Immigration and the True Citizen

There is a huge debate going on in UK, Europe and other nations that attract immigrants in large numbers. In light of terror threats, governments have come to the realisation that immigrants are just not immersed enough into the culture and tradition of their host nations. Therefore, they feel disjointed from the society and harbour a deep sense of disenchantment and dislike that expresses itself in the form of terrorism or support for radical causes. Hence, the governments feels that the best way to resolve this issue is to \’localise\’ the immigrants and give them \’strong incentives\’ to adapt to their host\’s systems. Governments are not understanding that you cannot force-feed culture. Migrations and the results thereof are much more complicated than asking people to take a quiz that they can just mug up. Immigration is neither a win-win nor a lose-lose game. You win some, you lose some.

Human beings have always migrated – to look for food, shelter, safety or conducive weather. Most people who are migrating to UK and Europe from elsewhere are still looking for the same. These people are not migrating to a culture or religion. They are migrating to money, to a legal system. They are not beggars who need to be grateful to a benevolent Britain. Most of them are fortune hunters who had to go through severe hardships – to reach Britain, and even after reaching there, just to find their feet. They have worked hard and are still working very hard because they know they are in an unlike country, a dissimilar nation. They\’re not good with the language or the culture but that doesn\’t dismay them because there\’s good money to be made and they always have their own culture and religion to take solace from. The immigrants win some. And so do the hosts. Immigrants effectively lower costs of basic services. Young immigrants make sure that the demographics are not uneconomically skewed on the side of the elderly. Immigrants supply skilled and unskilled labour in severely shortaged markets. They also pump in huge tax dollars into the exchequer.

It is the power of economics exerting an influencing force on culture, tradition, systems, laws and government. If you cant take the change then forget about the economic benefits. Concessions have to be made, tolerance has to be shown. In search for the definition of a pure and true citizen, we must not insist on a rapid or drastic cultural adaptation. It is neither fair nor practical. Which South Asian ever emigrated to UK because he loved Fish-n-chips or felt grateful toward the Magna Carta? While asking the question about the true meaning of Britishness, people are forgetting that the world has moved on. Just as the moon exerts some influence on the earth\’s orbit and makes it a little wobbly, so will immigrants exert some influence on the culture of their hosts. Thats been happening for thousands of years in India. India was supposed to be a sexually liberal nation at some point in history. You have to see our temples to believe it. Where did Kamasutra come from? So what happened in between? How come we\’ve become such prudes now?

Cultural change due to migration of human population is like mixing two matters with dissimilar properties. For instance, hot water and cold water. Put more hot water and you\’ll scald yourself. Put more cold water and you\’ll freeze. Too much of hot water changes the character of the water towards the hotter side. Similarly too much cold water changes the character of the water towards to colder side. But its never completely hot or completely cold; unless there is massive invasion of one matter. Then the identity of one engulfs the identity of the other. Immigration is like that. If original white Anglo-Saxons think that they can sit easy and politely ask the immigrants to try and gradually become more \’British\’ then they are in for a big disappointment. If you allow immigration, be prepared to get influenced in some ways. Prepare to change your own culture in some ways. Friction and turbulence are given. The definition of a \’British\’ person changes every time a new person crosses the immigration desks of Heathrow.

Is the approach of governments right? We need to define what a nation stands for. What is the definition of culture, identity and boundaries in this age of mixing and mingling. I insist on the basics. What makes a nation what it is? What are the values that attract immigrants? Where does the safety, the shelter, the food and the prosperity stem from? Where is the culture of the nation – on its face or in its heart? Multicultural democracies like India, UK or USA cannot be defined by one culture or one religion or even one political party. These nations can only be defined in terms of values – values that are enshrined in our founding documents – freedom, equality, opportunity to pursue happiness, and so on. The British government must relay messages of these basic values rather than external manifestations of culture. UK must help the new members of the British family to understand that the safety, security and prosperity that they have come to ticks because of these reasons.

\”This nation is not what it is because women here do not wear burqas, but because women and men are treated equally. This nation is not what it is because people can speak English, but because everyone can understand each other, speak freely and express anything. This nation is not free and fair because it is populated by rich white men, but because long time back in its history, a great document called the \’Magna Carta\’ was written and adopted. Beyond this, you are most welcome to love(or hate) either Fish-n-chips or Hilsa in mustard gravy!\”

Published by Anupam Choudhury

I'm a writer, editor, and blogger from New Delhi, India.

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