Now that Bulgarian and Romanian citizens are about to acquire the right to roam throughout the European Union, protectionists fear that hordes of them will board overnight buses to the U.K. where, as soon as the offices open, they will present themselves for social security handouts. Yes, the controversy over the pros and cons of immigration is in the news again. Do immigrants help to grow our economy and enrich the culture or do they drain our resources and exacerbate social division?
It is difficult to come to a rational conclusion on this question because, as with most evidence-based arguments, the "facts" are not verifiable unless you are an expert: you must take them on trust and, in this post-Snowden era, who can we trust? If you are unemployed and stuck on a council-house waiting list and see immigrants employed and housed before you it is understandable that you may take a negative view of the outcome, irrespective of rational argument.
But for most people the negative impact of immigration is less to do with tangible loss and more to do with nostalgia - a longing for something past. The Lincolnshire market town of Boston is an example of how an influx of foreign workers has changed the nature of a place in just 20 years. Some of the indigenous folk yearn for Boston to be the way it was before the immigrants arrived, but the realists among them could point out that Boston was not in a good way even then. Taking into account the Great Depression, World Wars 1 & 2 and rationing, you would need a misty-eyed return to the 1950's to see the place in its supposed heyday. Nostalgia is not all it's cracked up to be.
I discovered this when I decided on impulse to re-visit some of the music I had liked back in the early 1970s. I went along to a Band of Friends of Rory Gallagher gig (where, alongside the usual suspects, I was surprised to see quite a few people too young to have been fans first time around). The musicians were exceptionally talented and devoted to the spirit of the original material and, by the second set, they had the audience so enthused that even some of the grizzled old geezers were (sort of) dancing and/or playing air-guitar. Although I did not share their exuberance I stayed until the end, fascinated more by the audience and the technique of the performers than the music itself. What I had once found exciting now sounded repetitive and one-dimensional: a small dose of nostalgic indulgence, like a homeopathic medicine, had cured me of longing for the something past.
Rory Gallagher was inspired by the Blues, a non-native musical form and a well established example of benefit resulting from the cross-fertilisation of cultures. I'm sure there are others, high-brow and otherwise, but one of the most popular - and one which comes most readily to mind - is the availability of good foreign food. I have lately discovered a local takeaway that specialises in falafel and I made a point yesterday of going there. My favourite is the falafel wrap (medium) with salad and tahini sauce which, at £2.95, is not only good value but also proof that vegetarian food can be delicious.
Thank you, Mr. Falafel, for migrating to our country. Each time I buy a falafel wrap from you it reminds me of where and when I first fell in love with the delicacy: the remote Egyptian port of Taba where, after coming down from the ancient, mysterious monastery of St. Catherine, I had time to kill while waiting for the ferry to cross the biblical Red Sea to the exotic Jordanian port of Aqaba. On reflection, perhaps nostalgia is a recurrent, non-curable condition.