Well, I was going to get down from the soap box and move onto matters of a much lighter nature, however, after reading Mothers of Prevention* in the Sunday Times (Sept 30), I’m not leaving just yet (although lighter matters will be the next posting, promise).
When I first came to Egypt I was very much of the opinion that everybody should live and let live and the solution to race issues is tolerance. I still believe that, in as much as it’s what should happen. I have far less faith now in human nature and our ability to live together when reality is added to the equation. Inequalities and ego are too prevalent in the world today for tolerance to be a total solution (I haven’t figured out what the solution is though).
I had a discussion about this with a Dutch friend once who said that if we believe in tolerance then we have to keep on believing it all the way through and have hope that eventually things will change: essentially tolerance is infectious.
Apart from the obvious horror of what is happening in the towns mentioned in the Times, assuming the article is correct, what struck a chord is the deep seated racial hatred that exists. I have met people here, albeit a very small number, who have a profound hatred of all things western and by extension white. It’s not the mundane hatred that Bush conjures up in his speeches and blankets over a region, this is a little seed of blackness inside a very small number of individuals that gnarls away at them every minute of every day. It tends to centre around how they view the unfairness of their life in comparison to that of ‘the other’ as well as because of ‘the other’. If an opportunity were to present itself to these people to significantly degrade ‘the other’ in a way they feel they have been treated by members ‘the other’, these people would jump at it.
Added into the equation in Northern England is that these are people have an extremely conservative cultural heritage. A girl without her hair covered in such a tradition is seen as ‘loose’. Any girl. A married woman in the company of a man who is not her husband or a close relative is seen as ‘loose’. A married woman wearing makeup and uncovered hair in the company of a man who is not her husband or close relative is basically viewed as a prostitute.
A prostitute, certainly in the country I am in, is not someone who hangs around on street corners wearing short skirts and thigh-high patent leather boots (the crude form barely exists). In this country, and culture, they often spend days with their client. He’ll buy her gifts, they go to the cinema, and out for dinner – they have a mini ‘relationship’. It can also occur over a longer period. Now, if that’s your definition of prostitution, how can you easily argue that western girls are not prostitutes? After all, ‘good’ girls, will be at home with their mother, sisters and aunts. ‘Good’ girls would not be outside in the shopping malls alone, ‘good’ girls do not have boyfriends (or friends who are boys) and ‘good’ girls don’t live outside the home until they are married.
Nothing, obviously, excuses what the article describes these men as doing. The article does, however, highlight an area of our society that needs more than a sticking plaster. It’s not always enough to say that we all have the same basic needs, we all know what it feels like to have loved ones, to get up and go to work etc, and therefore we can all get on.
Our culture does not want to admit the problems of reaching full integration. Anybody who stands up and highlights a problem is fearful of being branded racist. This fear is compounded by incidents like the BNP jumping on an issue, confusing matters, further tarring the promlem-raiser with the racist brush. Out of fear, this results in the issue getting swept back under the proverbial carpet, a heavy chest put on the carpet and the door to the room the carpet is in being locked.
There are millions of people who have the same cultural heritage as the men mentioned in this article and do not behave like them. The inability to confidently differentiate and be allowed to differentiate results in a situation akin to not dealing with neo-Nazis because white people might get upset.
Tolerance may be infectious, but some people have a strong immune system.
*For some reason the link isn’t always working, so here is its in full: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article2538090.ece