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Sunday 1 June 2014


‘Nosferatu lands on British shores’ is becoming a predictable headline to the UK’s irrational arguments on immigration. In the 1920’s, German society’s fears about eastern migrants were famously evoked on film through the vampire caricature of Nosferatu. The migrant perceived as a source of plague , someone who sucks people’s blood and brings terror to local communities, is now all too familiar. Today, primeval concerns against ‘otherness’ are played out through debates about the impact of migrants on British jobs and the welfare state.  However the political elite try to portray Ukip, the language of ‘swivel eyed loons’ carries far less potency than the image of the so-called ‘illegal immigrant’ stealing our jobs and national identity without being able to speak the Queen’s English. Ukip might look and sound a bit odd, but the Nosferatu they have conjured up into public consciousness is a far greater magnet for people’s loathing.
What we are seeing are the laws of Disadvantaged Thinking in full play: you remove someone’s humanity under a classification such as ‘immigrant’ or 'homeless'; you tag the stereotype with negative associations until they all become ‘illegal’ and 'feckless'; you narrow understanding of the issues at stake into a limited dialogue  that distorts reality; you invest time and resource disproportionately on controlling a problem that is part of a bigger issue you choose to ignore; you focus on the deficits you see rather than work on harnessing the potential assets to society; you apply a different set of values than those you would in your own personal life; and you don’t challenge yourself to question what your attitudes and behaviour add up to as a human being. Bingo. The Dis-feratu of Ukip and the Coalition Government; one blaming immigrants, the other young people.
Thus, we end up in a 'doublethink' position where, while people migrating from EU states pay more tax than they receive in benefit, and are less likely than UK nationals to claim out of work benefits, we accuse people from Eastern Europe of holding back the UK economy and swindling the system. Indeed, far from stealing our livelihoods, 17.2% of foreign nationals have set up businesses, creating 12% of current British jobs.  Similar disparities in belief and reality exist for young people tatooed by policy makers with the letters 'NEET'.  In both cases, the facts count for nothing against the images that populate our consciousness. Migrants are the new ‘disadvantaged youth’ of our cultural imagination – a bin to recycle our social challenges and failings into an enemy we can hold responsible.   Who cares that even the Governor of the Bank of England thinks capitalism needs to invest more in the social capital of others, when the creakings of the social contract can more easily be blamed on the refugees and yobs of our distorted imagination. We are a society in denial to its abuse of values.
There is something, though, positive about this: British Politics might just be beginning to wake up from its addiction to stereotypes and sound bites under the threat that it has lost the power to touch our soul more deeply than a xenophobic argument.  It is becoming hoist by its own media petard, and it knows it.  Reacting to the success of UKIP in the council elections, Overseas Development Minster Lynne Featherstone MP described to the BBC;All of us have got to the point where we are so guarded, so on-message that we seem to have started to lose our humanity and I think it’s a very human thing that’s happened.’ 
For some time, the status quo in the UK has been more about controlling society to cope with the perceived threat of negative forces, than creating a fairer, equitable world in which we can all thrive. Not used to galvanising people’s power to shape a positive future, our politicians don’t seem to know how to stop Nosferatu from stealing their shadowy soapbox.  If they, like us, can push back the stereotypes of Disadvantaged Thinking, and focus on the humanity of what we can do together, then we are all more likely to see the light of tomorrow’s dawn - where Nosferatu 'dis'-appears in a puff of smoke.

Shape the future in a night of Taking Advantaged Thinking Action at The Cockpit, Marylebone, on 6th August at 7.30pm. Tickets now on sale HERE

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