August Update — Numbers

This one goes out early to remind you all about the party this Saturday. It is at the Rosehill Tavern from 2 o’clock. It is the big launch of the project. It would be lovely to see you.

More exciting than a party is the news that you did it. Your collective solidarity has found a house for four people (at the moment there are 3 to people living there, but the fourth will move in very soon). Between us we have raised an income of £518 a month. “That’s not enough to rent a four-bedroom house in Brighton”, you scream. You’re right, but the landlord was going to end up with an empty property for six months and they wanted to put it to a good use. But come February, we going to need to be paying market rates for these four people. So, here is the usual request, please, please, please tell your friends. You have been the pioneers, you have made it happen, now let’s get those that follow to come in and claim the glory. If that doesn’t seem fair, hey, that’s how reward works in the divine vineyard.

You might think that the fact that people are housed would make your scribe (that’s me) very happy. What you would not realise is that I am not so easily satisfied. The reason is that the project has taught me a lot about numbers. In particular, it has helped me grasp the concept of an order of magnitude. It is not a tough concept. You start with the units, 1-9. That is the first order of magnitude. You then multiply that by 10 to get the tens. That’s the second order of magnitude. The hundreds are the third, the thousands, the fourth and so on. Why is that so upsetting? It’s because, when you stop and think about it, you realise how large big numbers are. One person is not very many, but 10 people is 10 times as many. To get a hundred people, you need to take one person 10 times over and then do that 10 times. If you want to get 1000 people, you need to take the 1 person 10 times over 10 times over 10 times. That’s what an order of magnitude means. It means that tens aren’t on the same scale as units, and hundreds aren’t on the same scale as tens.

There are roughly 8000 people trapped in Calais. 8 rounds of 1 person 10 times over 10 times would still need to be done 10 times before you got to the number of people in Calais (meanwhile the UK government has spent over £((1 x 10^7) + ((1 x 10^6) x 2)) (that’s £12million btw) building a fence). 57,000 people are trapped in refugee camps in Greece. That requires doing a little bit more than 7 rounds of the Calais multiplication. It puts you in a new order of magnitude. That’s to say nothing of the people trapped at other border bottlenecks across Europe or the thousands (1 x 10 x 10 x 10 at least twice over) drowned in the Med.

Why are there people trapped, languishing or dying in these places? Perhaps it is because the numbers are so big that Europe cannot cope? But that is just not true. In terms of human suffering, those numbers are huge. In terms of populations. Those numbers are tiny. There are 60 million people in the UK, that’s 1 person x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10, 6 times over. There are 510 million people in the EU. That’s 1 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10, 5 times over and then adding on something in the same order of magnitude as the UK population, ie 1 x 10^7. There are football stadiums that hold more than 57,000 people. We could find homes for these people tomorrow and not even notice. It is a political choice to have people trapped in these hellish limbos. There is no European refugee crisis. There is a European border crisis.

It is estimated that around 200,000 people made their irregular ways into Europe last year. If any 1 of those 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10, 2 times over people makes it into the UK, we still make their life miserable. You do not get to cross the border simply by crossing the border. You are still on the outside of society. You are not allowed to work. You are not allowed to claim state support. You’re not allowed to do very much. There is a pretty good chance you will be locked up without a time limit in an “immigration removal centre” – better known as a prison. So that’s why I’m sad. It does, however, make me a little bit proud that together, as a community, we put up £1 x 10 x 10, 5 and a little bit times over each month to find a home for 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 of those people. Thank you.


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