I’m an economist, so an occasional desire to discuss things about the economy is excusable. I also spent a lot of my career working on the compilation of economic statistics. But, enough about me. Let’s look at poor, old Jamaica. News this week reported that the economy has seen a second consecutuve quarterly decline in national output/income/production, as measured by those three-letters, GDP. The reported decline was small, and I would assume that the margin of error may render the number somewhere between +/- 0.5 percent.
A couple of weeks ago, financial analyst, Aubyn Hill, wrote a piece about the fiscal bind that Jamaica is facing: spending is sharply down, relative to what it should be, but so too is revenue collection. In the aritmentic of budgets, however, that means that the government created a bigger surplus than projected, and that is good in terms of IMF performance criteria. Tick, for Jamaica.
What Mr. Hill pointed to, amongst other things, how companies are financing themselves by not paying taxes. This is familiar behaviour when economic conditions are tight, and as Mr. Hill points out, it’s equivalent to what governments and big firms do, by delaying payments to others. That is a problem apart from others in the economy, but it’s no less important. Cash is tight, so hold on to what you have. However, we need to be a litle careful. Tax collections do not happen automatically, with funds coming directly from bank accounts, but taxpayers must actively make payments. That ability to have discretion in compliance is a problem, because the incentive is always to delay or not pay at all. Take a good read of the reports of HSBC and its tax evasion schemes. Jamaicans may not be salting funds away in Switzerland, but they know a way to save money when they see one. For that reason, it’s sometimes hard to know what the tax revenue data tell us about economic activity: it could be high, but cash flow is tight, so paying tax slowly is a good thing for a firm or individual; it could be low, and with good complicane is merely reflecting lower renenues due. We always need to know the effort being made by the tax authorities, and saying that “We are working hard” is not enough.
So, we are unsure about what the tax data tell us about the economy’s growth.
But, other data point in one direction, that growth is happening, or activity is increasing. Tourist arrivals are up, and so too is employment. Inflation is moderating, though it still remains high compared to our main partner, the USA. Tourism and Entertainment Minister, Wykeham McNeil, reported this month that for 2014, arrivals were up 3.6 percent, with another year of over 2 million stopover visitors. Crusie passenger were up just over 12 percent, giving about 3.5 million visitors in 2014. Arrivals were especially strong from Europe (+11 percent), with Canada doing well (+5 percent) and the US trailing (+2 percent).
Mining and quarrying, plus manufacturing, also declined. But, construction grew by just over 1 percent, and services grew by just under 1 percent.
It’s a pity that the PIOJ felt compelled to fall one side or the other regarding growth. Truth is, the economy is staggering along its well-worn anaemic path–plus or minus 1 percent is about the modern norm. We are not shooting up to anywhere, and we are not plummeting headlong anywhere.
Many people would find it strange that the economy didn’t grow in the last quarter, as Christmas usually gives a boost. But, as I’ve said often, Jamaica likes to tilt backwards, and let its sun rise in the west and set in the east.
I took a walk along Kilburn High Road yesterday. It’s like many inner city areas of London: it has a multicolored And multicultural population; many languages can be heard as one walks past shops; a mix of men and women are always visible. It’s not an area that is predominantly black. Many people with voices suggestiing Irish extraction can be heard; also Turks; some Lebanese; some Africans, especially Somalis; some Nigerians. I noticed few who seemed of Caribbean origin. I was a little puzzled. This was not the heart of a place where mass migration from the Caribbean landed. It was not Peckham, Lewisham, Harslesden, Brixton, or a number of other innder urban parts of London. But, black Caribbean people did live here. It’s interesting to look at the racial and ethnic concentration of groups in London. They settled and stayed central to east in London, consistent with traditional patterns of poverty in the city.
I noticed on the high road also a strong trail of what sounded like East Euroepean voices; that was for a reason: they are prevalent. Almost every time I go into a pub, I’m served by someone with that central or eastern European accent. I also noted a good batch of French or other westEuropean accents. The 2011 Census showed over 37 percent of London’s population was foreign-born.
What’s happened to the Britain I knew? It’s been overrun by Europeans. The data from the Office of National Statistics last November showed this, clearly. As it shows, over the past two decades, the UK has seen more immigrations than emigration, peaking in 2005. Financial crisis curbed that flow and government measures to restrict entry from outside Europe in 2011 also put a brake on. But, the upturn is on again. More EU migrants are coming to the UK, a trend clear over the previous 10 years, triggered by the then-Labour government allowing in Eastern Euroepean workers while other EU countries kept restrictions. EU recession has now seen western Europeans coming to the UK in search of work.
