You don’t have to be a xenophobe to think Britain being an island matters, but it helps!

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I have a distinct feeling of writing about this somewhere but can’t find it, so here’s the rant redux.

The images on which our thinking and reasoning are based can sometimes exert a powerful force. There are many mechanisms we use to counter that force but sometimes it is very difficult. It seems particularly difficult for some people to shed the idea that the fact that Britain is an island has any bearing on its immigration, housing or grave digging policy as compared to a continental state!

I was reminded of this again when the sociologist Kate Woodthorpe mentioned on this edition of Thinking Aloud http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0112gzd that the shortage of grave plots is a particular problem in the UK because ‘after all we are an island’.

This same trope pops up all over the place when it comes to population and housing. See here and here and here.

I don’t know how to say this without sounding like I’m stating the obvious. But that’s because it is just that obvious. In current geopolitical context, every country is pretty much an island from the point of view of its population, housing or grave digging. France can’t just borrow a bit of Germany to house its excess immigrants or to dig a few graves (although I have this image of an underground corpse tunnel…). This is often accompanied by calling Britain a “small island” which it is not but even if it were half the size of Belgium, the same principle would apply.

I think the power of this image stems from its underlying schema which is that of a platform in the middle of water off the edges of which it is possible to fall. And the more people you add to the platform, the more likely they are to fall off.  This is so powerful that even a few people I pointed this out to, took a lot of convincing.

Of course, this schema is popular with groups wanting to promote a certain point of view on migration but I think its power works regardless of ideology.

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