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Russia-Ukraine for ‘Years and Years’ – Part I: The “Bedroom Law” (Housing Crisis)

Part I of an article series examining themes from the British dystopian series Years and Years that have become pertinent following the Russia-Ukraine War.

Housing crisis… homelessness crisis… refugee crisis—to where is this all heading? Years and Years may have already told warned you…

In Part I of this article series I discuss the theme of Housing Crisis as depicted by the British prophetic fiction series Years and Years, examining its predictive significance in relation to the wider ramifications of the Russia-Ukraine War, specifically those of direct concern to British society.

British Housing Crisis

In Britain (perhaps even more so than in Europe), the most immediate and striking development of the Russia-Ukraine War was the appeals and then arrangements for the mass asylum of Ukrainian refugees, which transpired even faster and more fervently than I had anticipated (as mentioned in my previous article: Russia-Ukraine & ‘Years and Years’: Prophecy Rising). Of particular interest here concerning this ongoing development – and testament to the gung-ho humanitarianism at its basis – is the quickly-emerged subplot of volunteer refugee housing, whereby the portrayal of British citizens’ eagerness to welcome Ukrainian refugees into their homes at no cost is heavily featured in the news. Soon enough, the Media’s theme of the Public’s generosity was converted into an official Government policy of subsidized sponsorship: the “‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme” (launched on March 14th).

This ‘sponsor a refugee’ subplot of the Ukrainian refugee crisis – the refugee crisis being the major subplot of the Russia-Ukraine War from day one – became a staple of daily news reporting, in fact displacing the war reporting to a notable extent. Indeed, televised news to this day features documentary-style vignettes interviewing ordinary Britons who joined the scheme, explaining their motivation for doing so; and sponsored refugees – along with one or more family members, almost always including children – who in turn describe the cause of their plight and expresses their gratitude for this act of charity.
    How, then, is the UK’s refugee housing scheme significant beyond the face-value attitude of humanitarian charity? Yet again, the significance occurred to me as a direct result of having watched the uber-prophetic fiction series Years and Years—in this case, the following Episode 5 scene specifically (as quoted from the official script):

ITN Newsreader: Vivienne Rook has introduced the Bedroom Law. Anyone with two spare bedrooms must be available to take in any homeless UK citizen.
Cut to Ext. suburban street, Manchester – night […] Soldiers stationed across an ordinary suburban street. Some with guns. The soldier clambers on the bus with a clipboard. […]
Soldier: Mr and Mrs Finch, to be quartered at 57 Overland Terrace, with a Mr Naveen Chakrabati, all yours. (Back to the bus) Next! Lucy and Clive Montgomery!
Edith takes a suitcase, as they walk towards No.57
Edith: Right, we’re with the CBDC Charity, we can help you get rehoused. Were you flood or radiation?
Mrs Finch: Flood, darling.
Edith: Okay, we’ve got some basics, and food coupons, that’s Fran, I’m Edith, now, let’s get you settled.
In the doorway, all yellow light: Mr Chakrabati, 55, angry.
Mr Chakrabati: I didn’t agree to this, I said no! I don’t want strangers in my house. (He’s facing Edith, Fran, Mr & Mrs Finch)
Edith: You haven’t got any choice!
Fran: It’s not our fault, it’s the Bedroom Law. Unless you live in Kensington or Islington, they seem to be exempt, funnily enough.
Mrs Finch shoves a case past Mr Chakrabati, into the hall. Adrian Finch heads in, as Mr Chakrabati retreats down the hall, and Mrs Finch takes his place in the doorway.
Mr Chakrabati: I’m phoning my MP!
Edith: Your MP’s Vivienne Rook, she did this! It was her idea!
Fran: (points at Edith) Oh she wanted Mrs Rook in power, she said, let’s smash the system!
Edith: All right, all right, I’m an idiot.

As the above illustrates, Years and Years depicts British citizens being literally forced to accommodate strangers into their homes, due to what is deemed an emergency housing crisis. In the episode, this crisis is caused by a combination of ‘climate change’-flooding and ‘dirty bomb’ attacks that have together caused a mass of newly homeless people. To this situation the government responds by the above quoted “Bedroom Law” decree, the oppressiveness of which is highlighted – not incidentally – in the dialogue, i.e. by the home owner’s futile objections to having his own home legally occupied by strangers.
    More than this, the scene ends on a telling exchange between the two Lyons sisters, who are actually helping to carry out the ‘rehousing scheme’; for their words indicate not just that they acknowledge the unjustness of the very act they are helping to implement, but that Edith was duped by the anti-establishment rhetoric and frank-speaking image of Vivienne Rook into voting the populist into power—truly believing that it would bring about an era of governance that was at least less unjust than before.
    Not until the recent events in Ukraine and the British refugee response to it did the above scene from Years and Years appear to hold any special significance; for when the “‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme” was announced by the government it recalled to mind the Bedroom Law prediction that this scene served as a vehicle to cast, being a scenario in which the government forces citizens to house strangers who have recently been made to leave their own homes. Although this scenario has not happened in reality, this scene from this series strongly suggests to my mind that it has merely not happened yet—for two main reasons now to be discussed.

