Recently, a man at the allotments told me he was going to vote Ukip this time round, because he'd had enough. He then almost apologetically trotted out the very familiar reasons, 'they're over here breeding like rabbits, they're taking all our jobs, they don't even speak our language, there's too many of them'. All these statements seemed to make perfect sense to him, and he told them from the point of view of someone who was proud of his ancestry.
I didn't respond much, beyond saying I totally disagreed, I couldn't get many words in during the tirade. Only on reflection can I answer him in a more considered way.
If we consider these statements from the point of view of indigenous people around the world then hopefully we might see them differently.
What if you were a member of the American plains first nations people just 150 years ago? You would be saying 'these white people, they're over here breeding like rabbits.' You might also add 'we've had enough of them, let's put a quota on their numbers before they ruin our society.' Unfortunately, you'd be too late.
What if you were a member of the high caste system in India in the 1860's? You might be saying 'these British people they've coming over here and taking all our jobs.' It wasn't just the ruling classes who lost jobs, land and status, millions of lives were radically changed.
What if you were a member of the aboriginal peoples of Australia any time in the last hundred years? You would be saying 'they come to our country, they don't even speak our language, and they're forcing us to lose ours.' The terrible restrictions on language, culture and heritage for aboriginal people are still firmly in place today.
What if you were a member of just about any indigenous people around the world right now? You'd be saying 'there's too many of them'. You'd be shouting very loudly 'go home, we don't want you here.' You'd also be desperately trying to hold onto the last vestiges of your own rich heritage and the connections to your ancestry of which you would be very proud.
We, the British people, are proud of our heritage, we see it connected to justice, democracy and fairness, and there are admirable qualities in our past. However, there is no denying we have wreaked havoc, chaos and disaster throughout the world. In the last hundreds of years we travelled as illegal immigrants to other lands and caused millions upon millions to die through the diseases, religious wars and the capitalist ideals we brought with us.
What unbelievably short memories we have, this didn't happen thousands of years ago, it is very recent and continues today. What hypocrites are we. We have the unbelievable nerve to complain about a small number of people wanting to come to this country. The vast majority of those people will contribute positively and economically to our society, unlike the way we behaved. How can we seriously say we don't want any foreigners here? Where is our sense of justice, our sense of pride, our sense of morals? Where is the nobility and goodwill which we like to think we gained from our ancestry.
I can understand why some people like the man on the allotment are worried and fearful, especially with the exaggerated claims based on ignorance on social media and in the press.
However, I still believe we have in us a compassion and common sense, which will ensure we don't act out of fear and hatred. By doing so we can become the ancestors of which our children and grandchildren will be proud. The ones who practiced tolerance, compassion and helped others not hindered them.