I am faced with a decision: harming myself under a threat to my survival or harming my deepest humanity (my soul).
First published in April 2019.
I don’t know the answer, but I know I am not acting freely. I am acting under duress.
Like a hostage. Like someone threatened by the mafia.
This was a very difficult story to write. But the stress of the coercion is tearing me apart. I sit and stare at the wall. I sleep and cannot wake up. I cry in public. I get very angry and then cry again. It’s affecting my entire life. I have to speak or I will suffocate.
“I sleep and cannot wake up. I cry in public. I get very angry and then cry again. It’s affecting my entire life. I have to speak or I will suffocate.”
The application all EU citizens have to make to be granted a lesser status of human rights, called ‘Settled Status’ is not voluntary. We are being forced to make it under threat of deportation.
“‘Settled Status’ is not voluntary. We are being forced to make it under threat of deportation.”
As time goes on and I read and hear more about it, from those who applied and are happy about their new status, from those who applied and feel violated by the process, from those who applied, ready to submit, and were rejected, I feel more and more paralysed by a terrible dread.
And then it hit me.
What we EU citizens in the UK are experiencing is ‘duress’, a form of coercion, by the authorities of the state. We are being forced, under severe and life changing threats, to act against our own best interests and against our deepest values (the definition of ‘under duress’).
“What we EU citizens in the UK are experiencing is ‘duress’, a form of coercion, by the authorities of the state.”
But, some of you will say, isn’t it in our best interests to apply for Settled Status (or, as is now clear from the many rejections, for Pre-Settled Status which is even more dangerous and uncertain)? Won’t this application (if not rejected) protect us and our human rights after Brexit?
The answer, in full honesty, is ‘no’.
Settled and Pre-Settled Status is not a protection of our rights. It is a removal of many of our citizen rights, and our status will be forever uncertain and tightly controlled by the Home Office.
“Settled and Pre-Settled Status is not a protection of our rights. It is a removal of many of our citizen rights, and our status will be forever uncertain and tightly controlled by the Home Office.”
The answer, in the worst case, is ‘perhaps’ and ‘it will be better than not to have Settled or Pre-Settled Status’. It will be a lesser evil.
But why will it be a lesser evil?
Because not to have it after the cut-off point (currently end of 2020) will mean that we will lose ALL our rights in the UK. We won’t be able to work, rent, have health care, education or even bank accounts. We will, if we still manage to survive somehow, eventually be picked up by the police and deported.
So – we are not acting in our own best interest because that option has been taken away from us.
The threat we are under is very straightforward.
It underlies all the ‘nice’ posters and radio ads by the Home Office urging us to apply so that we can be protected. Protected from whom? From the Home Office itself and its Hostile Environment. Yes, it does have similarities to the Mafia Boss who offers you ‘protection’ from his own organisation beating you up and ruining your business.
“It does have similarities to the Mafia Boss who offers you ‘protection’ from his own organisation beating you up and ruining your business.”
If you submit to the Mafia Boss and pay him ‘protection’ money against his own threatened violence, you are acting under duress. You are being coerced to act against your own best interests which would be not paying protection money and not living under a constant threat.
Or maybe the analogy of hostage taking is ultimately even more accurate.
We lived here as free citizens.
Now the British government has taken us hostage and is coercing us into collaborating with the removal of our own rights. We are now committing an act of severe self-harm because the harm we are threatened with is much worse.
“The British government has taken us hostage and is coercing us into collaborating with the removal of our own rights.”
We apply (apply! We can still be rejected, so this is like having to ask to, please, sir, for a cruel act to be done to us) to have our human rights reduced under the threat that all rights will be taken away from us.
The Home Office has form on this, of course. The Windrush scandal is the blueprint of what will be done to us. We know it. And we fear it, with good reason. We also know how brutally ‘illegal immigrants’ are treated by the Home Office. And we will be made ‘illegal immigrants’ if we don’t apply for a status that removes many of our rights.
I am a hostage, just like everyone else.
I feel the brutality of the coercion, just like everyone else.
All my life, freedom and equality have been my deepest values. I’ve taken many decisions based on those values, decisions that sometimes endangered my economic survival.
This is the worst threat I have ever been under. This time, my survival is threatened on every level.
The question for me is this: can I resist the coercion? Or: for me, what is the greatest harm?
And, to my own surprise, more and more I’m beginning to think that I may not be able to act against my deepest values. Not because I don’t see that it would be expedient for me to do so. I should really act against my true interests of being a whole, ethical human and apply for diminished human rights status so that I can continue to exist here. Existence is more important than values. Is it?
Because I do have another option. Leaving the UK would be devastating to me and my business.
But it is true that I could, if I had to.
Many have already taken this option, a great personal cost, because they could not bring themselves to act against their own humanity, under this coercion.
I’ve been fighting, like many, against Brexit. Intensively and continuously. Every single day. For me, the fight is not just about myself. It also feels, as it does for many others, like a fight for the very soul of the UK, my home for decades.
But more and more I’m coming to the reluctant conclusion that I will only be able to stay here if Brexit does not happen, and if Settled Status never happens because Freedom of Movement remains. (It is, of course, totally unclear what will happen to those who are already in the system of Settled Status if Brexit is stopped. Their data are already being used by the Home Office.)
“I will only be able to stay here if Brexit does not happen, and if Settled Status never happens because Freedom of Movement remains.”
I am the hostage who is still hoping that the situation will be resolved peacefully and that my small contributions to fighting Brexit will add to the millions of contributions who stop it.
But if not, if Brexit goes ahead without Freedom of Movement, I am not sure I can be made to violate myself so deeply.
This is not a criticism of those who are applying or have applied to Settled Status, whether they are successful or are rejected. Like me, they are under duress and they are acting to diminish the harm that will be done to them. I respect their decision.
This is also not a criticism of those who are actively promoting the Home Office campaign to make us all apply to Settled Status. To me, this campaign is hypocritical and also acts as a strong message to British citizens: ‘Look, these people will be forced to ask us to strip them of their rights. Look, they are no longer your equals.’ I shiver as I write this. But I understand that those EU citizens who are helping the campaign are acting out of a sincere desire to diminish the harm that will be done to us. A lesser evil, and they are right about that.
“The Settled Status campaign is hypocritical and also acts as a strong message to British citizens: ‘Look, these people will be forced to ask us to strip them of their rights. Look, they are no longer your equals.’”
However, I reserve the right to disagree with them.
I never thought I would.
I thought that I would go along, that I would comply and ask to please be stripped of my rights to that I can survive, in a diminished way, always under tight control and of course under constant uncertainty as to what further rights might be removed from us in the future.
I thought that when the time came, I would do it, under duress. And of course it is absolutely possible that I will, next year. Maybe the coercion will be so strong that I will no longer be able to resist. I feel a lot of compassion for my future self.
But more and more I feel that the harm I would do to myself, on a very deep level, by collaborating with such an act of human rights savagery, a retroactive stripping away of citizens rights that I was told were forever, would be worse than the considerable harm I will experience by leaving this country, my home for most of my life.
Like all of us, I wish I wasn’t forced to make this choice.
But I feel I need to write about, with this deep honesty and vulnerability.
In law, coercion is codified as a duress crime. Such actions are used as leverage, to force the victim to act in a way contrary to their own interests. Coercion may involve the actual infliction of physical pain/injury or psychological harm in order to enhance the credibility of a threat.🔷
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