Immigration from outside the EU has been on a downward trend, though it has turned up in the past two yeaers.
Most of the EU migrants are workers, so add to the prodcutive base, but also put job pressure on those already in the UK. This is where the story about Caribbean migrants and their offspring is interesting.
The recession has affected harshly working class people. Many immigrants, especially those from the Caribbean are solidly in that class, so will have been hit hard. Past studies showed that ethnic minorities suffered worse during previous economic downturns. That appears to have been the same during the recent period.
So, the likely situation is that black workers have been squeezed out of the job market.
What I noticed is that a range of jobs that seem to have few skill needs, such as waiting tables, tending bars, cashing tills, and so on are not being done by black people. I noticed that bus drivers are not often black people either, with women featuring in that role now. I saw a few labourers on municipal or governmental dutires, like road repairs. I saw black people assisting passengers in train stations. But, generally, the people one sees working in the public are not black. Funnily, in a store I visited yesteday that had black workers, most were of west African descent.
I had a drink and chat with another economist who is a long-time friend. He’s also lived and worked in the USA. He travels aroung the UK a lot in his current jobs. We agreed on the squeeze. We tried to figure out what has happene to the black population.
Anecdotal evidence suggests they have filtered into a range of regular jobs and may be less visible because they have truly become integrated into the broader workforce as teh second and later later generations got more qualifications and chose differnt job options. They have in the process drifted away from the inner city. They have not necessarily moved far away. Take cousins of mine, for instance. They were born in inner London, in the 1960s-70s. Their mother moved from inner west to south London; she had come to England in the last 1950s to work as a nurse. Her children were schooled fully in London. They have gone to work in various sectors. They have children, who’re also going through school or have finished secondary education. They have moved to outer London suburbs in south London. I will go to visit some of them this weekend, in an area that used to be solid white middle class in the 1960s-70s. I know that Asian immigrants moved there ahead of of others from the Caribbean. They all have good access to the city because London’s transport system has expanded and improved greatly. That makes certain areas more attractive because they are no longer ‘in the back of beyond’.
In the process, though, a certain lack of visibility is happening. Blacks were never a large proportion of Britain’s immigrants, even though areas like Brixton had high conentrations of them, all starting from the estimated 492 passengers on the SS Empire Windrush. These migrants had come in response to Britain’s needs for workers in public sector posts–hospitals and public transport, notably. They helped rebuild post-war London.
Black Londoners are estimated to be around 800,000, increasingly local or British-born. that’s about 11 percent of the area’s total. About 4 1/2 percent of Londoners are ‘Caribbean’; 5 1/2 percent are ‘African’; the rest are ‘other black backgrounds’. About 120,00 people are mixed black and white.
I asked my friend to try to visualize where lack faces were seen most. ‘Entertainment’ (including fashion) and ‘sport’, we agreed were the main areas. I’m watching an ITV morning show and there’s a group in the studio, with three white performers and a black one.
We know that the face of football has changed dramatically since the days of Regis, Batson, and Cunningham, breaking barriers as the ‘Three Degrees’ in English football. We know the England team has many black faces. But, we also know that it was just a few days ago that a black manager took charge of an English Premier League team. Ironically, it’s teh team I support, Queens Park Rangers, who now have Paul Ramsey as Takecarer Manger till the end of the season. But, they also have black football legend, Les Ferdinand as Direcctor of Football–a sort of front-office post that is rare in most British clubs. I know that black British footballers are working in the background, especailly developing young talent, as Ramsey had been doing.
But, breaking to the next level? We can look at the US experience and wonder if special measures are needed.
We still have to search hard to find black executives in front of us, and rarely do they have Caribbean origins. We noted Tidjane Thiam as the first black person to head a FTSE 100-listed company, Prudential plc; he’s French-Ivorian. We have a handful of politicians, like Diane Abbott, David Lammy, and formerly Lord Pitt.
So, we’ve seen a sort of slow ‘mainlining’ into British life and with that a certain melting away, or dissolving as other Europeans fill our vision.
Rising to the top is never easy. If you have a critical mass lower down, you should see some of them float to the top. That’s what we see in sport and entertainment. It’ll be harder in other sectors.
