postheadericon Kuire Ko Kura: On Aldershot and Integration


I was struck this morning by a BBC Youtube video my wife (Nepali) shared with me regarding Aldershot England, where Nepalese immigration has made headlines. The BBC show Inside Out began the spot with this:

"Nearly 3 years after Gorka families won the right to live in Britain, one army town (Aldershot) has problems. Someone is going to end up dead..."

The report is about troubled teens and racial tensions in the southwest suburb. It seems that Nepalese kids and "the whites" are not getting along, and that the tight knit Nepali community (now called Little Nepal) is sticking to themselves - enjoying dal bhat over fish & chips, wearing topi and in short, not playing nicely together. So concerned citizens (the whites) have organized a football match and a website, while the Nepalese have invited some of the natives over for curry.

The report struck me as odd and prophetic at the same time. Odd that Nepali kids would ever act rude and unruly (emulating local skinheads) and prophetic that football and food would be the "solution."

My inter-racial neighborhood growing up as a teen was a new housing development consisting of a single street in Poughkeepsie NY – two long rows of houses flanked Maryland Avenue, with a small open space at one end. At one end of the street where "The Greeks" and at the other end were "The Irish Catholics" and in the middle were "The Jews." Sprinkled amongst this mini-melting pot were the rest of us, just average Americans of no disconcernable background.

The open space at the end of the development was the place where all of us kids hung out: playing all the ball games during the proper seasons, and ice hockey during the winter when the grass was flooded to make a small rink. On the field, no matter what the game, we were just kids at play with all denominations included. The only singling out there was based on skill and nothing else, were you a looser or a hero?  However, I do remember that the fat Jewish kid got the lion's share of teasing during the games, but he could not catch a ball to save his life, so I suspect this was the real root of our "racism."

So what disturbed me the most about the BBC report on Aldershot's "life-threating" problems is that it seemed manufactured, with the end goal to produce a BBC spot for Inside Out.  The spot starts with an inflammatory and threatening tone, and ends with a "bring it all home" football match that is inclusive and concludes with Nepalese and Brit kids all shaking hands.

Perhaps these stories are needed in 2012, whereas in 1970 they were not. People of all races and backgrounds in both America and England just worked it out, despite government programs and without much media attention. (Well, there was the movie "To Sir With Love.) The dedication of both teachers and parents helped bridge any gulfs between the races.

It seemed a simple formula back in the day: racism was rooted in fear, and overcoming one's personal, as well as societal fears, was a process helped along by those older and wiser, and with hormones that had settled. After all, back then we all understood what Michael Moore says repeatedly today, fear is a tool of government control, and as a teen in the 1970's, none of us wanted to be controlled by anyone at all, let alone the government.  We inherently understood who the enemy was, and it was not the mixed lot of us, but the "man."

Our Civics teacher gave us the theory behind how we could all get along together, and our experiences outside of school was the training ground where that theory proved itself out. Also, my parents did not tolerate intolerance, and for those parents that did, my friends wisely rebelled.

But today, most states in America no longer have Civics classes that explain the difference between mob rule and libertarianism, and England must be following suit, considering that the mob now rules (see last year's London riots for handy examples). Instead, civics class has been combined (or obliterated) by national History classes and classes in Economics.

In the west, we no longer teach our children how to live together in civil society, but instead, we let them figure it all out on the battlefield - in the streets or on a ball court, and then later in the military or in the business world. And while this trend may disturb, I have faith in the next generations: even without proper civics education, the innate wisdom in which we are born with (tribes need other tribes to survive) will prevail. Anyway, let's hope for that...

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Jiggy Gaton
lives in Kathmandu and is an aging technologist - has been since the days of Woodstock - so in the words of Roland The Gunslinger "he is from a world now gone by." However, Jigs is extremely up-to-date on all things tech and is also available for hire.
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