On stigmas in the UK

On rainy days (so to speak), I am a stupid old cow who is delusional about her capabilities, as she imagines she went to university yet cannot even be trusted to figure out how to operate a coffeemaker.

Literally, yes. Except the rainy day bit.

I am often demonised for being female and over the age of 35 or 45 and, perhaps worst of all, not married. This is common in the UK, sadly. It’s not merely my personal experience; there is plenty of research that found that this is widespread in the UK.

On top of that, I’m a migrant, hence from a banana republic (because all countries except the UK are developing countries), a liar, probably also a drug addict and definitely low-skilled. That’s what the UK government says, too.

I became bullied very badly in the UK – by anonymous people around me – after I moved here from Amsterdam at the end of 2004. First in Southampton and then in Portsmouth.

It’s a highly alienating experience. In other words, it produces a major “WHAT THE FUCK?!!” sentiment to be a highly qualified professional, and an adult, and finding yourself bullied and ridiculed and what not by people you don’t know and who don’t know you.

It went so far that it also affected people I worked with, who were mostly in other countries. My clients. My friends. My colleagues. Acquaintances.

On the one hand, it’s incomprehensible to people in other countries. On the other hand, within the UK, it gets you tagged as there being something wrong with you, as “vulnerable”. Otherwise you wouldn’t get bullied, right? The marginalisation caused by bulling gets amplified on its own.

There is a lot of bullying in Britain. Brits are among the most-bullied workers in the world. Many Brits also seem to have no idea of what constitutes bullying and what does not.

That’s evident when for example an employer says “it did not go too far” and “it was not bullying”, when one of the people working for him was set on fire, locked in the trunk of a car, often came home with bruises and eventually killed himself to escape from the bullying.

There is a tremendous amount of meddling that can be considered bullying too, certainly when the meddling requires breaking laws.

Britain is riddled with stigmas. I didn’t know that when I arrived here. I had no idea of all the stigmas sitting on my shoulders.

It was not necessarily merely the fact that I was a foreigner – on its own – that resulted in the bullying and it wasn’t all about that unfathomable class thing either, though those were the main things I could think of and those were certainly issues that I also ran into and in relation to which I violated unspoken rules.

I was too confident for someone who wasn’t filthy rich, for example, which ticked off a lot of people. In addition, there were people who disliked me because they assumed that I was on welfare because they didn’t see me leave for a daily job elsewhere and had no idea you can’t just move to the UK and receive benefits. That takes years of having lived in the UK. Quite a few have thought I was on disability benefits. Some thought I had some kind of learning disability.

There are very strong social rules in the UK – certainly in southern England – that impose on everyone a duty to be and behave in a certain way. I wasn’t doing that. I was highly confident, well-educated, self-employed, living on my own. But I was renting. And I wasn’t going to the pub on Friday to get drunk and to get laid. I sometimes went for a run or a walk, sometimes sat on the seashore, enjoying the waves and wildlife in the sand. That didn’t add up for the strangers around me.

So they figured that something was “wrong” with me.

The only thing that people may have considered “right” about me was that I possessed a pale skin?

Stigmatisation due to any kind of otherness isn’t funny. It’s deeply hurtful and immensely detrimental to health, just to mention two effects. It results in marginalisation and poverty.

It’s also highly damaging to the UK’s economy and to British society as a whole.

I do believe that a lot of it is directly related to this quintessentially English “class” thing, this division into real people and people who can be treated as if they are, say, plastic bottles or tennis balls, in the eyes of many people in Britain.

I think that the 19th-century British doctrine of “utilitarianism” is at least partly to blame for that. It makes other people expendable as long as you declare them less worthy. It divides people into worthy ones and offensive ones that should be hidden away so as not to offend the worthy ones. I discuss it in my book “We need to talk about this“.

Britain isn’t a place of great happiness and great prosperity, in my experience, though there is a lot of sunshine along the south coast of England, where I live, and some places are certainly much happier than others. There is a tremendous amount of misery and widespread deep poverty in Britain as the result of its high level of inequality. It depends on where you go and how you use your senses whether you get to see any of that. That also applies for Tories and tourists.

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