I stand in the observation deck of the Sky Tower, the highest building of the Southern Hemisphere in the beautiful Auckland City. Below me is the Hauraki Gulf sprawling around the cascades of suburbs below. I see before me my young history with a country that I have grown to call home. My life in New Zealand is still in the discovery phase and continuously being nurtured by my experiences and those around me. My heart has finally found a sense of home after spending many years in search for one.
I started my life in what feels like another world to here, in a town in Yorkshire, England, that is as diverse and complex as a major city can be. My hometown knows immigration well, we have colourful groups of people from countries as far flung as Pakistan, Romania and all the way to the Caribbean. Over the last twenty years the British landscape has gone through significant change and has morphed it into the country it is today. The country has been impacted dramatically by events in the world, and as a spectator, I've seen immigration arrive to our shores only to be treated with such virility that it made me saddened for those coming here in hope of a new start. The growing number of refugees at borders in Europe have only grown during the Syrian crisis and this has increased the unfounded fear around accepting people into our country. When I think of my own immigration journey, one that's been nine years in the making, the trials are nothing in comparison with those who have fled their country to find a better life away from persecution. More importantly, I have been lucky to be welcomed as an immigrant, which has allowed for a much easier settling experience.
With mass migration happening in Europe, it seems as though the human side has been lost somewhere. Instead of compassion, we show a country of locked doors and red tape. While immigration control is necessary and needed to maintain sustainability in the long term, the short term negativity is portraying England as a place where foreign culture is rejected. Which simply isn't true.
Caribbean festival in Leeds, England
Rhetoric from the media on issues as important as immigration, terrorism, and economic decline have led me to feel part of the disillusioned youth that has grown up during this long period of unrest in England. My 20s were filled with the news stories of rising tuition fees, riots on the streets of England, and war with a country that was founded on misinformation. I'm proud to be from a working class background, yet as I lived through the height of the recession the working class declined in its ability to sustain itself and I saw the horrendous effect it had on people who were already a large part of low-income Britain. Unemployment figures rose and a system that was supposed to provide support, fell short. A generation of people living on a welfare system took place of those who would go to work and once it took hold, the government tried to scramble to create a reform, but the system was already in place and the lifestyle created.
As the news cycle continued and with the bad decisions being made, the growing disparity had taken hold. I knew this wasn't a place I could call home or somewhere where I wanted to build a future. I believe in free speech and advocating for a cause but I don't believe in shunning people from our society because they're different, I don't believe in looting a high street in the name of protest and I don't believe a generation of young people should lose out on an education or the right to employment purely because of where they fall on the class scale or where they happen to reside.
While the government can't fix everything, there's a growing noise in England that they're responsible. According to many the government are the reason kids can't go to uni, the reason why there's no jobs and while governing bodies play a significant part, I wonder if people are using it as an easy excuse to stay in a bad situation, or if the culture of being a victim is now just too strong to break. For me, I was raised knowing that if I wanted anything, I had to work for it, and while many others do have this as their own ethos, there's a growing number of people claiming what they can from the system, because they can.
I left England because I became part of the disillusioned youth that was raised there. When I visit home and hear from friends and family, the tone is always the same. Change for the better is being rejected, and complacency with a life that is unfulfilling is taking its place. While change can be a challenge and a force into the unknown, it is ultimately where the future is created. Embracing change with a positive attitude is the only way something better than the current state can be created.
Part of me mourns the loss of my identity with my country but the greater part is forging ahead with the opportunity I've been lucky to be given. My hope is others find their way, that England finds what used to make it great and rebuilds to a country that can once again be respected by all who live there.