The French police – whipped into their biennial quasi-martial law fervour after weeks of beating up plumbers and train conductors in yellow fluorescent jackets – stepped-up their efforts to remove several refugee camps on the Haud-de-France coastline this week. The result of this was over 200 wretched souls attempting to cross one of the world’s biggest cargo ship channels to reach England in what can barely be described as anything more than a child’s beach raft. Naturally, many failed.
The rabid right-wing British press – days after defending’s Queen Elizabeth II’s Marie Antoinette ‘Let Them Eat Cake’ moment when she delivered a speech about gritty perseverance and societal self-flagellation for the common good in front of a golden piano – were indignant to how these entitled chancers believed there could be anything on these shores for them. How could these Syrians and Iraqis, after two decades of neo-conservative US-British policies aimed at bombing their countries into shaping-up and adopting Western values, think they can just come here and adopt Western values in the land of golden pianos and honey?
These refugees broke the golden rule: you have to respect the superiority of the US-British empire, but outside the US-British empire. They are searching for the beating heart of an empty abstraction that is used to justify commercial wars in their own countries. It simply doesn’t exist.
The Home Secretary Sajid Javid entered into solving the coastguard-refugee paradox that has dogged Mediterranean countries in recent years: treating humans with human decency ultimately acts as an incentive for more migrants, whom are unaccustomed to human decency, to arrive. The only conservative approach involves violating half the articles of the Geneva Convention, which is inevitably what is decided upon, but is dressed-up in a veneer of officialdom and bureaucratic dullness that makes popping dinghies with babies on board as mundane as stamping passports.
‘It is feasible that, were we to put out additional craft, they might act as a magnet – encouraging people to make a perilous crossing’, Javid remarked. The problem is that under globalised free market capitalism, every policy is aimed at turning the country into a magnet, but for capital and the holders of it. Saudi mass-murderers and Texan oil barons get a chance to taste the golden piano, but everyone else must be met with a coastline paramilitary that look more like traffic wardens. The act of allowing people to drown must work as seamlessly as filling-in forms at the job centre in this soft nation of little old ladies and golden pianos. The only taste of the British dream that they have earned is our laser-guided missiles designed by BAE systems some 50 miles away from the coastline that they are aiming for.
As for the gold piano, it represented one of the rare moments in British history when the mythos of the House of Windsor and their blood-soaked, ill-gotten gains collided with the spiritual reality of the British public. The hyperreality of the spectacle we are living in crashed for a moment when austerity and gold juxtaposed in the same scene like a light falling off the stage at the theatre.
It lasted just a single moment, before we were back to the bloody refugees.