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.

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Maybe we should Stop Comparing Muslim Women to Lollipops

Lollipops

 

It is curious that a single contemporary analogy has come to be used so often across such a massive and diverse swathe of the earth’s population. The analogy is essentially a simple but effective (for some) argument regarding the hijab worn by many Muslim women.

The analogy normally involves the presentation of a picture of 2 lollipops; one wrapped, and the other not. If you came across these two, which would you prefer? Which is more clean, or ‘pure’? Obviously, we’d all prefer a wrapped lollipop… to eat. And apparently this logic should apply to the way men should view women, in the realms of purity and marriage and all the associated social spheres of life.

I do apologise for the crudeness of the aforementioned example; I cringed a little when writing it. I’m not sure what is more objectionable; comparing the ‘valuation’ of women to the selection of a lollipop, or justifying the hijab through the lens of a man’s worldview. Often the rather vocal critics of this line of thought go too far, and end up arguing that such patronizing characterisations of women ought to lead us to reject outright things like the hijab and cast off the oppressive chains of tradition and misogyny.

Whilst this critique goes beyond the pale, the point is legitimate. Far too often the key intuitive parts of the religious discussion on hijab include somewhat crude and patronising examples. If these arguments have worked in some parts of the world at other times in the past, they certainly threaten to do more harm than good with younger generations today.

It is essential these arguments are refined from within the mainstream Muslim tradition. Each Prophet came with language and narratives that appealed to their nation’s culture, and so we must do the same. Failure to do so will only push more and more disenfranchised Muslims away from religion and towards the dangerous realms of rejecting long-established pillars of the faith.

Primarily, it should always be remembered that the hijab was never initiated for the benefit of men; it is a deeply personal commandment that punctuates the individual Muslim woman’s relationship with God.
In addition, it really is not the place for random Muslim men to be enforcing rules of modesty on random unsuspecting Muslim women. I have heard too many horror stories of this kind of paternalistic enforcement in some more conservative parts of the community, and it just seems distasteful.

Furthermore, we need to bring more gender-balance to our discussion of modesty. A hijab and rules of modesty have been prescribed for both men and women. They are different, because men and women are simultaneously both equal and different, but responsibility lies on both to live their lives in an upright manner. Far too often we prize the chastity of women, whilst casting a blind eye to the comparatively adventurous exploits of men. That is a cultural imbalance that seems to manifest itself in various parts of the Muslim world, and one we could probably do without.

Such critiques are an urgent necessity – without them, others will inevitably move to throw the baby out with the bathwater. A more balanced approach is a vital step in giving people a legitimate avenue of criticism, in order to salvage the broader point on the timeless dignity of modesty.

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?