TLDR: If in a Tweet.
The way the refugee crisis is being handled is disgusting, ignores larger issues that can cause or perpetuate it. #unequalwealthdisdribution
Don’t Ignore the Complexity of a Narrative: Immigration
Syria is in the news a lot recently because of the civil war and the refugee crisis. The consequences of such an atrocity means that people want to escape the situation. Which is of course totally natural, nobody wants to be in somewhere like a war zone (with famine and disease included for free) that can't be disputed. Totally understandable from where I am (as an immigrant also).
Refugees are pouring out of Syria into Europe and they are of course looking towards countries that could give them a better quality of life. Some are even trying to pass through countries to get to the ones that offer better terms for refugees.
That aside it’s depressing to read in the news online how the issue is being handled in the UK. This issue (like many others) isn’t being handled or discussed in an entirely constructive way. Fear and separation are the main talking points again, talking against accepting political refugees.
The history and issue of immigrants coming to the UK has been around longer than anybody who is alive today.
In recent years it isn’t hard to witness a type of media language repeated and reinforced whenever there is a sizeable movement of people who are wanting to come to the UK (or to any European country). It’s always a language that promotes fear and mistrust of the people travelling. The tone taken stems from politicians, stating as almost fact about what would happen in a negative way if their government would accept a large population of people who are different culturally to the native population.
Shall we ignore that Germany is taking in anybody who comes to their country?
Anybody reading history can see it when black people game to the UK, then the Indians came and then we saw it when the Polish people came to the UK. The majority of those people came here seeking a better life and did contribute and assimilate into British culture. Once there is another group of people to demonise, it seems we forget about the previous demonised group.
I totally believe that immigration and then the integration of foreign people is a positive thing, of course there will be people who will take advantage of any social welfare systems that are designed to help others. But to focus only on the negatives is totally unfair to the people in need and is detrimental to the host country (one reason alone is missing out on experiencing an incoming culture). People become fearful, less open minded and distrustful of others. The language of the media and politicians used is to separate, to create an us vs them system, when there is simply no need to.
Listen to the comments made by parents in the recent two part ‘This American Life’ podcast. It’s a microcosm of what is happening regarding this topic of immigration. People reacted out of emotion and prejudices rather than the facts. In that two part episode, the story was about how a school serving mostly black people had to close and its students had to move to a neighbouring school which was in a different area mostly occupied by white people. The white people feared the changes this would bring and insisted on all sorts of actions to take in order to not give integration a chance. The theme of the show was about how integration is a good thing and everybody goes against the facts.
Again the history (in US educational history) regarding integration has shown that there are more benefits to integrating different students of colour rather than continuing to perpetuate segregation and accept the assumptions of black or white culture coming from it. The two part episode can be found here.
Look at it this issue another way. (My point in the paragraphs above is to suggest the rhetoric of the government and media is wrong and we don’t seem to make a logical argument when history is on the side of accepting new people to a new culture, everybody does benefit. Instead people (politicians especially) want to make an emotional argument to pander to the masses for serving ulterior purposes.
Am I Really an Immigrant or an Expatriate?
I too came to another country to seek a better life, but nobody has mistreated me with their assumptions or prejudices, the media doesn't talk about me and politicians haven’t cared about me. Maybe it's in part because of my status as a westerner I have one of the best passports in the world. Perceptions are meant to be different.
People have asked me repeatedly on Periscope whether the people in Hong Kong are friendly or if I have encountered any racism. I don’t feel I’m ever discriminated in a negative way, only ever in a positive way (unless it boils down to a client wanting a white female tutor or an american tutor, but is very granular and exists on a different level).
Syrians however don't have the same luxury in both examples above. I wouldn’t consider myself in any way to be in the same situation as Syrians. I don't mean to take anything away by saying I’m an immigrant. I hope it doesn't sound like I am, but my basic point is that the Syrian people and myself want a better life and we've wanted to leave our respective countries in order to have a better life. Perceptions are different because it can boil down to simply being born in a different place. I use the word Syrian by the way to represent all immigrants to simplify for argument’s sake.
I don’t understand how British politicians can say people ‘should wait in line’ when they are not the ones facing the reality of the situation the Syrians are living in. There are debates and discussions in government which only serve to illustrate how callous people are when really all people want is a chance to live again to live free like we enjoy and take for granted in the West.
Here’s some things anecdotally that I think we (westerners) enjoy having come from the West:
- Freedom of travel. Being a laymen in this topic, I’m confused why some people are allowed greater freedom of travel around the world than others are. Why IS my passport better?
- With this ‘freedom,’ I can travel anywhere. How many times have you heard of a friend who wanted to backpack and on the side make some money teaching english? You know that person right? That right there is the practice of entering a country and working illegally or if they settle for a few months ‘state sponge’ (since any earnings are not being declared), this is something which is never construed in a negative context for ‘us’, but assumed as the probable action of others while they most likely under some kind of serious duress.
- Less prejudice because the perception of my country is a positive one or an aspirational one. (This is why I don’t receive any negative racism living in Hong Kong, most people here want the western lifestyle instead of the one being promoted my Mainland China.
- Working holiday visas. Some countries can get together and allow some people to have a 'working holiday'.
Another Aspect of Income Inequality
Expanding on my position slightly, let’s have a look at this topic another way. Here is a map of the world and let’s try to gently touch on the global scale of this topic.
73% of the world’s income exists in the green zone with only 14% of the world’s population living there. The flip is 86% of the world’s population has to share the remaining 27% of the world’s income.
How did that happen? I’m assuming we aren’t ignorant of world history, we understand western power, western aggression in it’s various guises, how it came to be and globalisation that mostly benefits the rich. Most of it came by taking stuff from one part of the world and putting it in their own backyard. This is the result of it.
Now we have a situation where those who don’t have much, want to go where there is plenty. Don’t you think we have enough to help with? It's a lie from those in government to say their resources are strained and they can't accept more migrants. I'd call bullshit on that. It is interesting how the countries in the world that have problems with immigration are the richest countries.
“One consistent line from Conservative politicians has been that our task is to stop refugees from thinking they’ll be better off by coming here. To put this another way, we have to make life in Britain worse than it is under Isis. So we have to find a group that objects to Isis, on the grounds that they’re too wishy-washy, then let them take over for a bit and just watch the problem melt away”.
That’s an interesting way to tackle this issue; make the host country appear less desirable than one that is running rampant with Isis. But as the source proves, there is no escaping how the UK and those countries in the green zone ARE more desirable and will stay desirable for a long time to come.
Nothing is going to change until we address the imbalances, the double standards and this tribalism that exists in this world will continue. There is an 'is' vs 'us' mentality that will continue to propagate as it disguises cultural history, attitudes and the reality of the world.
I wish I could remember where I heard this story and attribute it properly, but it goes like this - There are 14 cookies on the table, there is a rich man, a white man and a black man. The rich man takes 13 cookies and turns to the white man and says ‘watch out for the black guy, he’s going to take your cookie’.
In a sentence everything I could have said can be summed up right there. Just change what the white man and the black man represent and that's the situation we're in.