The right wing nationalist wave is still spreading across Europe. Economic crisis and austerity yet again proves to be breeding ground for ideas stretching further and further into the far right. In those, just slightly more difficult, times many countries seem to be tempted by the idea of detaching themselves from the rest of the world. Many people tend to seek a reason for shrinking economy and socio-political decline. That reasons often get face of the ‘other’ – immigrants who come to steal our jobs and abuse our welfare system (most probably in the same time).
In the UK, after extremely successful European Elections, UKIP won its first and soon after second seat in the parliament. In the run up to the Rochester by-elections UKIP’s candidate Mark Reckless (who in September was still a member of the conservative party) managed to position himself on the right of his own far-right party suggesting that migrants from other EU countries, who have legal right to live and work in UK, should be asked to leave. It’s needless to say that he went on to win the by-election.
Immigration is often used as a scarecrow – something to blame for countries internal issues, something that is supposed to sell the papers and attract voters. This is well reflected in a research recently published in Poland – another country that, for obvious reasons, I find particularly important. The study focused on Poles’ awareness of socio-political issues in their country and discovered that on average Poles believe that 1 in 7 residents of this country is an immigrant. In reality 1.75% of population was born abroad… that’s 1 in 57. One may say that this is just an innocent mistake, I see more than that. Completely wrong idea about the number of migrants is a reflection of certain anxiety, fear that there is already too many of ‘them’.
Both of these events happened in one week – the same week Barack Obama decided to put new legislation in place allowing 5 million illegal immigrants across USA to come out of shadows and get 3 year work permits without the risk of being deported. It is clear that this far from a perfect solution – they will not have access to free or subsidised healthcare, there are at least further 6 million immigrants that still have to lead their lives fearing deportation and finally it is not clear what is going to happen with all those people after their 3 year work permit expire. This is, however, an approach so strikingly different than current European path. One that in my opinion, is also by far more moral, effective and simply beneficial both to immigrants and to the nation they arrive in.
Why can’t Europe develop a healthy approach to migration and instead constantly feels threatened by them? Is it because economically Europe and the US are in completely different places? With US economy powering full steam ahead and European still struggling to recover from the crisis? Are we only prepared to accept immigrants when we the economy is performing well and we feel financially secure? Or is it because Americans because thanks to the history of their nation are more aware of the benefits of accepting migrant?
Last four years and, most probably, four years to come are for UK’s councils a time of cuts and austerity; how is it that huge displays of fireworks still make it to the list of priorities?
Local authorities have lately been squeezed from every direction possible. The government expects them to spend significantly less; the public pressurises to freezer or even decrease the council tax. So far the impact of the squeeze may not be great, but if anyone suffers that would be those who already are the most disadvantaged. With their benefits frozen they also have to face cuts to some of the services or programmes they so far relied on.
Nonetheless, during the week just before and after the 5th of November sky over London west to east and north to south was lit by more or less impressive displays of fireworks. They don’t seem to bring any profits to the organisers – people just come and go; sometimes there are even no street vendors, who could have extra profit. They do not really create sense of community or bid people closer together; if someone would like to promote particular borough or area, also, there are many better options. I do not find it shocking or infuriating, it is not something that should be investigated, I just find our priority list interesting… Or perhaps I just do not understand?
What does Easter mean today? Undeniably the meaning of Easter changed over the centuries. Has the arrival of postmodernity turned it into a meaningless holiday, or is it still an important festival?
When Christianity spread in the first centuries of our era, it eradicated or assimilated pagan traditions. Although it brought a new meaning to old celebration, it did not necessarily alter their form. It was a very pragmatic and clever practice, as it was simply easier to convince people to celebrate the anniversary of the crucifixion of Christ if that happened to resemble the rituals of Ostara.
Now, we could argue, the post-modernity does the same to Christianity. Christian festivals are still there, but the meaning is different. Easter has become the time to meet with family, munch on some chocolate eggs, or hang out in a pub; it’s not necessarily spent by contemplating Christ’s death and his resurrection.
Is that wrong? Is that something we should regret? Some interpret this change of meaning as synonymous with the fact that traditions are dying out – that people forget about their values, and the valuable old is replaced by the meaningless new. It is more difficult to realise that meanings of rituals and practices are not fixed. They have always changed and will continue to change in order to stay relevant in an ever evolving society. Each change should be studied on its own terms and in its own context. To explain why I think Easter, even in its secularised form, is still meaningful and important, I have to go back to Benedict Anderson’s theory of imagined community. Anderson claimed that there are no tangible ties between all members of a nation. The nation consists of people of different financial status, educated to different levels, or with different political views – people who may have absolutely nothing in common. We are all bound together by different external factors such as official history, traditions, or even the national football team. Easter is certainly one of the factors that contribute to the maintenance of social solidarity within the nation. Knowing that millions of people all over the country do exactly what we do at exactly the same time (even if said activity is as trivial as munching on a chocolate egg) creates a sense of unity – an imagined community. And so Easter after Easter, however commercialised the celebrations, we continue to perpetuate the connections that bind us together.