By Myles Cook
So, we finally arrive at the end of the road and a parting of the ways with this my final column for Your Thurrock. The decision to leave has been hovering in the background for a number of months since my laptop died last November/December and has been impossible to replace ever since. Anyone who read my column last December in which I looked back over my involvement with Your Thurrock might have sensed a feeling of wrapping things up in that column and that is because that column was going to be the final one. Mr Casey, however, offered me the opportunity to get some ‘proper’ journalistic experience with a number of assignments to cover council meetings and run the Twitter feed so I returned.
I never do anything at the moment without some personal gain towards my employment goals and, earlier this year, Mr Casey made the offer of some informal training as ‘payment’ for my favours in covering the odd council meeting but that training did not really pan out as Mr Casey is a busy man. The Employment Specialist I work with encouraged me to continue working for Your Thurrock because it may lead to something, whether that was a paid staff or freelance position or merely more formal training so I took her advice. However, in the last two sessions I had with my Employment Specialist even she had to agree that it was time to move on and I could not agree more.
Your Thurrock has offered me a chance to go out and explore a new type of career and build a portfolio towards that career but, for quite some time now, writing this column has become more of a chore that has no personal benefit for myself or my employment goals than the exciting thing it once was. The final factor that influenced my decision to finally stop contributing to Your Thurrock is, however, the fact that my report on Clinical Commissioning Groups was never fully published even after four or five months from the posting of the first part. I got a lot of criticism over the first part of the report and, although I have no problem with people not liking my work, I feel that the criticism I got was unfair on that occasion as my critics did not wait for the rest of the report and the rest of it was never posted.
I still love to write and will continue to write my personal blog which may not have the number of readers my column gets here on Your Thurrock or gets many comments but still allows me to air my views and keep my hand in with writing.
I have been able to gain some new skills whilst writing for Your Thurrock so the experience will not have been completely wasted. I got a chance to be a cameraman, a reporter and a columnist so I have gained a lot and I will always be thankful to Mr Casey for giving me the opportunity to write for his online newspaper.
I would also like to thank my readers for their time in reading my columns and thank those who took the time to join in the debate; we may not have agreed most of the time but our exchanges always proved entertaining. I would also like to thank those who noticed that on most occasions I was polite enough to reply to every comment.
I can now confess that the replies I made to comments on my columns were definitively my thoughts on the subjects but put forward in a heightened or exaggerated version of my personality and deliberately provocative as I am a firm believer in the fact that the more heated an argument gets the better the debate is. For those who think I was overly harsh, I do not apologise for that and no matter how angry my replies seemed to be I was, in fact, in fits of laughter when replying. I was only really angry once in all this time and that was at someone who commented on my last column.
I know this seems a strange way to arrange my final column with the thank you and goodbyes first but I wanted to get them out of the way before I threw my final conversational hand grenade into the room and departed. I will not be returning to read the comments left or the debate that may or may not rage based on this piece because the moment I have submitted this column, Your Thurrock will be part of my past and I only want to look toward the future.
Feel free to read my personal blog any time at http://valen1971.blogspot.com
Blogpost: The I-Word
Whenever the subject of immigration comes up in any comments on my columns I have avoided it because I know it can create an environment in which racist views can be aired and race hatred encouraged but, for my last column, I am going to put my views on the subject out there. So here goes…
I grew up in the 1970s when we were a lot less cognisant of how racist some of our language was and therefore, occasionally and usually in anger, some of those comments may slip out against my better judgement and totally in opposition to my feelings on the matter and the subject of immigration can sometimes bring those deeply buried snippets of language to the surface. That said, the same is true of anyone in the UK – racist thoughts, no matter how abhorrent to our conscious minds, lurk in our subconscious mind as a kind of cultural genetic inheritance or race memory. We are not alone in this respect as every country has its own version of this affliction and it can take very little to activate our hidden prejudices.
