What a title eh? Well, it’s what attracted my attention. I’m not Christian, but I’m taught to treat neighbours well; don’t hoover at 10 pm and don’t argue at midnight (though that one is a bit more tricky). I apologise to all my neighbour in this completely useless way as they will probably never read this. That title attracted my attention, what could it be about? I like challenging, emotion-triggering titles like that. Outrage me with this title, make me pick up your book and demand explanation of this senseless title! The size of the book was also eye-catchy, even though it’s hardback, it’s lighter than most paperback, it’s tiny, truly pocket size, I pick it up and flip it over.
“What would happen if we never talked about immigration again? If we treated a person’s geographical origin the same way we treated their star sign? Well, we’d all be a lot happier, for starters…”
As a Third Culture Kid, immigration is something I’m quite interested in. And I like to observe people, I wonder what their life is like, how they think, how they are shaped and how they are affected by what is happening in the world right now. A thought like this quote sets my mind on fire, it requires no money, no big business plan, it’s just opening a new perspective, asking me to consider my everyday life under a different light. “we’d all be a lot happier” Happiness? That’s what I’m striving for, I’ll read your book Mr James O’Brien.
That name I had heard before, and I was familiar with the radio station – LBC, but I never tuned into the show, and didn’t really know about James O’Brien like I knew of…let’s say…Nick Ferrari. After reading the book and comments abt it/reviews, following a few accounts on twitter, I will hopefully be tuning in tomorrow Monday 1st February at 10am.
Disclaimer: I will put the disclaimer here, as this review is quite lengthy, I’m no politics student or an expert in any psychology. I’m just a young person with an impressionable mind. All the thoughts expressed in this review are mine, even the “explanations” of quotes and descriptions of chapters are all INTERPRETATIONS that I have made.
Here’s the short review: I think this book is thought provoking, the argument of the author are like well aimed jabs to get the opponent KO-ed as quickly as possible. It’s short and concise; simple enough for a newbie like me to get interested but covers many different aspects of this debate that makes most young people take a look at it and think “it’s not my problem”. It breaks down the beast that is the immigration debate, pointing out its head, tail, underbelly, its intention and what it could potentially evolved into.
I open the book to read the blurb, it mentions prejudices, fear, anger, division, upset, myth and ends with “there is no ‘they’. There is only ‘we’.” Looks like it’ll be tackling real life issues, too close to home to look in the face, we’ve been focusing our attention on things on the other side of the world. It’s always easier to fix someone else’s life… I’m no stranger to that way of thinking. Still, it retains a hopeful note, just like me, who always looks for the silver lining in everything that happens, “there is only ‘we’.” Yes, in this time of turning against each other for any small matter, of divisions created and played out by people who don’t care about us, who only want their agendas to work out (which usually involves money) and are enjoying the show from the distance, I want to believe in a ‘we’, I want to look for what unites us, what brings us together. We’re all humans! How can we hurt each other so?! How can I sit here at my PC typing this, while someone is homeless, freezing and uncomfortable in Calais?
Two quotes greet me as I start this book, they warm my heart, they are about our warmer, kinder, nobler side of Humanity. The second quote is only five words long but it spurs me on, and so I start reading…
The introduction is about a man, a radio presenter for a popular radio station, trying to explain his book. “stop talking about immigration?! How dare he?!! Immigration IS the problem! We need to talk about it! Everywhere all the time!!” That’s what I’m imagining he’s imagining facing with writing this book. He goes on to mention the “magic eye” illustrations. Yup, I had no idea what those were, I wasn’t even born when they came out. Mr O’Brien draws a comparison between the immigration debate and those pictures, in both directions of the debate. Those who argue that immigration is a problem, and what they see is a “magic eye” illustration to people who don’t see the problem; and then the author’s view that immigration isn’t a problem is the illustration and reading this book will be like staring at it, hopefully we’ll see something, but maybe we won’t.
The different chapters of the book tackle different ideas or “squiggles” as Mr O’Brien describes them. The first one is about a probably universal story of “the boy who cried wolf”. The author knows where to poke people to get a reaction, to say that the little boy “didn’t need a lesson in honesty, he just needed better PR.” Well, need I say more?
The next chapter talks about an issue that has been on my mind for a while, the way media reports things, only when it’s convenient does race, ethnicity, religion, cultural background (whichever you want) comes into the picture, usually to add a feeling of “us” vs “them” and to further create division. Why is this done? Is it really accidental? Is it harmless? Will you really argue that it is not because of the way certain ethnicities/religion get portrayed in the media that some highly impressionable young people get angry and leave families, studies, safety for some unknown land where they feel they “belonged” and are “welcomed”?
