Dave's Progress. Chapter 59: Fear and Loathing in Stoke-on-Trent.

This time I was going to write about one of my other interests; politics. I was going to do this because, of late, there seems to have been a worrying amount of interest payed to my local area by various extreme right-wing groups. Both the BNP (British National Party) and the EDL (English Defence League) have recently come to Stoke-on-Trent either to demonstrate, in the EDL's case supposedly against Islamic extremism, or to simply make their presence felt, as in the case of the BNP, whose leader Nick Griffin recently came to Stoke with his suitably yob-looking entourage.
So, why Stoke? Well, it would seem, that despite the efforts of many to warn us against such groups, some, and I would emphasise that it is only some, of the people of Stoke-on-Trent are actually listening to and voting for such groups. Now with, I think, seven local councilors, the BNP are actually finding some support here and have obviously targeted our area as a place which may be tolerant of their extreme views. But those of us who know better, know where the true heart of such groups lie. Despite their ostensibly acceptable face of the disgruntled Brit who is hard done by and sick of a world where, to him, political correctness hides unfairness against the white majority, many of us know that this facade simply hides their virulent racism and hatred and even, as a recent "Observer" article attested, admiration of Adolf Hitler (which is about as truly anti-British as you can be).
However, it would seem that the rise in popularity of such groups in Stoke-on-Trent and indeed, other areas, is not without cause. With the decline in industry, evident since the Thatcher era, many feel as if the traditional employment role of the white working-classes has been eroded. In Stoke, this is apparent in the decline of the pottery industry. That which was once the economic life-blood of the area now seems to have become just a fond memory. As a seeming consequence of this decline, Stoke-on-Trent has become one of the most economically and socially deprived areas of the country, with high rates of unemployment, teenage pregnancy and illness. In such an environment, it is perhaps easy for the BNP and groups like them to exploit resultant feelings of despair and frustration and turn them into a veritable fear and loathing of other cultures and immigrants. Questions begin to be asked- why do immigrants seemingly get such a good deal when we are left to flounder? If money is so tight, why doesn't the government look after its own first instead of the immigrants? Why should we bend over backwards to accommodate these people because of political correctness? What happened to Britain? My Britain? And so on and so forth. To my mind, then, this support for the BNP is borne out of a growing sense of frustration at a perceived unfairness in the system, rather than any inherent racism. Nevertheless, such groups can exploit these feelings and there is, of course, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to add further tension to the situation, and which led Martin Amis to suggest that multi-culturalism, in this country, has only ever been a "polite fiction".
So it was that only a short time ago, when the EDL came to harangue against Islamic extremism, our city centre, Hanley, was turned into a battleground full of angry, violent protesters. Several policemen were injured and groups of anti-fascist protesters also turned up in opposition to the EDL. The resulting scenes were unpleasant to say the least.
However, I do have faith in the people of Stoke. And in response to all this our local paper, "The Sentinel", ran several articles stating that the presence of the EDL was not welcome in our city. The overwhelming response by the public on the letters pages was of the same ilk. Indeed, many felt that the presence of the EDL that day had come from outside our city, with few actually from Stoke-on-Trent taking part. Muslim leaders, also, came out to roundly condemn the actions of the EDL. Indeed, as if in riposte to Amis and others like him, we do, in Stoke-on-Trent, live in a multi-cultural city fairly peaceably together. This is a simple reality, not a polite fiction.
And it would seem that the people of Stoke-on-Trent have always been a fairly tolerant bunch, who have faced their adversities with wit and wisdom, rather than violence. As if demonstrating this, one of the placards at the protest read, "Oatcakes, Not Racism" (for those of you who don't know, oatcakes are a local delicacy). So, fear and loathing may have visited Stoke, but it was only for one short afternoon and then, it seemed, it ran, scuttling back, thankfully, to where it came from.
That's all for now from your normal, average, paranoid and delusional man.


dcrelief said…
Dear David,
Your article may be polictical, yet it is the essence of these things that can trigger a mental health issue, for some.
The situation there sounds very familiar to what is happening all over the states. As people are discouraged to research, their choices lose power.
I appreciate the details of your article. It clarifies what is true in Britain, aiding my own ponderings of my home. Thank you.
Kind wishes,
David said…
Dear Dixie,
Thanks for your comment. I thought I would write about this as it is a bit worrying when such groups begin to target your own area as a potential vote giver. We have quite a large Asian/Muslim community in Stoke and it is not exactly conducive to good relations if such groups as the BNP are here to whip up trouble. So, as my post suggests, I truly hope that they have "gone back to wher they came from".
With Very Best Wishes and hoping you are well,
klahanie said…
Dear David,
An excellent posting and I whole-heartily agree with you on your thoughts regarding the ugly, ignorant face of bigotry and racism.
Let us hope that this tiny minority crawl back under the rock from whence they came.
I am a firm believer of a multi-cultural society. I have lived in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, Vancouver, and I went to school and worked with, people of all faiths and races. I believe that generally speaking, the positive interaction that we shared, has made me a better, more enlightened person.
Something, the extreme right-wing groups, with their agenda of hatred, could learn from. If they were only so inclined.
I see Stoke-on-Trent as a kind and tolerant place. This sick minority will never prevail.
Thanks for this posting, David.
With respect and kindness, Gary.
David said…
Dear Gary,
Thanks for airing your own views on the subject and I wholeheartedly agree that such small-mindedness has no place in a tolerant, multi-cultural society. Maybe the "wee folks" could teach them a thing or two!
Yours with, as ever, very Best Wishes,

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