Sunday, June 19, 2016

Across the Pondering

Members of the Not In My Name campaign, a group dedicated to opposing the so-called Islamic State, in Luton, Bedfordshire. None of these men is an immigrant from the European Union.

Megan McArdle finally found herself!
This past weekend, I found myself in the British borough of Luton, pondering a British exit from the European Union. “How did you find yourself in Luton?” you will ask, and I will reply, “That is a long story, and alas, a very dull one"...
Shit Megan, you sound just like fucking Thackeray. That British air has such a bracing effect upon one's literary style!

Though there's a clue to the mystery, in that
this dull story involved many hours spent in a horrible third-tier European airport with middle-class Britons heading home from their holidays.
"I'll tell you, Watson, I suspect the Luton episode of this supposedly long, dull story involves an episode of travel from England to the United States." "Good God, Holmes, how do you deduce that?" "Elementary: travel is an almost constant concomitant of presence in airports." As turns out to be the case; she had a long layover there on an EasyJet flight, and the main point of the story may well be a complaint about Bloomberg's stinginess with the expenses.

So there she was, at one of an apparently inadequate number of phone-charging stations,
huddled around this small electric flame in the manner of travelers everywhere, taking what sustenance we could, drinking wine and swapping stories of our homelands. I was asked to explain Donald Trump. And by way of getting my own back, I naturally asked about the referendum on Brexit, which is now just days away.
The folks I talked to were from all over Britain, but they had middle age in common as well as, mostly, membership in the petit bourgeoisie [make that "petite bourgeoisie", Megs]. What did they think about leaving the EU?
I love how it takes this complex collusion of circumstances to make her think of acting like a "journalist". What they think is that they don't like foreigners:
These weren't racist diatribes; no one mentioned race or nationality, and, in fact, they were very sympathetic to the plight of immigrants. They just didn’t want to have to accept them into their country -- operative words “have to.” The dominant tone was what is often called compassion fatigue, and their arguments were not unreasonable.
They might not have mentioned race because all the migrants forced on them by EU membership are migrants from EU countries, mostly the newer members in Eastern Europe (Poland, Romania, and so on). The nations of South Asia, Africa, and the West Indies don't belong to the EU,  as I'll bet you knew already, and Britain can and does refuse to admit the Syrian and Afghan refugees we hear so much about in Europe, because it's not part of the Schengen Agreement, and controls its borders. I need not say how English it is for middle-aged petit-bourgeois people to communicate their dislike for foreigners in a sympathetic and reasonable, non-diatribe manner.

(I should add that I only know how awful and disgusting English people are because of the many truly lovely English people I've known who have helpfully explained it to me. I've always tried to do my part in return by telling them how horrible Americans are, in which they have always generously agreed. This is how we cosmopolitan elites talk when poverty and lack of status prevent us from expressing our eliteness in a more powerful and elite sort of way.)

The dreary city of Luton itself, where she spent some time peering around a mall, is a particularly foreigner-infested place, "only barely majority white", where
I wandered into several off-license shops in search of batteries and found that all of them appeared to cater to a significant foreign-born clientele.
How sinister, Holmes! Interesting how the quest for electricity seems to have driven all her Luton experiences. Unless she was really looking for booze, as you usually are when you refer to a shop as an "off-license", but felt she had already mentioned enough alcohol for one column. She definitely failed to make her way into a traditional licensed premise, and reacted in a bizarre way:
The Duke of Clarence pub is closed, having apparently run afoul of the local constabulary.... I bought some Polish sausage and pastry at an off-license, some Indian dumplings and Thai noodles at a couple of food trucks, and I sat on a bench in the mall, listening to people from three continents chat with each other in more than half a dozen languages, none of which I spoke.
That is the most incongruous meal ever, and it must have taken her half an hour to assemble.

Anyhow, while such a scene would be expected in a coastal American city, she believes,
this is not normal in most of the world. Nor is it necessarily welcome.
On the other hand, it's not normal in Britain either:
Most places in Britain are not like Luton, of course. But that’s not quite the point.
Because your anti-immigrant sentiment is worse in places where you don't have many immigrants. The point being that
There’s a lot to be gained from globalism, the mixing of two or more cultures into something new. But something specific and local and much-loved is inevitably lost at the same time, and the people who feel that loss most keenly are the inward-looking people who stay in place, not internationalist elites.
You feel the loss more keenly if you don't experience it than if you do? I'm sure this is true.

My favorite part of this post is its title,
Britain's Elites Can't Ignore the Masses
with its confident assumption that a dozen middle-aged white "petit-bourgeois" returning from their annual hols in Marbella or wherever represent "the masses", and therefore Britain should leave the EU even if the Remain party wins the referendum on Thursday.
it’s not that my food was bad -- it was all quite good -- or that there was anything wrong with the immigrants serving and eating it. They all looked like quite nice people. But it was all very different from traditional British food, traditional British people. And no matter how hard we try to argue that it doesn’t matter, it does -- politically, if in no other way. Especially when things aren’t going all that well for the natives.
Though for decades the traditional British diet has consisted of chicken tikka masala and the Duke of Clarence was executed by drowning in a butt of malmsey (presumably from Greece, not Madeira?) in 1477. No, that's really not relevant, but I wanted to mention it.

She has an interesting view on how there never used to be any inter-ethnic conflict in the United States:
For the first few centuries of its existence, America had a chronic labor shortage, which eased any frictions with new arrivals. We also lacked a modern welfare state, to which low-skilled immigrants are likely to be net costs rather than net contributors.
No source cited for that interesting claim about the welfare state. Of course McArdle only refers to what is "likely", by which she means what she thinks she'd probably find if she checked out the research. She would naturally be wrong as far as the UK is concerned:
“Recent immigrants, i.e. those who arrived since 2000, are less likely to both receiving (sic) benefits and living in social housing than natives. Furthermore, recent immigrants, both those from [European Economic Area (EEA)] and non-EEA countries have made a positive net contribution to the U.K. fiscal system despite the U.K.’s running a budget deficit over most of the 2000s,” wrote [Christian] Dustmann and [Tommaso] Frattini in a 2013 paper for the Center for Research and Analysis of Migration.
But she's not going to let a little thing like that stop her, because of her conversation with the masses in that airport:
I heard the strain on the National Health Service cited multiple times this weekend as a sore spot for Brexiteers, and though the “Remain” campaign says “You’ve got it all wrong, the problem is Conservative budget cuts,” this rather aggressively misses the point: When things are hard, immigrants compete with natives for scarce government resources, and the natives don’t like the competition.
It's pretty aggressive to complain about budget cuts when immigrants and natives are forced to compete for resources whose scarcity is caused by budget cuts. Times wouldn't be quite as hard in the NHS clinic, at any rate, if the Tories weren't making them hard. If there really is this interethnic struggle over access to doctor visits (which I actually doubt), blaming the Tories instead of the Polish laborers doesn't seem like missing the point at all to me, aggressively or otherwise.

I have to note that McArdle makes it through this idiotic argument without mentioning the murder, the day before the column ran, of the MP Jo Cox, whose killer shouted "Britain first!" as he stabbed and shot her, an incident that has caused a lot of people in the UK to stop and wonder whether they are being as reasonable and sympathetic as they think, as old Steven Erlanger discussed at length in yesterday's Times. I also have to note that McArdle as usual shows no awareness that she herself (along with the Leave campaign leader Old Etonian Boris Johnson, scheming by these means to unseat his old schoolmate David Cameron from the party leadership) is a member of the elite.

Other than that, I think she should be writing about Britain all the time! It's ten times more fun than her usual garbage and much less likely to do any actual harm.

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