They are everywhere! A group of people who are guilty of it all. They are noisy, rough, they fight and swear, they don’t want to blend in, they abuse the social welfare system, they cannot look after their children. Nobody wants them to live on the same street, let alone in the same house!
Roma minority. White working class, or chavs. Illegal bag sellers. Immigrants of any kind. Just pick whom you want to aim your anger and frustration at. ‘They’ are the source of all wrongdoings. ‘They’ are accused of theft, immoral behaviour – there is always a reason. They are useless, lazy and abusive people who threaten the good folks everywhere. The ‘good ones’ then worry about their identity, job opportunities and handbags.
Take the Brits. They point their fingers at their scapegoats too. Not all of them, sure. Great Britain is one of the strongest economies in the world. Yet, mainstream media or populist political representatives look for a target to blame for the unsteady economy, lack of jobs, low wages. It’s people out of work who are the cause of the society decay. Didn’t you know? Or people who work long hours in poorly paid jobs – cleaners, cares or supermarket shelves fillers – who suck from the system. It’s their fault that they cannot afford to feed their big families even though they work, isn’t it? It’s them – the poor people!
Those who cannot climb the social ladder, they are the under-class, the chavs. There are guides available to provide you with prompt advice on how to spot and avoid them. Info-servers online can tell you where not to go on holiday or which gym not to use. You can train yourself and identify them according to what they wear, how they speak, they obviously have loads of kids, are always drunk on high.
Sounds familiar? Maybe you have heard this about different people in the country you live in or come from. And likely about immigrants too. First thing they do after they unpack their suitcase is head to the local job centre and get a big fat cheques into their post boxes. And they spend it on booze and drugs. And they are religious fanatics. The poor indigenous population is then scared to venture out as they cannot hear their mother tongue being spoken on the market place. How rude of these people to speak another language to each other!
Some people feel that their country should be ‘theirs’. That ‘the others’ spoil it and want to make the lives of the local people hell. Well, when I got kicked and nearly robbed while at university, it was ‘the local guy’ who did it. Nobody else. When I argue that Roma people in the Czech Republic need equal opportunities, I often hear that I don’t get it. Well, again, I worked with Roma people and it was fine. And I studied with people from so many places and it was fine. It’s human beings we are talking about not statistics. People are different indeed, but more often than not rather similar. Both in good and bad ways. Me or somebody else might not fit within a generalised perception of a certain category. But who decides what is ‘truly Czech’ or ‘proper English’ and why do we need ‘boxes’ for everyone?
The Royal Statistical Society and King’s College in London did a survey about the general public’s notion regarding social issues. And the general public is basically wrong. British people think that many people cheat to claim benefits – and somehow seem to think that this is the reason why there is money missing in the budget. Has nobody told them about corporate tax dodgers? So they think that every £24 out of £100 is claimed fraudulently. That’s like a quarter. In reality, it’s only 70p out of £100. 34-times less!
And immigrants? There must at least a third of them now! Mere 13% in fact. And what about the Asians, they are everywhere as well? While people guess that there is about 30% of people with Asian origin living on the isles, it’s actually only 11%.
Finally, the welfare system, the cornerstone of developed western societies. The British people feel that there is too much of un-employment support going out to people who do not deserve it. Well, £4.9 billion going to this slice of the budget cake is 15-times less than £74.2 going for pensions. Nobody is challenging older people when they claim their deserved pension, so why are people who just might need a bit of support here and there portrayed so undeservingly?
So what rights do we ‘give’ to ‘the others’? What do they ‘deserve’, whoever they are? How much of what should we ‘give’ them? Who are your scapegoats?
This is an updated version of the blog originally posted in Czech on Literarky.cz
MEET THE AUTHOR
Veronika Susedková is currently supporting services for women – admin, system, monitoring, evaluation – in WomenCentre Calderdale and Kirklees and enjoying project Active Women – raising awareness about politics and aiming at more active engagement of women in the public sphere. She is also volunteering as an asylum and immigration advisor with Pathways to Intergation (Huddersfield project of Northern Welcome). Veronika is passionate about campaigning on social justice issues – from poverty to food and environment; from women’s issues to rights of migrants – and blogging on everything from sexism to modernist architecture as aktiveru. You can find her on http://www.aktiveru.wordpress.com, on https://www.linkedin.com/pub/veronika-susedkova/30/80b/624 and on Twitter @VeroSusedkova.