UEFA and FIFA are complacent but so are we….
So, Euro 2012 has finally kicked-off. However, away from the football however there is the nasty undercurrent of the racist abuse being hurled at all and sundry. It all started with a Panorama expose and has been very much in evidence with the recent treatment of the Dutch squad. UEFA and FIFA have been predictably inept when it comes to dealing with this issue, preferring instead to sweep it under the carpet. Official opinion decries this behaviour, committed as it is to the state ideology of anti-racism and similarly I suspect public opinion would support this condemnation. It would however be a complete misnomer to say that the antics of football fans in a far-away place are something we can feel smug and morally superior about.
Racism is, without a shadow of a doubt, still endemic in British society, it just doesn’t call itself by that name. No doubt people who express racist sentiment would deny they are even being racist and that is part of the reason condemnation falls so heavily on the heads of those who are more overtly prejudiced. It unsettles people and therefore they rush to distance themselves from it because it jars with the meme about what their behaviour should be. Events in Ukraine and Poland therefore act as a fairground mirror, they reflect people’s own attitudes back at them but in a manner that makes them feel unsettled.
If, however, you ask people’s attitudes on immigration, then you can scratch the harmonious surface and find something ugly underneath. In a fear driven reaction to a world that is globalising, and globalising rapidly, people slip back into the assumed security of their own pack identity. Immigrants are seen as feckless spongers determined to leech off of Britain’s alleged wealth. It simply doesn’t matter to people that the system doesn’t allow asylum seekers to ‘work and contribute’ as they feel they should do nor does the immense social wealth that immigrants contribute register on their radar. Forced to scrap over ever-diminishing resources, people turn on each other, false arguments about their being a supposed ‘tolerance point’ that our resources can barely cover become common currency and rather than changing the system to allow asylum seekers to work (and therefore contribute) straight away ridiculous quotas are floated.
This attitude is counterproductive. Rather than expand the opportunities for those born here, a crackdown on immigration is a stupefying act of economic self-harm, the case of foreign university students is instructive here. The Labour Party doesn’t do enough on this issue, rather than push for fact-driven policies, too many are inclined to at least rhetorically play along with this nonsense. We need to do more because we are not the tolerant, enlightened, society that we actually imagine we are and although we rightly condemn both UEFA and FIFA for their complacency we have to avoid the trap of being complacent ourselves.