The Sixteen-Steps Immigrant Survival Manual (Steps 1-4)
6 months ago Chad 1
This is a series of sixteen survival steps that all immigrants must know and embrace for their survival in distant lands.
They will be released in four articles over the next four weeks. Study up!
So you’ve barely survived the lashings of the great waves and the gnashing teeth of sharks that only let you live due to the limited flesh encasing your meager carcass. Your little dinghy has washed ashore Sardinia, off the leeward coast of Madeira or outside the Florida Keys. Your eyes bulge open, and your lips emit a soft, terrified sigh.
Or you’ve paced the surrounding villages of Muscat, Kingston or Accra and managed to acquire the money needed to finally board the airplane to Gatwick; this after several hundred kilometers of bus journeys over bumpy, half-done, potholed roads to the embassy in the decaying capital (pumping Eminem ‘you only get one shot…’ deep into your ear canal) and several rounds of interviews that were more like MI5 interrogations preceding waterboarding. Wipe your sweaty brow. They gave you the visa after making sure via a lie detector test that you had never heard of the NHS, had no prior knowledge of a thing called ‘Jobseekers Allowance’ and has no close relation with anyone called Yusuf or Ali.
So you’ve now made it to the promised land of milk and honey. You rub your hands together and the cold is not why. The first day passes and you notice that the tree leaves are actually green and not golden. But that may be due to the way Greenwich Mean Time works so far north of the equator so you wait.
The Lord does preach ‘that good things comes to those who wait.’ Wait, was that the bible or was that just something Nana made up? You’re not sure. But as time drifts like the early morning fog, you quickly realize that the garbage left to settle on the corner of Coldharbor Lane or the Harlem bodegas like tree roots, aren’t going anywhere soon. And those gambling shops, liquor stores and crack transactions are not being filmed by those cameras for the latest BBC period drama (which by the way will not feature anyone that looks like you).
Slowly you despair. Slowly, you slip into a funk. That’s when you need me. Rather, you need my manual. What makes me so qualified to dispense this advice? None of your business, that’s what!
Now listen up, here are the first four of the sixteen steps to survive as an immigrant without means in the UK (in actual order of urgency) or United States or anywhere in the rich white world:
Step One: What Was Your Mama Thinking?
Quick, get down to your Local Council, find a solicitor and a deed poll if your name is Shenaynay, Da’Quan, Wang Xiuying or obviously Abdul. That’s right Pasha and Shampaign, (cough), I mean Michael and Elizabeth.
Now this is not politically correct but yes, you must whiten your name. I’m looking at you Yashicka and Muhammad. At the very least do what Mo Farah did. He abbreviated, abridged then downright edited Muhammad to Mo and look; he’s now a knight of the realm. Good on him too. In no way will you acquire that prized job, get your children to private school or invitations to those élite Mayfair revelries unless you take step one in the manual.
Step Two: That Degree From Addis Ababa Probably Won’t Do You Much Good
Ok so now you’re ready to take society by storm Liz and Mike (wink, wink). But wait, what did you say? What’s that I see on your CV and resume? You have a degree in advanced engineering, master’s degree in financial mathematics and a PhD in rocket science. From where? Abidjan University? The University of Timbuktu? The Real Reputable University of Jakarta? No can do. Don’t you know that you can only be well educated in the UK, France, Germany and maybe the United States of America? Are you crazy? Those don’t count. Not unless you want be the world’s best-qualified waiter or bus driver.
Your new world is one where some of the creative and ingenious people who ever lived are pumping gas and waiting tables. I guess knowing how rockets power to the moon could be useful when opening bottles of wine: you understand right, the velocity of wine corks and all that. Some fine diner will thank you for that though don’t expect a tip from even the millionaires in Britain.
So you must never, never, ever, ever, ever mention your education from the poor rotten corner from whence you came. It will be dismissed and could land you in jail. OK I exaggerate. It won’t land you in jail but being jobless in the UK is a fate worse that jail. Possibly even worse than death.
The rich fat capitalists have somehow done the impossible by convincing the populace that sitting in a tiny cubicle or pacing a factory floor is preferable to mojitos and pineapple on a sunbed in the Caribbean. All the while, taking home one millionth of a fraction of the capitalist wages. So idleness is bad.
Social pariah? Check. Odds of ghastly The Sun or Daily Mirror camped outside your house, checking through your disposed baked bean cans and soiled baby nappies? 99.98%. .2% deducted for possible irregularities, of which these esteemed organizations are celebrated for.
Step Three: Make Mine A Double
So back in Kabul, Dhaka, Freetown and Abuja, you would eat dinner and wash it down with some orange juice or that good old H20. When you had enough pennies in Kingston to go ‘food shopping’ it meant just that: food to be chewed, swallowed, digested and passed out. At leisure times, gatherings were games of football and cricket, a swim in the river or possibly a stroll on a moonlit beach.