Although I have become fine with the idea of people from other countries coming to the UK to build a better life I do not like the amount of immigration that the UK gets. I never have and I never will. I do not hate foreigners or fear them but I do not like the fact that some countries see the UK as a bit of a soft touch.
The difference between me and my critics who have always goaded me with references to immigration is that I see the benefits that immigrants bring to the country as well. I also accept that there is some level of immigration that we have absolutely no control over as a State; I refer, of course, to the level of immigration we get from our partners in the European Union. We cannot stop immigrants from any of the EU member states because that is a condition of the agreement our Government signed when we joined the EU and the only way to stop that immigration is to either pull out of the EU altogether or try to have the agreement altered to allow upper immigration quotas.
As has been mentioned in a comment to one of my previous columns, the last Labour Government actually opened the floodgates to our EU partners two years before they were legally obliged to do and, quite frankly, they should be condemned for such an action but to keep harping on about that matter of history is pointless as, being an historical fact, it cannot be changed now. The floodgates were opened two years before they should have been – get over it!
As I mentioned earlier, one way of stemming the tide of immigrants coming from the EU member states would be to pull out of the EU and we certainly know that the residents of Thurrock certainly want a referendum on that issue but I hope they take into account the benefits of EU membership; indeed, I hope that if we get a referendum on our membership of the EU, we are given all the relevant information on which to base our decision and not leave it up to the isolated subject of immigration.
Where we may be able to impose some targets is on the subject of non-EU immigration. I am a wholehearted supporter of imposing a points system or financial restriction on entry to the UK as many other countries have. If you have enough points based on your need to relocate (asylum-seekers, etc), the ability to financially support themselves and their family or the ability to fill a gap in our skills and/or employment gap, then come on over and you’ll be welcomed in. If you fail to get enough points then sorry, the UK is not your final destination.
All that said though, immigrants do add a benefit to our society. They give us a glimpse of different cultures without having to travel, a boon if you cannot afford to travel abroad. Immigrants also bring with them new fashions, new cuisine, new ideas and new views of the world, seen through the eyes of those who have had vastly different experiences and environments.
The UK is seen as a vibrant and tolerant society by many, not just as a soft touch, and people come here to revel in that vibrancy. Some visit for a short time and leave, some wish to stay to be a part of one of the most exciting and tolerant countries in the world and is that really a bad thing?
It would be nice if immigrants did not ghettoise themselves so much and integrated a bit better but how would you react to being in a new country for the first time? You would seek out fellow immigrants from your homeland for support and, although the UK may be more tolerant than many other countries, there are still those who pose a threat to immigrants so banding together is a form of protection for them.
I understand the financial burden that mass immigration has on our country but to fixate on that would be wrong. I do not like people who have never paid into the UK coffers taking money out but there are some people who were born and raised in this country who do that too.
Let us not forget as well the history of the UK. I can probably safely say that not one person who considers themselves British born and bred who will not find some link to some form of immigrant. The UK has been invaded by the Romans, the Vikings and the French to name but a few and, although most of those people went home again, some stayed or left some genetic fingerprint that worked its way into the British people. A good example is my father who was diagnosed with a condition affecting his hands that only occurs in Norway so somewhere in my family tree I have a Viking forebear – how strange, how odd, how unexpected, and how wonderfully demonstrative of my point.
Our country sent people all over the world too – America, Australia, etc – so some people have their roots buried in the soil of this land. My estranged wife has forebears from the UK but was born and raised in Florida, USA so is, technically, an immigrant. She also has some Native American Cherokee forebears so, perhaps, I should have removed a limb or two to the percentage of Native American genetic inheritance she possesses before she came here to what are, in essence, her roots.
And let us take this further – scientists have traced the origins of mankind as a species to a location on the African continent so, in effect, aren’t we all immigrants to this country?
I rarely talk about immigration in private, let alone publically air my views on the subject because I know that deep within our cultural genetics and race memory lays the demon of racism. I don’t like to open the door to that particular monster because that way leads to intolerance, hatred and violence and I think that the human race is violent enough without adding to it.