More British? A Reply to MP Blunket Secretary of Education [Archives:2002/02/Culture]

January 7 2002

Adam Taha
United Kingdom
My coffee went cold and I was far too busy staring at the images that had been shaped by the misty clouds that the cold breeze had left on the caf window panes. Echoes became clearer and loud as I began to hear men shouting at their flock of sheep and goats that passed by. I heard some laugher of old men as they filled their carriages with food to the market- place. My imagination took me past some women collecting wood and I heard the laughter of children as one of them stared at the clouds that flew by, while their imagination painted castles in the sky. I heard the sound of donkeys hooves as I began to see the clear sky more clearly as I witnessed its being painted from colors of the ocean.
I began to feel I was there, back home in Yemen but reality kicked in as the waitress in this Italian caf asked if I wanted another drink. I declined and paid for my cold coffee and walked out into the streets of England, and saw the world, which surrounded me. A world where so much is nothing but a design to make anyone think you dont have time to think but work to pay for mortgages, for that new car, for that new dress or that new look the women have seen in a glossy magazine. Is this what I have travelled so far to see and live in? Is this what the young tourists long ago talked to me about when I was in Yemen but I couldnt understand their language? Is this why my parents left the land of Solomon and Queen Sheba for?
As the cold air bit my face and dug deeper into my chest I stared at the large buildings I never really took interest in before. Buildings disfigured like mountains and the many cars drove by people who were always impatient and always in a hurry. I saw the white, black and brown faces that glided by and I saw no smiles but that expression that their life is empty, without purpose, nothing but work to pay for another loan, another car or another bill. I can see no sunset but black smoke from the industrial buildings and the sound of steel hammering far away. I cannot hear birds but constant hooting of rushing cars horns. I have not seen the sunrise or sunset for the many years I have been in England.
Only illusions caress the sky as buildings after buildings are continually built for newbusinesses that try to touch the sky. I cannot feel the fresh air but the pollution from cars and nuclear sites. I cannot feel anything real at all. Everything is but a product, a number and a name to sell or a name to be forgotten as a business is under new management. I see no love but lovers quarreling. I wouldnt be surprised if a week ago they spoke of their dying love. What do they know about real love or commitment? Marriage is slowly becoming a rude word or a word far too much to ask for. It is also something so easily to say and its vows so easily promised as the years pass by.
The words of MP, Blunket – Secretary of Education begin to roam my mind as he commented that immigrants must learn English so they become more British, and laws might have to be set so that you must learn English if anyone come to live in England. I began to laugh inside at the thought when he forgot to mention how many British work overseas in Yemen, Abu Dubia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait but dont call themselves Arab citizens. Learning English so we become British? Hasnt it been enough that Yemenis left the country and came to a so-called promise land, a country that promised them they would be able to build castles as their homes back in Yemen and that very promise was broken? Wasnt it enough that our fathers and mothers suffered the harshest from racism, no promotion because steel companies didnt take the initiative to give our parents time to learn English? Isnt it enough that many of our elders suffer Asthma and deafness because health risk was not an issue for the Steel companies, and some even lost parts of their bodies due to accidents? They just got them busy working as they tamed the fire day in and day out, year in and year out; making and building Britain as many of our elders opened business in every city, as they joined the navy, as they toiled and sweated to make England what it is now. Wasnt all this enough to prove that they were more British than the British themselves because it took courage to leave their homes to come to a world so strange and a world that isolated them for many years?
I look at everything I am a part of and the many things I am not so part; a world, a life of competition.
Competing with wealth, men, women, children and everything that is sacred. An ongoing rage that is embossed bysome superficial race to see who can get the new number plate first, or that bigger home in a plusher area. I would close my eyes and imagine the future,where people would be too busy working at home like cattle for companies. No time for families, no time to know one another, no time to appreciate each others culture and no time even for God. Soon, this world will be like a ghost town as many hurry to clock in within their homes to connect onto the network computers to start their shifts as I walk within the deserted streets alone and watch the imaginary stars that have long gone because humanity have learnt to die instead of learning to live. Through seeing all this as I walk I know one thing that has made the Yemenis in England strong. Something magical, something we the next generation have learnt from them and they have taught us well. It is that powerful thing that will go further than any animal species, any technological improvement and man made concept. The Yemenis have learnt to adapt. We have learnt to integrate, learnt a new language, educated ourselves to become doctors, lawyers, teachers that teach English and anything else no matter how sophisticated it maybe. We have excelled within just a short time we have been here and become entrepreneurs, leaders in business and most of all; we have become leaders within the language of politics and the English Language. British? We have become more than British.
What we have is real and does not hide within the illusions of tall buildings, flags that are painted with the Union Jack or the next number plate of your 2002 car, or even the slogan of being British. If the Education Secretary MP Blunket wants to learn the reality of it all it then he will learn that we can teach them something.learning to adapt and still, at the same time holding onto the things that are real; our families, our values, our promises and most of all our identity as human beings. And this can be forgotten within the hustle and bustle of a world filled with many illusions and that is why we are a tight community. The Yemenis have come from the other end of the world and its not asking much for Blunket or any British community to knock on the door of our community. Why wont they? Maybe its the British thing but I suppose this Britishness has made this Island, which was once called Great Britain is now called Britain, and their slow decision to join the Euro is nothing but an example of that pride but pride comes always before a fall. Doesnt it Blunket?!