Politics, immigration, multiculturalism - and the difficulty of being not very political, being open to different people and different cultures, and yet trapped in the dysfunctional mess of modern Britain
AB: You wanted to talk about politics, and especially about UKIP.
Sweep: Well, to be honest I don't really want to at all. I really don't like politics. It seems to degenerate very rapidly into stupidity and childishness, so that rational discussion becomes very difficult - which is rather worrying because these issues affect people's lives. But as this is just a discussion between the two of us, we'll be able to sidestep the forces that cause the degeneration to happen, and I hope we can come up with some clarity and much-needed solid information.
AB: Yes, I think we should return later to what happens when attempts at discussion degenerate like that. But first, how about if we start at the other end, from the misconceptions people have about UKIP, and how that relates to you and what you think and feel. You're not a UKIP member, just a voter who currently intends to vote for them unless some better party emerges. But you've spoken in their favour online a few times.
Sweep: I've said what my views and my experiences are, and also what UKIP policy is when people are wrong about that.
AB: So, some people think UKIP is about hating foreigners and wanting to deport them.
Sweep: Some people do. And I'm also sure there are people who know very well it isn't true, but still keep saying it because it's a convenient way of smearing their opponent. Some people prefer smears to attempts at rational discussion - especially of course if they're supporting other political parties.
But with all political parties my advice is always to check what they say about themselves. With the Internet it's easier than it ever way. All people have to do is look at the official party website. It's a much better guide to a party's policies than what some other party says about them.
AB: There seem to be a lot of lies about. `Propaganda' seems to be your favourite word these days - or not favourite, maybe, but often used.
Sweep: Certainly not favourite. But it worries me there's so much deliberate misinformation about, and people end up very uncertain because of it.
We've probably always had this, but nothing like the sustained level of it we have now. I remember back in the early 80s I ordered a copy of the Green Party manifesto. All sorts of things were supposed to be in that, according to the other parties, and they were making it all up - the Green Party didn't have any of the totally bizarre policies attributed to them by the other parties.
The Greens probably still suffer from that. But UKIP has far more of it. The fact that the EU has it's own propaganda department probably has a lot to do with that. From stupid jokes and smears up to deliberate misrepresentations of UKIP policy, it's all there.
AB: Is it on both sides? Do they all do it, do you think?
Sweep: Fair question. I haven't actually seen any deliberate smears coming from UKIP against other parties - which doesn't mean it hasn't happened, of course, but I wonder if it's even necessary. In the recent TV debate David Cameron said "You need to look at my record on Europe" and Nigel Farage just said "I have" in a tone that spoke volumes. With the major parties being like they are, I'm not sure any smears are necessary. Facts should be enough.
Of course it's harder for the three main parties, because they've all been in power and proved themselves to be liars, fanatics and rip-off merchants. We clearly can't trust Labour, the Tories or the LibDems, from bitter experience. The other parties haven't been tested in that way yet.
One thing I do like about UKIP is that although they've attracted people who've jumped ship from other parties, they also have grass-roots people, people who know what's it's like to live as an ordinary person in modern Britain. We certainly need more of that.
AB: And less disaffected Tories joining them?
Sweep: Well, I do feel uneasy about UKIP becoming the Tory party all over again. And I do wonder, when someone defects from another party, what took them so long, and why they stuck with their previous appalling party until now. On the other hand someone like Douglas Carswell ... Carswell seems more acceptable than Farage in some respects. I may well eat my words later. But he's opposed to hunting, which Farage seems to favour.
It's worth pointing out, by the away, that at the time we're discussing this (April 2015) UKIP has no policy either way on hunting. Some people keep accusing UKIP of being pro-hunting because there's a photo of Farage with a hunt (not actually hunting, but still appearing to condone it). But that's Farage. It certainly isn't Carswell, who opposes hunting. And it isn't party policy either. As always, people need to look at actual policy and the views of people in the party, not just Farage.
AB: It sounds like Nigel Farage isn't doing too well in this pro-UKIP discussion.
Sweep: I'm not a Farage fan. I'm not a fan of anybody. I just want to see some sense and responsibility, which we desperately need. But Nigel Farage has obviously done wonders for UKIP and also, I'd argue, for the people of Britain. He's taken a lot of flak and pressure and he's handled it well. I do find him likeable and it's refreshing to see him debate because it's such a relief to hear some balanced and honest statements instead of the usual waffle. I don't like Farage's City background. But it was a family tradition, and I'm not about to blame him for where he was born.
