Calais’s burning – and so is our sanity

Following the news these days makes one feel not so much like a viewer or reader as a psychiatrist, trying to come to grips with a pandemic of madness.

What’s going on in Calais proves that, while paradise on earth is unachievable, hell on earth isn’t. All it takes is British home and foreign policy to come together with French labour relations, and there you have it – a creditable reproduction of hell, complete with clouds of black smoke.

The smoke comes from the tyre fires started by disgruntled French union members, but people from all sorts of downmarket countries also do their best to enhance the image. They throw themselves into and under lorries and cars, attach themselves to a train’s undercarriage and get crushed to death, charge into clouds of tear gas.

When they deign to speak to journalistic vultures circling around Calais, they prove they’re ready to become modern Brits. They may not quite walk the walk, but they certainly talk the talk.

“We know our rights!” they scream, and among those rights is the one involving residency in Britain. I hate to disappoint our African friends, but no such right exists.

What does exist is the modern tendency, going back to the pernicious American and French revolutions, to confuse wishes with rights. To be fair, this fallacy is strictly of Western provenance, but the Africans seem to have absorbed it thoroughly, doubtless in preparation for their exodus.

Forgetting about bogus rights for a second, the numbers don’t add up either. It’s fair to assume that at least half of the world’s seven billion inhabitants would rather live in Britain than in their own native hellholes.

Even if we round the number down to three billion, it’s clear that our small island can’t accommodate them all. There has to be a limit, even though Ed Miliband didn’t think so when asked just before the general election.

Both the limit and the criteria for admission have to be set by HMG, which still retains this prerogative in relation to Africans – even though it has criminally relinquished it in relation to Europeans.

Our government has not only the right but indeed the duty to turn back in any numbers those it doesn’t wish to admit. How it does so is irrelevant. There’s only one requirement for any method of expulsion: that it works.

Instead even those who break through our flimsy cordon illegally are treated as welcomed guests. They are put up at hotels, given three meals a day and some walking-around cash – all at the taxpayer’s expense.

Perhaps, and it’s a very remote possibility, HMG spivs are feeling pangs of conscience, for their own policy is responsible for much of this blazing inferno.

A dozen years ago, immediately after Tony ‘Yo’ Blair joined the foolhardy American foray into the Middle East, I was trying to explain how ill-advised that was to one of Britain’s leading neoconservatives.

“We feel,” he said, his ‘we’ referring mostly to American neocons to whom he was tied by a tighter bond than to any properly British group, “that it’s still a good idea to poke the hornet’s nest.”

Well, the nest has been poked and the hornets are flying all over Calais and Kent, threatening to sting Britain out of existence. Our social fabric, already threadbare thanks to decades of inept spivocracy, provides a highly insecure protective net.

I hope my neocon friend, who has since our conversation embarked on a glittering journalistic career, is happy. Judging by his current output, he isn’t, but then neither does he feel any remorse. Neocons on either side of the ocean seem to be impervious to such humble feelings.

The Calais hell is but one symptom of the madness pandemic. Another is the public response to two major tragedies: the alliterative deaths of Cecil and Cilla.

My understanding is that Cilla Black was some kind of entertainer, who, according to Sky TV, “deeply touched us all”. Well, she didn’t touch me, deeply or otherwise, for the simple reason that, though I had heard the name, I didn’t have a precise idea of who she was.

Since I’ve only lived in England for less than 30 years, I’m keenly aware of my limitations in the knowledge of the lore. Hence I asked my wife, English born and bred, whether she could fill the gaps in my ethnographic education. She couldn’t. “Some sort of entertainer,” she explained, but then I already knew that.

Don’t get me wrong: unlike Cecil, Cilla was human, which is why her death at a statistically premature age of 72 is no doubt a tragedy to her family, friends and fans. But it falls far short of being the international disaster and irreplaceable loss to mankind it’s depicted to be in the media.

Then of course she was that cultural fulcrum of modernity, a Celebrity (capitalisation always implied). Being human isn’t an ironclad requirement for this status, as proved by Cecil the Lion, shot dead by some trigger-happy American dentist.

I’ve seen a picture on the net of Cecil tearing an antelope apart limb from limb. The picture shocked me: there I was, thinking that Cecil was a cuddly, thoroughly anthropomorphised kitten, the best pet a man could wish for. Turns out he was a savage beast devoid of the free will it takes to live down his DNA.

Apparently Cecil was shot illegally, which sort of thing ought to be punished and discouraged. But making him one of the top news items for a week is as reliable a symptom of collective mental illness as one can think of.

One gets the impression that we live in a lunatic asylum that isn’t run by anybody, not even by its inmates. It’s sheer deranged anarchy, with normal life going up in the black smoke of Calais.







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