London Transport, now Transport for London, wants its workforce to reflect London’s diverse population, which is about 30 percent. It has about 11 percent of senior managers who are ‘black, Asian, or minoity ethnic’; women are 27 percent. Notably, those ethnic minorities feature well in finance (over a quarter) and marketing & communications (over 1/3 in the latter). But, when minorities apply for jobs, they have a very low rate of success in getting hired. That could mean that the best are really few, or like Paul Ramsey noted, minorities have to ‘work twice as hard’ (or be ‘twice as good’). But, TfL may also reflect what is going on. The generation of the 1950s-60s, who were driving and working on the busees and trains, and filling the cricket teams, has largeley moved on. Somne of their offspring went into the sector but also other entrants came in, and wanted abd deserved jobs in management. So, we’d see fewer black faces as drivers, for instance, becasuse they are now in offices and behind desks. For sure, we see more of them in stations, inspeccting and managing people. So, the tangible change shows itself and as fewer blacks in the lower grade jobs, and more higher up the ladder.
Even if that is a widespread trend, it’s a tough world out there, and being black in Britain wont get easier.
It’s true: Britain is being overrun by foreigners. Everywhere you look, you see them. On every corner, on every street, outside every home. You can’t go around England and see the English in the same numbers that used to be; everyone is foreign. In my few days in Britain, I’ve not had the chance to go beyond England, but I’ve been through London, and today I went up north to Lancashire. What I saw in the capital was even worse there. I stood at the side of the road, waiting for a bus and a horde of them came past me. Not one stopped to be give me the time of day. I thought back to my boyhood days in London. What a shame!
BMW, Porsche, Honda, Nissan, Toyota, Mercedes. Oh, there goes a Ford, and there goes a Vauxhall. Audi, Skoda, VW, Jeep. Oh, there’s a Range Rover. I think even the few that seem to be English are really foreign. Where is a Vauxhall made? Who owns the marque? Which country supplies those Fords? Truth is, volume car production is still going on in Britain, but most of it is foreign owned, and it’s a similar picture for commercial vehicles. This has been the story since the late 1980s.
If the cars were anything to go by, all was lost. No need to look at motorbikes, of which there are precious few, anyway. Whatever happened to BSA and Triumph? Oh, yeah, Yamaha put paid to them.
I looked for a truck. I used to see Bedford and now? Scandia.
Compared to France, Germany, or Italy, British companies lost the race to maintain dominance, ceding to Japan, European makers, Americans, and Koreans.
I certainly expected more than I saw at the Victoria and Albert Museum display entitled ‘Staying Power: photographs of black British experience, 1950s-1990s’. I guess the basic problem was that the ‘experience’ it showed had no theme, other than black people were featured in each image. It has little bits of experience, and very small bits, too. How it related to the black experience during the 40 year period was not clear. As I said to a German journalist who nabbed me and a man from Antigua, “it was a depiction” of little bits.
Did I see me in any of the pictures? Maybe, a little. I saw a younbg black boy’s face. I saw a picture of a woman dressed as a police officer. I saw images of Caribbean homes.
What did I expect? I really didn’t get any sense of what life was like for black people in Britain except in the four pieces that showed photographs taken in the 1970s for people to send home. Pictures of people standing next to radiograms, or stacked china cabinets, or the table with the telephone and the child ‘speaking to people back home’. These were meant to be images that showed that people had ‘made it’, from whatever district they had left in Jamaica, or wherever, to people with trappings of a better life.
But, the pictures don’t show anything like the daily grind–not that it need necessarily be hardship grind. I would have liked, say, pictures of people in markets; children playing in neighbourhoods (whether with white children or not, alone or with others); people at work (in factories, on the buses, in hospitals–images that we know and maybe have seen, already); people playing sport (cricket, dominoes, football, athletics); flashes of anger and danger. Daytime life, nightlife; people doing leisure activities (immigrants didn’t go on holidays like the host population, so it’s hard to find images of them, say, in deck chairs in parks or on beaches eating ice cream–they tended to save money to make trips home); people in hardship, people showing off successes.
Maybe, the organizers thought these images are all ready well-known. Even if they were, so what? I said to the journalist it would be worth asking people who had little or no notion of black immigration to Britain what they took from the images.
The bits shown at the Victoria and Albert are just a part of a larger exhibit at the Black Cultural Centre, in Brixton. To be fair, I will try to see thta; it was closed when I wsa there on Sunday.
