1

Jonathan Jones – Here lie the unwanted of Calais – an indictment of us, not them

These are people in Calais now. People who wanted to find new lives. Instead they lie like cocooned caterpillars, desperately hoping to wake up to a different world. Others sit on the rubbish-strewn pavement, hunched in blankets. They too are rubbish, or so it would seem, according to widespread attitudes that have in recent weeks seen calls for children to undergo dental inspections to determine their age. How old are the people huddled here in the heart’s cold dawn – children, adolescents or adults? Can we at least agree they are fellow human beings?

I would harrow you, I would harrow myself. Give me words to make this picture real. If we could feel the pain of others, we would be good people, you and I. But this is an age of unparalleled harshness. Pictures of suffering pass us by. We narrow our eyes and close our souls. What have we become?

Let’s look, at least. It seems to be early morning. Remember a time you greeted the dawn after a club, or waiting for a Greek ferry. But this is different. There’s no bed to go to and no destination in sight. A camp that provided some kind of desperate community is being demolished. The people here are falling into a gap in the modern world. They look like they are bound for a homeless future. These are the people we have decided we have no space for, no interest in and no compassion towards. This is the result – people mingling with discarded plastic bottles in the streets of abandonment. For human beings don’t disappear, unless you actually kill them. They stand around, slump in blankets, lie wrapped up and trying to dream of somewhere better. Here they are – the unwanted.

Read more