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Running The Place

In which we consider the blind spots in people’s xenophobia


People I come across, for once, seem to be getting themselves interested in politics. The local elections, and the soaring cost of petrol,* are for once getting people interested in who runs the country, or things like that.

Sadly, most of the people I come across at work and day-to-day aren’t the sort of people you’d trust to run the country. Trains of thought go along two lines. “Wouldn’t it be nice if things were a bit cheaper,” and “there’s too many foreign people about, you know.” They then say to our Token Polish Office Temp: “I don’t mean you, of course, but you know what I mean. There’s too many foreign people about.”

They don’t really mean that he’s white; it’s just that people everywhere seem to have an enormous blind spot when it comes to “these dirty foreigners.” The sort of people, at least, who say there are too many foreign people about, always have one big exception: foreigners they know personally. They don’t count. They are decent people, unlike the rest of them, the great mass of indistinguishable and interchangeable Foreign People who are here to steal their women and marry their jobs (or something like that). “Oh no, I don’t mean you, I mean all the ones who you read about in the papers.” Why is it that they still believe what they’ve read in the papers, have heard from a mate in the pub, will pass on in a “joke” text message, when all their personal experience goes in the opposite direction?

* it is a Rule Of Clichés, apparently, that any time the cost of petrol is mentioned, the word “soaring” has to be attached.

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