I should be doing other things today but The Times front page stopped me in my tracks. Since Brexit I get to understand what “triggering” means in the context of traumatic events. It is new to me in all ways. It is new to be “triggered” and thrown in the past. It is new to wake up in my perfectly safe house in a sleepy neighbourhood of London and find myself thrown back thirty years in the Communist Romania.
This is the front page of The Times today.
I could read only what is visible to non-members of this publication so I don’t know if at some point the newspaper takes position against this plan or they comfortably leave it as it is because it attracts readers. Let me tell you that such a headline should also contain the condemnation of such a request in its words. This is not a factual news delivery. It is a paradigm change for the society we live in.
If you think that “listing foreign workers” is not harmful, dream on. This is just the first step. I invite you to imagine how the next step looks like and then the next. How the “shaming” of the business owners would look like? How the “shaming” of the foreign workers would look like? Who will perpetrate the shame, as shame is not an inner feeling at all but something inflicted from external sources. Who would be the ones who would gladly embrace the role to shame others? When we see that shaming foreign workers and those who hire them is not enough, what is the next category to shame? Race? Sexual orientation? In how many ways you can actually slice the society and find somebody to shame and to blame for your life not being as you imagine it?
This request to denounce the “others”, “the foreigners”, “the enemy” literally took me to Romania in the ’80s. Those who studied a bit of history came probably across the concept of “enemy of the people”. It dates to Roman times and as a concept, over centuries, it has been useful to many regimes turning things upside down.
I grew up being part of a family who were “enemy of the people”. What does it means and how a kid can experience this? I tell you how. The first step is to list the enemy. The second is to appoint those who can point their finger towards the enemy form a position of righteousness. In our case it was the Communist Party. Now, in my adulthood it is the Tories. Political colours, you see, have become pointless in this post-truth, “post-geography” world. Once empowered to name and shame, the result is anyone’s guess. To sum it up for you, it is sheer terror.
I remember vividly a discussion between my parents that I could hear through the kitchen door. My mum was asked to stand up in a Communist Party meeting and denounce herself because as an enemy of the people she did not declare that her father in law was a priest (“preot” in Romanian). She tried to defend herself saying that he was not a priest but a lawyer — not that this would have helped in the context. She was repeatedly humiliated in front of her co-workers with the expectation that she will self-denounce. The truth was that my grandfather was a lawyer indeed but also a “pretor” at some point in the forties. Pretor was the title of an administrator of a region in the Kingdom of Romania between ’41-’44.
The difference between “preot”/ “pretor” was not noticeable to the communist party leader who took the role to “shame” my mum.
How relevant was this to my mum doing her job as a chemical engineer? How relevant was this to her colleagues doing whatever jobs they were doing? Not relevant at all. It made however my parents scramble for records to try to prove the difference between “pretor”/administrator and “preot”/priest. They figured out that any possible witnesses, have already been killed in the communist prisons.
Having lived through being an “enemy” of my own nation not knowing how and why, I find myself as an immigrant, having tried to build a life in freedom for my kids and myself, that thanks to our government I am now the “enemy” of my country of choice.
Apart from my wholeheartedly invitation to read more history in order to understand the consequences of such actions I just want to tell them that neither I, my kids or people like us are your enemy. This country will not be better with or without us. If you are so chronically unhappy that you have to point to others for all evil, I can guarantee you that one day you will have to look in the mirror and you will not like what you see.