On mass immigration as a phenomenon
While writing The Tribe I found two of my main interests, in the existential background to life and in mass immigration as a phenomenon, fusing and coming together in ways that I am still exploring and finding interesting.
I think this coming-together has helped me to address one of the fundamental questions of our time in the book, namely,
Why is mass immigration such a troubling phenomenon for ‘host’ communities or people?
Even using this word ‘phenomenon’, which I know annoys some people in its vagueness, helps to guide us towards the sort of answers I have been coming up with.
It helps because it does not limit how we address what is going on in the act of describing it. For one thing, it helps us to avoid locating the source of trouble in immigrants themselves, as if there is something wrong with them. But it also avoids locating the troubles in what I am calling here, for want of a better word, ‘host’ communities or people – as if there is something wrong with them.
Treating mass immigration as a phenomenon allows us to avoid committing ourselves to the fray on one side or another simply in the act of describing it. It may appear too broad and wide-ranging. But in being so, it allows us to include the full range of aspects which others do not consider; indeed how they seek to describe it can feature as part of what we are looking to describe.
This points towards one of the underlying themes of my book: that the way we interpret the world is part of the world we are looking to interpret – and must be taken into account if we are to see things accurately. The phenomenon of mass immigration includes how we interpret mass immigration and different aspects of it. It allows us to consider immigrants themselves as a block but also as individual people who have decided to move countries. It allows us to consider those who feel uncomfortable about immigration, but who do not convert that discomfort into hostility towards immigrants – and also those who do. It allows us to consider the role of pro-immigration activists and politicians. It allows us to consider how tabloids treat immigration in an often crude way, at least in their front pages – and how other news media have made it an issue in different ways, indeed sometimes primarily as a reaction to the tabloid treatment.
To allow all these considerations to exist is what addressing mass immigration as a phenomenon means in practice. It means seeing the world not as an object to be described in the same way we would describe objects, with fixed properties and easily-reached conclusions, but as a dynamic whole in which we are all participants and our participation is crucial to what is going on. It brings us towards the nature of social and political power, in which some participants are more important than others, and in which we can grab a piece of that power by aligning to it.
In The Tribe, I have written extensively about mass immigration in this way, as a phenomenon which is much wider and more interesting than our judgemental, rationalistic political discourse allows. Of course I’ve written about it principally in relation to liberal-left politics, because that’s what the book is all about. In doing so I’ve drawn out how these politics are often dubious and even dishonest, but also how they have been successful and looking at some of the consequences of this success – not least on working class people in the Unfavoured Groups chapter.
Sometimes looking over the book I’ve thought that maybe I’ve talked about immigration too much – at the expense of other issues. On the other hand though, I think it deserves this level of treatment. As one of the defining issues of our times, immigration remains little understood in public life. Hopefully, my book will help to change that a little bit.
The Tribe is now available for £12 (RRP £14.95) with free postage to UK addresses. Use coupon TRIBE at imprint.co.uk/tribe.
For more about the book, see my previous blogpost here.