I went out in the evening and walked through the City of London, to the north-eastern corner named Shoreditch (if you know the rhyme ‘Oranges and lemons’, you’ll recall the name). It was another ‘reception’ area for immigrants that has played that role for decades. The latest group are Vietnamese, who now have restaurants strung along the High Street. The days of corner and side street Indian curry houses is past. Jewish cuisine is hard to find, if not impossible. Chinese migrants stayed tucked away in their tight areas. Yuppies have found this area, too, with its easy access to the City. Caribbeans stayed a little further north and as is usual feature littel on the culinary map. We are less visible for many reasons, but one of them is that we never understood how to give that taste of ourselves to others through the simple medium of food. Now, dog and all have eaten our suppers, again.
Brixton has been gentrified. That story may not be known or of much concern. What it means in a simple visual sense is that an area that was for decades known to be one teeming with black faces has seen a sharp increase in the amount of white faces and a decline in black faces. Black people did not own Brixton, but populated it in large numbers in the wake of mass migration to Britain from the late-1950s. Brixton also developed a reputation for crime and drugs, as negatives, and of driving music, as a positive.
Lots of inner city areas to which immigrants flocked have become attractive in an era where people want less commuting and easier access to certain types of amenities. Having income to support a life style just makes the processes fast; they seem to snowball. But, it’s really a set of instances of people exploiting market opportunities.
I joined a walking tour of Brixton yesterday afternoon. It was interesting for several reasons, one of which was the clear opportunity to network.
We walked a few streets and visited the market. We saw new renovations and older housing estates. We heard about homelessness and saw the new residents enjoying their lifestyle of leisure and ‘culture’. Our guide, a man with Somali parents, gave a good account of his own place in the neighbourhood–as an organizer, activist, who ran a feeding program, was himself a good reflection of the changes that had occurred. He had arrived in 1989.
I tried to give a longer perspective to some of his commentaries, which really didn’t offer much insight into the area before the 1980s. Our group was made up of a Dutch man now living in west London, and in the UK for a work assignment. It included a young antipodean couple, of whom the man was full of radical thought and talk. We also had two elderly women who lived in what they referred to as ‘Brixton of the north’, Kensal Rise/Harlsden. We all walked in teeming rain and bitter cold, looking at white yuppies sipping wine, eating a range of exotic meals at outdoor cafes in Brixton Village. We ended at a bar restaurant named ‘Satay’, that was manned and populated mainly by black people, eating food from southeast Asia.
Brixton was for many years a melting pot. It had a dark colour that had become the norm after the influx of Caribbean and African immigrants in the 1960s. That tinge is now decidedly lighter and it was a funny sight to see the younger white people streaming out of the Underground station, with their heads held high and confident smiles. Few black people were around the station. Few were seen on the street. It was Sunday, but many shops were open. So, their lack of visibility suggested less presence.
I never knew Brixton well. More than anything, it was in the wrong place, south of the river. The divide in London is not trivial. It always had good proximity to many areas, but really got its modern boost by being tied into the Underground system through the Victoria Line in 1971. In the past, the building of a bridge had tied the area to central London.
Brixton got its life as a middle class suburb in the early 19th century. It moved towards being a working class area later in the century. Bomb destruction during the 2nd World War caused housing shortages and dereliction after the 1940s. Mass immigration put new social pressure and on the area and changed its complexion. Racial tensions changed the image of the area as crime increased and black youth were increasingly targeted as suspects. That caused much frustration and was a proximate cause for the riots in 1981. Changes in economic policy put public housing into private citizens’ hands, and they were then able to realise an important asset by selling it as property prices rose.
That is essentially it. Once residents are prepared to sell property the characteristics of areas can change fast. That was part of the change to see areas become more filled with immigrants. Those who cant sell want to get on the gravy train and rent, if possible. But renters with some sizable amount of disposable income wont take ‘substandard’ for long, so pressure to sell and renovate will rise. Other things happen as related opportunities become apparent. Most white people are not interested in hair weaves, so the seeming overabundance of outlets offering that to black women will come under pressure, to become cafes, delis, or other things that draw the incomes of white middle class people. They like arty and crafty, not dowdy and cruddy. It’s ironic that the restaurant seems to have gotten it right in offering good food at affordable prices, with good atmosphere and easy access to the Underground. It would thrive in most areas that have people with disposable income. That most of the patrons were black also points to how that population has itself changed. They’re more middle class than their predecessors.
