We’re All Immigrants Anyway

Immigration

Two peculiarities present themselves amidst our now-extensive and often questionable discussion on migration.

You see, with current evidence we think the first man that ever existed lived somewhere around ancient Ethiopia. Whilst this location could easily change seen as what little we know about the distant past changes frequently, a clear and unquestionable principle arises from this; every single person living anywhere other than Ethiopia has migrated there at some point. Everyone in the UK today migrated to the Isles. The debates on immigration and British-ness then almost become a meagre contest of who got here first.

The concept of being ‘indigenous’ then becomes rather difficult to define. Since every family could conceivably trace its ancestry back to a time when they lived somewhere else in the world, in one sense there really is no such thing. Furthermore, those that argue this has connotations of how much time has been spent in a country run the risk of drawing abstract conclusions. How long before a people can genuinely be called indigenous residents of any country; 200 years? A thousand? Furthermore, anytime we make this argument here in Europe, by the very same token we’d also be arguing that Caucasian originally European Americans (initially mostly British) should also not simply be called ‘Americans’.  Native Americans should be the default ‘American’, and white Americans ‘European-Americans’.

Importantly, every nation in the world is a mix of various ethnicities and always has been. There may be a very small number of exceptions to this in truly isolated countries like Bhutan, or small and distant island states. The Normans invaded and conquered England in 1066. They were somewhat French, but originally Viking. French then became the language of officialdom for England for several centuries (Richard the Lionheart spoke French, by the way). Even so-called ‘indigenous’ Caucasian England is a mix of Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Vikings, Norman Frenchmen and more. British culture has always been impacted by the cultures of the nations it traded with, and more recently colonized. The idea that British culture is being ‘diluted’ or ‘attacked’ by an invasion of nominally foreign communities is a complete misnomer.

Do concepts like ‘indigeneity’ and ‘integration’ have any legitimate function? Sure, but they must be applied equally. If a Caucasian migrant can seamlessly be seen as wholeheartedly British after x amount of time with y degree of integration, then people of other races must be viewed as entirely British by the same yardsticks. That may sound random – but all of this really is. And there really can be no argument that any newcomers cannot integrate and become fully British, and actively contribute to what that means. After all, in 11th century England we can be quite certain the Brits didn’t think highly of their foreign French-Viking invaders, but that turned out okay.

All of this is not to say there aren’t real questions to be asked about immigration. Clearly it should not be done beyond the capacity of social services, and it must be acknowledged that integration as a process does take time and resources; if immigrant is high and too concentrated in certain areas this risks ‘ghettoisation’ and could hamper this process. But the anti-intellectual ‘clash of civilisations’ warnings for multicultural Britain ought to be rubbished, and soon as well.

Is Politics Noble?

Politics

To be engaged in politics, at its heart, is to care about what is beyond oneself, family and close circle of friends. In thinking about the affairs of wider society we are necessarily engaging in a partly self-less act of empathy. By adding our voice and concern to the broader debate we often benefit people other than ourselves. The more politically engaged you get, the more you concern yourself with broader identity groups that encompass more people, and thus the more people you are being active on behalf of. This rises from the narrow confines of one’s family and friends, up to the level of local community, and beyond to larger categories like one’s nation, faith and humanity as a whole.

It seems clear to me that being politically proactive (not necessarily ideological or partisan) and taking at least some interest in the affairs of society is almost a necessary component of a well-rounded and noble character. After all, all it takes for evil to take hold is for “good men to stay silent”. And women, presumably.
It is easy to care for yourself and your family, and though that ought to have great importance, it is far more difficult (and thus more laudable) to care for someone with whom you have little in common, and who you have never met. Empathy with refugees fleeing warzones, for example, or minority groups you are not a part of, is an honourable affair.

Whilst it is a potentially bold and contentious view, surely whether or not one follows the general affairs of one’s nation is surely not simply a matter of interests and hobbies, as for example following interests in business, medicine or technology might be. That is not to say those fields cannot be noble pursuits (far from it), but to follow affairs can be to satisfy one’s interests and for entertainment, or it can be to position oneself to make a positive contribution in broader debate and democratic processes. How many people actually follow the news for this purpose, however, is debatable.

Thus, it would seem natural (ignoring how the real world actually works for a moment) that entering the actual field of politics is also a noble thing. You are taking up the work of representing constituents and the general public – a great responsibility. Ultimately, most MPs could be making far more money working in the City of London and as part of a career in politics subject themselves to greater levels of scrutiny in their private lives than almost anyone has to deal with.

