I am delighted by the apparent sea-change in media opinion on the treatment of refugees, but concerned that in modern society compassion only seems able to operate in a wave of emotional hysteria rather than as a fundamental, underlying everyday principle. There is also a danger that those arriving in the Mediterranean and Balkans are viewed, quite wrongly, as in some way different from those in the awful camps at Calais, who have been demonised all summer, reaching its peak when a child being killed by a train led to vicious media headlines about delays to British passengers.
Cameron and May’s apparent willingness to budge at least minimally in admitting more from Syria must be matched by a willingness to admit those from the Calais camps who are genuine refugees. I still have a home in Ramsgate from which you can actually see France. I for one am willing to make accommodation available at no charge to help out in the crisis.
These are troubling times. In London the National Youth Centre has cancelled a play, Homegrown, which explored Islamic radicalism, because it had an “extremist agenda”. By this they mean that it did what it was meant to, it explored the reasons that attract young people to terrorism including a revulsion at western foreign policy and the alienation from society of urban youth in a society that values materialism above all but increasingly restricts access to prosperity and choice. These are precisely the issues that modern playwrights ought to be considering, if they are worth anything.
However it goes against the government’s insistence that radicalisation is nothing whatsoever to do with our invasions and bombings of Muslim countries or the huge and burgeoning wealth gap in our society. We are supposed to view terrorism as a spontaneous outbreak of pure evil, for no reason. So the play was cancelled, after consultations between the National Youth Theatre and the Metropolitan Police. When you have the police deciding on the content of plays, you really are on the road to being a fascist state: we already have the police involved in what can be said in universities under the government’s definitively illiberal Prevent strategy.
Just as there is still no official admission that our invasions and bombings greatly boosted terrorist organisations, so there is still no official admission that the wave of terror and destruction we helped unleash on the Middle East, either by direct invasions or bombings or by proxy, by funding and through the Gulf States, is the root cause of much of the refugee crisis. It is good we are moving a tiny way towards helping. We should do very much more. And acknowledgement of our own culpability in the crisis should be an essential part of a new attitude.