Society is not static. I’ve written before about how Jamaica needs a gentrification trend to happen in Kingston. It is regeneration from a particular perspective. The forces to drive it are blocked. Those who can unlock its potential have sat on their hands many decades. Are they ready to get up and let it loose?
I was glad I came across that article as I searched for ‘What Jamaicans think about the British’. My mind had drifted back some 50 years. Then, views of the British were largely formed out of the experience of their being colonial masters. What most people saw was the ruling classes, or at least those who could be trusted to administer in the Monarch’s name. Most islanders never got to see the other sides of Britain, except those who had had time serving in the military or been on a cargo ship or maybe represented their island in some international sporting event. Mass migration changed that.
Caribbean people got to see the British for what they were. That didn’t stop us carrying still the stereotypes of English people; likewise, they did not drop their stereotypes of us.
Many of those who’d ventured to Britain before the mass migration from the 1950s, had come into the rarified air of higher learning–universities, law schools–and the better aspects of medical facilities as represented by teaching hospitals. So, they carried a view of Britain that was in some ways better, but also worse: it offered insight into a world that was not that common for many Caribbean people, but also pitted the ‘visitors’ into a world that was generally more tolerant for having been places exposed to foreigners for a long period.
Anyway, the arriving Caribbeans had to deal with ‘negative’ facts like whether the British really all had bad teeth, never stopped drinking tea, never bathed or only rarely, all ate fish and chips, etc. The ‘positives’ included the reputation for being welcoming, a general attitude that was not overtly aggressive, fairness, etc.
Many people were not ready to have their stereotypes challenged and also found themselves in situations and locations where the local norm was not necessarily reflective of a wider experience. However, with many people tending to cluster in areas, those circumstances when repeated seemed like the national norm. For example, most people when faced with a large influx of new people tend to be more challenged than if only having to deal with ‘ones or twos’. That goes to the experiences some had because they found themselves ‘isolated’ in rural settings, and were not in the denser and more competitive environment offered by many inner urban areas.
It also took Caribbean people a long time to figure out what they represented to the hosts and what they could offer that was different. I’m not saying that other migrants came with a plan, but if your group comes and fills certain slots it’s hard to convince people that you can do otherwise. So, many unskilled labourers filling jobs in factories and in public services makes it hard to convince people that you have a wider contribution to make. Over time, as talents develop, that picture can and does change. So, the athletic prowess of the region started to come to the fore, and despite years of prejudice, rose to the surface and now seems like a given, and people of Caribbean origin are now so implanted in a range of national sports as to feed the well-known stereotypes about our athleticism.
We still as a group of migrants need to figure out why we’ve not breached other walls, such as in a range of businesses that we know are well stocked with talent in the region. But, little inroads are being made.
Whether Caribbean people like the British a lot is not really a good question. We’ve lived with them a long time and we’ve seen some of their good and some of their bad. They’re the devil we know. We have lots of association and much in common. We’ve also managed to become some of them, so it’s ranging into deep psychological territory if we want to say that ‘our’ British and ‘their’ British are to be liked or not. Tricky, innit?
You have to pardon me if I hark back often in coming days to the immigrant experience in Britain: it’s an inevitable result of going to London on a visit. Today, what struck me was the simple point that many hosts can take visitors, but are always worried that they overstay the welcome.
I think that few of us who have stayed with friends or relatives for any length of time have not heard something like “Don’t you think it’s time for you to be moving on, now?” The intention may never be malicious, but it marks that your stay was only viewed as temporary and you were tolerated on that basis.
The idea of ‘having your home back’ is not odd, either. You’ve built and shaped it to your tastes and you like it the way that it is. Other people and their ways can just keep themselves in other places.
That’s essentially why people feel awkward to the point of hostile when immigrants start to make the place like their home, by bringing in trappings that make them feel comfortable–itself, a very natural thing to do, like walking with your own pillows and blankets.
Many immigrants have been assaulted with “Why don’t you go back where you came from?”, which is a statement, not a question. Of course, those who look or act like foreigners to the host, but were born and raised in the country, will feel more than a little slight. I love the sight and sound of the girl with Indian parents who speaks with such a deep and strong Glaswegian accent, who’d answer something like “Back to the Gorbals?”
