Today I saw a politician (Philip Hammond this time, but it could've been any of several) quoted as saying Britain "need[s] to continue to attract the brightest and the best from around the world to these shores" and I think that was just one time too many for me with that terrible phrase, best and brightest
I always and only ever hear in the context of a Labservative government reassuring the xenophobes (even when, like now, they have nothing to reassure us about; Britain is hemorrhaging citizens of countries that will remain in the EU for longer than the next year and a half and the Tories want to cut immigration to less than half of what business says the UK needs
I finally realized exactly what it is I so dislike about the phrase "best and brightest" -- apart from its obvious politician-speak and doesn't really mean anything. Beyond that, I just managed to articulate this morning that I think I hate it because it's evidence of something I am always complaining about: that immigrants are always talked about
, and never talked with
(much less listened to). That British media and politicians mostly talk about us as if we can't hear or read what they are saying.
As an immigrant, I hear this and think: What on
Earth makes the UK think it's so special it can only even tolerate those immigrants who are "brightest and best"?
But it's not speech directed at me. It's directed at British people who are wary of accepting any immigrants, it's not challenging them on that xenophobia but just saying, however grudgingly, that we need a few
immigrants, lads, but don't worry, we'll make sure they're only the good
kind. The best.
What it sounds like from the outside is that Britain is telling all the other countries in the world: Don't even
think about sending us anything less than your
best and brightest!
But it isn't, and it wasn't even before Brexit, doing anything to convince the rest of the world that it deserves
the cream of their crops. Indeed, it's doing everything in its power to persuade other countries that it doesn't deserve or even really want their brightest or best: even before Brexit we outside the EU have suffered a lot, as any of my readers surely are sick of hearing about by now.
Still British politicians talk like the world is a labour force to be tapped if necessary. I am not the most informed person to be drawing comparisons between Brexit and the British Empire as often as I do, but I can't help think that mentality is at play here. There's this idea that the rest of the world is composed of resources that Britain can take advantage of as often as necessary and to whatever extent is necessary. This went for natural resources all over the world, but also human
resources: people. Post-World War II, when Britain needed more workers, its colonies, especially the West Indies, were called on to provide them. Britain still hasn't learned the lessons about racism and exploitation that this and other such history could have taught it, and I swear this has contributed to the casual idea that Britain can get exactly
as many immigrants as it needs and not one more, from exactly
the places it wants them, at any given time.
As if the rest of the time, these black and brown people, these people who speak with derided accents, are patiently waiting in case they can be of service. Dutifully sending their brightest and best people out of their own countries, just as they had to send their food even when it left them with none, send their gold even when it left them poor, send everything bright and good to Britain.