This week, the Nation of OOOG paid a visit to 'the Jungle', the dubiously-named refugee camp on the outskirts of Calais. We took a route well-trodden by charitable convoys, but the suspension on our car sagged from a different purpose. Our supporters will remember that we recently ran a successful crowdfunding campaign to raise money for tools to send to Calais. Our campaign, Break the Border, aims to give refugees boltcutters, ladders, shovels, mobile phones and so on - so that they may gain entry to Britain on their own terms, not Britain's.
Our campaign is motivated by the belief that Britain's borders are not natural or pre-given, but invented and illegitimate. Britain's identity has always been a product of migration, be it Roman, Viking, post-War or contemporary. Britain needs migration to function, but its national myth leaves no space for the admission of this neediness. For Britain to pick and choose who to admit and who to exclude is not only the height of arrogance, but an act of self-hating amnesia. Britain's behaviour, both today and historically, has destroyed any moral foundation to its claimed territorial sovereignty. Having started wars and funded conflicts, Britain cannot now shrug off the consequences. Having stolen its entire wealth, Britain cannot now refuse to share it. Having been born from a global amalgam of ideas, objects and peoples, Britain cannot now claim to be separate.
It appears many agree with our position, and we reached our preliminary target of £500 in little over a week. We decided to do a test run, so as not to risk our entire fund through the possible illegality of our mission. We had no idea if we would be searched, or what reaction we would get from French border guards if found driving a car full of boltcutters. So instead of putting all our eggs in one convoy, we spent a modest £50 on tarpaulin, rope and other supplies. This was augmented by donations of shovels from Gary Field, a local builder who wants his support made public. The rest of the money (and more) would be spent once we knew the lay of the land. So, accompanied by a journalist, we drove to France.
We passed British border control after only brief questioning. Muttered words about day trips and duty free were all it took to get us cruising, windows down, past the bristling grey fortress marked BORDER FORCE. We rolled off the boat without incident, and found the camp in a barren patch of wasteland just off the motorway. What struck me about the camp was not the buildings built of pallets and plastic sheeting, or the young men stood in the rain with their piercing, stoic humanity. No, what stuck in my mind was the fences, the miles and miles of fences that said a lot but achieved much less. Huge, ugly fences - fences that made approaching the camp feel like crawling through a rat cage made of cameras and razor wire. We did not spend long at the camp out of respect for its inhabitants, and our journalist took no photos without permission. We delivered our box and our shovels, we shook a few hands and we left.
The journey home passed without incident. Our experiment had succeeded, and we left confident that our campaign can roll out as planned. As we drove, the Prophet and I discussed the camp, the fences, their global contexts and local consequences. Both Britain and France, two rotting colonial powers, are gripped, yet again, by a paranoid fear of their own invention. We discussed how the 'migrant problem', like the Communist threat and Jewish conspiracy of yesteryear, is an illusion produced by narratives left unchecked and assumed as truth. Narratives that say: "of course they want to take over the world, steal from us and make our children unrecognisable - the evidence is right here, in all this nonsense we created. We need the reassurances that only concrete and steel can provide."
But so much for your ring of steel and your 'robust response' - we walked right into 'the Jungle' and we walked right back out again. Dover castle didn't protect the Dark Ages from the Renaissance, and the fences of Calais will not protect Europe from its own self-made future. If everyone stopped fleeing warzones tomorrow, the crisis would continue - because it has taken root in the minds of needlessly panicked Europeans. It has become manifest in the sweeping analyses of the media, the grey-faced promises of politicians, the miles of useless fencing and the architecture of White anxiety.
Those multiplying border defences symbolise a Europe terrified of its own history, whose everyday violence creates the conditions for its own phobic paranoia. I felt on my mind the choking weight of this tissue of untruths. History churned, rifling through the guts of giants. My imagination folded back and I fell silent, but the Prophet spoke - not with words but with a silent flash of pre-human language:
Those fences are not built to keep foreigners out, but Britishness in.
Photos Courtesy of Tom Mellors