The Real World

How, then, has politics descended into something that is really rather grizzly? “Power attracts the worst and corrupts the best.” There is nothing glamorous about the way most politicians exercise power, from the MPs expenses scandal to the stupendous daily allowances for the House of Lords, and the perpetual banter-factory that is Prime Minister’s Questions (“accountability”). Even in a mature democracy we still can’t seem to shake the unimpressive reality that those who exercise political power are often not quite the knights in shining armour we wish them to be.

A significant reason for this must be the elephant in the room; power. Whilst activism seldom has connotations of this, the actual pursuit of politics as a profession often can aggrandize one’s own sense of power, which has tempted all since time immemorial. And leads to less than ethical behaviour.

Perhaps we can concede that whilst the practice of politics is a necessary evil, political activism and engagement undertaken by ordinary people for the purpose of bettering society is indeed a desirable and moral act.

The Successful vs Fulfilling Career Choice

GenerationY

One of the greatest conundrums that confront the sincerely naive millennial graduate is the apparent trade-off between ‘successful’ and ‘fulfilling’ careers. After years of discussing big ideas and debating solutions the world’s most intractable problems, we enter a murky world of endless applications to faceless corporate giants and confront the reality that we must begin to think about money, earning a livelihood and social prestige. I will make an inevitably ill-fated attempt at discussing the key difficulties confronting all those who try to reconcile the two aims.

Most people don’t actually have much of a choice as providing for themselves is a more pressing concern. But for those of us that have the luxury of choice, what do we do?

(In case you’re worried I’m being too harsh with my millennial stereotypes – I assure you I am mocking myself as much as my fellow dreamers.)

Are they Mutually Exclusive?

Fulfillment as a term can often be used in a rather half-baked way; it takes more forms than only dedicating your life to altruism, charity and social care. Whilst those are without doubt the most noble of pursuits – it is quite self-evident that even providing for one’s family, saving in order to better educate one’s children, being diligent with your responsibilities and by doing so being a role model to others, are universally fulfilling. These fulfillments can be present in virtually any ‘normal’ occupation that doesn’t actively undermine human welfare – which is most.

In that sense, fulfillment and success can probably coincide. Perhaps those of us growing up fortunate enough not to worry about these things – i.e. taking it as a given we will be able to provide for our future families and children – undervalue these aspects of ‘normal’ work.

You might contend that the definition of ‘success’ is hotly contested, but arguably our society has settled on quite an established view of success. Whilst this may vary slightly from culture to culture, when you attend a good university and have a solid educational foundation, success is pursuing a career that is well paid, socially respected and involves advancement and promotion. Despite my millennial objections, this is how the world sees ‘success’. Alternative definitions are, perhaps unfortunately, murmurs of discontent from the fringes of mainstream society. It takes a brave soul to defy the social expectations of ‘success’ and pursue their own vision of personal ‘success’.

The World Needs our Talent

There are those who make reasonable arguments about the good people can do from within mainstream occupations – both by being proactive on the corporate social responsibility (CSR) front at work, but also by engaging with good causes in their personal time outside of work. This is probably fair, although I would be interested to figure out how many people who work the 60+ hour-weeks most in London do actually feel this to be the case.

However, there is a potent counter-argument. In an era of great challenges, from the persistence of poverty to the rise of inequality, the unassailable acceleration of climate change and resurgence of war, civil strife and nationalism, the world needs at least some of its most talented to turn their attention to these problems. If all the best graduates go into well-paid professions that, whilst hardly wrong, aren’t actively contributing to solving these problems, the likelihood we can tackle them is surely low.
In my mind, this argument is potent. Unfortunately, however, it seems that far too often more fulfilling career routes are beset with uncertain entry routes, persistent lack of stability and financial security and a myriad of discontent blog-posts from disillusioned people (often fellow millennials) within the sector.

University is Expensive–

What is the ‘Return’?

A part of me constantly returns to the pragmatic financial concerns surrounding further education. University is expensive – £9,000 in the UK, and often even more in the US. Is it not a reasonable expectation for that sizeable financial investment in our skills (‘human capital’) to bring a positive and proportionate ‘return’?

I mean – is a £27,000 investment worth it if our lifetime earnings are barely improved, and low compared to others? I don’t know – it’s a crude point but if I’m honest with myself, the crippling cost of university does point us in this direction.
I would like to think the ‘returns’ of education go far beyond income. Surely, they do? Perhaps if we content ourselves with the idea that the benefit we bring to humanity, in whatever form that takes, constitutes the highest form of return, then this concern is allayed.

 

So, for those of us desperately trying to convince ourselves our concern for the state of the world is genuine… I don’t really have any answers. Do you?