Polarisation in Harlow

Submitted by AWL on 14 September, 2016 - 12:04 Author: Steve Drewett, Newtown Neurotics

“Brexit” is “Brexit” and “violent assault” is “violent assault”. Much as some people would deny that there is a connection between Brexit and the violence that occurred in Harlow over the August bank holiday, leaving one Polish man dead and another injured, there is undoubtedly one.

Both statements attempt to describe something and yet still leave one in the dark.I live in Harlow and have done so since 1959, I love this town. Its problems, such as they are, are no more (and probably less) than anywhere else in Britain.

One thing it is not, is intolerant. Quite the opposite. A lot of people live here whose ethnic origins lie outside of the British Isles, including a very large Polish community, and have for the most part been accepted.

There will always be those that resent foreign workers, but they are in the minority.When we heard about the horrendous attack on these two Polish men, and then, a week later another attack, again on two Polish males, the shock divided the Harlow community on the cause of the violence.One camp (Remain voters?) blamed the nature of the Brexit campaign, as it had aped the type of propaganda that Goebbels used against the Jews in Nazi Germany (the “breaking point” poster) and so had set the tone for viewing EU nationals as targets.

After the murder of MP Jo Cox during the EU campaign, many felt this would not be the end of incidents in which some people may think that they had been given the nod from their political masters to take events into their own hands.

The other camp (Brexit voters?) thought that this was just a case of feral teenagers whose anti-social behaviour had gone one step too far. There had in fact been an ongoing problem with them before this incident. The other attack was reasoned to be just one of the usual nightclub brawls that all large towns experience from time to time.

However, we live in a “jenga” society in which the building blocks of our communities, like Youth and Mental health services, decent employment and benefits etc. have all but been removed. Both parents and young people are left to cope as they can. Some do not. And when it all comes crashing down, everyone is a loser.“Feral teenagers” maybe, but that seems to ignore the surviving victim’s belief that they were attacked because they were heard to be speaking Polish and the fact that there has been a growing number of racist comments, threats and physical violence to the Polish community since the EU Referendum.

Both incidents are being investigated with hate crime as a possible motivation, but as we will not know for definite until they are complete, it leaves the motive wide open to speculation.Whatever the truth, this polarisation, similar to the one the country experienced with Leave and Remain, has us all in the dark about how things will turn out.