Dignity for the exploited, the hounded, the paperless, the Other

Month: June, 2016

Freedom, truck drivers and bus riders


A picture from America, of a gentleman posing with his truck, the back of which carried the slogan, “I came to the US legally! Looking for the AMERICAN dream. Not the MEXICAN nightmare!”, and called for the construction of a wall around the borders of paradise. To keep the hordes out, presumably.

Now, adherence to a legal code is good, if everywhere there is freedom and dignity. If there is not, then everything which contributes to the perpetuation of the status quo is probably a candidate for change, even if not necessarily an abomination. To stick to the letter of an arbitrary political or religious law, and thereby to absolve oneself of ethical responsibility is the way to horrors — we know this from our history books, and the evening news.

The same forum had another American gentleman in similar circumstances who described his distaste for foreign barbarians. This was based on his parents having immigrated from India, bequeathing him American citizenship and a brown skin complexion, among other things. He states that, “I will have to live in the fear of getting racially profiled by cops more, just because individuals who might ethnically resemble me decided to act like degenerates.”

Yes, it could be a valid view: that this is the problem that needs solving, his individual comfort, rather than racial profiling and police brutality, in general. Or, indeed, exploitative supply chains, climate degradation, support to tyrannical regimes, corruption, barbaric systems of punishment, discrimination, war, famine, disease, absence of social support, and all the rest that get people to flee. It does remind me of children who would rather wish that the school building get hit by an earthquake, than that the teaching improves to allow them to sail through a dreaded test.

A video of a lady from London, one of the centers of freedom on this planet, who informed a pregnant woman on a bus, in the presence of onlookers, that, “I don’t f*cking like you people because you’re f*cking rude. You come to England and you have no f*cking manners. Go back to your f***ing country where they are bombing every day, don’t come here where we are free. You’re lucky I don’t kick you in your uterus and you’ll never have a baby again.”

Irony would probably call it a day at this point, and sneak off to the nearest public house.

I am not aware of any academic studies which investigate whether immigrants, and first- or second-generation descendants of fresh immigrants, statistically tend to prefer political parties that discourage immigration. Anecdotally, I think this might be the case; perhaps out of a feeling of insecurity, to prove that they truly belong.

All this flag-waving, this zeal for arbitrary borders, this belief in after-worlds — it would all be very well, if the blessed followers did not insist on distinguishing certain human beings, on vilifying the Other, and, through action or inaction, on depredating them.

A fellow foreigner and lover of the city of Düsseldorf wrote thus, during a time when nationalists around him were insisting on the primacy of the German flag: „Ich werde Eure Farben achten und ehren, wenn sie es verdienen, wenn sie nicht mehr eine müßige oder knechtische Spielerei sind. Pflanzt die schwarz-rot-goldne Fahne auf die Höhe des deutschen Gedankens, macht sie zur Standarte des freien Menschtums, und ich will mein bestes Herzblut für sie hingeben.“

“This flag of yours — I am prepared to honor it, but not while it is a slavish joke. Plant these colors at the acme of German thought, make this tricolor the standard of free humanity, and I shall give my heart’s blood for it.”

The standard of free humanity. The idea is a hundred and fifty years old — when shall it find fertile ground?

This is not racism! (Now, how would Hamlet’s mother respond?)

A sign outside a small business in Berlin, Germany, reported on by a subsidiary of the popular Bild Zeitung: because of multiple incidents of theft attributed to an ethnic group specialized in theft and fraud, or so claims the businesswoman, members of the Roma community (also known as Gypsies) may not enter the premises. The sign ends with the note “This is not racism”, with the latter word being placed in quotes.

There are two problems here.

One, how do we screen for someone of the Roma community? Will we develop a whole occupation? Professionals who can spot out Roma, Jews, Aryans, Slavs, Arabs, Muslims, Buddhists, Infidels and all the rest, based on their looks, the shape of their noses, color of their skin, etc., with expertise extending in these sinful days to the half-castes? Or, to make it more efficient and modern, everyone is obliged to carry a document confirming their racial or religious affiliation? The Weimar Republic used to have a similar device in place, called the Ahnenpass. Berlin was the capital city of that republic, and oversaw the systematic loot and murder of those deemed to belong to the wrong sort of racial stock.

Two, attributing something to individual members of a group, which does not by definition belong to the group, on the basis of their membership of the group, is pretty much the textbook definition of racism. Given that the author feels the need to explicitly deny the racist nature of the announcement, we need to find ways to make racism more acceptable again, perhaps. Shakespeare would say that the lady doth protest too much. A more recent student of human behavior, Terry Pratchett, wrote that the statement “The innocent have nothing to fear” is guaranteed to strike fear in the hearts of innocents everywhere. Perhaps we can start with T-shirts, “Racist and proud”, “Racism: coming out of the closet”, “If it was good enough for the ancients, it’s good enough for us!”.

Alternately, we can start treating people as individuals, responsible for their actions, and their actions alone.

That would be a modern idea. Modern, that is, back in 1789, when the noblest Europeans declared, “Les hommes naissent et demeurent libres et égaux en droits.” All human beings are born and remain free, with equal rights.” In 2016, we really should be able to do better.