The Rise of The Give A Shits

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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…

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The Other Side of the Story

Channel 4 NewsFrench Riot Police

I haven’t been able to get a photo but this is the link to the police firing tear gas, I was at the other end of this media portrayal.

 

The other side of the story:
Yesterday I went to Calais, just a quick very long day trip to take things needed and lend a hand.
Anything can happen in the Calais camp. Anything. You step foot inside those invisible, but much felt, walls and you step away from anything that was ever familiar and into a condensed version of the world that is currently going crazy.
I started my day with a visit to a beautful lady who, the last time I left, was just starting contractions. Those contractions are now a 3 week bundle of joy called Rosy. Heaven only knows what life has in store for her. It’s not looking too good at the moment in a damp, leaking caravan with no heating and surrounded by squalor.
I popped to the library and perused the shelves for a book on Organic Chemistry. A man from Eritrea, keen to keep reading what he has studied back at home, spoke enthusiastically about chemistry, plants and also about the chemical compounds of tear gas and the ways in which it harms its unfortunate recipients. Miraculously we found exactly the book that he was looking for.
Out on the main drag, I felt a tug on my sleeve and a very poorly looking young man rasps ‘Doctor’, he is clearly racked with fever and we set off in search of a doctor. Thwarted by the usual doctor hotspots we go further afield but he is struggling to walk and is wheezing pretty badly so with determination in my step, I told him that we would go to a centre at the end of the camp. As we walked through the crowds we heard a commotion, someone had been knocked down on the motorway and people anxiously try and reach him. There was a level of shouting and panic and people started running towards us and, I realise, we are quickly being enveloped in a thick fog. By the time I work out what it is my eyes and skin are on fire. Tear gas. I thought of all the chemical compounds that I had so very recently learnt about and the harm that it does. Actually, it is very aptly named as tears were quickly streaming down my face and it felt as though I was breathing in fire. I grabbed poor sickly man and ducked into the nearest makeshift building. When I open my eyes I am greeted by some shifty looking men and sickly man looks as though he has now descended into his own personal hell. One man starts blowing cigarette smoke into my eyes. It helps apparently.
We were nowhere near the motorway and the so called riot that was shown on the news and is so often shown in the media. There was no way that throwing tear gas into the bit of camp that we were in would be in any way a safety precaution by the police. A bit of fun on their part? Sadly, this happens far too frequently for that to be a myth. Recently, police were throwing tear gas into the family field. Children, babies who were asleep were awoken to the same toxic fire that I felt yesterday although for children and babies it must be a great deal worse.
I try really really hard to see every point of view. Police have families to keep, they have a job to do etc etc but that is just brutal. I don’t know if they have to try these things out before inflicting tear gas on the world but if they did and they then still chuck these things about for fun then the only words I have for them are not printable. Yesterday I saw injuries of rubber bullets fired at will at young men. These police are robots, vicious ones.
The people in the camp are desperate, the conditions are dire and winter is setting in. The stalemate that continues between France and the UK shows no sign of shifting and these people continue to live in conditions that defy belief.
The only answer that Britain and France can come up with is tear gas and rubber bullets.