Along with the hosts’ desire to get rid of the guests is the latter’s hope to get away. But, that part is complicated. What if the ‘guest house’ is nicer than home? It’s easy to see, for instance, why people who came from places with civil turmoil, or natural disasters, or poor economic situations would want to stay longer in places that did not have that, even if the people you meet hate you. Then, your visitors also start to put down roots, even if not intended. Stay more than a few days and need to move around? You start thinking about your routes and your patterns of travel. You start to meet people again and they start to make you like ‘fixtures’, and so on it goes.
Sometime this week, I hope to get to an exhibition about the ‘staying power’ of immigrants in the UK. It should be fascinating.
As I walked through one of my old neighbourhoods in London yesterday, I was not expecting to see anyone I knew. I was young back then and I expect many have moved out and also age has changed them dramatically. Men and women I saw could easily have been babies when I was a teenager. But, social shifts have also happened that are very dramatic. In streets that had few cars, I now saw every kerb filled with a vehicle, and many of them were not ‘old bangers’. No, I just wanted to get my feel and then leave.
I’m staying as a guest in a home, and I asked my daughter if we should tidy up. “Not if it means disturbing anything,” she replied. In other words, get comfortable only so far and no further. Migrants often never get that memo.
The whole process of social integration is very complex, and it not only involves hosts and guests, but also involves how new guests and old guests get on with each other and with the host, and many other permutations of social interaction. It involves the tangible and visible, as well as the subtle and hidden.
It involves who gets other support, and who is left to find their own way. People talk about integration and assimilation as if they are natural and simple. How many people really get along with those whom they call family and friends? Answer that then move on to how strangers are supposed to just get along.
Enoch Powell gained infamy with a speech about the future of immigration policy and thus race relations in Britain: he foresaw “rivers of blood”. His precise words in 1968 were: “As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman, I seem to see ‘the River Tiber foaming with much blood.'” For that vision, he was condemned publicly by many and sacked from the Tory Shadow Cabinet. I don’t know how many or who shared his graphic view, but his party won a surprise victory in the 1970 general election.
Although racially motivated riots had preceded the speech, namely in Notting Hill in 1958, Britain did not see any major eruptions of racial tension for about 13 years after Powell’s speech. But, major rioting occurred in areas with large black and Asian populations in the early-to-mid 1980s. Such violence erupted again in the early 2000s. So, on one level, Britain didn’t dissolve as Powell had forecast.
But, racial differences and animosity showed themselves in other ways. One was in shifts in housing and location. Those white English people who did not like the influx of dark-skinned migrants moved, often not far away, into a ring around the area being affected. They chose segregation.
My parents moved to a western suburb of London at a time when it was about to change dramatically for such reasons. In a way, they chose integration. A significant number of migrants from the Indian subcontinent had already moved to Southall in the late 1950s. The town offered good employment opportunities in factories, and nearby were growing areas and industries, including Heathrow Airport and British Leyland. But, their numbers swelled in the early 1970s after Idi Amin expelled so-called ‘East African Asians’ from Uganda. Many gravitated to Southall. Many were professionals and business people, so did not come with a stereotypical poor migrant profile. Even without much immediate capital, they used cultural and financial links to recreate themselves. They had a middle class base and tried to preserve it.
By the time my parents moved there in the late-1960s, they had established themselves in England–as car owners, homeowners, and moving well in their jobs. They bought a large terraced house in a side street off the main road (Uxbridge Road). It provided great access: I could get a train into central London to school; my father could walk or bike to work; my mother could drive to work easily. It was easy to get to motorways. The area had a nice feel and a decent reputation, though it was soon labelled ‘Little India’.
The Asian children did reasonably well in schools and Asian culture offered new interest for everyone. I learned about Indian food and sampled it often on my walk home each afternoon: I grabbed some Indian sweets or samosas, regularly.
But, the area became unrecognizable to the previous residents. Asian names started to proliferate. Asian bazaar style shops appeared on the high road. Buildings changed use. I never felt uncomfortable with this. I was more saddened by the fact that the cinema and bowling alleys closed, as they were main leisure activities for teenagers.
Changes like that can and do discomfort people, and some react badly and even violently to it. Some let that dislike form into hatred and then lash out at any opportunity, like the ‘fans’ on the Paris Métro this week.
