Flexible Labour

However. I said I think there actually is a genuine grievance lurking behind all this rage and alienation we’re hearing about. I don’t know, I’m only guessing, but it’s my suspicion that this grievance is less bogus and worked-up than the ones that are more usually rolled out are. I don’t see this one mentioned much, if at all. Because – ? Because it’s too sensitive, too close to the bone, too uncomfortable to talk about? Maybe – but I don’t know.

Muslims in the UK are the underclass, and that’s why they’re there. They were recruited to move to the UK for that reason – to provide cheap (meaning unskilled, uneducated) labour. Just as Turks were in Germany, and Mexicans in the US. It’s not that Clement Attlee and his cabinet decided in the late forties that Britain was too pasty-white and monocultural and wouldn’t it be a great thing to be more diverse. No. One might be forgiven for thinking so, to hear people drivel about diversity now, but in fact that was not the reason. There was what is always called a ‘labour shortage,’ meaning a shortage of people willing to work for low wages, after WW II, and a surplus on the subcontinent, so a demographic re-arrangement was made. Not a terrible solution in some ways; both sides benefit; but it shouldn’t be prettied up as a way to make London more right-on and cosmopolitan, because that’s not what it was. Still less was it a way to make Bradford and Leeds more diverse.

That’s not necessarily a great source of pride. It can be – because in fact it takes a lot of courage and ambition to make such a move, and children and grandchildren of impoverished immigrants often do derive pride from that history. (Read Carl Sagan on his grandfather at the beginning of Pale Blue Dot, for example. ‘My grandfather was a beast of burden.’ It’s quite moving.) But that depends on a lot of factors, and the truth is that it can also be a considerable narcissistic wound.

David Goodhart touched on this a week after the 7th.

First, the relatively poor socioeconomic position of most British Muslims has little to do with Islamophobia or racism and a great deal to do with the fact that nearly two-thirds of British Muslims come from Pakistan and Bangladesh, often from these countries’ poor, rural areas. (Indian and Arab Muslims do better.) The starting point in terms of education, skills and traditional cultural attitudes is worse for most Muslims than it is for, say, the Hindu or Chinese minorities, both of which outperform white Britons. To expect Muslims to rise to the average level in terms of education and jobs within a generation or two is not realistic, although progress is being made.

That’s just it. The starting point in education and skills is the point, because it’s not an accident, it’s not something that just happened – it’s integral to the cheap labour aspect. This is the dirty little secret (at least, if it’s not, I don’t know why it doesn’t get mentioned more) of the economic imperative.

I have no idea whatever if this has anything to do with the bombings or bombers, but with the generalized alienation of Muslim young men that we hear about, I suspect it does. It’s only a suspicion though.

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