Gazing bleakly out of the window Ted’s attention wasn’t held by anything in particular; his thoughts were elsewhere. The tetchy figure hunched forward as he tried to understand why he recalled an incident that occurred in apartheid South Africa. A demonstration by Africans calling for equality with Europeans had been viciously broken up by squads of Black policemen led by White police officers. Younger then, he had passionately opposed South Africa separate development society where it was said coloureds suffered second-class status. No one spoke for them.
Protests against Botha’s regime fizzled out thanks to sanctions and support of government and media. South Africa’s ethnic separation laws, similar to India’s caste system, were dismantled.
Now mature, Ted thought back to an incident that occurred earlier that day. Whilst shopping, his attention had been caught by an untidy column of protestors making their way towards the English town’s High Street. The marchers on this occasion were young, poorly dressed and mostly unemployed ethnic Whites. There was hunger in their faces and defiance in their eyes. Their banners too demanded equality and an end to their being voiceless. ‘England’s dispossessed’ he thought bitterly to himself. ‘No one speaks for them.’
The minutes passed and then the sound of a disturbance turned his head once more. As anti-Fascists attacked the working class protestors the air was filled with oaths and screams. An Asian Police Superintendent instructed the mostly White police officers as they waded into the activists and laid about them. “All are equal, some are more equal than others,” Ted murmured as he quoted George Orwell from the novel 1984.
During his previous day’s visit to the post office Ted had cashed his claimant’s cheque. It wasn’t much but it would help to get him and his wife, Helen, through Christmas. As he and others queued to collect their state benefit, for which they had contributed all their working lives, noticeable was another line of people. For them there was a separate window from which a clerk handed out wads of banknotes to swarthy strangers. A man of Middle Eastern appearance waved his scrunch of banknotes at those waiting to pay their TV licence and utility bills. “Thank you, England,” he called out. “You work. We will pick up your wages.”
“Why doesn’t someone hit him,” an elderly lady complained.
A young man standing ahead of Ted grunted. “Lady, you go to prison for assault; the sentence is doubled if the person assaulted is not British. That is what they call ‘a race hate crime and these claimants are a protected species.” Ted conceded that this was indeed the law.
His daughter, whose route to work meant her running a gauntlet of derisive Asian youths, was constantly on the receiving end of sexual taunts. No one speaks for her. She and her family lived in Blackburn. Each time he visited Ted would call in at the cathedral. There he stood in silence with his head bowed in honour of the war dead. Ted’s thoughts were always broken by the staccato sounds of Urdu chatter coming through the church’s open windows. He could not of course protest; there were laws against such criticism.
White anti-immigration activists were routinely fined and imprisoned for alleged ‘race hatred’ offences. This included the publication of leaflets critical of government’s immigration policies. Yet, bizarrely, the most extreme expressions of anti-White bile were tolerated. Such hate-filled literature was often paid for by government agencies.
Ted scratched his balding head. Many media adverts depict Asians and Africans as happy, fulfilled, prosperous and responsible. He was yet to see a coloured actor playing the part of a cheating claimant, mugger or rapist. Such sordid characters were always played by ethnic Europeans. The police had an Asian Police Officers Association, those of African ethnicity similar. There was Black Awareness Day but suggestion of a White Pride Day resulted in a storm of abuse from malignant journalists. Nothing made sense anymore.
It must have been like this in apartheid South Africa. Where then was the White Nelson Mandela to campaign on behalf of Europeans? Sure, Whites had their champions too. They were parodied, hounded, mocked, fined and gaoled. The same journalists who once celebrated Africa’s tireless campaigner for African equality went ballistic at the mere suggestion of White equality.
Helen earlier that day had visited the town’s claimant office. Of the ten people in attendance Ted’s wife was the only ethnic European. “What is the extra phone for,” she politely enquired of the clerk who had two telephones on his desk.
Smiling, he explained it was a hotline to a translation service. “If, for instance, an Iraqi or Afghan comes to my desk I call and they translate for me so I can complete the claims procedure.”
“You’re serious? How much does that cost?”
“I am asking.”
“As soon as I call the number £40 (€55 or $60) is deducted from the council’s purse.”
“And the cost per minute?”
“Best you don’t know, Mrs Robinson.”
Ted’s gaze was unblinking as he continued his reveries. His son’s child was one of only eight local children in her class; the other thirty or so could hardly speak English. His son and his wife Nikki worked hard to keep themselves yet couldn’t afford double-glazing to help with the heating bills. The ‘outsiders’, as he called them, wanted for nothing. A phone call and the appropriate tradesmen were despatched to sort out the problem.
His second son was in the Army. Their unit had recently been deployed to the Middle East and were pleased about that. Their barracks in Germany were frugal and the heating non-existent. As soon as their unit and that of a German company departed the builders moved in. The austere barracks were modernised and heating installed to make comfortable refugees who, as a consequence of NATO’s wars, were fleeing the Middle East.
Being of Irish background Ted had once Googled ‘Irish jokes’. Had the term Jamaican or Imran replaced the terms Irish and Paddy this readily available grossly offensive ‘humour’ would have resulted in a court appearance. It was okay to insult the Irish or Germans but one must always treat non-Europeans in deferential terms. To Ted nothing seemed fair; why couldn’t ethnic Britons be treated as equals? Perhaps I should call my friends who campaigned so vociferously on behalf of dispossessed Africans. It worked then, it might work for ethnic Europeans too.
WRITER’S NOTE: There is nothing fictional in this story. Every event and incident is drawn from real life and is a vignette of Britain and Europe today.