Are we entitled to freedom ? 


23 may 2018.
1,500 words
5 mins read

It’s a weird word ’entitlement’ because it no longer exists in French. (*) It translates as ‘having a right to something’. Which got me wondering whether British people feel more entitled to freedom than others.

Predictably British law is different to French law, is it logical then that we should feel differently about entitlement when it is a right protected by law ? In British Common Law “everything is permitted that is not expressly prohibited by law” whereas in Civil Law (or as I’d call it, Code Napoléon) “only what is expressly stipulated is allowed”. 

Oh the subtle differences that keep us apart under the same sky when our minds look at things from different angles. 

Common Law has effectively more freedoms until something goes too far and gets prohibited, multinational companies prefer Common Law, and EU law is too Civil for many Brits. Les Anglais are entitled to believe that their judicial system is the best in the world, as is their empire (or was), as is their Royalty. 

Does it mean les Anglais feel entitled to believe they are superior to the rest of us ? 

Je ne sais pas. What I do know is that, all over the world millions watched British royalty having no choice but to move on with the times. Entitled as the Royals could be to feel superior to their subjects, what their royalists citizens may have taken for granted about British royalty, namely that princesses must be a certain type of princess, was, in fact, not set in Portland stone. 

When young ones decide to push the boundaries of acceptable within the pomp of old, they can succeed to move the world forward. When some people still bellow “Black people are monkeys”, and feel free to say so in a little English shop in the week of such a grand wedding, others rejoiced to hear a Black foreign man say Love, Love, Love, Love in the most formal of British settings. Times. They are always a’changin even if a British Royal wedding has been a worldwide event for centuries and horse drawn carriages still carry the bride and groom for grateful onlookers. Fear of change makes us cling on to what we take for granted, what we know is our right, what we think or feel we are entitled to but evolution is inevitable. The shop keeper thinks he is entitled to say monkey when describing a black person, but I will never set foot in his shop, neither will my young British friend who told me about him, who wrote a review on Google and who will tell all his friends. 

My equal freedom of choice and my equal freedom of expression means that the shopkeeper and I are equal in British society as far as these freedoms are concerned, we can both bear the consequences of our actions. The one good thing that has come out of June 2016 is that racist loud mouth bullies have come out of the closet, they now need to understand the full meaning of freedom. 

Changes in law will bring consequences to us all, freedom is not a one way street.

Do racist people now take it for granted that they can attack others who are not British ? Well, in March 2018 French kids on the bus home from the London Lycée got told to go home, back to frog country where they belong, because they spoke French, and one kid got kicked in the stomach. Could have been my child. His mother could be a top neuroscientist we desperately need, or his father a nurse. I feel sick in my French stomach.

What the hell has happened to you, my United Kingdom ? 

I took it for granted that I would always be entitled to stay in the UK. Aged 20 I never questioned that the very law that entitled me to move to London just as easily as if I had moved to Paris could one day change. 

30 years later, under British law, as a foreigner the burden of proof is on me to prove I am lawful. I am therefore guilty until I prove I am innocent. The Common Law now expressly prohibits me to stay, unless I prove I am lawful because my Freedom of Movement has become a British freedom too far.
The Data Protection Bill proposes to exclude immigrants if the information held about the person risks hindering effective application of immigration law, so an immigrant may not be entitled to know what information the Home Office holds about them if they are refused to stay (1). (Updated 25 May, this is now law. (3)).
Employers, landlords (2) and worst of all health professionals must apply, today, a British law that requires them to snitch on immigrants  who must show a Right to Stay ID proving they are lawful, whilst ID’s is not something British people want for themselves. 

French brains struggle to understand British logic at times.

British brains will think I am fussing over nothing because of course I shall be able to stay. How many times have I been told why even bother to worry about it all when it won’t affect me. This is missing my continental point. The potential negative consequences of treating foreigners differently to British people in so many divisive ways will likely outweigh the positives for British society in the long run. When migrants keep being painted as potential cockroaches, potential criminals that must be kicked out, there are consequences. The UK is my home, therefore it is my problem. It’s not a French perspective. Many liberals (in its true meaning) agree as can be expected. Even Conservative MP Mr Letwin described a law that treats citizens as guilty until they can prove they are innocent as problematic. Whether Windrush or EU citizens, there are, and will be, consequences of dividing residents of the UK in categories whereby British citizens (with ID’s) are effectively above others. History has quite a few lessons to teach us on countries that divided the people living together on their land, so does the present, if we care to look around.

Do you support a hostile environment from Home Office ? 

71% of British people do (YouGov, April 2018). Well thanks UK, here is a proper majority if ever I saw one. “Oh calm down dear, it’s not about you, you’re alright”. Well so the French kid on the bus thought, until he got kicked in the gut. So the Spanish mother on the tube talking to her toddler in a pushchair, Polish people, brown skin people, other religions. However few the stories are, if perception all the way from government is that foreigners are a problem to solve, how confident are we that such stories will remain few and far between ?

Do laws passed by government lead to people believing that they entitled to be above ‘others‘ in the eyes of the law in Independent Britain ?

Are European people entitled to believe that all citizens should be treated equally at least with regard to the law ?

Well, British people do have the right and the freedom to believe that their country is treating foreigners fairly. British people said “There are too many foreigners in the UK”, it is their right. 41.8% said we want freedom from the EU. This is a majority, so freedom must be delivered.

Freedom is a precious gift. 

Freedom however does not get delivered to our door without baggage. When we gain something worthwhile, we inevitably lose something else. When we gain experience and with luck a bit of wisdom, we lose youth, even if we believe youth is in the mind. When we gain trust, we lose the freedom to do as we please, or risk losing that trust. When we gain love, we have the duty to ensure we do not abuse the love of our loved one or risk losing feeling loved by the one whose love we gained, a love which makes us stronger together. 

When we gain freedom we have a duty to ensure that our freedom does not encroach on somebody else’s freedom. If we take somebody else’s freedom away from them, it stands to reason they will fight to get it back, unless they feel they have no choice but to become enslaved to our freedom, until one day, when there are enough enslaved people to work together they will choose freedom to fight back. It is a matter of perspective as to which freedom is more important than the other. What is not a matter of perspective is that within a society if some people have more rights than others, it is a divided society.  

Whether that division will continue to benefit the ones who feel entitled to the benefits of society they currently have, whether it will ensure the freedoms we take for granted are kept, is a matter for the future.  

What is for the present is that never should any of us take the rights and the freedoms we do have for granted. Take my French word, for it is my British experience.  

( 1 ) https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/law/data-protection-bill-must-not-take-migrants-rights-away/5065012.article
( 2 ) https://www.gov.uk/check-tenant-right-to-rent-documents
( 3 ) https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/data-protection-act-2018

(*)  ‘title’ in ‘entitlement’ from French ‘titre’ which evolved to intituler ‘give a title to a book’ from Latin which was to ‘give a name to someone or something’. Makes sense that when the British barons fought the King and won more power than him, while the French got rid of royalty and therefore ‘titled’ land owners (who still exist but lost their automatic power in government) the word evolved in different ways. 

  

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