Like many people, I’ve been shocked of late to hear of the escalation in violent crime in our capital. It’s got me thinking, not for the first time, about social cohesion, social division, and what might be causing this rapid deterioration in how people relate to each other.
Like many people, I’ve been shocked of late to hear of the escalation in violent crime in our capital. It’s got me thinking, not for the first time, about social cohesion, social division, and what might be causing this rapid deterioration in how people relate to each other. A few months ago, I read Douglas Murray’s ‘The Strange Death of Europe’, which talks about the impact of mass immigration on Western society. I found I was strongly affected by his insight and questioning of the mainstream attitude to this issue. I’d like to pick up this thread briefly here, and share some of my own thoughts about mass immigration and how it affects, in particular, our sense of unity.
In any society, there have to be uniting principles, and things that generate a sense of belonging. These could be customs, a shared sense of history, language, culture, religion and values, or a connection to the very land itself. Obviously, there will always be disagreement and dissent, and surely this is a good thing, and perhaps even a sign of maturity in the society in question. But what happens in a society which is so diverse that this sense of belonging and cohesion falls away? Where the groups that comprise it do not, and cannot, agree on what should be held in common? When our interactions barely extend beyond material transactions? Is it possible even to have a functioning and healthy society, when the bonds that connect people have become weak?
At this point, many would say ‘Ah, but we all live within the Law – that’s the common denominator’. It should be – especially when so little else binds us. But even that one remaining supporting pillar has been under assault in recent years, with some communities getting favourable treatment, even to the extent of flagrant and serious law-breaking being overlooked, simply because of their ethnicity. So-called ‘positive discrimination’ is still, in essence, discrimination. I don’t think it’s possible to exaggerate the damage caused by such an approach – or, of course, the resentment it feeds in the non-favoured communities.
Some would argue that people’s culture and beliefs are irrelevant: that what we have in common is our shared humanity. I like this idea in principle – it seems true, at some level. But in actuality, in the real world, is this enough? Or, for most of us, does it feel overwhelming and alienating when many of the people that surround us are profoundly different? When they are out of sympathy with our values and what we hold dear – or worse, actively reject those things? In fact, can we even call it a ‘society’ when what we have is simply a collection of human beings occupying the same space?
One persistent concern for me is declining knowledge and appreciation of our history and cultural heritage. There are some that argue that we should focus on the future, not the past. I have never understood that idea. It seems to me like expecting a tree to grow without roots. We need our sense of a shared past and of our cultural roots to make us strong – looking back to see where we have gone wrong, as well as to understand more deeply how and what we are in the present, and where we are heading.
I’ve never suspected myself of being a racist; in fact, I’ve always been curious about different cultures and ethnicities, and welcomed contact with them. But I do wonder how it is possible, beyond a certain point, for us to preserve a sense of British culture, history, and values when our society is becoming more and more dilute… and when so often it seems the newcomers have little interest in these things themselves. In his book, Douglas Murray was honest about not having answers – beyond a stemming of the migration flow, at least until we can ‘take stock’. That, to me, seems like the obvious first step.
People who are concerned about too much immigration are often labelled ‘racist’, ‘xenophobe’, or ‘little Englander’, as though they suffer from a terrible meanness of spirit, and the world they inhabit is small, tight, and rigid. But maybe, in many cases, it’s none of these things – but a love of something that is known to be precious, and an understanding of the importance of continuity. I, for one, am tired of feeling like I have a dirty little secret: I am longing to talk about this subject honestly with others, and for it to be a conversation that we can all feel free to have.