As we began the new year of 2018, a certain president picked on a few Global South countries calling them ‘shitholes’. Most responses to this statement have been calling the president of the US a shithole himself, his residence lit up with ‘shit hole’, calling out the racism that lies behind such a statement, highlighting the role of the US in creating said shitholes, and stressing on the progress of identified “shithole” countries despite oppression of the global North.
We all know that the Global South isn’t the epitome of cleanliness and privilege. Historic oppression, coops, internal conflict, dictatorial rule, colonialism, problems with the global economic and social order, and various various explanations exist to explain away the situation in the Global South, of which potus has an imagined idea anyway. However, my thought immediately is that of a glass house. To what extent does the Global North reflect on their countries apparently not being shitholes, and what do they have to justify it? The belief of comparative ‘objective’ criteria (mind you these criteria are set by the Global North itself or bodies controlled by the elites in these geographies anyway) determining their comparative non-shitholeness is often unchecked. When thinking of it, I realised that there isn’t enough to describe the experiences of and in these Global Norths from outside. Within we see a very large chunk of the global norths plagued by rampant racism – just see the literature on racism available regarding these geographies. But as an outsider, I do not feel I have come across anything that expresses the feelings triggered by living in the Global North. As so I wish to commit myself to doing this from today.
In my experience, barring the courteous formal friendliness of people, and the relatively higher wages and the somewhat organised manner of some aspects of life, the UK feels like a hellhole. A shithole at least has some potential to be cleaned. There is a chance that said faeces can be cleaned away, infrastructure can be changed to support people, and so on. A hellhole however is a place in which the cons outweigh the pros. Going to hell implies that you have indulged in something evil, or have done something that is biblically wrong. The Bible has its problems, but nevermind, it serves my purpose of suggesting that the punishment is eternal damnation. This is an abstract concept. We can only imagine what hell and its associated holes are like. We can imagine the idea of hellfire – scorching and ever-lasting. We can imagine the torture associated – have a look at how the Sandman series presents Lucifer’s realm; it is beautiful while simultaneously being awful.
Like Lucifer’s hell, there are many levels of hellhole-ness of the UK.
Below I articulate a few. I start with Level 1: Weather and the surround
Although the UK has a beautiful diversity of cultures – a move around the country represents the variation in behaviours, histories, industry and so on – there is a strange subtly about how these surroundings are managed with awkward negotiations of space-use on closer observation. Furthermore, the weather is usually grim. All the time.
Level 2. The fear of touch and affection
In addition to the cold grim weather is the cold grim attitude to others. Generally, this implies that to complement the weather, there is no warmth by way of hugs or kisses as greetings. Even a handshake is an awkward ordeal, and they want to get it over with. Here is your next level of isolation.
Level 3. The undetected-from-inside ‘isms’
A next layer of hell here is the embeddedness of various negative isims, including racism, classism and sexism. These have been most glaring to me, though I suspect many others exist. On a personal level, I have found that the UK has racism and sexism woven into its very fabric. It is so in-built that one cannot identify where and how it manifests, and therefore most of the privileged, being white and/or male, do not see it. I have found that living in the UK has made it difficult for me to talk to male people, particularly heterosexual ones.
Level 4. Desert and deserving
In this hellhole, the materialities of life are abundant. There is no shortage of food. There is no real economic issue, jobs are only relatively hard to come by, most facilities work well including the internet and transport. Yet, in terms of access, not everyone has it. If you have bought yourself some privileges, you are relatively better off. Yet in this hellhole, in the bitter cold, one finds homeless people strewn across major cities. Most of these people are not refugees as could be the common perception. They are white poor people.
I often speak about the problems of living in the UK to my fellow non-UK friends. I do not have a problem doing so. Perhaps it is our shared trudging through these hellholes.