Resolving to be more open-minded and tolerant - Veterinary Practice
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Resolving to be more open-minded and tolerant

The Mercury Column, in which a guest columnist takes the temperature of the profession – and the world around.

SOMETIMES, looking at the news, one could be forgiven for thinking that this country has too many problems and, certainly, some elements of the national media would have us believe that.

I recognise that I frequently snarl to myself, or anyone else who might be listening, that getting unbiased news is now rather difficult as almost every newspaper or broadcaster delivers the news with an accompanying commentary that reflects some degree of political bias.

Of course, looking back, it was ever thus and my irritation with the political spin on every news story is probably more to do with the passage of time encouraging me to become a mentally sclerotic, irascible old git than any new introduction of sinister proportions.

It does worry me that this tendency towards more pronounced and more frequent irascibility is now apparent to my loved ones so I’ve made an early New Year’s resolution to be more open-minded and tolerant as no one wants to end up like Victor Meldrew.

On the other hand, it could just be that my loved ones are also getting older and may have their own burgeoning tendency towards sclerotic irascibility and that’s a far more acceptable take on my situation.

Putting Victor carefully to one side, it is somehow comforting to see that our glorious leaders are still human and that, while successive governments have failed to deal effectively with some thorny issues like immigration and problems within the NHS, others find it easy to thrust the chaos firmly into the lap of individual members of the Cabinet with the exhortation that they should “sort out this mess”.

I’m not entirely sure that I’d place any Home Secretary on my Christmas lunch list and the current incumbent has not yet persuaded me to alter that plan, but one does have to feel a certain frisson of compassion for her plight over the ticking time-bomb of immigration.

Surely this is a dysfunctional  situation that has been quietly festering for several decades and to suggest that any government can wave a magic wand is both naïve and unrealistic. From the outside, as a taxpayer, the immigration service is something that one takes for granted and which only gets attention when something goes wrong.

Like most issues in our daily lives, this is not something which can be seen as a single issue and any progress, or otherwise, has to be seen against the backdrop of our rather uncertain membership of Europe, political upheaval across the world, the tentative green shoots of our economic recovery, the resilience of other parts of Europe towards lasting economic recovery and an ongoing change in our social and cultural identity.

The list goes on and there are myriad other factors at play here but it’s clear that a knee-jerk reaction will not achieve anything other than a venturi effect in further, potentially damaging, change down the line.

Of course, recent political developments and the rise of nationalist politics across the UK mirror, in part, a similar but possibly stronger nationalistic development in mainland Europe where there is a growing awareness of a desire for smaller, more regional government which is more accountable to the people.

Which is why the sigh of relief that greeted the “no” vote in the Scottish referendum could be heard loudest in those many other countries which have regional dissatisfaction problems of their own.

All these things are cyclical and we can be certain that we haven’t heard the last of such referenda across Europe, let alone on the wider stage, but the concerns of the residents of these comparatively affluent and successful countries is in stark contrast to the aspirations of those hundreds of thousands of people from outside the UK who see the option of coming to Britain, at whatever personal risk, as being their only hope of escaping persecution or to secure a better life for themselves and their families.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of a wider European decision not to provide a search and rescue operation for illegal immigrants from the Middle East, we are faced with a moral dilemma of enormous and burgeoning proportions.

If my incipient Meldrewism is, in any way, indicative of the way the nation is thinking, I recognise that my first, largely unconsidered opinion on such matters is one of reluctance to look at the bigger picture and a certain jingoism that prefers to rebut change unless it’s something that I see would improve things for my own family unit.

Yet, a glance at the figures and a video snapshot of the attempts by asylum seekers to risk their lives to gain entry to the UK should make all of us think twice about what makes Britain such a magnet for these people. There are more than 175,000 people whose application to stay in the UK has been refused and are awaiting removal and a further 40,000 who don’t yet know the result of their application. That’s without the 50,000 who have absconded within the UK without waiting for any such judgement – and these figures are only the ones we know about who would risk everything to be here and have probably done so.

What is it that they seek so vehemently? For my part, I don’t spend enough time considering the enormous benefits of being able to live, work and bring up our families in one of the safest and most stable countries in the world when even a glance at the news shows us that the world is in turmoil, culturally, economically and politically.

The challenge we are faced with is slightly different from many other nations, in that we have something precious that we need to better appreciate and yet have to walk the moral tightrope of deciding how to preserve it for the future in the face of massive
pressure to change.

Much of our way of life stems from being an island nation where we are, by the nature of our detachment from the mainland of the rest of the world, able to resist change more than our continental cousins.

If we are to accept some element of change in a controlled and mature fashion, it behoves us to be aware of the problems that we face but, most importantly, to be appreciative of the great good fortune that we have in being part of this benevolent nation. Maybe I should invite the Home Secretary for lunch at Christmas after all.

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