Until the time, not too distant, when we achieve Scottish independence and a moment of political flux where we can attempt to build a fairer nation than the one in which we now live, I am entitled sometimes to get depressed by the appalling injustice and inequity against which I see people struggle daily. Sometimes that depression binds my typing hands and prevents me from writing for days on end. I have been feeling this lately rather acutely.
A couple of days ago I was buying some coal with my son Jamie and reminisced about the days when I worked on a coalyard, shovelling coal into hundredweight sacks. I then explained to him a hundredweight was (strangely) 8 stone or 112 pounds, and tried to express a hundredweight in kilos. By chance it was a fraction over 50 kilos. As we were straining to carry 25kg sacks, I was puzzled how at age 16 I had dealt with 50kg ones. Harder times.
The memory of this conversation led me this morning to decide to write a satirical piece about crazy Little England Brexiteers now being able to bring back Imperial weights and measures and get rid of these awful foreign kilos and metres. Then a little research this morning told me that, about the time I had the conversation with my son, a conservative Minister was mooting exactly that.
You just can’t out-crazy the Tories at the minute.
I was visiting England over half-term and was truly shocked to hear the experience of an Italian friend of mine who lives in London. She had been buying vegetables at a stall and had asked for zucchini. The vendor had replied “They are called courgettes. Use the proper English word or I am not serving you.” She decided to take this as a joke, smiled and said “sorry, courgettes” but the man then said that he couldn’t wait for Brexit when she would be kicked out of the country.
After a couple of days, she decided to report the incident to the police as the upset had not died down. The police were ostensibly very friendly and offered to take action, but they impressed on her the matter was very serious and would lead to the man being arrested and put in the cells. I was, from her account, dubious whether the police had not been emphasising the nuclear options to persuade her to withdraw the complaint while ostensibly doing the opposite, ie taking her complaint at its most serious. They did not outline other possibilities, ie a good talking to and a caution on his record. Not wanting to risk sending the man to prison, she withdrew the complaint.
This is only one piece of anecdotal evidence. I am not yet convinced by evidence that Brexit has created more racists. But that it has socially empowered racists and brought racism into mainstream political discourse is undoubtedly true. That is likely to create still more racists eventually.