The migrant crisis is continually being presented as a “problem” to which a “solution” is urgently required, some of which are becoming increasingly bizarre – such as the latest suggestion from Yvette Cooper of distributing 10 migrants per town, as if they were discrete entities that can be parcelled out.
This is to misrepresent the issue, which is not a “problem” needing a “solution” but a symptom of a new phase into which humanity is entering. This phase has already been given a name, the “anthropocene era”, in which humanity overwhelms the planet and, driven by environmental stress, habitat degradation, internecine strife and collapsing states, perhaps ultimately destroys itself. In this descent into chaos we are not talking tens or hundreds of thousands but tens and hundreds of millions of displaced people searching for survival.
Politicians and others are reluctant to acknowledge the key driver behind this transformation: population growth. Ordinary people are also complicit in the denial, often seeing large families as a natural right or divine blessing. This approach is no longer suitable to address the greatest crisis humanity has been challenged to face: itself.
The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary definition of migrant: “A person who moves from one place to another to find work or better living conditions.” The same dictionary’s definition of refugee: “A person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution or natural disaster.”
Will broadcasters, news editors and reporters please note and be more careful in their use of language?
Cautious science, optimistic religion
Careful, judicious, creative manipulation of the human genome is very likely to be agreed, and it can be a good thing (“Scientists: we may need to allow genetic modification of humans”, 2 September).
Some people of a more cautious bent will be slow to agree, others of a more optimistic outlook will be quick to agree. I am writing to pre-empt the tendency of journalism to locate religious people in the first group and call their reservations “religious”, and non-religious people in the second group and call their attitude “scientific”.
Wise science is cautious, and goes to great lengths to try to foresee unwelcome outcomes of policy; good religion resists fatalism and urges the creative shaping of the world for the better.
Professor of Physics
Clarendon Laboratory, Oxford
Corbyn says out loud what many think
Your view that the Labour Party election is flawed (editorial, 26 August) is at most only partly true.
I and others I know voted for Jeremy Corbyn with our eyes completely open; none of us is remotely “hard left”, and we accept any risks involved. I joined and voted simply because this election has provided a political voice that the national electoral system denied.
Corbyn is the only candidate who has had the courage to say out loud what many I know are thinking: this country desperately needs relief from the stranglehold of big business and in-hock politicians.
Seeking balance, I attended a meeting for one of the mainstream Labour candidates but was deeply disappointed by the limp performance and non-policies on offer. Nothing that will upset those vested interests; nothing to address the problems in public services; nothing bold enough to tackle the decline going on beneath the country’s glossy, retail surface.
I do not wish to live in a non-democracy that is run as a cash-cow for private business by a political class more concerned with power than representation. We need action on the environment and inequality – and we need public services that are run as such, rather than a quasi-private sector. I accept (somewhat) higher taxation to pay for this, provided that big business and the super-rich are pursued equally assiduously. These are not far-left values, simply those needed for a reasonably just and responsible society.
I J Stock
Labour must seek an alliance of the left
Labour stalwart Mike Sands (letter, 31 August) rebuffs the advances of the leader of the 1.2 million Green Party voters in 2015 who want a pact with Labour. He would, however, embrace a pact with the 1.5 million SNP voters who don’t want a pact.
If at the last election there had been a pact between Labour, the Greens and Lib Dems then the Conservatives would have lost 38 seats, reducing their number to 293. The pact parties would have shared 279 seats. Scotland is a socialist country and the SNP is a socialist party. Most of the Greens, some Lib Dems and many Labour MPs are also socialists; therefore it is possible that a socialist government could have been formed.
At the next election Labour will need to win 50 English seats from the Conservatives to become the largest party in the House; still 44 short of an overall majority. Surely the most important task of the new Labour leader will be to talk to other parties about the agenda for any incoming coalition. The agenda would need to address our undemocratic voting system and the shambles of our second chamber.
A Nation addicted to ‘Brideshead’ nostalgia
Janet Street-Porter’s otherwise excellent article (29 August) stops short of analysing why so much British television should refer to the past. The prospect of yet another reworking of Upstairs Downstairs is less relevant than the baffling pathology of its fan base. No other country I know of engages in this unending retrospection.
Unable to accept her diminished status in the modern world, Britain has wrapped herself in a largely misremembered past. Like genteel vagrants meeting outside a soup kitchen to exchange calling cards, viewer and broadcaster have conspired to create an alternative reality. The result is bad television, and we are all complicit in its delusion and dishonesty.
We now live in a society where entire swathes of the middle class do not so much resent being patronised and spoken down to as positively crave it. The desire to be put in one’s place is so strong here as to form a defining facet of national character. One suspects that many would rather be footmen or scullery maids in an episode of Brideshead Revisited than live in the year 2015.
As a nation, we have surely trailed more than our fair share of teddy bears through the lanes of Oxford. Can’t we just for once try something new? The real world, say? It could never be as bad as this.
Sex and drink and the burden of guilt
Well said, Chrissie Hynde!
True, a woman has the right to wear whatever she pleases, and not expect to be assaulted. But if she also chooses to become incapably drunk or drugged, so that she is unable to say “No”, she should not be surprised if bad things happen.
As Holly Baxter says (Comment, 31 August), it’s not right to think that all men are inclined towards rape. But drunken young men often are inclined towards having sex. If a young woman behaves in a manner that indicates she is not disinclined, the outcome is more or less inevitable.
And neither party can be absolved from guilt.
So, how did benefit claimants die?
Department of Work and Pensions statistics reveal that 2380 disabled people died shortly after being deemed “fit for work” and having their benefits stopped. The DWP claims that no “causal link” should be assumed.
However, it seems remarkably odd that they have data on numbers of deaths but not cause. In the absence, it is reasonable to speculate that many of these deaths could be suicides. Rather than issue evasive statements, the DWP should establish the cause-of-death figures as a matter of urgency, so that the truth can be established.
Peer who brightened postwar Britain
It was chiefly by opening his estate for the annual Beaulieu open-air jazz festival that Lord Montagu (obituary, 2 September) deserves to be remembered as an important figure in ending Britain’s grey atmosphere of post-war austerity.
To highlight only cars and his criminal record does not do him justice.
Nice work if you can get it
The Home Secretary, Theresa May says EU free movement should mean the “freedom to move to a job”. I wonder if the thousands of British pensioners looking to spend their retirement in Spain have been informed?