Under the capitalist system, in order that England may live in comparative comfort, a hundred million Indians must live on the verge of starvation – an evil state of affairs, but you acquiesce in it every time you step into a taxi or eat a plate of strawberries and cream. The alternative is to throw the Empire overboard and reduce England to a cold and unimportant little island where we should all have to work very hard and live mainly on herrings and potatoes.
From George Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier (1937)
I woke to a cold November morning, forcing myself from my warm cocoon. Ahead of me – a Saturday of C Words discussions around climate justice and racism.
My radio burbled in the galley as I readied myself for the day ahead. Justin Webb interviewed the Immigration Minister Phil Woolas who was keen to defend the government against accusations that it was or ever had been acquiescent on immigration. He argued that new immigration controls were “starting to bite” and that Britain’s border control regime was “the envy of the industrialised world”.
After the sports news, the same theme was picked up in another discussion, this time on the continuing war in Afghanistan. The interviewee, Paul Lever, chairman of the Royal United Services Institute argued that “Better control of our borders and immigration” would be infinitely more effective in defeating terrorism in British towns and cities than any number of British troops in Helmand.
What was missing from these discussions was any exploration of the factors which might drive desperate individuals to leave behind homes and families and risk their lives to enter Britain in search of sanctuary, in search of opportunities which, whose of us fortunate enough to hold an EU passport take for granted.
In the majority world there are few who fail to understand the link between environmental exploitation and their own oppression. C Words explores this link through commissions from African Writers Abroad (AWA) and Virtual Migrants, as well as through PLATFORM’s Remember Saro-Wiwa project (RSW). C Words seeks to avert a future where climate refugees clamour in vain at sealed borders.
This weekend saw poetry workshops and performance, live music in the gallery and discussions exploring one of the C Words questions: what might the world look like in 25 years time? African Writers Abroad chose the theme – Embracing TABOO (There Are Billions Of Options) – while Remember Saro-Wiwa framed Sunday’s discussions – No Condition is Permanent. Both discussions focussed on change. Change is inevitable, governments, oil multinationals and other elites – largely white – largely male, are doubtless planning for 2034 and beyond. We each have a responsibility to play a part in shaping that future, lest we should be presented with a future which is already being fashioned for us in the board-rooms of the industrialised world.
C Words Co-Realizer