(In)Visible Values of Human Diversity

gulina smallBy Olga R. Gulina
CEO and founder of the RUSMPI Institute on Migration Policy; Alumna of Moscow School of Political Studies
16 January
 2019

Being a stranger, an Other an outlander, Non-native, being a humanitarian migrant is not the easiest burden. Not so long ago many Europeans themselves were “destined” to live like modern Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans and Africans.

 

In 2018 together three partners organisations- Berlin based IfAp e.V. - Institute for Analysis and Policy Dialogue, RUSMPI UG -Institute on Migration Policy and NGO Platform of Human Rights from Kiev, Ukraine, Valuing Diversity and Pluralism (VALDIP)” finished a project supported and financed by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The current essay aims to appraise the project outcomes, evaluate a value of human diversity and think over how to survive in the era of revolutionary mobility of human beings.

In April 2016, in the midst of pan-European hysteria caused by the influx of humanitarian migrants to the European continent, the British Library in London opened an exhibition of William Shakespeare works. One of its jewels were the excerpts from The Book Of Sir Thomas More, written and edited by the English poet and playwright. However, it was not what attracted public’s attention to this collection, but the Shakespearean lines put through the lips of Sir Thomas More - his appeal to London residents who rebelled against French-speaking Huguenots seeking refuge in England in the 16th century. The curators of the British Library laid out the pages of the handwriting so that every visitor could not but read them:

… whither would you go?

What country, by the nature of your error,

Should give you harbour? go you to France or Flanders,

To any German province, to Spain or Portugal,

Nay, any where that not adheres to England,

Why, you must needs be strangers: would you be pleased

To find a nation of such barbarous temper,

That, breaking out in hideous violence,

Would not afford you an abode on earth,

Whet their detested knives against your throats,

Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God

Owed not nor made not you, nor that the claimants

Were not all appropriate to your comforts,

But chartered unto them, what would you think

To be thus used? this is the strangers case…

Being a stranger, an Other an outlander, Non-native, being a humanitarian migrant is not the easiest burden. These are the people, as Hannah Arendt rightly stated, that bear “Zeiten Last - the severity of time” (Prinz 2015: 120). Not so long ago many Europeans themselves were “destined” to live like modern Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans and Africans. The red terror and the fascist bacchanalia of the 20th century forced many Europeans to jump - according to the figurative expression of Hans Sahl - “into the water ... and the unknown”, rushing to the shores of another continent. The lives of these many, like today's refugees, were hard and resembled a leap “von Eisscholle zu Einschole - from one drifting ice floe to another”(Sahl 1991: 107).

Those days the European people suddenly turned into humanitarian migrants-refugees and asylum seekers, dependent on the help of charitable foundations, and were forced to acquire a new language and constantly look for any job that could give at least one small chance ... to survive, withstand and ... start a new life.

In America, the composer and musician Paul Dessau worked at a poultry farm during the day and composed music at night. The writer Walter Mehring, many of whose books were burned at the stake on May 10, 1933, was forced to earn his living by working as a security guard in a shopping center. Hans Joachim Morgenthau, the founder of the school of pragmatism and political realism in foreign policy, the author of the book “Politics Among Nations” after the forced emigration from Nazi Germany to the United States worked as an elevator operator. The writer Hans Sahl, a German Ortega-y-Gasset from Weimar Republic, who only at the last minute managed to escape from Berlin through Prague and Zurich get to the United States, described what was happening in his autobiographical novel “Das Exil im Exil”:

“...Wir, die wir unsere Zeit vertrödelten, aus begreiflichen Gründen, sind zu Trödlern des Unbegreiflichen geworden/ We have all become, as the time required [from us] and for obvious reasons, carriers of what defied description and comprehension”(Sahl 1991: 107).

What a cruel irony. Few people know that a few decades ago, the flow of people moving between Europe and the Middle East rushed in exactly the opposite direction. These were not Syrians, Afghans, Iranians and Iraqis, but dozens, hundreds, thousands of Europeans who were seeking refuge and safety in refugee camps in Gaza, Aleppo and other Middle Eastern cities during the Second World War. In 1942, Britain created the Middle East Relief and Recovery (MERRA), which was responsible for administering, accommodating and providing all possible assistance to Europeans arriving in mass. At that time, up to 40,000 thousand Europeans lived in a refugee camp in Aleppo, Syria, mostly coming from Bulgaria, Slovakia, Croatia and Poland (Mashable). The data on the Middle East tent camps - Syria, Egypt, Palestine - and the memories of the philistines are still of public access in the UN archives (UN Archive 1948).

