A couple of days ago I woke up and quickly checked some of the daily headlines while having breakfast, as usual. The official Twitter account Leave.Eu has shared a news piece about an 85-year-old patient who died due to ‘dangerous overcrowding’ at the Northampton General Hospital — just to point out, a few lines below, that mass immigration was to blame. I instantly thought about the large number of European nurses and doctors that have helped the NHS stay strong throughout this cold winter.
As a graduate journalist and European resident in the UK, living in Northampton, I did not feel surprised at all. Neither did I feel offended. Instead, I was more convinced than ever before of the great power of digital manipulation and ‘click-bait’ information over fragile social elements.
This is how Brexit was achieved: campaigning on the digital platform, the NHS bus … It is nothing like an ordinary campaign where political personalities fight for media attention. This is life, it is our daily news and posts that now trivialise what was once serious public discourse. It is our fault too, we failed together. The destination where this path leads can be observed in the United States, and I guess nobody likes that kind of society. For me, a person quite interested in British history, European wars and culture in general, it is really difficult to understand how so many Britons, known for being passionate world travellers, adventurers, conquerors or tourists, could so easily forget what immigration has brought to their nation over the past decades. Unlike some other cases, it transformed the country into an even more developed economy and turned London into a global capital.
Britain was the first nation to give life to a public health service like the NHS after WW2, and to many other positive (and public) improvements. Britons seemed to be ahead of the rest, in being able to learn from the mistakes other societies were making in order to avoid them. Today, during a time when failed neo-liberalism and post-modern consumption seem to be claiming victory, conservative policies threatening the NHS are being downplayed under the guise of a national concern of the negative impact of immigrants — mainly on the poor and the elderly portions of the population that are at higher risk of exclusion. But this story is too familiar to go into details. As immigration is a natural phenomenon starting from the beginning of time, so are its social implications; and present ones have clear and familiar tendencies. One of them is that the vast majority of new migrants in the UK, and generally in the west, are young adults and children. And, young people do not usually get serious illnesses, if statistics and nature are to be believed.
What do young people do? Mainly, we work (sometimes too much) in foreign societies and we pay taxes just like locals. We still need to wait some more decades to see the first wave of European migrants become old in a foreign country. This has already happened for the millions of people from British ex-colonies such as India, fully British citizens today in every possible sense. We should remember, though, that they suffered from a similar symbiosis of discrimination and hate back in the ’60s and ’70s. Common sense has won the battle then because Britain chose to remain open. Can it win now when it is being forced to become closed? I think it can and it will; however, seeing so many people unable to differentiate war refugees from economic migrants or EU nations from other countries, does leave one hopeless at times.
At the end of the day, when I see Spanish media complain about a case of old British residents falsely claiming alimentary intoxication in order to get free treatment, I just start thinking about a polite way to reply to Leave.Eu’s tweet saying that there were probably very, very few migrants during Northampton Hospital’s dangerous overcrowding crisis that day. Since it looks like the popular motto ‘they are taking our jobs’ is working everywhere, I would like to ask the following of the reader: please, whether you like us or not, whether you know more or less about us than what the media says, do not make us feel afraid of falling sick too. We are helping you when you need it, more than you think. Let us do our job. That is why we are here. We help.