AB: That would be racist...? :D
Sweep: :D Probably. Well, it's certainly a bit unfair. Actually that's another thing. There are silly people who want to smear Farage as someone who hates foreigners, and he has a German wife. How much more evidence of liking `foreigners' do people need?
AB: When anyone points that out, they just accuse him of being a hypocrite.
Sweep: Yes. It's a cheap tabloid tactic, and obviously nonsense. In any case, Farage being married to a German lady is totally in accord with UKIP immigration policy - immigration is good if the people coming in are decent and good for Britain. And of course in manageable numbers - which they are. Mr Farage only has the one wife, as far as I know.
But seriously, people seem to be doing this with UKIP all the time, just setting up straw man arguments, attacking the party and its members for things they don't represent and don't support. Looking at Twitter, I'd say virtually 100% of the `arguments' against UKIP are of that kind - nothing whatsoever to do with the facts. They attack ridiculous policies which aren't anything to do with UKIP, or just come out with nonsense. If there are real, serious criticisms, bring them on. Let's debate them. But that isn't what happens, nearly all the time.
AB: The `racist' thing is probably a case in point.
Sweep: Oh, it definitely is. All the time we hear this nonsense. It's like playground taunts, delivered by people who don't even seem to know what the word `racist' means. It's pathetic, but I also think it's worrying, because racism is a serious issue and we seem to be losing the meaning of the word.
AB: We'll come on to that - we need, I think, to get on to what you experienced in your job a few years ago, including the real racism you saw and stood up against. But a few comments on this false racism might be helpful first.
Sweep: Yes. One example would be the people who come out with the most appalling racism and get away with it because they aren't white. We have black people who no-one seems unduly worried about when they come out with bitter racist hatred against white people. To my mind, it's every bit as racist to attack white people as to attack black people, or Asian people, or whoever else.
I remember a few years ago a black guy in America who was saying the only racism he's ever experienced has been from other black people. He likes prog rock, bands like Yes, Genesis and so on, and he had people telling him he shouldn't listen to this `white music' and should listen to rap instead. As he said, he'd never even thought of it as music made by white people. It was just good music.
AB: Rap would be a pretty poor exchange.
Sweep: I thought it was revealing that all they knew of `black' music (to use their spurious colour terms) was rap. What about the truly wonderful jazz made by black people - though a lot of jazz has been made by white people as well, so it's maybe hard to be racist in jazz. But yes, these people weren't just being racist, bothering about colour when it wasn't an issue, but they were trapping themselves in their own narrow ghetto when there's a world to be discovered.
But we get this from black people who want to blame all the ills of the world on white people, which is surely just as foolish as trying to blame all the ills of the world on black people. Either way, it's racist. But when one group of people gets away with this nonsense because of their colour - that's just more racism happening, which should be obvious.
But we seem to have people so warped by spurious narratives that they can't see racism happening unless it's coming from white people. If a black person attacks a white person, or an Asian, or an Aborigine or whoever else, some people just don't see it. I wonder if they'd even see the racism I was encountering from East Europeans against Asians, black and white British people.
Racism is racism, whoever does it. And yet people totally miss it happening, and then they start screaming `racist' at UKIP for wanting a proper, stable, points-based immigration system like the rest of the civilised world has. If anything, I'd say the current EU system is the racist policy. Maybe that's exaggerating the point, but the fact is we now give preference to people entirely on the basis of where they come from. If you're from the (predominantly white, incidentally) EU, you have automatic preference over someone from India or Pakistan, China, New Guinea, in fact the entire rest of the world outside the EU. That's hardly a properly balanced, non-prejudiced immigration policy, and nor is it good for Britain. UKIP's proposed system is much fairer, and doesn't involve prejudice. It doesn't pre-judge. It assesses people for who they are, not for where they happen to come from.
AB: I'm inclined to say no-one would ever accuse you of being racist - but I don't know, with all the nonsense that comes from people who attack UKIP.
Sweep: I've not had much in the way of accusations of racism, perhaps because I can quickly deflect that, though I was told the other day that what I'd said was `dog-whistle racism.'
AB: It was - what?
Sweep: Exactly. I was a bit baffled as well. But as I pointed out, what I was saying had nothing to do with racism in any form anyway. It wasn't a race issue at all, despite the idiot attacking me wanting to try to make it one. So I didn't have to involve the dog.
AB: What colour's your dog, by the way?
Sweep: Black. :D Are we allowed to say `black,' in fact? I've said the word earlier because it's relevant. Ok, he's a dog `of colour.' Maybe I should find a Dalmatian?
AB: :D Seriously - but I'm glad we can laugh at this...
