One of our residents, Mike, whom I have written about before, arrived the other day at the office door complete with gormless shuffle and his two hands placed firmly down the front of his tracksuit so as to remind the world that he has testicles and has already used them to pollute the planet with his gene pool. He has recently moved from the Housing Project in to a one bedroom flat provided by the Housing Association. He lives in here at half the cost (which Housing Benefit pay) of what the same flat would cost him in the privately rented sector. Despite living a very comfortable life on the proceeds of others hard work, as well as the income he derives from selling drugs to his peers, Mike still finds a lot of time to come and complain to staff at the project whilst visiting his girlfriend who is still a resident here. As per usual he just walked in to the office uninvited and started demanding what he perceived to be his rights.
“Winston, I need the spare keys to my flat. I’ve lost mine again. I might have left them in there. Give us the spare keys will you?
“No,I won’t give them to you. The last time I gave you the spare keys you lost them as well and we had to get the locks changed at our cost. When the caretaker comes in he can go around with you and let you in and if you want a new set you will have to pay for them to be cut. For God’s sake Mike , that’s the third set you have lost over the past few months. If you can’t even manage keys to a flat how can you manage the flat itself?”
There are several of our residents who as well as being unable to sign on the dole on time without constantly having their benefits cut off are also incapable of having keys without losing them. Before Mike had time to respond to my question the doorbell at the project rang. It was the Pizza delivery man who is about 21, around Mike’s age, and is from Eastern Europe and speaks perfect English. Mike went to answer the door as the Pizza was for him and his pregnant girlfriend. Afterwards, he came back to the office to offer his opinions on EU enlargement and the influx of immigrants that have ensued in to the UK as a result.
“See that Polish Pizza guy it’s the likes of him that’s stealing all the jobs of young British workers like me. I don’t agree with all these foreigners coming over here taking our jobs. It’s just not right. What do you think of it Winston?”
What I really think is that the Eastern European should be allowed to stay and that Mike should be stripped of his rights as a citizen and deported to an uninhabitated rock in the outer Hebrides. However, I don't say this as I have been trained to view Mike as a vulnerable victim who is at risk of becoming homeless.
“First of all Mike that Pizza guy might not be Polish he could be from another one of the Eastern European countries that joined the EU.”
“Well they all sound the same to me,” responded Mike in true Alf Garnettesque ignorance.
“Besides Mike don’t you think that you are being just a little bit hypocritical? After all your Mum emigrated here from Greece back in the sixties as you told me before.”
“Yeah, but my Dad is English and I’m fully British as I was born and raised here and Britain should be for the British, not foreigners.”
“What about your Mum should she be sent home to Greece if her and your Dad decide to return to the UK after working abroad?”
His parents emigrated to the Middle East as his Dad works in the oil industry, but again the irony was lost on him. In fact, although Mike is a member of the underclass his parents are quite well off and he only ended up in supported housing because it was an option available to them when they both wanted to emigrate.
“Don’t be stupid she’s got British kids and she’s been here most of her life so is more or less British.”
“Oh, so you believe in assimilation and integration for some immigrants particularly those related to you, but just not for Eastern European Pizza delivery men.”
“What’s assimilation and integration?”
“In a nutshell it means that immigrants can become a part of British society, the degree to which that occurs differs depending on whether they either integrate or assimilate.”
“I just believe that British people should get jobs before foreigners.”
“OK so why are you not applying for jobs delivering Pizzas or working in the catering or hospitality industry or in care homes with elderly British people like so many Eastern Europeans and Africans of your age? You only go to college part time and you would only lose some of your benefits if you worked part time.”
“It doesn’t pay enough to do those kind of jobs and their crap anyway. If I am going to work I want to make good money.”
Like you do as a cannabis dealer I think to myself. His flat has been raided by the police before but they failed to find anything but we have seen him dealing outside the project a few times. It’s only a matter of time before he gets caught. As he has a string of other convictions for anti-social behaviour and shoplifting hopefully he’ll get a few months behind bars to teach him a lesson. Not to mention that he regularly makes complaints against staff which in one instance led to a colleague being suspended for speaking sternly to him over contravening one of the policies (i.e. a rule but we can’t call them that according to management because it’s viewed as authoritarian and oppressive). She was so de-motivated by this experience that she resigned and Mike openly gloated about it.
“So who would deliver your Pizzas to you because most young British lads like you refuse to do these kinds of jobs?”
“I just don’t like all these foreigners in my country. I don’t want to talk about this anymore I’m going to my girlfriend’s room to eat this Pizza.”
I was just as glad to leave the conversation there as I’ve had several conversations with Mike along these lines and he simply enjoys reveling in his own ignorance on a variety of issues and it is very difficult to get him to open the limited mind he possesses. Whilst I am not dismissing people’s genuine concerns about the scale and pace of immigration or tensions that can arise with very different cultures living cheek by jowl with no real integration occurring I simply find it mind boggling that people can be opposed to all forms of immigration simply on the grounds that they don’t like foreigners solely because they are from abroad.
This exchange with Mike got me thinking just what does it mean to be a British citizen or indeed a citizen of any country. In that the aforementioned Pizza delivery man is a contributing member of our society through working and paying tax and has learned our language, then if he abides by our laws and respects the rights of his fellow citizens then that to me makes him a more deserving citizen of our country than Mike the drug dealing, benefit dependent, anti-social criminal who believes that he should have a free flat and generous benefits given to him based solely on the fact that he was born in this country. From my perspective there are a lot of immigrants who are more active members of British society than the indigenous underclass who just expect to be handed benefits and housing without doing a damn thing to contribute to the country they are so vociferously patriotic about.
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