You’re not a traveller, you’re a Crusty

Another story in the news this week has been the eviction and clearance of the Dale Farm caravan site in Essex. It’s an issue which seems to have polarised opinion, but not in the way you would necessarily expect. I’m not really sure why racial persecution experts from the UN have been appearing on Newsnight to complain about the failure of planning proposals on a green belt site, but they have.

If this was about race or ethnicity it would clearly be wrong but I don’t think it’s helpful when the UN guest speaker says something along the lines of ‘treating people the same is not equality’. Well, no that would be equity and there is a subtle difference but having equity before the law is one form of equality and this is a legal case. Also, having laws which control a person’s lifestyle choices cannot in my view be defined as having any sort of racial element. I am also unaware of any religious doctrine followed by travellers on this or any other site that prevents them from complying with local planning constraints.

That’s the discrimination argument finished as far as I’m concerned, lifestyle choices are exactly that, choices. If you choose to live in a way that is defined as illegal by the democratic process you have no right to complain when your actions are forcefully stopped. You may feel the law is unfair but we have several legal processes for dealing with those complaints. You may feel that the land is not being used but there are sound societal reasons for having green belt planning constraints. Nobody has the right to do whatever they please with something they own. The effects of your actions on both those around you and also those in wider society are the reason many laws exist. However much you feel your lifestyle choices should be permitted, when they impact on other people’s lives in a way that they feel is negative, there will always be a clash. If those impacts are felt to be sufficient, legislation is inevitable.

I think I’ve summed up why this cannot be described as discrimination, now for some observations. One of the main reasons that traveller sites are unpopular with the general public living in the local area is to do with waste. Whenever you get groups of people living together in a small area, you get rubbish and detritus. This needs to be removed by someone, if the site is not legal, it will not be (and should not be) removed by the council. It seems a peculiar human trait that while we may love the places we live we cannot be bothered to remove our waste to a distance whereby it would no longer damage our enjoyment of living there. In other words, traveller sites always end up full of rubbish, rubbish smells and attracts rats & other vermin, this cannot be pleasant for anyone. What is it about these types of travellers that they want to have the option of moving on whenever they please but they never actually want to go until they are forced to. If you’re not going anywhere, why not live in a house? If you want to travel, why not travel? If you just want the option to move about regularly, why not rent? Most of us did it when we lived in an area we didn’t intend to stay for too long. If you have chosen a lifestyle which has rejected the concept of a permanent home, you cannot have any grievance when your chosen temporary pitch is removed from your possession.

Of course it must be said that most people, when faced with a forced eviction, act in a responsible manner. If your caravan is your home, you surely wouldn’t want it to be damaged while you put up resistance, fighting a lost cause. The majority of the 400 or so people originally living on the Dale Farm site have left already. There are, as of this morning, about 50 protesters still present (estimated). I think protesters is a telling word because most of them had never even heard of Dale Farm before the media coverage of its eviction had begun. Many of these people seem to be those that have become known as ‘professional protesters’. The sort of people who seem to feel strongly about all sorts of causes, almost all of which are opposed to both the official policy of our democratically elected government and the generally held opinions of the public on both a local and national level. The sort of people who will do their utmost to prevent the construction of a road bypass through the countryside to lessen congestion in villages because it will damage the surrounding land and will then protest against the removal of illegal developments on land which would otherwise have been left for nature to absorb. People who will protest about the government’s lack of spending by randomly vandalising the buildings in their immediate vicinity, increasing emergency policing costs and thus reducing the amount of available resources to be spent on the causes they claim to champion (oh the irony). People then, whose opinions really don’t matter because they are wholly dependent on being a ‘protester’ on being ‘anti’ whatever the current mood may be. Not people who actually hold opinions in their own right, based on an understanding of the facts, an idea of what may happen in the future depending on choices made now and a general feeling of what feels right, which is how most of us get our opinions. Not people who have jobs and families and contribute to society in a meaningful manner. Not people then, who I feel any obligation to listen to or sympathise with whatsoever.

Thanks for reading.

Rowan

All comments welcome, I’ll try to answer as many as I can.

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