The European refugee crisis is a hoax
Amrita Pritam was probably a beautiful woman. In 1966, she wrote:
“If all the poems of the world were to coalesce into a single one,
Would that poem not stand in defense of Vietnam”
Were she to write today, she might substitute for Vietnam the problems of our own time, like the European refugee crisis — except that the crisis is a hoax. A hoax, if one uses the term to mean only the constraints around providing housing and employment for a set of ragged foreigners from the Middle East — that would be tantamount to ignoring the plight of other peoples, and to tacitly supporting the underlying causes of the tragedy.
That people move from one spot on the planet to another is evident — but it is not always to the richer bits. Corsica used to be in a sorry state, with poverty, crime and the threat of imminent war. Boswell, visiting in 1765, was surprised at seeing there foreigners who appeared to have moved to the island. He concluded that there will always be some people who will hold another land to be better than theirs and move to it, and all lands, no matter how troubled, will attract migrants. Incidentally, Boswell also tried to enlist British support for the Corsican cause — if he had succeeded, Napoleon would have been born under the influence of the British flag, and the recent past of Europe might have been quite different.
Migrants are often a dodgy set, at least in the beginning — they can be unkempt, ignorant of local culture, and often grub for a handout; but surely this is self-evident, that a human stripped of familiar resources will try to circumvent the hard decisions of fate, and that most of us do not commonly know all languages, and all manners at meat? In many cases, migrants have developed intellects and are a boon to the communities they dwell in, like Heine or Einstein. However, as a species, we appear to prefer violence to intellect or artistic skill. This is presumably why Alexander is called ‘the Great’, or why a certain Corsican is honored with a grave at Les Invalides, in the middle of Paris. Following in their footsteps, and those of many others whose descendants now write historical narratives, perhaps migrants ought to consider pillage — although this is scarcely an option for the weak and the unorganized, and for those who move out of sheer desperation.
The current “crisis” has major implications for Europe — quite apart from the material resources demanded by a sudden inflow of masses of people, this is about some or many of them cherishing ideas contrary to fundamental European values. Of course, one of those fundamental values is tolerance.
There is the danger that Europe focuses only on the “integration” of those who have risked their lives to illegally cross the frontier. Consider that many refugees passed through countries who are members of NATO and even the EU, membership of which organizations is typically indicative of a high standard of living. Given that the refugees desired to press on, consider that many more millions living in what is called the Third World ought to wish the same for themselves and their families — misery exists through causal forces also other than war.
The “crisis”, therefore, is scarcely a new one. It is part of a larger question of ending exploitation and injustice, and of increasing freedoms and access to the cultural and scientific resources of mankind — everywhere, for all human beings. Our hands might appear to be clean, but prosperity resulting from exploitative supply chains, shady weapons exports, systematic climatic degradation, and the propping up of regimes which suppress freedom and are brutal towards dissent, cannot be sustainable and is not defensible. That is the real crisis. Men and women in camps at our doorsteps is just a manifestation of a deeper malady, and the solution should not be to make the camps more comfortable, or reinforce the walls around our lands, but to acknowledge the aforementioned root causes, and take arms against them.
Not just poems, but all arts of this world must show solidarity with this idea of an attempt to root out exploitation everywhere and increase freedoms for everyone. At least, Ms. Pritam might agree.