Don’t get me wrong, I’m British, English with a touch of Irish here and there. While I didn’t have any choice in the matter there are many things I enjoy about it. Once again the Government instructs us that we are supposed to feel good about it and need to teach children it’s a good thing, never mind where their origins. Jack Straw adds to his (usually bad) ideas having already made it clear what he tnings about Islamic practices. Alan Johnson has now joined the fray. (I had hoped better after he, alone amongst the New Labour bunch, seemed to have been saying something sensible about children in care).
What I didn’t enjoy was reading about what happens to the waste we make. There has been news about the power of supermarkets who seem to have a lot of power: over their suppliers, over the high street, over us. What we don’t see or know about, one aspect at least is the subject of today’s Independent (26.1.2007). Dumping our waste in China.
“Lianjiao, a remote Chinese village in the booming southern province of Guangdong, is a long way for a plastic bag to travel; but it is where almost all British supermarket carrier bags end up. And the foil-lined crisp packets. And the triangular hard plastic packaging for your bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches from a top high-street chain. Because China is rapidly becoming Britain’s biggest rubbish dump.” (Source Independent 26.1.2007).
It’s something I hadn’t thought about. I know that China is set to overtake Germany with the third highest GDP after the US and Japan. I have seen Chinese activities in Africa threatening a new kind of colonialism. I know there is a wide gap between rich and poor. I know that many of the things I buy are now manufactured in China rather than here in Birmingham (not to mention cars).
Are these the kind of British values the ministers have in mind? The problem we have at the moment is that their are elections in the air and if the top job is spoken for their seems to be some point in going for being second in command, a non-job if ever there was one. Judging by their comments it is sought after by non-people. They speak of promoting “cohesion” however that might be defined. What they seem to me to be doing in actuality is rather the reverse of that by reminding others that one their heritage is unfortunate. It is destructive because many who are Muslim, for example, felt a sense of belonging to Britain without question. What the debate does is to raise an issue which does force them to question this. A Muslim friend said to me “I though we were British”. She now feels a sense of being alien. Another woman (Salma Yaqoob) spoke of being spat at which encouraged her to speak out. She is now a Birmingham City Councillor and appears regularly on programmes like Question Time where her ability to articulate the feelings of British Muslims is welcome. Nevertheless Daniel Pipes and his sidekick laid into her at the Mayor of London’s Conference as if she was “an Islamist” as he defined it (a distinction he drew between Islam and extremism). I asked where Daniel drew the line. (Mind you she described him as one of the “Neocons” giving as good as she got).