It’s good to be popular...but bad to be populist
I AM writing this at Heathrow
Airport. Terminal 3 to be precise.
I have just been through exhaustive security checks and everyone screening me has been, on face value anyway, a foreigner.
The fact that I am also foreign, by accent if not DNA, adds to the irony.
I am on my way to South Africa, where I will again be considered a foreigner, even though I lived there for 40 years.
So … what is the purpose of this waffle? It’s this: I now understand why there’s so much hype in the media about ‘populist’ parties being on the rise in Europe.
I have a problem with the word populist. It means something bad, something evil.
It doesn’t mean popular, which was the original intention of the word.
If you are popular you are possibly good looking, funny, and people like to be around you.
But if you are populist, you are sleazy, catering to the lowest common denominator.
Well, that’s what the ruling elite would have us believe. Popular is what they are; populist is what the unwashed masses are.
It’s just not … well, washing anymore.
Italy, one of the most loved and least militant nations in Europe, has just voted overwhelmingly for what the hipsters call the ‘populists’.
Before them, the Austrians did. To a lesser extent, the Germans also did, which sent shock waves throughout Europe.
If Angela Merkel, leader of the most guilt-riddled people in Europe could be given a black eye by so-called reactionaries, then all bets are off the table.
The reason is mass immigration. In Italy, street anger against the European Union’s open door policy is peaking.
Management and I saw this firsthand when we spent a week in the Chianti Valley of Tuscany and were given a personalised tour of an olive farm with orchard after orchard of short, muscular and magnificent trees studding the hills.
The woman taking us around the estate looked like Claudia Cardinale’s cousin — but maybe that’s just me being a male populist pig.
Surprisingly, the olives weren’t the most pressing issue on her mind.
After a short demo on de-oiling the fruit, which her family had done the same way for generations, she reverted to what was truly concerning her; the so-called refugees flooding into her country.
‘We don’t want to be impolite,’ she said, ‘but we cannot give them hospitality here. We don’t have the money.’
Two years later, long after we had drizzled her produce over salads back home in England, Italy had a general election.
The results were, by hipster standards, exceedingly impolite. The Italians basically said ‘b….r off’.
Is this wrong? I have my doubts, but then I am not a hipster.
I think Claudia Cardinale’s cousin was largely correct.
Many of the foreigners flooding into countries already straining at the seams are, unfortunately, impolite.
Instead of being thankful for the hospitality they are shown, they molest local woman, they demand accommodation and cash handouts unattainable to locals and they often make it clear they despise the indigenous race. They have no desire to assimilate. Okay, you say. The Europeans are pointing fingers. But how much do whites assimilate with blacks in Africa?
Much more than people think. If you don’t believe me, spend an hour talking to a white African, then to a Yorkshireman.
The culture is vastly different. I would go further and say most white Africans have far more in common with black Africans than they do with Europeans.
In Europe the floodgates are open. The masses may not yet be storming the Bastille, but they certainly are storming the border posts.
Whether that is good or bad, as I have often said, could be a fascinating debate.
Yet even to start it triggers the accusation, ‘You are a racist …’
I do believe in a brave new world. But what I have a problem with is that those screaming for it may not have any idea what it means.
Even worse, they may live to regret it.
‘Be careful of what you wish,’ may be truer than they think.
It will take the courageous realists to truly hammer it out.
London Letter Graham Spence