Big Issue Vendor

Paul McNamee: Kindness is always the right choice

I believe in opening things up, not closing them off

My mind keeps returning to those poor people, the 39, dying in that lorry container. Every single one of them with multitudes inside them. Every single one with somebody somewhere thinking of them, maybe building a future around them. And every single one of them in the dark, losing heat and air and dying. It is piteous.

Initially, I had fury for the barbaric, greedy animals who took their money and then their lives. I wanted a merciless vengeance on them. No space for explanation. Pain and then an end.

And then, of course, I realised that this would get nowhere. If we seek such an end we are corroded.

And also, it is clear that, like cancerous boils, when one of these trafficking gangs is lanced another will erupt. They exist because there is opportunity.

The older I get the more I see that one of the things we don’t value enough, that we should start to really, properly value, is kindness. It seems facile but it’s sometimes almost impossibly hard. Instinctively, we want to look after ourselves and those very closest to us, to circle against the outside.

The strength to be kind is a hell of thing. The hardening of attitudes beyond our own horizons is not just acceptable, it’s the become the norm.


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I believe in opening things up, not closing them off. I don’t look to a more open-border approach on financial grounds – I understand well the argument and counter-argument of free movement for the socio-economics and the workforce of countries opening to incomers. I just think it’s the right thing to do.

The older I get the more I see that one of the things we don’t value enough, that we should start to really, properly value, is kindness

If I was in a place of war or economic devastation or famine or oppression and I felt there was hope for me and my family in a better settled place, I’d go. If I found that nasty, evil people would get me there, for a fee, I’d pay them. Wouldn’t you?

The only way to stop the traffickers is to let the people in. I understand that part of the core issue of Brexit is stopping people arriving, but that is unsustainable and will lead to more tragedy. And inevitably it’ll lead to less trust of outsiders who we believe threaten our old ways.

So, any new policy needs to have kindness as part of it. How do you measure that? Well, let’s just start.

Let’s start with refugee children. We’re STILL not letting them through in any serious numbers. And those who authorities decide look too old are being placed with adults. They run the risk of trafficking themselves. Last week a UN High Commissioner for Refugees report identified some unaccompanied refugee kids who were greeted on arrival with suspicion about their age as being 15. Imagine being those kids.

Once we have a place for them here, then start doing all that can be done to put them back with their families. No ifs, not ‘but we have other priorities’. It’s the right thing to do.

Make openness and kindness the default, not suspicion and locks. Increasingly, that is the only way.

Paul McNamee is editor of The Big Issue