Friday, 18 November 2016

Brexit, Trump, and negative emotions

Flying into Luton airport the other day, I found my routine upset by migrants. Now normally I buy my train tickets to London and back from one of two machines in the baggage hall. Few people use them, there's rarely a queue. But this time - there's a large group of what look like young Romanians standing around the ticket machines, trying to work out which travel option represents the best value. So I press on to the second pair of ticket machines, by the main exit. There's always a sizeable queue here, but at least there are attendants on hand to explain the complexity of ticket pricing.

I join the queue, it's moving reasonably quickly due to the two uniformed women on hand to helpfully explain what to do. Soon there's just one person in front of me. But then:

"Where you want to go to?"


"Bus or train?"

The guy in front of me shrugs. The attendant asks the same question. "Bus or train?" No reply. He grins sheepishly. "Bus or train?" He shakes his head. He has evidently got no grasp of English, other than to say "Oxford" again. The woman asks him what language he speaks. Nothing. She asks where he's from, what country he's from. Again, no reply.

I'm beginning to get frustrated. The bus from the airport to Luton Airport Parkway train station leaves every ten minutes. Miss the next one, I might have a long wait for a train to London...

Again, the attendant asks "Where are you from? What country?" She names a few. "Bulgaria," he finally replies. "Is anyone here from Bulgaria?" she asks the growing queue. Several voices from behind me reply. "Can you ask him whether he wants to go to Oxford by bus or by train?"

Some obliging chap does. All becomes clear. He wants to go to Oxford by bus. But this is the queue for train tickets. The queue for bus tickets is over there. All this is explained to him via the volunteer translator. The Bulgarian moves himself and his belongings across the hall. Meanwhile I'm feeling the reptile brain in me shifting to Daily Mail-reader mode.

"Come over 'ere, don't know any bleeding English, holding up everybody else..."


I catch the ill feelings as they wash over me and I nip them in the bud. It's this kind of thinking that led to the referendum vote on Brexit, it is this kind of thinking that led Americans to vote Trump.

Have I not been here before, myself? On the other side? Travelling around Portugal without a word of Portuguese and expecting the locals to speak English? Were my parents not in this situation 70 years ago? And was I in that much of a rush? (as it happens, on this particular occasion, not at all).

So drop it. Drop the niechęć ['antipathy' is best translation but not quite] to this migrant. Recognise that this is a bad emotion, which has negative political consequences. As I say, understand your biology and rise above it. Bad political consequences. Feel these moments of anger and displeasure at migrants, let them get stoked by the Daily Mail, the Sun and the Daily Express, and before too long the path of history, which (in the Western world at least) has been moving inexorably from barbarism towards ever-higher levels of civilisation, takes a crunching reverse gear.

Written on the day when Trump picks hardliners for top posts and the murder trial of Thomas Mair, who shot MP Jo Cox ahead of the referendum, continues.

Above: parakeet-migrant, Cleveland Park, West Ealing. These birds have been breeding prodigiously in South- and West London since coming to the 1990s, hence 'Kingston Parakeets'. Taking food away from local magpies, starlings and jackdaws? Or adding a bit of tropical colour (and noise) to London's suburbs?

[Photo: Nikon Coolpix P900, lens at 2000mm equiv., 1/200 sec at f6.5, 400 ISO.]

This time five years ago:
Premier Tusk's second exposé

This time six years ago:
Into Poland's former Heart of Darkness

This time seven years ago:
Powiśle - synchronicity of shape

This time eight years ago:
The last of the rampa na kruszywo

This time nine years ago:
Airport zoning to halt development in Jeziorki?


Adam said...

Dear oh dear, and all for the want of a pictogram or two clearly showing it was a train ticket machine and direction of the bus ticket machine. Or were there some and was everyone dozing on the job?

Either way, wishing you hassle free transport experiences,

dr Marcin said...

Howdy Mike,

You bet, you truly bet. That's why every the US, Canadian, British, Australian citizen should be able at Dworzec Centralny in Warsaw to order fluently: Poproszę o bilet normalny przesiadkowy do Szczekocin w pierwszej klasie przy oknie, oraz normalny powrotny przez Zawiercie. Również klasa pierwsza. Why, for the God's sake, a cashier at Dworzec Centralny has to learn English, and be fluent, mainly spoken?