But now you’re n the London or New York. To survive grab your tin hat, your overalls and cheerio, its time to head down to the pub. Hashtag the bar. Hashtag the saloon. Hashtag the tavern. To survive you need to know our whiskeys different from our vodkas. What do you know about the potency of Brandy (not the beloved R&B singer) when compared to gin and tonic? Do you know about Jack Daniels and what he’s done for our Southern Comforts? Stella, bourbon and Amstel. Get to know them. Why, you ask?
Well, that promotion you wanted at work. What was that, you don’t drink till you’re silly enough to hug, sing songs and snog the obese pimpled new secretary, then forget it. What! You want to get to know your colleagues at work or on the football pitch? Bloody hell mate, get to the pub. And fast!
You want to get to know your lady (guy) friend a little, head to Sainsbury’s and Tesco, you will find an isle called wine, spirits, beer and cider. A glass or two and she will be telling you about that crass ex-boyfriend of hers and how fine your whickers are. To survive in the UK, forget about learning about the beaches of Normandy or 1066. Study up on your liquor.
Step Four: Am I not A Man and A Brother?
Off the boat you go. Where to now? You twiddle your quivering lips with you thumb. It becomes clear. You need to head to the areas filled with previous immigrants (Do this quickly until gentrification inevitably comes. Ask anyone in Brixton!) Surely, those who came before you will understand your plight and embrace you; help you and show you the ropes right? Wrong! Forget it. They want you out more than the native white Britons who trace their blood back to Edward the Confessor.
It’s a little bit of what some economists call game theory or what in Jamaica we call ‘crab in a barrel, bad mind’ mentality. That is, earlier arriving immigrants are a bunch of selfish, greedy, venal, unprincipled, egotistical senseless people. They actually worry more about being displaced in their little job rather than extending a helping hand.
They’ve been here for forty years but can’t provide some employment for you because they are either unemployed or work for someone else. They can’t put you up either because they either don’t own any property or if they do, they become so smug and superior about it (even though Thatcher and Reagan gave it to them for free).
Do not let them or anyone over the age of 35 tell you they worked hard for it. It’s always invariably a lie akin to really really rich people lecturing the rest of us about hard work (laugh and walk away).
They wont help you anyway. That mortgaged brick and mortar and the really nice car they own on hire purchase is all they have left of their flagging self esteem so forgive them. Especially the ones that had to survive the last three decades of the last century. It was rough for them. They are the “no dogs, no Irish, no blacks” survivors. They are the Stephen Lawrence survivors. They are Brixton and Toxteth riot survivors. Rodney King survivors. Their ears still ring and their hearts still ache from ‘wog’, ‘black bastard’, ‘half-caste’, ‘blackie’, ‘paki’, ‘nigger’, ‘go back to the jungle monkey’ chants. So expect nothing from them. That bent mien and elongated pout was fixed by a lethal bigotry that only backs bound by 400 years of slavery could endure.
Lesson number four in the manual is a sad one: the division of our people persists today, to the point that immigrants of a previous era are more likely to side with natives than they would with their brothers. In a previous era, Italian, Irish, Jewish and Puritanical British immigrants to America actively sought to encourage and aid their fellow countrymen when they arrived later. They were assisted and given jobs. But such is the division sowed amongst black people, that some would like to the only crabs in the barrel.
As I watched the Brexit debate unfold last year, I counted with dismay numerous Asians and black people who argued relentlessly against immigration. In America, I watched as Trump called for the building of a wall and melancholy sat inside my eyelids as settled Hispanics got behind his racist, intolerant message. They seemed to have forgotten how their parents and grandparents got here. Now the country is full, they argue. Their children’s school is full, they argue. Not enough jobs now, they argue with gusto. It was enough to give me an incurable migraine.
Anecdotally, this invisible alien sees this all the time. Black and Asian natives seem to feel that those from beyond with accents are beneath them. I was laughed at, in gest of course, that I’d just arrived off the boat. In America, African immigrants get this all the time also. They are made to feel shame because apparently, they have arrived in New York City from the bowels of the jungle and an Ebola-AIDS ridden- rhinoceros infested poverty-stricken village.
All the time, elements within the dominant white culture look at them from beyond the wall and wish they too weren’t here; wish they too would pack up and leave with the later arriving immigrants. Because the xenophobic, nationalist elements of Britain and ‘make our country again’ Americans, certainly don’t count black and Asians as part of the fabric of their society. Acquiring a passport and a British or American accent doesn’t exempt you from institutional racism; doesn’t exempt you from police shootings or racist employers. It doesn’t exempt you the spittle flying into the face of new arrivals.
Now don your tin hats and do your homework until next week when we will learn the next four steps in the immigrant survival manual.