Mr O’Brien goes on to further point out the obvious, we’ve become long sighted, we can’t see what’s right in front of us unless it’s pointed out, like the fact that we know plenty of “immigrants” and they aren’t the job-stealing, drain on the economy leeches we hear about. What’s our excuse? “oh no…not so and so… all the other ones!” How long are we going to kid ourselves?
I think the book goes to follow a logical route, we’ve tried to define “them” and failed, so let’s try to define “us”. Who is “we”, how does one distinguish? It’s not our next door neighbour, it’s not the reliable yet turban wearing shopkeeper down the road (forgive the stereotyping), it’s not the people who helped Britain during WWII. These are all “good guys”, so who are the evil, scary, thieving “them”?
Now that you, dear-person-against-immigration, is left speechless after being unable to define either “we” or “them” in this debate about “we” vs “them” you grasp for the “well, whenever I want to talk about immigration I get called a racist” straw. Not to worry, just read the next chapter, it’s pretty simple. If you’re going to use someone’s origin to talk about something bad they did, you’re going to get called a racist. Did the person who steal your purse/wallet say they did it because they’re from Pakistan? Did the person who push in front of you at the bus stop do it because they’re Polish? Did that studious girl get the job because she’s <insert some kind of stereotypes related to someone’s country of origin>? We’re all humans, and it’s easy to give in to “All the pickpockets on the 25 bus are gypsies”, I guess there might have been a “positive” basis to such a generalisation: keeping your bag close to you, not being an airhead while being shoved around on that horrible accordion 25 bus. It gets ugly real quick when one starts to throw insult at anyone resembling a “gypsy” or eyeing suspiciously anyone that looks to you like a “gypsy”. That’s why we have to keep a balanced head on our shoulders, not listen to everything thrown at us. If it’s your day to be pickpocketed, will you really care about the ethnicity of the pickpocket? Your phone, your contacts, your pictures et al. are all gone! “Excuse me pickpocket!!! What country are you from?!?!” is that what you’ll be shouting while you chase them? My point is, don’t generalise. Just as the beginning of the book said, you wouldn’t go around saying “All capricorns are thiefs”, just the same, we shouldn’t go around saying “all <insert any ethnicity> are thiefs”
The next chapter is quite personal, and led me to do some introspection of my own. Made me think about being racist, about stereotypes, the ones I hold, the ones I joke about, the ones I use to shape my world view.
I don’t know if I’m racist. Maybe I am, what I know though is that whatever my thoughts on a particular ethnic group are, I’ve got to keep it in check and never let it cloud my judgement or influence my decisions, not in a personal way anyway.
The second last chapter tackles, what my ignorant self thinks to be, the issue of the child grooming gangs that were headlines a couple of years back. There’s actually a sentence in there that describes me:
“…everybody free from such prejudices is in danger of unwittingly disbelieving or dismissing allegations involving the demonised minority that may actually be true.”
That’s me right there. When I saw the media twisting all the reports to include “Muslim” and “Pakistani” I was disgusted and I don’t think I read a single news article about it. I only know about it from word of mouth and people discussing it, but I didn’t want to engage in the battle of rectifying the identities and the motives of those criminals. I was (still am) young, and have a stubborn (and/or rebellious) streak, the way I saw it was “the people I care about know better, and those who don’t (know better) aren’t worth my time.” So I just kept going with life, mildly aware that a new “piece of evidence” had been added to the long list of crime I had supposedly committed (or “my people” whoever those are…). The point the author makes (and the one I was never quite able to put into words) was that, no culture, religion, ethnic group will make you do anything. If someone wants to commit a crime, they’ll find a way, and an excuse to do it, be it religious, cultural or their star sign…
The book ends with another metaphor, about people with money, people with power, us, and them. You’ll have to read the book to find out about it. It talks about biscuits. I’d love to hear what biscuits you think they are. For some reason, I’m imagining langue de chats biscuits… I have NO idea why, I haven’t eaten those in a very very very long time, but somehow they’re the ones that came to mind when I was reading that passage.
So here it is, my review of this tiny little book. 2000 plus words long and I apologise (not really) for that. I hope it piqued your interest, even if not to read the book (read it! Its great! And super short!) but to at least get your gears turning and interest you in the topic of the immigration debate. I know I am. This book was written a couple of years ago, but I picked it up right bang in the middle of the Syrian migration crisis… gets me thinking…