Rights in the UK: an alien view
By Aleksander Boyd
London 27 Dec. 04 | Let me start by saying that in spite of my Scottish last name, I was not born in the British Isles but in Venezuela, country towards which I feel deeply. However I arrived in the UK in April 2000 and the experience has been fantastically enriching. Things taken for granted by the Brits can be a real treat for Venezuelans such as the lack of crime and violence, the respect for the Rule of Law, the extraordinary shape of the economy and so on. Nevertheless there are some issues that are incomprehensible for an alien like me. The British society prides itself for being open and respectful of other cultures. It also seems to go to extraordinary, and in my view unnecessary, lengths in protecting or seeking to protect people’s rights. For instance, some days ago a theatrical play had to be suspended for what it was deemed as an act of disrespect towards the Sikh community, which protested violently against the play and the theatre hosting the show. Another interesting one is the fox hunting issue. Then there is the issue of the ID cards. Most of the countries I know have an identification system that facilitates one’s dealings with the State, the financial and schooling systems, the electoral roll and so on. Here in the UK some people are making a big stink out the issue, bringing to the fora wild conspiracy theories that have the State as an ever watchful entity that will pervade into our lives by the issuance of an ID card; “we are losing our liberties” some maintain. Not surprisingly one of the most vocal advocates against the implementation of ID cards is a Shami Chakrabarti, go figure about her British lineage…
I believe, as an alien, that whoever comes into these shores ought to embrace and adopt the culture of this country, whichever it may be. Going back to the Sikh issue, I wonder whether the case would have been the contrary, i.e. an English community feeling outraged towards a play shown in the Punjab region, would the established authorities of the area have intervened in favour of the so called abused members of the community? I think not. People in this country, as in natives, are far too lenient, excessively soft and definitely too permissive. Instead of adopting a policy of “this is how things are here, embrace our culture and rules or leave” they have one of “this is how we would like to run our society, however should you feel insulted we will accommodate whatever requests you may have in detriment of our own culture and people”. Such stance is fundamentally wrong, which results in the ceding away of identity and sovereignty bit by bit to ethnic groups vocal and brave enough to mount protests.
There is nothing more feared by the Brits than public embarrassment. Banking on that peculiar characteristic, I see how lobbying groups of different nature exploit the intrinsic and collective fear of embarrassment to attain their goals. There is absolutely nothing more effective when it comes to the achievement of a particular goal than to engage in a shouting match for before having to suffer the embarrassment of being in such undesirable position, these people would concede pretty much anything, from suspension of plays to ministerial resignations.
The Queen took the “praise our multi ethnicity” argument as central in her Christmas spiel. Although I think that a functional society must seek to benefit all or most of its members by the same token the rights of some should not be above those of others, especially in light of the fact that ‘others’ in this case are, generally speaking, aliens. The fabric of British culture ought to be respected by those who have decided to live here. It is certainly discouraging to see how animal activists seem to have more political clout than action groups advocating for the maintenance of a certain type of livelihood. It is equally shocking to see how known paedophiles roam around unexposed and free for identifying them would be akin to human rights violations and conversely no one seems worried enough about the potential harm that they could inflict on our children. The Americans on the other hand have not got such problems, the transculturalisation of the immigrant force in their country is swift and generally the second generation does not bear perceivable cultural signs of their ancestors. Which one is better though, the complete abandonment of one’s identity or the complete rejection of the host country’s culture instead? I reckon a balance should be stroked between embracing the host's set of rules and culture whilst maintaining one’s own identity. The two are compatible and should not be opposed to one another. On the contrary, it has to be viewed as a way of enriching the cultural baggage of the individual exposed to different customs.
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