Sweep: It really is laughable. But the sad thing is, people get so tied up in this nonsense that they fail to do anything about the really serious problems - real racism, real prejudice, when it happens.
AB: So talking about politics in general and UKIP in particular, and about your attitudes and experiences - I know very well you're not racist. Far from it. Nor are you a Thatcherite or even particularly right-wing. In fact you're one of the most culturally open people I know.
You're obviously not against foreigners. It's obvious in your music. Your music is worldwide, both in the instruments you play and the influences. You play sitar and Japanese flute, you've made music inspired by many countries, from France to Japan and Indonesia and so on. Also you've supported a Tibetan education programme for many years, and you've been trained in several Buddhist traditions. You've published articles on translating Buddhist texts, and I think you've even translated one of the Upanishads as well?
Sweep: Yes - that was just an informal translation with a commentary, to explore and clarify something that was going on at the time. But yes, as you say I'm definitely not against `foreigners' - by which we mean people who aren't British.
AB: You were a LibDem voter for a long time, and you were pro-EU until a few years ago, as I recall, too?
AB: So how does a pro-Europe LibDem with a deep experience of different world cultures become a UKIP voter?
Sweep: Well, things have changed politically and socially. Incidentally I'm still pro-Europe. I'm just not pro the European Union any longer.
I stopped supporting the LibDems over a period of time during which I became progressively more dissatisfied with them, both locally and nationally.
I was almost at the point of stopping my subscription to the LibDem news emails when an email arrived with a statement from a certain Nick Clegg, who wasn't party leader yet. He stated that no British person had lost their job because of East European migrants.
I thought that was an interesting comment, because where I worked all the full-time staff had been replaced with agency workers, almost all of whom were from Eastern Europe. I'd escaped because I was part-time. So this Nick Clegg character was either too badly informed to be able to do his job, or was cynically lying.
Naturally I emailed him directly and told him what had occurred at the company I worked for. This would have been in about 2009. I haven't received a reply yet. The next time I heard of him he'd been made party leader.
So I'd all but stopped supporting the LibDems by then anyway, but that was the final nail in the coffin
AB: The events at work were a major part of your negative experience of migrants from Eastern Europe. It's a horror story. Everyone I know who's heard it has said the same. I think it would help if you summarise it here.
Sweep: I'd like to say `with pleasure,' but nothing about those four years or so has any pleasure in it.
It started when one or two of the agency workers we had were Polish. We welcomed them. The ones I encountered seemed quite pleasant. I remember having a good chat with a chap from Krakow. I'd had a Polish friend several years ago who I only lost touch with because she went back when the Berlin Wall came down, and I was engaged at the time so it might have been awkward to make efforts to trace a female friend. So I had nothing against anyone from Poland, and I even had an interest in the country.
On another occasion I remember trying to find some other Polish workers so the one I was working with would have someone Polish to talk with at break.
But very rapidly the whole situation changed. Soon we were trying to find someone who wasn't Polish, so the rapidly dwindling British workforce would have something in common with someone else there. The kind of people we were getting from Eastern Europe changed as well. They became less open and decent, more arrogant, more intent on imposing themselves, more rude and dismissive to the dwindling British workforce who'd been doing the job for years and knew how it was done.
Soon we had virtual anarchy. We were outnumbered four or five to one by people who didn't know how to do the job and didn't care, who routinely damaged goods in the most blatant way possible. I remember one guy - who we later found out had been in prison in Poland, along with many others - whose job it was to take parcels off a conveyor belt and load them. He got a piece of wood from somewhere with a nail in the end of it, and would viciously jab the nail into parcels to drag them toward him instead of bothering to move to them. These parcels were people's property, of course, but not only didn't he care about that, but he'd look you directly in the eye while he did this as if to say "I can do what I like and you can't stop me." In fact I got his stick taken off him on a couple of occasions, but he just got another one and the bosses weren't bothered.
AB: That's probably the most amazing thing - the bosses weren't bothered.
Sweep: Most of them wanted early retirement, and if the company folded they'd get that and a redundancy payment, so it suited them. Another one was renting properties to the East Europeans and evidently doing very nicely from it. They used to mock him behind his back, but he was totally unaware of it. The bosses further up the system [i]were[/i] bothered, of course, but not very effectively. In the end sections of the company like ours that had gone from a healthy profit to being massively loss-making were sold off. The diseased part was cut off. The new company which bought those diseased parts didn't effectively tackle the issues, and eventually the whole thing collapsed and we all lost our jobs. There were probably other issues - arrangements between the agency supplying these people and the bosses who made decisions, for example - but the net effect was that the problems weren't resolved and a profit-making company went under because all our customers went elsewhere, unsurprisingly.
