for the dog, let's say it is one that loves both its mistress and master...but loves the mistress more... because she's one of those women that you can't help but love...haha)

CONSCIOUSNESS said...

...yes fam’!!

I have become 'somewhat' of an avid reader(...he says knowing the cloak of anonymity the web provides is enough to hide his hourly check for updates) of your blog and think it utterly discourteous not to commend your ability at delivering top reads EACH and EVERY time!!

Commendations are due…well done me son’!! Abeg you, keep it up (more frequent posts will be appreciated)!!

Bless up!!

Peeeeeaaaaaaacccceeeee!!!
C!

SOLOMONSYDELLE said...

Don't get happy too quickly about the post Ettehgate House! Now they are accusing her replacement of not participating in NYSC. I guess that is all they could get on the young, extremely well educated new Speaker. Thankfully, he is pulling out the stops to top his critics.

Business as usual in Nigeria.

As per immigration... I used to watch the news and think that some Europeans were too anti-foreigners. Until it began here (US). It happened all of a sudden and now everyone is anti immigrants. Americans are realizing that free trade and other economic policies do not necessarily work for them. What with outsourcing taking "American" jobs and Detroit and other big businesses unable to maintain the promises they made to employees and pensioners. Only time will tell how this situation will resolve itself here and in Europe, because something tells me immigration, illegal or not, isn't going anywhere.

Welcome back. Great post...

HDC said...

you don't know me...but I just wanted to say that I am a very appreciative reader of your blog!

Informed and eloquent...and a good tip-off for the next book to read!

Norma said...

Yay...You're back! Have been checking the blog everyday, waiting impatiently for an update...and, as usual, you've slipped in a few book recommendations, so Ese Pupo! More frequent updates PLEASE....

Snuffleupagus said...

Your posts are always so clever. I also sit in cafes watching people, making up lives for them, pasts and futures, wondering what it would be like to be them instead of me. I'm sure it says something deep about me, but I'm not sure what exactly...

CATWALQ a.k.a LAGBA-JESS said...

oya update now....

Chxta said...

Hey, we missed you.

As to the immigration thing, I have promised myself that I would return to Naija someday soon, so it doesn't bother me much anymore. Xenophobia is borne out of ignorance, and accelerated by laziness, and seeing someone from another place coming to yours and doing well. It has always been there, would probably hide away, but given the right conditions, if Hitler comes even to the UK and advertises for concentration camp guards he'd get a large response...

As to Naija, slowly we are getting there. It's been a hard fight, but methinks that all but the most pessimistic and imperceptive would notice the slight albeit glacial shift towards the right way of doing things.

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