From Prophiction to Reality: The “Bedroom Law” – Coming to a Home Near You

Reason One: A Policy of Destructive, Idealized Immigration

Almost immediately following the refugee crisis in Ukraine, official spokesman and media commentators throughout Britain were unanimously calling for the government to arrange for the importation of refugees. As soon as this asylum process began, the news media theme was then escalated to the vociferous demand for the government to bring in and help settle even more Ukrainian refugees into Britain—that is, for the mass immigration of Ukrainians into Britain.
    Not only have the media and politicians intensely promoted their humanitarianist cause of Ukrainian mass asylum ever since, but they soon expanded this ‘bespoke’ refugee scheme to Afghans – with mentions of Syrians, Iraqis, and refugees in general – in the name of ‘fairness’. Britain’s overriding response to the Russia-Ukraine War thus amounts to an astonishingly abrupt u-turn on a long-established political and social imperative: to limit and regulate immigration into Britain—to effectively control an activity that had been perniciously out of control for far too long. Indeed, immigration was amongst significant social, political, economic, and cultural issues – a major if not the main reason for the ‘Brexit’ voting result which, nevertheless, was apparently thought possible by no one.

Constructive vs. Destructive Immigration

Immigration can either reinforce a society or it can undermine it. Hence, the constructive or destructive effect of immigration depends on a number of factors: firstly, on the state of the host nation; secondly, on the suitability of the immigrants to that particular society; and thirdly, on the effective incorporation of the immigrants, in that their suitable qualities are subordinated to and harnessed by the host nation such that the pre-existing character and state of the nation is in actuality enhanced.
    Therefore, immigration can be beneficial to a society if it is employed in the right way and at a suitable time, thereby being in accordance with the actual conditions of that particular society, i.e. not merely with the idealistic proclivities of thought leaders and policy makers within it. This approach to immigration could be called constructive immigration, by which developments in society that reinforce and certainly do not undermine it are cultivated. While this is a principle attested to by history, so indeed is its opposite: the misuse of immigration.
    For conversely, immigration can be detrimental to a society should one or more of the aforementioned factors not be favourable to a fundamental strengthening of that society. Worse still, immigration can be insidiously detrimental to a society, mainly by two means. One is by unreported immigration, which is an obvious manner by which the foundations of society could be undermined: for the citizenry are not consulted or informed of the demographic revolution taking place within their own society which they hence may not fathom or even notice.
    A more significant means by which immigration can be insidiously detrimental to society is that of idealized immigration, whereby a pro-immigration policy is based on desire concealed by ideal masqueraded as reason. In other words, idealized immigration refers to cases where the stated causes for the policy are detached from the reality of the societal circumstances, as well as from the logical and consequent effects of the immigration; and in which the actual circumstances and effects of the immigration are obscured, if not denied, by a dominant narrative of idealistic rhetoric disguised as authentic reasoning. More specifically, the policy for immigration is promoted such that the likely effects of immigration are entirely misrepresented—which in turn necessitates the meta-effect of an inducement to mass delusion regarding this issue. At its most insidiously destructive, idealized immigration cultivates a societal decline that is misrepresented as having some other cause; and indeed, the decline may even be attributed to insufficient immigration—that is, claims amounting to a requirement of more immigration, ‘better’ immigration, ‘fairer’ immigration, etc.
    Destructive immigration, then, occurs when the residence, activities, and rights of the immigrants is or becomes contaminous to the host society, with respect to its sociocultural constitution. This pernicious situation is, to be clear, always the fault of the society and not the immigrants, for no immigrants can ‘invade’ a society. The term ‘contaminous’ is therefore not meant to imply that the immigrants are themselves ‘toxic’ people; rather that a society in which immigration is poorly judged or misregulated thereby produces a noxious effect within itself—a foolish social alchemy, to put it another way. Hence, the incorporation of immigrants either of the wrong kind, at the wrong time, in the wrong manner, or combinations thereof will surely produce a contaminating effect within that society, to the degree that these factors are unsuitable.
    Finally, it would be remiss not to say here that – in any particular case – immigrants could well be of an inherently noxious type; or even agents of subversion. It is thus important to appreciate that members of the host society cannot possibly know who strangers from a foreign land actually are—and mostly for the same reason that one could not immediately discern the true character of a stranger native to one’s own country. Appropriately, this critical evaluation of potential immigrants is the responsibility of the host nation’s authorities; however authorities are liable to be negligent if not corrupt concerning this (and any other) responsibility, as history well illustrates.
    Thus although it is possible for immigrants of a noxious kind to be brought into a society, this fact is not the important point here, where it is assumed that most immigrants – and indeed people in general – are not inherently noxious. The point, rather, is that the effect of immigration within a society can quite easily be noxious – and insidiously so – if not practiced sensibly—and that this responsibility belongs to the governing authorities whilst it is the duty of the citizens to scrutinize their leaders’ decisions and accordingly hold them to account.

