Discussion of matters political continues here with only a few weeks to go the election. It seems that in the televised debate on Thursday Ed Miliband has persuaded some people that he might not be such a bad bet for the role of Prime Minister after all. This does not stop some very personal attacks from his opponents though; if anything it probably provokes them. There is some very nasty campaigning going on this time. Whether it is this or the much publicised almost open racism of a certain party but some people appear to feel they have been given carte blanche to be downright rude to campaigners.
A Labour Party candidate introduced herself to an elderly man (it is impossible to call him a gentleman) on the campaign trail. His response was, 'I know who you are, I've got your leaflet. Get off my doorstep, Jew.'
It's rather worrying to think that people feel that it's all right to shout abuse in this way in public, which is what the old chap did as the campaigner walked away. Are we really becoming a less tolerant society and, disturbingly, one where it's okay to voice your prejudices out loud for all to hear?
I was reading an article about the American writer Saul Bellow, who spoke Yiddish or Russian at home with his parents, spoke English or French at school and learnt Hebrew from the age of three. By his own account as a young child, "I didn't know what language I was speaking and didn't understand if there was any distinction among these various languages". The natural tolerance of children, I suppose. He also spoke the street slang of Chicago, spending time on the streets with other youngsters. He said that the neighbourhood schools "earnestly tied to convert or civilise their pupils, the children of immigrants from every European country. To civilise was to Americanise us all." To "Americanise" is a wonderful turn of phrase. I wonder if you could still say that now. Is it politically correct?
Here are a few odd facts.
The first curry house in Britain was opened in Brighton in 1809 by ex-sepoy Dean Mohammed.
English converts to Islam numbered about 1,000 at the turn of the last century and supported the building of Britain's first purpose-built mosque in 1889 in Woking.
These facts were gleaned from a review of "Exotic England" by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, herself a Ugandan Asian who came to the UK in 1972.
She asks, "What kind of England will emerge in the coming years? Will it become soulless, colourless, mean, closed off and small? Or will it choose ... to be open, big, international and curious, easy with diversity because it always has been?"
Then the Observer ran a poll on all sorts of things concerned with Europe, immigration, the state of the UK, housing, money and so on; you name it, it was included! Now, I wonder, of the 48% of those polled who said that they strongly agree that "immigrants coming to this country should embrace the British way of life rather than hold on to the lifestyle they had at home" go on holiday abroad and look for places serving an English breakfast and English fish and chips and turn their noses up at the "foreign muck" served in restaurants in those sunny places.
So much for tolerance.