The Outsiders

The New York Times, being the New York Times:

Britain’s New Immigrants, From Romania and Bulgaria, Face Hostilities

I write “being the New York Times” because the piece chatters, but ultimately leads nowhere. It tells us nothing essentially new about the migration issue itself. Nor does it offer any suggestion of a way to diminish those “hostilities.”

In that article, Britain really could be any country; and Romanians and Bulgarians could be any newcomers arriving in any country. As Britain does (as every country does), Romania and Bulgaria have their borders…. and settlement laws and frontier guards empowered to decide who may enter. And most of those populaces would likely not be pleased about masses of British incomers deciding to cross “their line” and set up homes within their geographical area either.

Even though I have “permission,” I have always been self-conscious of the fact that in my working in Britain a native might not have a job. A Danish friend, married to an Englishman, and living in the U.K., has said similarly that she often reminds herself she is not British. Yet her brother-in-law is also British and married to her sister, and he is living and working now in Denmark.

Twenty-first century borders are far more formal than they have ever been, but human communities have always enforced boundaries. Whether it was an Ancient Greek “city-state” of a thousand souls setting itself apart from another similarly sized one just across a mountain, or today’s high-tech nation-state frontiers relying on biometric passports, we create them for a variety of reasons too complex and varied to begin to explore here. And, lest we forget, even within our modern countries there are uncountable gradations of “borders”: from province/ state, to county, to city, and so on, down through school catchment area all the way to, say, residents’-only street parking.

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We humans have always been an “excluding” species. Because they are not “from, or of, here,” outsiders have always faced “hostilities” simply because they are outsiders. There is no reason to believe that will ever change.

Mood Music

Regardless of whether one is writing history or penning a novel, when delving into the past achieving “authenticity” is absolutely necessary. It is vital to fix your readers firmly on that era. The goal of course is to try to bring it to life within your pages as best you can.

As we know, there are now actually adults and near adults walking around out there who, born in the mid to later 1990s, don’t really remember that decade. My nephew and my niece, born in 1994 and 1997 respectively, are prime examples. Maybe you are one too? :-)

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For instance, I was surprised to learn that that (now 16 year old) English niece loves the TV show Friends. When I found out, I laughed and told her, “I remember when it was on first run!” (I was also one of those guys who at the time could never figure out how “Ross” could possibly have chosen “Rachel” over “Emily.” But “Ross” was a jerk, so “Emily” was lucky to escape him.)

Naturally such is the rhythm of the passage of time. Always has been and always will be. Yes, “1995” is now almost two decades ago:

“So you like Swedish pop duos,” [Isabelle] laughed.

Uh, yeh, I’ve dug out music by artists (who I remember first-hand from that now so long ago era), and I have been re-listening to them while writing the sequel.

It’s called doing serious research into your subject!

Okay, that’s enough messing around now on the internet. (Us “older” folks also remember when that didn’t exist!) Have a good Tuesday. Everyone back to work. ;-)