Tuesday, 6 January 2015

The Christmas truce, witches, alien invasions and bloody Ukip...

...although not necessarily in that order.
German journalist Sigrun Rottman told the BBC that Pegida protesters were mixed but that the marches did include right-wing and racist groups.

She said it was important to note that Dresden, compared to other German cities, had very few immigrants, and even fewer Muslim residents.

This anticorrelation between the fear of migrants and the actual level of migration in an area shouldn't come as a surprise to us in Britain, where Ukip is doing best in areas with the fewest migrants.

Come to think of it, it shouldn't come as a surprise to people in either Britain or Germany, given the recent widespread commemorations of the the 1914 Christmas truce on the Western Front.

No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy and neither does any plan to demonise the designated bad guys, if 'contact' extends to include singing carols together, exchanging gifts and having the odd football game with people who aren't really that different from you and your mates.

Nigel Farage is said to enjoy battlefield tours of the Western Front ('he reserves his greatest enthusiasm for touring World War I battlefields, with a group of close friends who call themselves "Farage's Foragers"') and I'm guessing he must have been especially inspired by the no-nonsense way the respective generals were quick to crack down on such unseemly fraternisation with the enemy and to ensure that there would be no repeat of the Christmas 1914 truce to interfere with the serious job of forging iron morale and esprit de corps through shared hatred of a distant, faceless, subhuman enemy.

If people are most xenophobic where migrants are fewest, then it's pointless trying to appease Ukip and Europe's other anti-immigrant parties with ever-tougher border controls. The fact that a particular designated "threat" is tiny to the point of being almost non-existent doesn't necessarily stop those with a vested interest in "saving" the rest of us - witness the masterly way the security services have managed to maintain and possibly increase their influence on decision makers, not to mention their intrusive surveillance of populations, despite the shrinkage of the national security threat from a superpower confrontation where one wrong move could have resulted in global nuclear annihilation, to controlling a loose group of discontents who pose approximately the same level of existential threat to UK society as angry bees.

It's not the first time in history we've seen this sort of crazy political homoeopathy, with the potency of hatred increasing in inverse proportion to the actual numbers of those being hated:
Since there were few Jews in Spain before 1936 there was hardly a “Jewish problem.” However, Spanish anti-Semitism without Jews was not about real Jews but was an abstract construction of a perceived international threat. 
And what about the witch crazes of the early modern period? The shaking up of a complacent establishment by a self-appointed Witchfinder General, unafraid of confronting the witch threat with tough measures, such as waterboarding and sleep deprivation, probably helped to address people's genuine concerns about being attacked by old women with non-existent supernatural powers. But even when the fear of witches was at its highest, the number of genuine witches was precisely zero.

The idea of confronting such an entirely non-existent threat made me think of an "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" sort of scenario. There was an old episode of The Outer Limits in which a group of idealistic scientists decided to save squabbling humanity from destroying itself by staging a fake alien invasion of Earth, in an effort to unite the peoples of the world against a perceived, common enemy. My bright idea for the day is to declare war on that wretched hive of scum and villainy, Gliese 832 c, whose inhabitants keep on coming over here, stealing our jobs and benefits. It makes at least as much sense as some other political programmes that many important people seem to take quite seriously and can count on the backing of at least one well-known economist, so I reckon this plan has legs ... or maybe tentacles ...