A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side
It's time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away
It's time we...
But we won't, will we.
In a few weeks, the headlines have changed from 'Cameron Calls For Enquiry On Iraq War' to 'Hundreds Turn Out To Cheer Soldiers'. The images of devastated cities already reclaimed by the wilderness have given way those of to immaculately-outfitted battalions surrounded by Concerned Citizens. The St George flag is, of course, very much in evidence. Suddenly everyone's 'British' again.
The battle lines have been drawn in the sand; the positions have been staked out. You either belong to 'them' or to 'us'; mostly their 'them-ness' is predicated on the colour of their skin. Our 'us-ness' is bound up in the simple red cross on a white background. Nationalism, in sophisticated terms: tribalism in real, human ones. And it doesn't matter a damn that a triumvirate of the top university institutions have reported that young British Muslims are more likely to be tomorrow's human rights barristers or educational advocates or overseas advisors or politicians; that very few are radicalised or prepared to imagine committing terrorist acts. Once that battle line is crossed, 'they', the 'Other', will be hurt indiscriminately.
The government's been preparing for a 'summer of rage'. It took quite a while to get it into Joe Public's head that he's expected to run riot in the coming months. When he failed to respond to subtle teasers - riot squads being trained up in readiness for an event which so far was mythic - other incentives had to be offered up. Refusing to allow in Geert Wilders. British Jobs For British Workers. And now, Support Our Troops. No matter that the war is illegal; no matter that the troops are being used as cannon fodder in the ultimate colonialist money-making enterprise. They're fighting against people who are Not Like Us.
Protectionism takes many forms. It's not just about monetary protection; it's a knee-jerk response to perceived outrages against an established culture. It doesn't matter whether someone who's Asian is British-born or not, whether they consider themselves British born or not, whether they're in the Armed Forces or protesting against them. They're just "different" and their "differences" are being escalated to a dangerous extent.
The familiarity of 'they dress different, eat funny, keep themselves to themselves, aren't very friendly, are they?, all about religion innit' surely cannot have passed people by entirely. From 1933 onwards such terms were used to deliberately drive a cultural wedge through the centre of German society: a society that at heart had always not-quite-trusted Judaism for lacking that fundamental je-ne-sais-quoi, that ethos that made a German a German and everyone else an outsider.
I fear that we are too late: I fear that soon, twelve years of repression and hundreds of years of tribal malice will boil over and the 'Other' will be lying dead in the street, another victim of cultural animosity; that the 'Other' will be rounded up for its own good, that every 'Other' will made into a monster which must be erased from history - beginning, perhaps, with Pakistan and ending with Iran. And thirty years from now, people might feel shame for their actions, put up monuments, collect together pitiful survivor narratives, write books about it and teach a degree about it: about how it must never happen again. Until the next time.