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What Mo Farah tells us about multicultural Britain (very little)

10 October 2013

12:22 PM

10 October 2013

12:22 PM

The outrage over Jack Wilshere’s comment that ‘If you live in England for five years it doesn’t make you English’ shows how the Overton window can shift in such a short space of time. Fifteen years ago no one would have cared, but many drew sinister implications from the statement, and England cricketer Kevin Pietersen asked:

‘Interested to know how you define foreigner…? Would that include me, Strauss, Trott, Matt Prior, Justin Rose, Froome, Mo Farah?’

Mo Farah, again. Every time someone uses Mo Farah as an argument for multiculturalism I do my own version of the Mobot by sinking my head into my hands; even intelligent commentators writing for conservative publications have taken to making this anecdotal case for diversity.

Farah’s story is heartwarming, that of a man who went against the odds to escape warfare and win over his adopted country, but it says little about wider social issues. Sport is not real life, and sporting contests are substitute test of national strength and solidarity. That’s why sports teams tend to attract men who feel slightly atomised. And it’s why talk of the Olympics spirit as a lesson for British society, 2012 becoming the Guardian-reader’s version of 1966, are bogus; it’s like trying to recreate the spirit of the time you took five E’s at the Hacienda as the basis of your social policy.

Because national sporting events are about nationality, of course the issue of identity is legitimate. The people who see it as their job to police the multiculturalism debate cannot understand nuance. In most of the non-western world, and historically in Europe, one’s nationality was tied to ancestry; the W.E.I.R.D globalist view is that it is only about residence. Surely it’s a mixture of the two, so that in answer to Pietersen’s question: Africans of British ancestry, like Justin Rose, Matt Prior or Chris Froome, are more British than those who aren’t. Why is that so difficult a concept?

And, as with everything, it depends on numbers. Mo Farah is Somalian but there’s nothing incongruous about his also feeling British, yet if the entire Olympic team (or England football team) were made up of people who came from overseas, in what sense would it still be England?

This is an emotional subject driven by deep-seated feelings, which is probably why the Mo Farah-cy is wielded out so often; most English people will never like the high levels of immigration in their neighbourhoods (like any group of people) but they get on with immigrants as individuals and like and admire Mo Farah.

But it’s a fairly basic, reason-free argument, not the least because Mo is highly unrepresentative of Somali immigration in general, which is characterised by high levels of social housing occupancy, unemployment and a serious gang problem  – and with a large cohort about to enter adolescence. The Olympics are over, and that’s the reality.

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