My Experience on Alienation ~ رأيٌّ عن الغربة

تجربة بنلونبي مكلاكن عن الغربة

تصف الكاتبة الغربة بأنّها المشاعر حين لا يحترمك الغير وتعطي أمثلة عنها من خلال عملها بالتّرجمة الفوريّة في لونار هاوس في كرويدن/ لندن التّابع لوزارة الخارجيّة إذ غالباً ما يَعُدُّ الموظّفون اللّاجئين كاذبين أو ذوي شبهة حتّى حين يُسألون عن أسمائهم فيكتب الموظّف “يدّعي” أنّه فلان غير عابئ بمقولة: “بريء حتّى تثبت الإدانة”! وتخصّ بالذّكرالسّجناء من اللّاجئين الّذين لا يُعرَف لهم مصير.
ترجع الكاتبة بعد ذلك إلى الوراء آلاف السّنين، تقتبس قصصاً من التّاريخ والإنجيل وتستشهد بآدم وحواء حين أخرجهما الله من جنّات عَدْن ليكون هذا أوّل نفي للإنسان.ثمّ نفى الله قابيل بعد قتل أخيه ليتشرّد وحيداً في أقاصي الأرض. وهو- كغيره من المغتربين- معزول تماماً.
تعود بعدها للوضع الرّاهن وعزلة كوفيد ١٩ فتطرح مثالاً لما يحدث في انكلترا من خسارة العمالة والوظائف والخوف والرّعب النّاجمَين عن الدّعم الماليّ القلِق لسلطة لا تعي أهميّته ، فضلاً عن النّظام الطّبقيّ. فأصحاب الأعمال التجارية الصغيرة -مثلاً- وجدوا أنفسهم في المستوى الثّالث يواجهون الظّلم والتّعسّف، وكأنّ الحكومة تظنّ أنّ مساهماتهم المالية ليست ذات قيمة.وأخيراً تعرّج على خروج انكلترا من مجموعة الدول الأوربية بركزت (BREXIT) ومدى إحساس أولئك الّذين صوّتوا على البقاء فيها بالعطل والتّجاهل، وتلك غربة أخرى.

Penelope Maclachlan

SYNOPSIS:

The author gives examples of alienation, which she describes as the feeling that others have no respect for you. One example is from her time as an interpreter at Lunar House in Croydon. Officers who interviewed asylum seekers seemed often to regard them as liars and objects of suspicion. When they gave their names, officers would write these on a form, prefixed with “claims to be”. This seems to flout the principle “Innocent until proved guilty”.

She touches on the plight asylum seekers incarcerated in detention centres, who don’t know when or if they will ever be released,

The author then goes back thousands of years to reflect on legends, and on stories in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. Adam and Eve were alienated from God when he expelled them from the Garden of Eden. God’s punishment to Cain for murdering his brother, Abel,  was to be sent roaming, isolated, to distant lands. Like all alienated people, he is a very solitary figure.

The author then returns to modern times and to the effect on us in England of the Covid-19 restrictions: loss of employment, the frightening and demeaning experience of trying to secure financial help  from apparently uninterested authorities, and the tier system. Small business owners who find themselves in Tier 3 feel this is arbitrary and unjust. It is as if the government thinks their needs, as well as their hitherto contributions to the economy, do not count.

Finally, she mentions Brexit, and the feeling that those who voted to remain in the EU may feel overridden and ignored – that is, alienated.