AB: As you would if you had gaping nail holes in your property.
Sweep: Or deliveries that took days because the people dealing with them didn't know where anywhere was in Britain. If you or I moved to Poland we'd look at a map if our job required it. But these people were here a couple of years or more and didn't know London or Birmingham.
Another issue was theft. Levels of theft went through the roof - not to mention out of the doors, fire escapes, god only knows. Every time they caught anyone they were always East European, except for one company guy who was setting things up - for a gang of East Europeans to do the actual thieving.
One thing that does need saying about this is that official statistics don't always reflect what really happens. When the Police came in and arrested someone from their own enquiries, then I expect that would be on the official figures. But companies that find an employee stealing will just get rid of them without criminal proceedings, because the bad publicity from criminal cases will do more damage to the company than the theft itself does. So the official figures for that place must have been a fraction of the real crime levels, and that would no doubt apply countrywide.
Some of these people were stupid enough to boast about their criminal records, which is how we knew about the rapist and the blackmailer. Others we heard about less blatantly. The rest we found out about when they got caught. I remember one afternoon they had about twenty of these people from a job agency, and they caught seventeen of them stealing.
Of course this isn't to say all East Europeans are thieves, or criminals of some other kind. I don't think any of us assumed that the percentage of criminals we were experiencing was representative of the countries they came from. Clearly we had a disproportionate number of the criminal population of these countries. We knew the Polish Police were refusing to tell our Police who had come over here with a criminal record. I've heard that situation has now improved. I hope so - though we still seem to find out only after a crime has been committed, sometimes a particularly horrifying one. That's been true of a distressing number of rapes and murders, as well as cases like the one where a family of four were killed when a Polish driver smashed his car into theirs to commit suicide. The rapes and murders by people with criminal records for similar crimes in their own countries are obviously bad enough in themselves, but the added distress to the friends and family ffrom knowing the crime should have been preventable, and the political wrangling when they need to grieve and come to terms with the situation in the privacy of their own feelings just makes things worse. I apologise to those people for mentioning this at all here, but I've deliberately avoided mentioning names, and unfortunately this [i]is[/i] a political issue because it's been made one by the EU and our Labour, Conservative and LibDem governments. It has to stop happening, and that can only be done when we regain control of our borders.
So in short - we need proper border controls to protect the public from criminals moving to where they aren't known and suspected. When that doesn't happen, naturally criminals will flock in, and that's exactly what's happened. That should be obvious to anybody, unless they're blinded by some ideology, or personal gain of their own.
The other appalling issue I saw repeatedly was racism - on the part of the East Europeans.
As I've said, almost all of the agency workers were East Europeans, and the agency put an East European foreman over them. Of the non-East Europeans there were two black guys, one black girl, and an Asian lad, all British, as well as a small handful of white British. The Asian lad wanted to do overtime and was continually passed over by the East European foreman in favour of the East Europeans. He was a good worker and deserved overtime as much as anybody. The two black guys were ridiculously overworked every night and no-one would help them. The East Europeans just rested and watched. The black girl just left - I didn't work with her and don't know the reasons. And the white British agency workers were victimised in some cases, and in other cases just left, whether by their own wish or because the work somehow dried up for them I don't know. I did find out about ongoing bullying of a white British man, and I stood up for him as I did for the black guys and the Asian lad, but no-one wanted to know.
I'd like the people who stupidly cry `racist' at UKIP to actually see racism happening, as I saw it, because of the EU's open door migration policy. I've seen no racism in UKIP apart from one or two idiots who were obviously attracted to the party for the wrong reasons and were got rid of, but there seems to be plenty of racism from East Europeans as well as from some other quarters - left-wing activists, mostly.
Similar stories are coming from all over Britain, along with other issues, too many to mention. What it comes down to is that while most of us don't have any problem at all with people of different nationality, as far as the simple fact of their nationality is concerned, we do have a situation that's dysfunctional and out of control.
In my lifetime we've made massive strides in combating racism, and I fear all of that is likely to be undone by the out of control situation we have now with EU migrants and the problems they've brought. At the very least they've given East Europeans a bad reputation, and decent East Europeans will have to live with that from now on. I'm generally open and friendly, but four years of the situations I've described have made me have an instinctive mistrust of East Europeans now. People less open than me will be far less inclined to treat East Europeans well in the future. I'd like to heal the damage done, but that's difficult. I've barely touched some of the issues in what I've said, and in any case a brief description doesn't bring over much of the feeling of this happening day after day while your company is destroyed and your job wrecked before your eyes.
