From the Otherhood

”الآخر“

بقلم إيزابيل روس لوبيز

تدور القصة حول العلاقة بين سيدتين تعيشان معاً في إنكلترا. طبيعة التحامل عليهما من خلال محادثاتهما معاً ومع أصدقاءهما لا سيّما بعد قرار خروج إنكلترا من الدول الأوربية وآثاره عليهما. يتنقل الحوار بين بطلتي الرواية حيث تتبادلان الآراء وبحذر عن الحياة والشؤون السياسية العالمية حتى يصل إلى الخوف بازدياد الصراعات. تُحاك المحادثات  بالأفكارِ وانعكاساتها حول الوضع الراهن والعداء الناجم عن تلك السياسة. ومع هذا فالقصة تُبدي بعض الأمل إذ يقودها تخيّلها إلى إنهاء احتكار المفهوم النسوي 

Isabel Ros López

If you could see them you would notice that Carla and Mara were always talking, exchanging views, feeding on each other’s interests, curiosity, ideas and opinions, at home, on the streets, on public transport… always communicating, learning, searching for answers to the upside-down world they witnessed.

That had to stop outdoors and in some public spaces, they would look at each other and around them, over the shoulders. Switching languages did not help, their accents a declaration of otherness. The hostility was palpable, heads turning, eyes fixed on them, saying what are you doing here? You’re not one of us… Go back to where you come from!

Carla wondered who us was… the ones who were not we, whoever we happened to be. 

On Monday, an employee of public transport tried to stop Mara from entering the station, she was waving Carla off to work. They tried to explain that she was not travelling, just waving off at the platform, which was not gated. The man said he might listen if they could speak in English. Carla turned in fury and said “I can speak better English than you, you are being racist and xenophobic besides rude”. He could not care less. Carla called Mara on her mobile, thankfully she was out of the station already. Carla had feared what this man could do to her, he could try to fine her and if she objected, he might even call the police. You never know, she though. Events like this were regular, ongoing, in shops, cafes, the street, public transport. It had never been safe, but it was getting markedly worse.

Having supper with friends the following night, a conversation about Brexit developed. Since the referendum the rise in racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism became staggering. Immigration was at the centre of the debates. People fleeing prosecution or poverty or both had to be stopped. Injustice did not have to be stopped, austerity and violence against women, racism and child abuse, rampant avarice, individualism and legal robbery did not have to be stopped, but the minuscule numbers of refugees getting into Europe, by any comparison to those getting to countries neighbouring war, they had to be stopped. Somehow the most disempowered had become the most dangerous enemies and the demonising took hold. Just like the demonising of disabled people took hold.

—How did this happen? — asked Juliana.

—It was happening already, but whatever shame there was has been vanishing— said Mara, explaining how the campaign to leave was full of false propaganda against migrants and refugees. Farage’s shameful posters showing an immense queue of people with the words “Breaking Point”. The BBC giving ‘Question Time’ air to a man whose party did not have a single MP, inciting racial hatred and being invited again and again instead of being arrested for defamation and poisoning the minds of audiences. May’s buses asking people to “Go Back”. How these appalling behaviours and words by public figures gave permission to sectors of the population to be more blatantly abusive against others. 

But it did not start with the referendum campaign —thought Carla— or the conservative and coalition governments, although it has got much worse since they got into power. That fire existed before and it had been growing on a disturbing crescendo with some politicians adding wood to the hate flames, instead of educating the UK population about how exactly the country became the fifth most powerful nation in the world, through the impoverishment of others, through colonialism, neo-colonialism, through the refusal to acknowledge past and present plunder. Carla burst:

—Europe has unlearning difficulties. It’s intentional, a planned curriculum of chosen historical illiteracy, that’s what it is. Many people think that their country is richer because they are cleverer.

—I know— said Tani— neo-liberal governments invented “bogus refugees” and created “asylum seekers”. They made refugees disappear and embedded these new terms into public consciousness.

—Yes —added Carla— we need to get better at growing a consciousness of decoloniality.

—Say a bit more —said Janah—

—Well, in 2004 Gordon Brown confirmed on a visit to Tanzania that it was time for the UK to stop apologising about the British empire. That really helped educate the British public… Not! On the contrary, it promoted and encouraged an ignorance that fuelled the fires lit by the extreme right with endless hay.

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