Sunday, July 24, 2005

Absolutely Fascinating

Via Joe90 in the Pub Philosopher's comments, a link to a review of race relations in Bradford, written in 2001 (months before the major rioting) by the chap who was Race Relations Officer from 1984-1990.

As Joe90 says "very informative and doesn't pull any punches. It's neither bigoted nor 'right-on'."

I shall probably expand this post when I've digested the document. Here's just a sad snippet, illustrating the British cultural collapse which was happening (not coincidentally) as the early immigrants arrived.

There are three other areas for concern. They cannot be definitely proven but there are growing indications that they are real. They are the desire for Muslim only areas, the change in attitude from immigrant to colonist and the apparent collapse of family control over their young men.

Not all Muslims in Bradford want Muslim only areas. Traders, retailers, restaurant owners want and need a broad-based custom profile. However, there is a drive amongst the mosque-attending older generation who would like sharia areas. There is also the minority of highly disaffected young men who want to control their patches. These two opposite ends of the spectrum desire the same thing albeit for different reasons and it is likely that they will support each other in order to attain their goals.

The second issue relates to the first. It is less easy to pinpoint but evidenced by ways of life. The first generation of immigrants from Pakistan and Bangladesh came here as "immigrants". They came expecting and wanting to integrate to some extent into the existing community. The collection of photographs taken of the first generation by the photographic studio in Manningham Lane illustrates this. The first week’s wages went on a Burtons suit and the men proudly displayed watches, pens and radios, mostly supplied by the photographer.

Immigrants come to a country expecting to change their lifestyles. They can and often do maintain key elements of their culture for generations, particularly their religion, but in many ways they adopt the dominant culture in such aspects as work, dress, leisure, housing and family composition. Colonists do not, they come into a country to displace the existing culture and establish their own. Colonists impose their language and customs. Once these facets are established, further incomers become immigrants accepting the society they enter.

From colonist to immigrant is the dominant pattern historically, however, this process seems to be thrown into reverse in Bradford. The Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities now expect to recreate the environment of their country of origin. They have settled in village patterns which reflect their origins and they constantly reinforce this by bringing in new members from the country of origin. This, in turn, leads to spatial and social immobility, communities which are internalised on themselves and are relatively self-sufficient in social and cultural terms although reliant in many ways on the economic and government resourced infrastructure.

This internalised focus does not, however, bode well for future economic development of the community. Reliance on an internal economy is very restrictive, particularly when the community is poor and has little disposable income.

I feel for those guys, proudly wearing their Burton suits (perhaps made from cloth they had helped to weave in the Bradford mills) and watches, holding pens and radios. Like the Windrush generation, they came to partake in British culture - just as that the elite of that culture, aided by a host of suburban revolutionaries (mea maxima culpa) decided that British culture was essentially worthless, and embarked on the revolution which got us where we are today.

Given that, can you blame the elders for seeking to create the certainties of Mirpuri village life in Girlington or Great Horton ? What else is there ?

Not surprisingly, most young British-born Asians and West Indians would take no interest in the English culture being destroyed in front of them. What use is a culture despised by its own people ? There's an interesting parallel between the lives of young Afro-Caribbean and Muslim men (who don't get on in Bradford if shootings are anything to go by) - where the competing extremes are the gangsta lifestyle or the muzzein's call (though the parallel's not exact - the Christian Church is still strong in the respectable Afro-Caribbean community, as with the African).

You can see the loss of respect for British culture in the names of Jamaican or Trinidadian musicians. Back in the 1950s and 60s they took aristocratic names like Sir Lord Comic, Duke Reid, Sir Coxsone Dodd, Lord Brynner (whose 'Congo War' is unPC and very funny). By the 1970s the names were gangsters or spaghetti Western stars - Dennis Alcapone, Dillinger, Trinity, Clint Eastwood . Now the names are interchangeable with US rappers.

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