Incidentally, many people will ask why I didn't just leave and work somewhere else. Several reasons, but basically similar things were happening in many other places at the same time, and if I left I'd be in a weaker position than I was in the job I had. I did apply for better work that probably wouldn't have had that kind of problem, but although I got close to changing jobs I didn't get close enough. That's a common enough situation for many people. But even if I'd escaped, that wouldn't have stopped the appalling situation from going the way it did. We're not just talking about me here - we're talking about Britain.
Another thing that should be added is that job losses due to East European migrants are often dismissed as something that only happens to unskilled workers. Most of the workers in that job weren't unskilled. They tended to be people who'd been made redundant from good jobs and forced to take work below their skills. The positive side of that was that they brought their abilities to bear in the new job and did the work beyond the capability of many of the people who could have managed it. In the final analysis, it was a semi-skilled job that became unskilled when the East Europeans came in and did it in the ways I've been describing.
AB: That's bad enough, but I think we could do with widening the discussion. How would you feel if the level of EU migration was the same, but without the overly high proportion of criminals?
Sweep: I think that's a good question. As I've suggested, there were attitude problems and actions that destroyed a good company, in addition to the crime issues. The damage, the arrogance, the racism... But to take the implication of your question directly, then yes, I would still regard the levels of EU migration as a serious problem in themselves.
The numbers we're talking about here are unprecedented in British history. Of course we've had immigration before, some of it welcome, some not. But we've got absurdly large numbers of people, over a very short time period, and at a time when we have cuts to essential services and high unemployment. We've also got ridiculous issues like jobs being advertised to migrants and not to British people, as well as the preference and even prejudice I mentioned earlier. All of that is unsustainable.
In fact that's a related issue that needs to be added to what I've been saying. We found out that many (and perhaps all) of the Polish migrants we had weren't here because they'd decided to make their way to Britain to see if there were jobs. The reality was far more shocking: the job agency employing them had actually gone to Poland and set up offices there to bring Polish people to Britain to do jobs here. The whole thing was an orchestrated policy. I wonder if we'll ever know for certain how much this was instigated by the EU, but there seems little doubt about the EU having a deliberate policy to break down national identities. But certainly these weren't pioneering free-spirits taking any kind of intrepid journey. They were people being invited and helped to come here. The agency rented properties to them, which would partly explain why they did this.
I think that fact would probably explain the high proportion of criminals as well. If you're trying to find work and you have a criminal record in your own country, what better than to have someone invite you over to another country where your past isn't known?
AB: Looking at the pro-migrant arguments, there's an argument that the migrants do the economy good because they pay tax, which goes to support the NHS and so on.
Sweep: Yes, there is, isn't there. We hear it often, but never with the maths properly worked out.
It's always simplistically said that migrants are good for the economy because they work and therefore pay tax into the system, but the full picture is never added. So here's the full picture:
The available job goes to the migrant, who pays tax, and not to the British person, who therefore doesn't pay tax. So we have two people in the country, using the infrastructure - health, education for children, roads, housing and so on, and only the same amount of tax that the one British person would have been paying. So very clearly that amount of tax is achieving a lot less for the economy than before. There's simply no way a migrant paying tax can be helping the British economy unless you deliberately skew the issue to present a false picture. In addition, there are issues such as the massive scandal of Child Benefit being paid to children who aren't even resident in Britain. Checks have shown than a large percentage of the children being claimed for don't even exist, but of course there are difficulties - and expenses - checking, which is why the payment is made first and the checks made later, if ever. And then there are the translation costs and so on, which we in Britain foolishly cover, whereas most other countries put the onus on the person whose first language isn't the language of the country to arrange their own translating.
AB: We seem to do a lot to make it hard for ourselves in this country.
Sweep: We do, and these people laugh at us because of it. In the job I had they were laughing in our faces - literally - because they'd been invited to treat us like crap and wreck our company, and Britain was falling over itself to make it easy for them and give them opportunities and money denied to our own people. It's sheer madness - surely any sane person can see that.
AB: And yet we continue to have people who refuse to see that.
Sweep: Some of them seem to be blinded by ideologies, while others presumably have their own personal reasons for not wanting to see what's plainly in front of them. Politicians who are being rewarded by the EU naturally avoid inconvenient facts, of course.
But we have some really twisted and confused notions going on. We all know of people who cry `racist' without seeming to really grasp what it means, and even people who go on about Hitler and the Nazis with no understanding of what the facts and the issues really were. Certain people throw this nonsense at UKIP quite frequently. A lot of them seem to be very immature. They certainly have no understanding of actual UKIP policy. If Hitler had been like Nigel Farage there wouldn't have been a Second World War, or a persecution of the Jews and other groups. But that should go without saying. It's simply that we have juvenile idiots in this country who want to claim Farage is like Hitler without them having the slightest clue what Farage or UKIP as a whole really stands for. But as a result the clear understanding of racism seems to have been very much lost.
