One Day Without Us Edinburgh: A Celebration of Migrants and Standing up to Xenophobia
Concerned with some of the messages which I have encountered recently which are xenophobic and racist I found myself going along to the event staged on the mound to see and hear other people who felt strongly about some of the nasty rhetoric which is on the rise. I suspect it is connected with the insecurities which people are feeling in the general day to day lives of so many who live financially precarious existences and are also confronted with such a lot of media which is frankly poisonous.
It was a surprise getting a message from the Meetup team concerned about the their getting an “executive order to block people on the basis of nationality and religion” from joining the famous social network site which was designed to get people out of their houses and meeting up.
I went along to the 1 Day Without Us meetup event and recorded some of the music and the talks which were being given on the issues around the new immigration laws which are being introduced in the UK. You can listen to that in the podcast above
The company was started in New York City in 2002 by Scott Heiferman and Matt Meeker to help people in New York City connect with strangers in their community after the attacks of September 11 in 2001 had traumatised everyone. It was a vision to use digital technology to foster real life relationships that broke down unhealthy barriers; silos which create othering in communities from which tension and conflict arise.
President Donald Trump signed Executive Order 13769 on January 27, 2017, which focuses on visa issuance, screening standards, and refugee admittance. Formally titled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorists Entry Into the United States”, the order placed a 90-day temporary ban on immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of peoples from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.
This executive order seems to have politicised not only tech companies such as Meetup, but also others in the American economy. The reaction which Meetup have taken was to create 1,000 #Resist meetup groups, and then to email its 30 million members to tell them about them. The #Resist groups are meant to support those who are invested in the ideas of “democracy, equality, human rights, social justice, and sustainability”.
This is where I found out about 1 Day Without Us. As an active member of the Meetup in Edinburgh it is where I find out what is going on in the community. One Day Without Us was started as a reaction in the UK to the racism and cultural alienation which is on the rise, particularly after the Brexit referendum had given life to a black politics of blame and demonisation.
Newspapers, politicians, and media were complicit in scandalising the migrant population as the source of woes – an unhappy ghost which is used alongside all sorts of othering which we are seeing as well (such as those receiving benefits). The scape goats which are reached for in a high anxiety society are any groups which can be easily painted as the outsiders.
The scarcity of money and resources, the scarcity of good health and education – these are perceived to have been taken from people’s plates by something or someone, and the trickster can exploit this fear to drive wedge votes. As we give a green card to companies based in offshore secrecy jurisdictions (such as Top Shop) the line of reasoning which is peddled is that they need to give tax breaks so that they will stay. It seems like the international characters like Philip Green get to do what they like at the expense of many who get employed, exploited and then dumped.
The call of 1 Day Without Us was to provide a counter narrative to the false ‘us versus them’ picture that is being painted. When people are being actively marginalised and human rights are being eroded like the climate and environment, the real life experiences of those who are affected are too often missed out in the media and dialogues.
A national day of action was brought together to celebrate the diaspora – the people who carry culture, learning, and community from one place into another – creating new futures, new wealth. I personally was pleased to see this having been very concerned about the occasional person who has expressed Islamophobic views or creepy ideas about ‘outsiders’ conspiring to come and steal all the food from our plates.
it is too easy to invent the boogyman in the image of the things and peoples we have no knowledge of (or refuse to have knowledge of). For example, the old drone you can find winched out in dank corners of the occasional Scottish bar saying that all woes are borne of the English is so tired, particularly when it only takes a little applied effort to read history books and understand that there was and is skullduggery on both sides throughout history.
What concerns me is the closing of doors to the world and then being subject to our own in-house tyrannies brought about through the fear that has whipped up a dark tempest. I certainly want to know more people and discover more of my world. Part of my way of discovering more of the world is the use of citizen journalism to encounter, record, think and share. I see this as a means to develop my capabilities in terms of being a richer, fuller person more competent at seeing the world as it is rather than the world as I would like it to be, or fear it is.
In the face of worrying signs in worrying times, the best thing I can do is not to turn away but to actively engage and think about what part I have to play in the world which immediately surrounds me. So far my fears have been overturned by witnessing an overwhelming good in most of people; but this has only happened through getting the chance to interact with them. We confirm our fears by acting out our confirmation biases and prejudices.
I would like to find more ways of stepping outside of my cultural demographic; life is incredibly dull and boring otherwise. If you have any ideas on how I can do this please leave a comment or get in touch…
by Alex Dunedin