Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Divide and rule

Any form you fill in these days, whether it be a job application or a survey on your bin collection, there will be a section asking you to tick a box describing your 'ethnicity'. As time has passed this section has grown. At one time, perhaps - I forget, there was three categories. Now there are 15 or more, but still no guarantee any one of them will apply to you. With one such document before me, I asked a work colleague recently; "you're born and raised here, you're mother's English, but your father's Irish. So which box do you tick? 'White - British,' 'White - Irish', 'White - Other', or 'Mixed - Other'?". She was puzzled, and confessed she didn't know. I reassured her that there was no correct answer. And indeed there isn't. There's no scientifically-agreed definition of 'ethnicity', or at least if there is, no one's bothered to communicate it to the masses. Many confuse it with nationality - something by contrast with a legal definition - and when asked to tender their nationality will write 'Black British' or 'White British', as if these are two distinct countries. Maybe they know something I don't.

In the past, and perhaps this will not change, this colleague of mine would have ticked 'White - British' and not thought too much about it. But if 'White - Irish' is a different category entirely, and the monitoring of such things is so evidently important, it is her duty to desist, or else skew the data. Another colleague of mine is South African and has been brought up to consider himself 'coloured'. I have explained to him that that is not an acceptable term, but I'm not sure he understands. Further (re)education may be necessary.

Notwithstanding the professed laudable goals of this obsession with categorising people by race, ethnicity and/or bloodline, it sparks sinister memories; Nazi racial purity laws to ferret out Jewish forebears, or slave-era charts to sort the quadroons from the octroons, down to the 64th part. If this issue of ethnicity is so important, doesn't that mean the BNP have a point?

Indeed they do, but only within the twisted pseudo-logic of multiculturalism. For what are the BNP doing, but turning the rulebook back on its authors, proclaiming their rights as a distinct ethnic group, an indigenous people no less, demanding their seat at the table of group identity politics, this in sum being the logical progression from multiculturalism and the perverse and divisive incentives that it engenders. This leaves the liberals for a moment flustered, because it is their own logic they are confronted with. Flustered, but not for long, they can quickly fall back to name-calling: racist, fascist, nazi, fascist, racist. But will their mojo still work, now that they, the mainstream political, media establishment, are so discredited with the public?

Probably it will. Because even though they, Labour, Tory, LibDem, Guardian, Times, are despised and rightly so, people still won't go along with nasty Nick in great numbers. What is needed to overthrow the establishment, is a broad coalition, and the BNP is a symptom of the 'divide and rule' malaise that keeps them where they are (above us, laughing), not its antidote.

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