It's really weird, the very collective mindset some of these people have. They pride themselves on somehow not being racist, and yet they think in collective terms and not individual ones - collective historical terms. As a couple of examples of what I mean, I remember two lines of online attack on an unfortunate builder who'd been put out of work by preference being given to East Europeans. One set of comments told him `it's your turn,' which seemed to mean that he was somehow atoning for the crimes of his ancestors.
I don't ever recall Poland being invaded by Glaswegian bricklayers, so it was all very odd. But even if that had happened at some time in the past, it was hardly the fault of this particular person.
The other line of attack was, if anything, ever stranger. Apparently it was perfectly ok for Polish builders to be given job preference against British workers in their country, Britain, because Chopin was Polish.
I don't recall Chopin ever working as a brickie, but of course that isn't the essential point. Someone can think of one Polish person in history who they happen to like, and that, in their mind, justifies anything done by any Pole at any point in the future.
So presumably, by the same logic, we should have welcomed Hitler's forces because Beethoven was German? Or if a British person went into Europe and did something the local people objected to, that would be ok because of some good British person in the past who has nothing whatsoever to do with the present issue.
Complete and utter nonsense, obviously. And yet people seriously came out with this stuff, and it continues to happen.
AB: I think you had a CD by the idiot who came out with the Chopin comment?
Sweep: I've got two CDs by him, actually. They're not bad, either, especially considering they were recorded by a complete pillock. I haven't played them for a while, though. :D
Interestingly enough, a similar argument (if I can dignify it with that word) came up on Twitter a while ago from a writer for one of the so-called quality newspapers. His response to people concerned about Romanian criminal gangs was to say `what if Elie Weisel came and moved in next door - the Romanian Nobel prize-winning writer?'
Of course this kind of twisted and bizarre statement needs a bit of unwinding. First, we have the collective mentality again - Elie Weisel having been Romanian obviously doesn't justify other Romanians committing crimes. Second, Elie Weisel suffered as he did because he was Jewish, and the Nazis were committing their own kind of collective mentality atrocities against Jewish people. In fact there are now very few Jews left in Eastern and Central Europe because of the Nazi death camps. And yet anti-Semitism is remarkably frequent in those parts of Europe, despite the absence of most Jewish people from there, according to people who've researched the subject.
So any objection to Elie Weisel coming to live next door was far more likely to occur in his native Romania than here in Britain. And it might be added that if the journalist making his stupid comments had bothered to read what Elie Weisel actually wrote about his life he'd have noticed that he and his Jewish community were rounded up for the concentration camps not directly by the SS but by Hungarian police who'd come across the border to do that.
So when you start to untangle the facts of the case, this silly comment about Elie Weisel simply falls apart and is revealed for what it is - a shameful misuse of the memory of this decent man and his harrowing suffering so that a journalist can score a stupid point, in his own mind. Meanwhile people here in Britain continue to suffer the effects of crime as well as being belittled and labelled racist for describing the people robbing them.
Incidentally, last time I encountered a group of Romanians in this country they were robbing each other, and I was simply caught in the middle. It wasn't a very pleasant or edifying experience, though - and my respect and esteem for Elie Weisel didn't do anything to alter the poor impression I had of the criminals surrounding me.
AB: Yes, I've noticed how you continue to respect some East Europeans, though I think it's a struggle sometimes?
Sweep: Well, no way were the dregs of Eastern Europe going to ruin my appreciation for Bartok, or Bela Farago, or anyone else like that. But it does become difficult when you have bad experiences and bad associations. It's like the situation I found happening last time I was in Paris. It was just after the whole fiasco with the job being destroyed, and when I went to Paris I naturally found myself surrounded by people speaking a foreign language. That's never bothered me before, and in any case the language was French - mostly - but at a less than conscious level I had an inner voice trying to alert me to danger because I'd spent about four years surrounded by foreign voices in a difficult and stressful situation. I had to consciously remind myself what the real situation was, and it concerned me that my experiences had replaced a calm acceptance of `foreign' voices with a sense of deep unease.
AB: So your experiences point to real and very serious problems. And you're saying UKIP is addressing those problems and it isn't racism to do that.
