Foreigners again. A day or two after the government suggested the lists of foreigners will be secret and I asked myself, where the hell do live now? As I see more and more articles, messages, tweets about ‘the foreigners’, it’s time to start resisting. Yes, by every linguistic tool available! But this blog will be about something apparently insignificant. A little gem of a profile of a tweep, whose tweet appeared in my timeline, and who is very unhappy with migrants:
Brexit MUST mean the end of free movement of EU immigrants. We do not need immigrants who exploit our naive tolerance and generosity for their own ends.
So little (or maybe: so much) said, so much to talk about. The stress on ‘must’, the use of ‘we’, the ‘ends’, you name it, it’s there. As this wonder of a profile also appears to describe me, why not find out what exactly I’ve been up to.
The first sentence is almost uninteresting, apart from Brexit which is defined by one issue. But I am sure it’s worth pointing out is that it’s also the British (or the English, actually, judging by the tweep’s handle) who are EU immigrants. Have you noticed it, incidentally? EU immigrants seem to be the people who come here, and never those who go over there. It’s almost as if the ‘our little England’ (as I have once been told) is the only destination of the horde, swarm, influx, flood, and whatever else the EU immigrants are, in order to exploit what’s to be exploited.
And so, as Brexit defends ‘us’, well, you, really, from me, perhaps it’s also worth remembering that it also ‘defends’ us from you. I, on balance, would prefer to you come to us and us to you, but there you are. That’s politics not linguistics. Still, if it MUST, it must. Why so invest in it will always be beyond my ken…
OK time for the second sentence and the ‘we’, occasionally dubbed the most manipulative pronoun. But let’s start from the beginning. When I use the word ‘we’ I refer to myself and at least one other. Things are very simple when I say “I saw Anna last night. We went to the cinema”. Easy. But who exactly does David Davis mean when he says: “We believe in this country in free trade.”? Does he mean the government? The Conservative party? Their voters? The British? The thing is that there is no answer to such a question and that’s the whole point!
And now we come to the linguistic gem I’ve been writing about here. Who exactly is the ‘we’ in
We do not need immigrants who exploit our naive tolerance and generosity for their own ends.?
Is it the tweep and his family? Or perhaps his friends? Or is it, really, the English? Every single English person in the south of the island? No? The ‘we’ allows the man to introduce this uncertainty and tell us that there is presumably a significant number (millions?) of the English who, just like him, do not want the (bloody) EU immigrants…That’s what ‘we’s are for. So ‘we’ can pretend there are more of ‘us’.
And now let’s ask the crucial question. What do EU immigrants do? It turns out that they exploit. Yes, all of them (probably, all the time). Obviously. But the real treat is what exactly they exploit. Well, they
exploit our naive tolerance and generosity.
But think how it is constructed. This one little clause sets such a wonderful opposition. We exploit – you are (naively) tolerant and generous. But, interestingly, the tweep doesn’t say: we are tolerant and generous. Oh no, that would be too easy and to ‘in your face.’ No, the generosity is put into a presupposition. In other words, the clause does not say the English are wonderful, it makes an assumption. And so, without the existence of ‘our naïve tolerance and generosity’ the sentence does not make sense. Then, after you accept the existence of this generosity, you infer that it means you are so generous. It’s quite cleverly done, it’s Ok (-ish).
There is more here, though. Why is generosity ‘naïve’? Because you become like children in the fog. Looking at the world with your eyes unspoilt by a negative thought! The English are simply innocent like children. Is there anything more abhorrent than exploiting a child? And all that for our own ends? And that is what we, EU immigrants, do. I don’t even want to consider what kind of ends they might be.
And so, the little profile offers you the horde coming to the English paradise, where people move in slow motion on the evergreen meadows. And if you could see us clearly, we actually have big scythes with which we will cut your beautiful grass (obviously we will use the grass for our ends). And so I become an EU reaper hell-bent to destroy you, my English enemies.
Is it all funny? You want to say, it is, don’t you? Well, I am not so certain. As another Pole was beaten up in England, I am way beyond being amused. And please do not be reassured by the apparent insignificance of this little profile. There is nothing insignificant about it. As it taps into the emerging ‘discourse’ of foreigners and also reinforces its growing fabric. What you see is the emergence of new rules of speaking, so to say. Now, you can say publicly that we, ‘the foreigners’, exploit the wonders of human beings that you, the English are.
I cannot help but wonder what else will be said about us, foreigners. Do we smell as well? Get drunk, eat with our mouths open and slurp our drinks? Or do we steal, rob, rape too? These questions have stopped being stupid, idiotic, exaggerated. They are also about the new rules of speaking.
I want express my gratitude to Alan Shirley. Thank you for your solidarity, Alan. I hope more and more will be ‘voluntary foreigners’.