Reason Two: Rising Homelessness

Having made the above distinction between constructive and destructive immigration, I think it can quite clearly be seen that the present u-turn on immigration policy in Britain – that is, this policy, for this nation, at this time – represents idealized and thus destructive immigration. For even the pre-existing context of this immigration is one of social, economic, and cultural conditions that have long impelled officials and citizens to petition for the tight control of immigration—and these conditions are not only unresolved but have been exacerbated considerably since the Brexit resolution. Yet the acknowledgement let alone consideration of Britain’s fundamental vulnerability in this particular aspect (not to mention vital others) has been completely bypassed by a wholesale petitioning for mass immigration driven by humanitarianist, moralistic, and invective rhetoric to the exclusion of critical analysis and rational discourse.
    Hence, the possibility that an equivalent of the “Bedroom Law” posed by Years and Years may in reality come to pass in Britain has been greatly increased by this irrational u-turn on immigration. However, if such a radical decree does in fact come to pass it will not be due to immigration alone. Indeed, the essence of the embedded Years and Years’ thesis is that society will transform into dystopia by the convergence of various crises, each forming the building blocks for the conditions that lead to ‘Bedroom Law’s and even more severe freedom-crushing decrees.
    Even prior to the global pandemic societies across the world – and particularly the affluent first world nations – have been taught to expect crises of every kind in the near future; and indeed, reality has been fulfilling this promise with increasing velocity. One such example of an established domestic crisis (that is, merely being one of many) is housing shortage and its concomitant effect of homelessness. This is quite an astonishing twofold crisis for the ‘most developed’ and ‘richest’ nations to be suffering at all, let alone in a deep-rooted manner. That this particular crisis also represents the justification for the fictional (nay predictional) Bedroom Law is pre-existent in the UK – that is, prior to the influx of Ukrainian refugees into British society (as specifically predicted by Years and Years, not incidentally) – indicates the significance of the forming convergence between the housing, homelessness, and refugee crises.
    By way of example, the 2019 article “Did the housing crisis cause Brexit? The specific role the cost of housing played in Brexit has been largely overlooked” indicates the history and consequence of insufficient housing provision and policy in the UK. Added to this scenario is that of “homelessness set to soar in England amid cost of living crisis”, as reported on February 22nd 2022—that is, two days before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing migration of refugees into the West—and (to speak of which) the commencing scenario of “Newly arrived Ukrainian refugees forced to register as homeless in UK as councils ‘left to pick up the pieces’” (March 31st). Thus when considered in context, the implications of this immigration policy u-turn to the state of housing and homelessness in Britain speak for themselves, despite not being spoken for in news reporting and political discourse.

From Castle to Refuge

There are two more noteworthy aspects that occur within the Bedroom Law scene of Years and Years. One recognizable element is the name of the resident who futilely objects to the unprecedented imposition into his home, Mr. Chakrabati; for this is a name anyone in the UK would immediately associate with the politician Shami Chakrabarti, the Baroness who has been a prominent campaigner of civil liberties. This naming thus seems an allusion to the imagined (and perhaps imminent) overturning of the most basic of citizens’ rights, which is best expressed by the old maxim “An Englishman’s home is his castle”.
    Related to this allusion is another made by Fran’s comment as she attempts to excuse her collaboration in the ‘rehousing scheme’, explaining that “It’s not our fault, it’s the Bedroom Law. Unless you live in Kensington or Islington, they seem to be exempt, funnily enough” (italics added). This line is a subtle allusion to the hypocrisy of official policies, particularly those made in the name of emergency measures, in that they are implemented to favour the unstated privileged class at the expense of the average citizen, i.e. thus betraying the disingenuousness of their ostensibly noble justifications. Or, to put in an Orwellian way, “All animals are equal—but some are more equal than others.”

Conclusion: One Step Removed

While the confluence (as outlined above) of a housing crisis, a homelessness crisis, and a refugee crisis may not directly lead to a real-life equivalent of the “Bedroom Law”, the corresponding confluence of an official refugee housing scheme, an idealized immigration policy, and – being the basis of this article – the prediction of what appears to be the most direct and astute prophetic fictional series ever made—has effectively established the ideological and political basis for such a decree actually being made and accepted in the near future. Indeed, these recent developments seem to have made what was enduringly an unthinkable imposition on privacy and ownership now only one step removed from being a swift enactment: the ‘amendment’ of the new housing scheme from ‘volunteer’ to ‘mandated’.
    ‘One step removed’ from a Bedroom Law-esque decree is the possibility that occurred to me when I first heard mention of the British government’s refugee housing scheme: for it seems all that would be required for this step to be taken is another national emergency, be it floods and dirty bombs (i.e. as in Years and Years) or any other cause for mass displacement—such as…

Part II is dropping soon (—prepare for the fallout)…

Author: Simon Kanzen

I value reading substantial literature, enjoy thought-provoking entertainment, and above all, I think every day. With Stepping Stones, I develop my thoughts in writing and share references to relevant media, intending for other readers and thinkers to find these writings useful.

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