Sweep: Exactly. At least, I hope UKIP is addressing those problems. I'm sure UKIP isn't perfect. Certainly if UKIP was in power I wouldn't just think everything is ok. They're a political party - I'd be watching them and trying to do my bit to keep things on course, on all issues. But at least UKIP has some much needed policies and is willing to stand up to the EU.
What the EU wants runs against all that's vital in European culture. They want cultural identity washed out and removed. Look at the Euro notes, with their bland and anonymous bits of generic architecture. None of it says Europe is a place of culture and identity. Their ideal is a huge, bland bureaucracy. But what gives cultures their life and vitality is shared differences, not bland uniformity.
You mentioned Tibetan education earlier. I think Tibet's an interesting comparison to make. For years we've been protesting against the Chinese policy of cultural genocide in Tibet. By moving large numbers of Chinese into Tibet, limiting opportunities for Tibetan people, and imposing a Chinese lifestyle they try to dilute and ultimately destroy Tibetan culture and identity.
Surely it's right to protest against that being done to a people? But I never thought I'd see a version of that being done here in Europe, to all of us.
AB: That brings us to multiculturalism - a very frequently used term.
Sweep: A very frequently misused term, I'm inclined to say. What discussions seem to founder on every time is that there are different issues wrapped up and confused within that one word.
I'm all for multiculturalism when it means we can share the riches of our cultures and benefit from the differences between us, the different things we've explored and developed.
But wrapped up in the term there's a false ideology that says we can't use our intellectual or our moral judgment. It's claimed, with no reasonable justification at all, that no-one should be able to make moral value-judgments on any aspect of a culture. So if a culture supports something truly horrific like Female Genital Mutilation, multiculturalism says no-one can judge against that. That's the extreme view, and there are murmurings against that extremism, but we need a lot more than just murmurings over something so absolutely horrific.
To me, it's shocking there's even any question about it. You surely can't justify something vile and appalling just because there's some social sanction for it. The whole course of our civilisation has been opposed to that view. We abolished slavery because people challenged the social sanction that said it was acceptable. We gave `the people' the right to vote, and more recently did that properly by giving women the right to vote, because the official policy of our culture was challenged to improve things.
Time and again we've made advances in culture and decency by challenging things that were clearly unjust. To go against that in the name of some vague ideology helps no-one except the uncivilised and the oppressor. Surely that isn't so hard to understand? And yet we have people who claim in the name of some ridiculous ideology that we somehow can't speak up against oppression and injustice. And the people who support that ideology have the mental confusion, or the sheer gall, to accuse decent people of racism or imperialism or whatever other nonsense they like to spout.
AB: The people who want to see themselves as more enlightened seem to be the oppressors.
Sweep: They do indeed. So we have people who get away with the most appalling racism because they happen to be non-white and therefore somehow they aren't regarded as culpable. So we have certain black people who say all the problems are caused by white people, or some similar situation. If a white person said all society's problems are caused by black people they'd quite rightly be regarded as racist. There's no way the same statement in reverse isn't equally racist. The woman who recently claimed she wants to see all white men `disappear' strikes me as chilling. Racist and sexist as well, and genocidal. How can such a statement be acceptable in any civilised society? And yet we seem to be so confused about these matters that we give a public platform to people like that - and then accuse UKIP of supposedly being racist for wanting proper border controls and the kind of immigration policy that's perfectly normal in countries like Australia or New Zealand.
AB: It's warped.
Sweep: It is indeed. I think it's also warped, and quite bizarre, how you find people making ridiculous efforts to pretend other people aren't black, as if there's somehow something wrong with being black. Say anything else about them, but don't ever allude to the fact that they're black - because that would be racist. For goodness sake, surely the only racism is this mealy-mouthed embarrassment about a simple fact. Being black is nothing to be ashamed of - and to say otherwise surely is racist, and yet it's the `politically correct' people who seem to think you can't ever refer to a person's colour as a distinguishing feature. How much more racist, demeaning and prejudiced can anyone be?
AB: You've told me about some of the attempts at rational discussion you've had with people who oppose your views, and of course I've seen similar things happening.
Sweep: Yes, I think that's the key to it - attempts at rational discussion. I prefer to try to be rational and be open to what's being said. If someone says something rational that criticises what I'm saying, I want to be able to consider that and broaden my views, or change them. Sometimes that happens, but in most cases I find people made massive assumptions about what I think, and go on to attack those massive assumptions without even checking whether they have anything at all to do with what I actually do think.
AB: You've commented on how that happens with UKIP as well.