***

When I worked as an interpreter at Lunar House, Croydon, I regularly heard immigration officers ask for an interviewee’s name, and then write on the form “claims to be”. This seems to flout “innocent until proved guilty”. Right from the start, asylum seekers were presumed to be liars. The most vulnerable of them may have felt their very identity was in question, and perhaps eventually, in the recesses of their psyche, wondered if they really were who they thought they were. The more resilient asylum seekers tried to protest, but it was difficult to argue with disgruntled, overworked immigration officers.
Convicted criminals have rights, but it seems that some asylum seekers, against whom there is no evidence of crime, have none. They are human beings, but in some environments – when they face their first interview after arriving in the UK, for example – they are treated like objects, and undesirable objects at that.
Heaven help those who are locked up in detention centres. Those places are prisons, but “bona fide” prisoners know if they are in for life, or if release one day will or may be possible. Asylum seekers in detention nation centres have no such reassurance. They have a choice: to stay there until and unless someone decides to let them out, or go back where they came from – to face torture, perhaps, or death threats.
The strongest characters must feel unhappy – and if they are angry they have every right to be – at such demeaning treatment. Respect is non-negotiable: everyone is entitled to it. The effect of relentless disrespect and hostility from officials must be depressing and, sooner or later, damaging to mental health.
Bone-pointing, the practice (as among Australian Aborigines) of condemning someone to death by pointing a sharpened bone that has been enchanted with a curse at the person whose death is desired, probably had a similar effect on the victim: depression, apparent proof that nobody loves you, and alienation ‒ loss of identity. We need to feel we belong, as a tree needs to be firmly rooted, or it will topple and decay.
Some religions teach that there was a time when we lived in harmony with others, until there was a disruption. In the Old Testament of the Christian Bible, there is the story of Adam and Eve. God gave them the Garden of Eden, and all they had to do in return was to refrain from eating fruit from the tree of knowledge. They wanted for nothing and suffered no illness or pain until Satan, in the form of a serpent, whispered promises to Eve of the secrets she would learn if she ate the proffered apple. She ate some of it, persuaded Adam to do likewise, and for their disobedience they were cast out of the Garden of Eden. They then had to have children because they were now mortals, and if they died childless the human race would die with them. Outside the Garden of Eden the world was harsh. Thorns and thistles choked their gardens and fields. With sweat they toiled to eke out a living from the soil.  They had to carry it out because the alternative was starvation.
In the biblical Book of Genesis, Cain and Abel are the first two sons of Adam and Eve. Cain, the firstborn, was a farmer, and his brother Abel was a shepherd. The brothers made sacrifices to God, each of his own produce, but God favoured Abel’s sacrifice instead of Cain’s. Cain then murdered Abel. God punished Cain by condemning him to a life of wandering. He must have felt alienated. Legend has it that God put a mark on his forehead to brand him as a murderer, and to this day we talk of the “mark of Cain”, a symbol of ostracism.
Ancient though these accounts are, they resonate with modern times, especially what we have seen in 2020. When employees experience their work as something they are forced to do, and are unable to take any pleasure or pride in it, they are alienated from it. Sadly, many of us who have jobs dislike or even hate them, and only report for duty because unemployment is worse; it can lead to homelessness and hunger. The fate of those who lose their jobs is even worse; they must face bureaucracy and interrogation in the struggle to receive any financial help. The isolation and fear these unfortunates must feel is alienating. If they never return to an acceptable life with worthwhile work, they will gradually lose self-respect, and feel they are existing in a hostile world.
Covid-19 in some ways brought us together. Many people thought of friends and neighbours who were fragile or lived alone, and offered to fetch food and medication for them. On the other hand, the illness has caused disharmony and resentment. In the Tier system, some owners of small businesses in Tier 3 feel the government is too arbitrary in imposing restrictions, and apparently reluctant or unable to justify them satisfactorily. Such people, deprived temporarily or permanently of their livelihoods, must feel that, if their protests and requests for explanations are ignored, that they do not count as proper citizens. Helplessness, hopelessness and the apparent indifference of authority is dehumanising.
Some British citizens who voted to remain in Europe in the 2016 referendum may feel alienated. Even when we are on the brink of severing our ties with the European Union, we know little of what to expect: shortage of fresh fruit and vegetables, perhaps, because of delays and red tape at the borders. There is a joke about being treated like a mushroom: kept in the dark, left uninformed and fed a bunch of shit.
Adults are responsible for the example they set to children. We must recognise alienation for the evil that it is, and treat our fellow humans with respect.

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