Aug. 1st, 2017

hollymath: (Default)
Of course I'm well familiar with the phrase "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in." But I'm not sure I knew it was from a Robert Frost poem, and I know I didn't know the next line.

Until I read it yesterday, quoted at the beginning of this, which is about a new book of EU citizens' voices in the UK post-Brexit. The article is about various philosophical approaches to "home." It starts with this quite, and then the next line of the poem, "Death of the Hired Man," which goes:

"I should have called it / Something you somehow haven’t to deserve."

And it's even better than that; the poem is a couple arguing with each other. A farmer told his old hired man that last season was the end of it, that "If he left then, I said, that ended it."
What good is he? Who else will harbor him
At his age for the little he can do?
What help he is there’s no depending on.
Off he goes always when I need him most.
He thinks he ought to earn a little pay,
Enough at least to buy tobacco with,
Mary has met her husband at the door to say that she found the old hired man, sleeping up against their barn.
A miserable sight, and frightening, too—
You needn’t smile—I didn’t recognize him—
I wasn’t looking for him—and he’s changed.
‘Warren,’ she said, ‘he has come home to die:
You needn’t be afraid he’ll leave you this time.’
And this is where Warren says home is where they have to take you in, and Mary says "I should have called it / Something you somehow haven’t to deserve."

Or, to make the language slightly more modern, I would call home something you don't have to deserve.

I talk a lot about what a problem "deserve" is. I really hate that kind of language. It's almost exclusively used against poor people, disabled people, immigrants. This is what's indicated by "Oh, I don't mean you": that is a judgement, declaring that I deserve what others don't. I'm "not one of those" scroungers or fakers. Blindness is a disability people think they understand and mine happened at birth so it wasn't my fault. I'm white, I too only speak English, and I'm from a country the UK approves of.

The old hired man doesn't deserve this home. He can't work any more, the farmer can't afford to pay him. He has a rich brother not far away. Why not go there? And yet, here he is.

It's what we're saying to the citizens of other EU countries in the UK right now: you have countries that have to take you in; why not go there?

But just as with Silas the hired man, going back to where some people feel they "ought" to be, to their country of origin — “back home”, as if there are duplicate jobs and houses waiting for them — is not an option for many people. It presents personal tragedies for those people who have limited options: EU citizens without the money to make an international move, with disabilities, living on the NHS, or being old and frail.

There's a lot more to the article, which I might go into more later, but I think this is enough for now!


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