Professor Jem Bendell

notes from a strategist and educator on social and organisational change

An immigrant walks into a bar…

Posted by jembendell on April 23, 2015

An Eastern European Immigrant to the UK (aka: human) walks into a bar: “A key reason I came to the UK was because of education for my kids. I grew up in communist Hungary but the education was so much better than the values they are teaching now.”

Me (slightly pissed human): Why do you say “but”? Why not “so”?

Immigrant: …… (Silence, maybe confused.)

Me, point maybe made: “So you like the UK for its schools?”

Immigrant: “Yes, but it was tough at first with my different landladies in Oxford. I realise they don’t differentiate between types of foreign residents. Its crazy foreigners can get benefits. But most of us don’t. I don’t think people know that EU migrants to the UK are a net economic benefit to the UK. I think its crazy you have a system that funds people to not work and have babies, that can be taken advantage of by foreigners, so then we all get the blame.”

Me: “Why isn’t it something to celebrate about Britain that we look after the basic needs of vulnerable people and all babies?”

Immigrant: “Well its impossible to pay for everything”

Me: ” Where did you get the idea we can’t afford that? We afford to give billions more to bankers, including many foreigners, for bail outs, than to single mums. I don’t think your landladies have considered Eastern European bankers in London having been a net drain on the economy. So where are they getting their bad impressions from? They’ve been given a narrative of blame. Are you joining that?”

Immigrant: “But don’t you think you need to tighten up as Britain is an island with only so much space. You can’t have all these people coming for benefits”

Me: “Ah, space. You means house prices and rents? UK population growth in the past decades was less than the amount of new housing built. The cost of housing is driven by our banking system where about 80 percent of new money is created as loans for property purchases. Immigration is a not a significant factor for the systemic problem of cost of housing in the UK. The fact you haven’t heard much about that reflects the mass corporate media and BBC agenda to ignore systemic political issues.”

Immigrant: “Something is wrong when my husband finds its easier to sign on for unemployment benefit than open a joint account to access our own money. Your benefits system is too easy.”

Me: “Maybe banks should be more efficient: it sounds like they could learn from job centres! We might improve the benefits system but its a secondary or non issue for the state of the UK right now. You sound like you tried to find common ground with your landladies but end up blaming others less fortunate than yourself. It seems there’s a cascade of blame on every one lower than them on the power ladder. I remember there was a kid at school who was bullied and who tortured insects”

 

Reflections

This was a very educated lady, works at a top University. My reflection is that once narratives of blame are maintained by mass media then a spirit of wanting to connect to people living in societies with such narratives can then lead us to find complementary narratives to the power structure that those main narratives of blame protect. We all peck the smaller bird.

My speech at the UN on the housing crisis:

https://www.opendemocracy.net/jem-bendell/from-castle-to-cage-what-to-do-about-housing-crisis

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