Stay cool and groovy dude! :)

Anonymous said...

I guess that once this chap gets to Oxford he will expect translation services funded by the taxpayer. I'm sure that in your adopted homeland there would be no such dufficulty.

Anonymous said...

60,000 arrived just since Brexit - look out Oxford as you aint seen nothin' yet

Doctors appointment - wait a week - you and I call LIM or Medicover and we are seen on the same day
Good school for your kids - low chance even with spending a huge premium buying a house close by - you and I can send our kids to the good local school a short walk away

Britain in many places is full and public services are not keeping up. Outside Scotland, London and NI the rest of the UK including Oxford voted Brexit. Its not the Daily Mail that created this so please don't critisise your fellow Brits for taking action when given the chance

Michael Dembinski said...


You hide your post-truth behind anonymity.

You claim Oxford voted for Brexit.

BOLLOCKS. Liar, liar pants on such fire that no amount of huffing and puffing will put it out. Oxford voted SEVENTY PERCENT to remain:

Area total
Remain: 49,424
Leave: 20,913
Electorate: 97,331 Verified Ballot Papers: 70,411 Turnout: 72.4% Ballot Papers Counted : 70,411 Valid Votes: 70,337 Rejected Ballots: 74


In other words, for every two Oxford voters who wanted leave, five wanted to remain.

Other parts of the UK that vote 'remain' include Manchester, Liverpool, Leicester, Bristol and Cambridge (74%). And many other towns that have accepted migration as a fact of life, and not ones where the non UK-born population has risen from 0.2% to 1.5% in the past ten years.

What you're engaging in is perceptions based on hearsay and gossip rather than hard fact.

Public services are kept going by a rising GDP and that's driven by migrants coming to do work locals are less inclined to do. NHS Doctors? How many of them are UK born. Nurses? Care workers?

And 'criticise' is spelt with two 'c's

Anonymous said...

I am sorry if I touched a raw nerve. I have lived outside the UK for over 20 years and tend to view life there with rose tinted spectacles. My aging parents however have to live there as do my two British nurse sisters. My mother waiting weeks for referral for gallstones. My father not being able to see a British nor foreign specialist regularly to assess his Parkinson and prescribe suitable medication. My sisters mortgaged to the hilt in the hope of being a able to send their kids to good local schools living in a city that voted to remain. Not gossip or hearsay but the truth affecting normal retired and working British people

My spelling is cack despite my parents spending whatever spare cash they had on providing me with a private school education and over the years it has got worse. Apologies if misspelling annoys you as much as the poor blighter from Bulgaria who could not differentiate bus from train. If it is any consolation I was always better at science than English.

Suggest however you need to take a deep breath and accept not all Brits have the same liberal views as yourself and practice a bit of tolerance for not only that poor Bulgarian but also different opinions from a fellow countryman. If I took the huff with all my customers and friends who expressed different views to myself I would be out a job and friendless pretty quickly.

Michael Dembinski said...

@ Anonymous:

The raw nerve touched was the assertion that Oxford voted to leave, stated with such certainty... The result of such cavalier disregard for truth in favour of 'truthiness' is that the UK is now embroiled in a dreadful bind from which it is extremely hard to get out of.

Eight years into the longest economic crisis in our lifetimes, people are having a hard time of it. Life is harder than it was in the 80s or 90s.

But risking the UK's long-term economic prospects, and the security of the entire continent, because of some vague feelings of disaffection, is to be led down a blind alleyway.

What has membership of the EU got to do with English people's real woes?

It's about perceptions. Liars have gotten away with lies and fake promises.

And now what? The UK government has to hire an further 30,000 civil servants to deal with the complexities of untangling legal, regulatory, economic and operational ties that have been built up over 43 years.

And what good will it do in the final analysis?

Liberal? Essentially my personal brand of conservatism revolves around a strong spirit of self-reliance, of not moaning about 'the system' or 'the ways things are' but just by getting on with it. Hard work intelligence, and not expecting help from the State. Which should be as small as possible.

toyah said...

Funny. Believe me, never in my life have I felt 'niechęć' to anybody who can't speak Polish. This is then by no means a question of lack of tolerance, but something I call "emperial arrogance", which we luckily have no problem with.