When I was 14, I spent my Saturday mornings - along with my best friend and her two younger brothers - in the basement of Longsight library, having Nigerian lessons.
I'm not Nigerian (although I can claim direct ancestral links to about eight different countries, more of which later), but my best friend was - ancestrally, at least - and her parents were becoming increasingly concerned that she, along with her seven Manchester-born siblings, were not taking their cultural heritage sufficiently seriously.
My friend, like most 14-year-old girls resident in Manchester in the 1990s (where I spent alternative weekends throughout the decade), wanted to spend her Saturday mornings at Manchester Arndale and Affleck's Palace, and her evenings soliciting bottles of Blue Nun and sneaking into gigs.
Her devoutly religions mother, who had come over to the UK as a young newlywed in the '70s and spent most of the subsequent years caring for an ever-increasing brood of children, knew little about the wider world her children were growing up in, and worried fastidiously about it (on one memorable occasion, she strictly forbade the household from listening to any more Lightning Seeds albums, as she had confused the lead singer, Ian Brodie, with infamous moors child killer, Ian Brady).
So, after yet another lengthy argument with her children about the right and proper way to spend their weekends (going out with their friends versus studying Nigerian history and heritage), she struck a deal with her three youngest children - they could spend Saturday afternoons and evenings as they liked... IF they went to Nigerian lessons in the mornings. And if - for reasons I still have yet to fathom - I came too.
No other family friends were invited, so I don't know why my presence was required, other than my friend's mother had concluded that, where it comes to teenage girls joined-at-the-hip best friends, it's easier just to lump them into an activity together, rather than dealing with the extra hassle trying to separate them ("but MUM, why can't Miri come too, she LOVES Nigerian lessons!").
As it turned out, I was just as interested in the Nigerian lessons as my friend and her brothers were, which is to say, not at all. The four of us gossiped and giggled and ignored the teacher, and did Mexican waves whenever his back was turned (poor guy...).
Eventually, as my friend approached school-leaving age, the lessons fizzled out, and - although she and her siblings did very well academically and in their careers - they disappointed their parents greatly by never really investing in or identifying with their Nigerian heritage. When one of my friends' sisters announced casually she was considering giving her future children Irish first names, weren't they so lovely and lyrical, she incensed her mother almost to the point of apoplexy (it was even worse than the Brodie / Brady thing).
I share this anecdote, which will be recognisable to all dual heritage families, to illustrate that it's very difficult for children to be, in the literal sense, "multicultural" - as in, invested equally in multiple different cultures at once. They tend to assimilate with the culture they are born into, regardless of where their parents are from, and this becomes even more inevitable when their parents are from multiple different places. My friend's ethnic heritage was 100% uniform - both parents and multiple generations of ancestors from the same place - but mine, like many others, is not. My composite ancestral heritage makes me:
And the remaining 12.5% a mishmash of Scots, Irish, and English.
Obviously, I can't possibly "identify" with all of these backgrounds simultaneously, or even know very much about them all, and I don't - I can't speak any language other than English, I've never even been to Poland, and so on. (I do have some interesting familial facts to share, though, such as my Polish grandfather went to school with Pope John Paul II - a photo of them shaking hands at a school reunion took pride of place on my grandmother's piano for years - and my Welsh great-grandfather was the bowls champion of North Wales. This sporting gene had spluttered out by the time it came to me, alas, although perhaps some faint genetic memory underpins the fact I am able to both spell and pronounce that really long station.)
There's nothing very exceptional about this these days, as migration patterns after the world wars, and generally more mobile and cosmopolitan lifestyles, have made this kind of thing unremarkable, in the West at least. But it's not at all common in many other countries, which retain much higher levels of cultural homogeneity, and I think these dramatically different cultural situations are key to the current global tectonic shifts taking place.
To sum, countries that may take the Palestinian side in an escalating global conflict, and that we are told are "against" the West - Iran, China, Russia - are far more culturally homogenous than we are.
In Iran, for example, an extraordinary 99.4% of the population is Muslim (compare to the UK, where just 46% identify as Christian, 37% have no religion, and the remaining percentage is comprised of at least six other religions).
In a world war situation - which it does seem we are hurtling towards at queasy breakneck speed - strong, uniform cultures where people are unified by believing in a lot of the same things and feel they have a definable culture to protect (a culture they might be prepared to die to defend) may be seen as being at an advantage.
I think it's interesting and revealing that British-born people will get so passionately involved in overseas conflicts - the Middle East, Ukraine - whilst being often rather disinterested in what is going on at home.
We in the West are at war too, it is simply a more "modern" form of warfare - silent weapons for quiet wars, an approach chosen when the aggressors want to maximise casualties but retain the country's infrastructure. If that is your goal, you use biological warfare, which only harms people, not buildings, transport links, and other vital social structures. The more "primitive" guns and bombs method is for when you want to completely obliterate a location structurally, not merely depopulate it.
So, here in the UK, excess deaths are spiralling every week, mothers and babies are dying in unprecedented numbers, the elderly are being murdered in their (care) homes by hostile forces - just as is happening in the Middle East - but it doesn't arouse the same interest or provoke the same passions in most, which I think may be born of the cultural ennui many people feel: that our culture isn't robust and definable (and thus worth protecting) in the same way more coherent and unified overseas cultures are.