Sweep: Yes. Of course UKIP needs to be questioned, disagreed with, debated with. Any organisation wanting to take a position of power and responsibility needs to be questioned. But much of the time all we get is attacks on UKIP based on policies they don't even have. In fact the majority of criticisms of UKIP seem to be criticisms of policies which aren't anything to do with UKIP. Either people are too lazy or too stupid to find out what UKIP actually represents, or they don't want to debate at all and just want an excuse to attack.
AB: Could you give me an example?
Sweep: Certainly. One example would be the people who talk as if UKIP's policy is forced repatriation. That may be the policy of some really extreme parties like the BNP, but it certainly isn't UKIP policy at all - and it's perfectly easy to check that by simply looking at UKIP's website.
Extending that, there's the notion that UKIP `hates foreigners' - by which people mean they hate people who aren't British in the last generation or two. There's no evidence of that - UKIP has active party members who would be classed as `foreign' by those criteria. Indeed, as we said earlier, Nigel Farage's wife is German - so people accuse Farage of being a hypocrite because of that, when clearly he isn't a hypocrite because neither he nor UKIP has ever said anything against marrying Germans. Again, the hypocrisy is in the minds of the attackers.
Another very important example would be UKIP immigration policy, which we're continually being told is `racist.' The facts are, UKIP's policy on immigration is basically the same as that of most civilised countries, and bears comparison with Australia, New Zealand, America and so on. I certainly wouldn't call any of those countries racist in their immigration policy. I've been aware of New Zealand's policy for years because I seriously considered emigrating there at one time, and I've been through Immigration in the US. At no point did it ever occur to me to consider the attitudes to me as racist - because they're obviously weren't.
What does strike me as potentially racist, in fact, is the EU open immigration policy we have imposed on us now. People are assessed according to where they come from, and not according to their character and their potential value to the country. A doctor from Pakistan has more barriers put up against them than someone from Eastern Europe who may have no skills needed here, or may even be a criminal. And before anyone throws up their hands at that and moans about my attitude to East Europeans, the fact is that very many people from East European countries who've come over here have in fact proved to have criminal records. It isn't surprising, really - if you have a criminal record and you can virtually walk into another country where no-one checks on your past, it's in your interests to do exactly that. And people have been robbed, raped, murdered in this country as a result. In the meantime we check on people from outside the EU and put up barriers on the basis of where they come from. That surely can't be right? How is that just? How is that decent? How is that not discriminatory?
AB: So you're not against immigration as such?
Sweep: I'm certainly not against is - as you know, of course, perfectly well. More to the point, UKIP isn't against immigration either - it's just against [i]uncontrolled[/i] immigration.
But here I sound like a UKIP spokesperson, as if I represent UKIP or even agree with all they stand for. I'm not even a party member, just a prospective voter. But I'll stand up for what I know to be the facts, as well as standing up for my reasons for voting that way. I'll also stand up against UKIP whenever I believe it's right to do so. My interest is what I believe to be right and just. People who blindly support a political party seem to have trouble understanding that. Because they stupidly cling to everything about their particular political agenda they assume I'm going to rigidly and stupidly take an attitude of `UKIP right or wrong.'
AB: You've had that from people in the past when you've stood up for what you believe to be right, and often when you've stood up for the underdog. Often with amusing results.
Sweep: Well, sometimes with amusing results. The classic one was when I'd stood up for the rights of Catholics when some evangelical extremist was attacking them for stupid reasons, and with that and a few other similar issues I got the wonderful accusation that I'm "A Catholic Communist who hates Christians."
AB: Which of course makes no sense at all.
Sweep: Exactly. Though in the warped mind of the person making the accusation it made sense. Ridiculous, warped, inaccurate, absurd sense. To his mind, if I stood up for Catholicism I must be a Catholic. I'm not, in fact, but what I am makes no difference. The real issue was the absurd and hateful inaccuracy of his attitude to Catholics.
He thought I must be a Communist, not because I'd ever said anything remotely Communist, but because in his mind anyone who didn't share his extreme right-wing views must automatically be a Communist.
An he thought I hated Christians because in his mind Catholics couldn't be Christians, and because, again, I didn't accept his right-wing fundamentalist version of Christianity. And I couldn't just disagree - I had to hate, because in his hateful mind anyone who disagreed must hate, because he hated everything outside his narrow range of beliefs and attitudes.
So it was funny, and I still laugh at the absurdity of it. But it's sad that any human being is so narrow, so filled with hate, so warped, so unable to think and to see what's in front of them.
AB: And to a lesser extent that attitude seems to recur in political debates.
Sweep: Yes. Which is why I keep clear of politics. But the state of things in Britain right now is such that I can't remain silent, just as I often refuse to remain silent when there are lies and deliberate propaganda being spread around.