I have just returned again from another spell in Calais. It might feel repetitive to keep hearing about the same old same old but the same old same old is still happening underneath our noses.
Once again, much as it is heartbreaking to hear the many stories that bring people to that belly of hell and see the appalling conditions in which people now find themselves, it is also heartening to be amongst people who are taking time out of their lives and trying to do something about it. There is a groundswell of people rising up to take action and voice their opinions and, as I have said many times, there can be no action from the top if there is no roar from the bottom. I have been amazed at the tales that have brought people to Calais, to Dunkirk, to Greece, to camps all over the world, feeding people walking along the road, donating, sorting, doing fundraising, speaking out at events. Each and every person, obviously, has a different tale to tell. Every person has different circumstances and abilities that points them in different directions of aid. There is one thread of commonality though that runs through everyone’s story and that is that they give a shit. This gives me hope when it can be very hard to hang on to hope.
Many volunteers have differing opinions on immigration but that is put aside as people work together to try and do what they can to feed and clothe people at a time when they are unable to do so for themselves. There is nothing that can convince me that this is the wrong thing to do. That is a human reaction to what has now become an humanitarian crisis. I believe that anyone who has the opinion that a person should fester in the squalor that is Calais, and the many other camps, only has that opinion because it is fuelled and backed up by the fear that the media and government is ramming down our necks. If you actually took away the entire narrative of race, religion, prejudice etc etc then basically you have a person who is suffering immense hardship and a person who is able to do something, however small, about it. I would like to hope that most people if they saw a child lying by the side of the road would stop and try and do something about it. This is the same thing but with loads and loads of children lying by the side of the road. Most people, if they did not stop to think about the complicated and twisted narrative of how that child came to be there, would stop and help that child. It’s that simple, it’s human nature to try and help.
People who are helping are being ‘branded’ as leftys, lovey doveys, terrorist lovers and all sorts of other inane names, but basically they help because they give a shit. People who give a shit are generally normal people who get on with their lives, do not particularly rant on about anything until there is something to give a shit about. Then they are strong and united and it is this strength and unity that the authorities most fear. There is something very unmovable about people who give a shit because you cannot take away that belief, it is bereft of the complicated narrative that surrounds politics. It is not the easy route. I had a brief moment last week when I thought that maybe it is the right thing to start bombing everyone. I was tired. Tired of caring, tired of trying to find solutions when it feels like I’m nailing jelly to the wall, tired of hearing tragic stories that are happening in my name. Just really really tired and for a split second I just allowed myself to believe that bombing was the right thing to happen. It was such a massive relief and I got a brief glimpse into how much simpler it would be to believe all of the hype that is fed to us. I was almost jealous of people who believe that it is the right thing to do. I felt a tinge of envy towards people who have a hatred towards people different from themselves. It feels as though life must be a lot simpler that way but it is wrong.
I have just had a message from a dear person volunteering in Greece. Several more people have drowned and children are amongst them, trying to make the short boat journey from Turkey to Greece, fleeing war and trying to find safety. How can that be right? She will be attending their funerals to support the surviving members of the families. If anyone has fears of terrorism then those fears will still be there because it certainly wasn’t those little babies drowning in the sea who pose a threat to the world. It wasn’t the young lad I met the other evening who arrived in the camp having walked from Afghanistan and described his terror at hiding from the Taliban. It wasn’t 4 week old baby Rosy now lying in hospital with another chest infection because she lives in a damp, leaking caravan. It wasn’t any of these children whose faces haunt me with their beautiful big questioning eyes. It might be some people who are making their way across Europe. It might be someone claiming asylum in your town. It might be the leaders of the countries. It might be the leader of our country. We don’t know. We can’t know. But while people buy into this terror then little people are dying. Families and young men are living in conditions that nobody, absolutely nobody, should be living in. Police are given free rein to chuck tear gas at sleeping families. People traffickers are having a field day and lining their pockets. Children are being bought and sold and exploited across the world. Arms dealers are rubbing their hands in glee.
It’s only ever going to be the normal, everyday person who comes off worse in all of this and we have to give a shit about them because, basically, that’s all of us. There is nothing that separates us and in the blink of an eye we could find ourselves in the same situation. Who would you want to meet if you were in trouble? Mr Cameron and Co. or someone who actually gives a shit…