Southall had two riots in the late 1970s- 1980s: one the result of misinformation; the other as a response to a Anti-Nazi League march against the anti-immigration party, The National Front, during which, Blair Peach, was injured and died. I was coming home close to the demonstration that fateful evening.
I took an early morning visit to Southall this morning. Few places were open, but signs of shops opening were there. I was in the hunt for a great samosa store, but no luck. I noticed that the Asians I saw were much older. I noticed many white people, some with Irish accents. I saw signs of new entrants, with Polish names on some boards.
The town looked on the edge of worse economic times, with shops boarded up. New places were there, such as a large hospital on the edge of town. Schools had much higher fences, to keep ‘strangers’ out, and gates were locked. We know, though, that pupils have also shown more violent tendencies.
I passed the market, which has been there since the 1700s: I still have an oak desk my father bought there in a brad-a-brac store.
I went to look at our old house. It had seen better days, but had a shiny BMW parked outside.
Racists rear their heads all the time, as do many forms of ‘haters’. This week, we saw graphic proof of what many people have to suffer on a regular basis, simply because someone doesn’t like their colour or apparent race
–the aggressive, ugly, and blatantly offensive. Whether it’s words or actions, it’s deplorable. The so-called fans of Chelsea Football Club, did their thing on the Paris Metro, and a black man from Mauritania was their victim. There was a quick and loud cry of public outrage, including from other Chelsea fans and the club, which has a bad history of racism, and no doubt feel that embarrassment is high and needs to be managed. That’s set of responses is no surprise, these days.
What’s different, though, with the incident is that now almost everyone has the means to catch images of events and share them widely, in an instant. The haters can’t hide or pretend things never happened. That’s what happened in Paris: video taken by cell phone. That has allowed others to see and then react quickly.
One face was recognized as that of Josh Parson by his employer and now one young man has been suspended from his finance firm in London. One of the free papers carried this story today, and was glad to share that the ‘little boy’ had gone to a prestigious public school, Millfield, and his parents own a £1.5 million house just outside London. Now that he’s been named, the shame piles on, and those who, previously, had been caught on camera with him, are trying to distance themselves from him. Reports indicate that two others who were involved in the incident have also been identified and will face bans by the football club and sanctions from their employers.
That may not change the social state and make hate less, but it does what only the very brave can tolerate: put you into the heat of the public spotlight and make you as vulnerable to displays of personal distaste in the same way you thought you could without care.
A good Barbadian friend of mine lives just outside London, and is an avid fan of a British soap opera, ‘Eastenders’. All I heard from her yesterday was how she needed to see the evening’s episode, which was billed as that which disclosed ‘who killed Lucy Beale’. Well, she watched and the world can now know that it was her younger brother–a horrible idea and one wonders what messages will be taken from that. My friend informed the world today that in some neighbourhood the screams as this was revealed led to police arriving to check what had happened.
I’m no fan of serials. As my former sister-in-law puts it well, as she’s similar, don’t watch anything on television that obliges you to be in front of it at specific times every day or week. Interestingly, the papers in the UK today are pointing out ‘spoiler alerts’ for those who’ve not yet watched Thursday’s episodes–maybe, still catching up from weeks ago.
While visuals in the UK space hit me, I’m also trying to use them to keep in touch with Jamaica. I have to thank Jamaica News Network for streaming the Tivoli Enquiry live on its website. The coverage is full and quality of the feed excellent. Yesterday, had the added ‘bonus’ of replayed footage from news broadcasts in 2010 that showed the then-current reactions and available information. I’d not seen most of these and they are again disturbing reminders of why the Enquiry is important and must not become some trivial exercise.
Greece’s recent elections and the change of government have thrown up something interesting. The new government has shunned current practice, by having its politicians wear nothing more formal than a jacket and trousers (some wear jeans), but without tie, and with open-neck shirt, and sometimes with jeans instead of trousers. Of course, it makes the new team look like a bunch of hipsters compared to the usual stuffed shirts that grace the corridors of power in almost every country.
That goes too for Jamaica (and other Caribbean or tropical countries). Why on Earth do our officials sport these upper- and middle-class dress styles? To make the other side feel good?
We went against that grain at the time of Michael Manley, when the shirtjack was in vogue. Back then, people like Peter Philips were very comfortable in Dashikis. But look at him now, If he could, he would be headed off to a fitting each few months at Saville Row. No, Peter! You must start to look at how young Jamaicans dress and go there with them.