One image has shaken us out of complacency
So at least we hope. People who do care are deeply shaken. Just watch Naomi Klein this weekend in the Sidney Opera House addressing the Festival of Dangerous Ideas. The battle hardened author and activist who has seen it all before in her – must see – address loses it in tears and has to recover her composure talking about this little boy.
Aylan Kurdi washed up on a Mediterranean beach represents hundreds of thousands of victims of the crimes of Messrs. Bush & Blair and their “coalition of the willing” hangers-on invading Iraq in 2003 without any valid reason. This little corps however embodies much more than that. It is the embodiment of our sins going back to WWI and the so called “peace” treaty of Versailles. That treaty was in fact the root of not only WWII but the conflicts in the Middle East ever since up to this day.
Aylan not only came from Syria but he was a Kurd. Remember these are a people of 20 million. The Allies after WWI breaking up the Ottoman empire denied them their own country unlike other tinpot sheikhdoms in the region. They instead became the oppressed minorities of all neighbouring states mainly Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. A clever ploy to create disunity and make it easier for the Western powers to keep interfering. The Kurds are the only people who offer resistance to the onslaught of the murderous ISIS regime in the hope to finally after 100 years get their own independent state. For that they get attacked not only by ISIS and the Syrian regime but bombed by NATO member Turkey.
No price for guessing who does not only do the bombing but supplies the arms to all sides to keep the conflict going.
Refugee crisis hits Europe
Up till recently the millions of refugees from the conflict in Syria and Iraq just ended up in neighbouring counties mainly Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. There they have been languishing in inhumane conditions as their hosts lack the resources to adequately care for them. Others like the Palestinians after the expulsion from their homeland, which became Israel, have now been living in camps for two generations almost 70 years without peace and without even hope for peace and a better future.
Finally the pressure has become to great and the sheer numbers unmanageable and an avalanche of desperate people has begun to move. Like an avalanche they are unstoppable. Now the disaster the “West” contributed so much to ended up on its door step. It is not someone else’s problem anymore.
The scenes we watch from inside Europe differ between deeply distressing and full of humanity and hope.
Have you noticed that the distressing images are mostly created by the actions of the various governments. While humanity is shown by the people opening their arms. Hope is of course what drives the thousands on the move. This indicates that it is the economic political system, which is at fault by creating the crisis and then failing to deal with it. Most of the people on the other hand are still a positive force. They have not forgotten empathy with their fellow men.
These people might after applying the bandaid just wonder if it might not be a better idea to tackle the root causes of this historical migration. They might realise that what we really need to do is change the economic political system. But lets not get ahead of ourselves because of some rays of hope.
Germany vs New Zealand
Germany must from our New Zealand perspective be a puzzling case of mavericks against the tide of anti asylum seeker sentiments in many other countries. One of the most hideous examples being displayed by our mates across the ditch. Just watch Naomi Klein making the connection between destroying Nauru, a tiny Pacific island nation, first physically by extracting all the phosphate and now turning it into a black hole detention camp to make refugees disappear.
New Zealanders read with incredulity a NZ Herald headline: ‘The right to political asylum has no limits’ – Angela Merkel.
The chancellor is just stating the fact. This is due to four words in the German Basic Law (constitution), which in article 16, paragraph 2 sentence 2 states “Politisch Verfolgte genießen Asylrecht.” (Politically persecuted people have a right to asylum). This is not only part of the constitution but part of the articles of basic human rights. These by their nature come without any (budgetary) restrictions. You cannot have for instance the first and most basic human right – the protection of human dignity – restricted by something like ‘as long as it doesn’t cost us anything’.
This is just one example that Germany has learned from its own recent dark Nazi history.
As Justin Huggler writes in the Telegraph: The contrast to other countries could not more dramatic. Calais is under siege; Britain is on alert to stop asylum-seekers creeping in through the Channel Tunnel. Migrants are lying on train lines in Hungary. Czech police have been pulling them off trains and writing identity numbers on their arms.
Meanwhile in Germany, they are being welcomed with teddy bears. When the latest wave began to reach Munich, hundreds of ordinary Germans took the day off work and went to the train station to donate food and clothing.
Associated Press reports:
This stance has added to the desire among many migrants to strike out for Germany.
Merkel said it was touching to see hundreds of migrants chanting “Germany, Germany” at a railway station in Budapest earlier this week.
Can you imagine any empathetic, warm, touchy feelings from Tony Abbott or John Key hearing refugees trapped on leaky boats chanting “Australia” or “New Zealand” for that matter ? For them it is cold sweat.
The only thing giving our Prime Minister a worse nightmare is loosing ground in public opinion. So Mr Key was forced to budge and take in a few more refugees as Bryan Gould aptly describes as “Refugee stance an example of policy by polling”.
We are shouting : John, do something YOU SON OF A . . . . . . refugee ! And it needs his pollsters to make him move not the memory of his Jewish refugee mother. Utterly disgraceful. John Key shows – again – that he has not one moral fibre in his body.
The most overlooked aspect of the German approach compared to that of for instance its Eastern European neighbours is that to a large part the discussion is defined differently. Other countries talk about short term costs, possibility of civil unrest and the fact that most of the refugees are Muslims to pander to their own rightwing xenophobic minorities. Germany instead is clever enough to see and talk opportunity. Another lesson from post WWII history.
Modern Germany was born as a country of refugees, and it relived the agony through the long years of its postwar division. Between 1945 and 1950 West Germany took in a staggering 8 million refugees. Communist East Germany took in another 4 million.
But even after (West-) Germany absorbed all the German refugees it took in millions of so called Guest Workers from southern European countries and Turkey. And after that refugees like today. The country greatly benefitted from the influx of entrepreneurial people willing to work hard for a better life. The so called post war “economic miracle” would not have been possible without all these people.
The shame of our government is that it is not only being immoral but also shortsighted and stupid.