Anyone who is aware of the atrocities successive governments are capable of perpetrating in "official" wars - killing innocent people, including women, children and the elderly - should have no problem in understanding that those same psychopathic establishments don't just kill with guns and bombs, they kill with needles and poisons, too (and please note that both the Israeli government and Hamas pushed the Covid injections: neither of these entities care in the slightest about the welfare of "their people", any more than Rishi Sunak or Kier Starmer cares about ours - all prominent world leaders and would-be leaders have one allegiance only, and that is to 'the club' - you know, the big one that you and I are not in).
Yet one form of warfare and merciless killing arouses international outrage and condemnation, with huge press attention everywhere, whilst the other is largely ignored. While even mainstream sources admit the NHS intentionally murders tens of thousands of people every year, and has been doing for decades, there are, nevertheless, no high-profile marches or shows of solidarity for these, primarily elderly, people in major UK city centres, as there are for victims of Middle Eastern warfare - why not? Don't our elderly matter just as much?
Sadly, the argument could feasibly be made, in terms of how they are treated by the two respective cultures, "no". In Middle Eastern homes, elderly people typically live with their families, a central and valued part of community life, until their natural death. Here, they are all too often shunted in substandard care homes and drugged into premature death - and not necessarily because their families don't want to care for them, but because they can't - they lack the money, the time, or the specialist skills to care for a elderly, ailing relative, whilst also juggling work and childcare. So, a Middle Easterner visiting UK shores could make the argument that - to the residents of the West - indeed, their elderly do not appear to matter as much as the elderly of other cultures do. And we are perpetuating this idea if we purport to be more outraged about Middle Eastern terrorists murdering their elderly people, than we are the domestic terrorists that murder ours.
A lot of these foreign cultures consider the West to be deeply degenerate and broken: to have fallen into an incoherent moral abyss that is going increasingly insane (to the extent our "leaders" do not even know what a woman is). So, if we have an "East vs. West" global war, the East is going to fight from that perspective - that we in the West have perilously lost our way and need some "proper" values forcibly imposed on us, namely, theirs.
This is why it's so profoundly important for us not to be completely swept up in the tragedies of other countries - and they are indeed tragedies - and lose touch entirely with what is going on in our own.
The reason those of us who opposed lockdown and the attendant "restrictions" did so is because we recognised there is a culture and a set of values here in the West very much worth defending, those being, the civic and personal freedoms on which the architecture of post-war Britain has been based. The liberty to build our lives as we want, free from religious or state persecution. To decide what kinds of lives we will pursue without coercion, persecution, or penalties from draconian authorities. Not everyone in the world is granted that level of freedom - very far from it, in fact - and it is something that matters, and that we should put up a fight to defend.
But such problems are solvable, without importing extreme fundamentalism from other countries. It may be the case that Afghani women, for instance, essentially confined for life to the family home, never get "lonely" - but I still think most of those experiencing loneliness in the UK would nevertheless rather not change places with them.
We need to preserve our collective freedoms and liberties and the right to choose the kinds of lives we want - that's what we were fighting for all throughout "lockdown", when the government tried to forcibly impose directives about how we should live, dress, do business, and socialise. This was ostensibly under the guise of 'safety' - but it might just as well have been under the guise of religion or morality, as it is in other countries, and it could be in ours, next time. What, after all, is the real material difference between a government official telling you to cover your face "because germs" and a religious official telling you to "because God"?
Implicit and critical to continuing that fight now, and to defending our inalienable rights to live, dress, work and socialise as we choose (which people in countries such as Iran certainly cannot), is to firmly internalise the idea that our culture and our people matter as much as those in sensationalist foreign wars do: that, to be clear, it's just as barbaric and evil to murder an old woman by lethal injection in a hospital bed, as it is to storm into her house and shoot her. In both cases, death may be instant and painless (or. it may not), yet both are murder, and both are equally deserving of exposure, condemnation, and the fight for justice.
Genociding pregnant women and their babies with an injection that causes fatal blood clots and cardiac arrests (as is happening across the Western world currently), is equally as evil as bombing the maternity hospitals where they reside and killing them that way.
Yes, what is happening in the Middle East matters (and I've written about it here). But what is happening at home matters just as much, and it is all part of the same agenda being carried out by the same people. The agenda to achieve mass depopulation, to annihilate all world culture, and to have any survivors living in a dystopian one-world monoculture, where definable differences between people, such as nationality, religion, and heritage, have been destroyed. The Middle Eastern people have recognised this to a certain extent and have resisted Western values being forcibly imposed on their countries, as it is quite right and proper that they should.
Equally, we in the West may very well soon be called to do the same - to resist values we have not asked for and don't want being forcibly imposed on us. But for that resistance to be powerful and effective, we have to first reject the cultural apathy that has been intentionally introduced into our ranks. We are supposed to think, "we are lucky and safe in a civilised Western country, so we shouldn't look to our own problems, petty in comparison to other countries" - but we are not safe. Our problems are not petty. The same predator class is hunting us all, every single one of us not in that big global club - and to defend our own lives, our own families, and our own futures, we've got to realise that when we say "all lives matter", we really do mean our own, as well.
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