The difficulty in managing modern humanitarian flows is not that people move from one continent to another, but that inequality, danger, and a different quality of life push people from one country to another. Is the modern society capable of coping with the migration challenge considering that an average of 135 euros per day is spent on a Syrian refugee who is in the EU countries; and only 1 euro a day is spent on a Syrian refugee in Jordan?

Migration is the oldest strategy to tackle the poverty of humanity and the best way to recognize the achievements of the country where migrants flee to. Migration is “a security valve” and whether we like it or not, it is speeding up, and governments need to look for mechanisms to manage it. Modern states do not know how to strategically manage migration processes. And here it is important to say that migration management has nothing to do with charity. Therefore, the strategy of accepting humanitarian refugees and the distribution of benefits which provide their existence in the hosting country are erroneous. Today refugee camps can be comparable to cities in terms of number of inhabitants and internal management structure. Though, there is one difference, such “cities of humanitarian migrants” can exist and function with the support of foreign donors only.

And here is the first mistake of western society. Refugee camps are projects that last decades. In the modern world, the increase in the number of refugees, asylum seekers and forced migrants is inversely proportional to the availability of financial, institutional and human resources needed to help them. The existence of refugee camps and other humanitarian migrants´ accommodation centers at the expense of external resources is unpromising in the long term. We should consider as promising the ideas of Kilian Kleinschmidt and Manfred Osterwald, who propose to launch new urbanization processes in the hosting countries, such as creating “cities” for humanitarian migrants with schools, supermarkets, hospitals and jobs that can ensure the functioning of such “city camps” without financial donations of foreign donors.

[Modern] migration to Europe is like a new “mass revolution, the exodus of exiled” (Krastev 2017) which launched a flywheel of European political life. Obviously, this new revolution will be made with the hands of those who have a firm conviction that “[public order] is shattered - and the worst thing ever is that I was born to restore it!” Populism and radicalism are taking long strides through Europe. Hungary comes up with a new actus reus, and Italy works on complicating migration procedures, trying to get away from "the influx of aliens".

It is obvious to me that those political and public figures who use anti-immigration slogans to attract the electorate will be responsible for a new revolution in Europe and will become “victims of their own success - Opfer ihres Erfolgs” (Rinke and Funk 2018). Meanwhile, 512 million EU residents, scared of humanitarian migrants, people rushing to Europe seeking refuge and security, are being hostages of their anti-immigration slogans.

We live in a world where “trying to change your life, changing the government is not the smartest thing to do, it’s much smarter to change the country where you live”(Krastev 2017: 21-22). Dozens, hundreds, thousands of people all over the world choose this way nowadays... and get trapped into timelessness - when they get out of a situation and a country where their rights are violated, they get into a country and a situation where their social and legal status causes violation of their rights. Humanitarian migrants and asylum seekers turn into those who do not have the right to have the right to security, human dignity, mother tongue, freedom of religion, freedom of speech. No doubts, some of these rights and freedoms for aliens, Others, strangers and Non-Natives, in some cases, should be limited by law in the interests of national security, public order, the country's economic well-being, in order to prevent disorder or crime, to protect health, morality or the rights and freedoms of others. However, there is an important distinction. These rights can be limited, but not terminated, because the right to have rights, as Hannah Arendt stated (Arendt 1994), is a social hypostasis and a legal category that constitutes the status of any person.

In modern Europe, both among politicians and ordinary citizens, there is a lack of der gute Wille- a good will, which, according to a philosopher Hegel, is able to give each person an idea and understanding of what the other person has experienced. Some try to understand and imagine themselves in the place of the Other, without even sharing the same language, while others meticulously demand compliance with well-established order and chain of events, as a result, any arguments and reasoning are beyond the logic of their personal universe. The complexity and versatility of the modern world, reflected in the consciousness, presence or absence of “der gute Wille” and the experience of modern Europeans, turns either into fear of “Europe being captured”, or horror of “being enslaved by aliens” or into the naive conviction regarding universal integration, although all these are only parts of multifaceted reflection of one reality.

New turbulent times have raised a question for all of us: how to be and live in the era of revolutionary mobility of humanity? And it turned out that there are multiple choices. One way is to make Stephen Hawking’s idea of colonizing other planets real and expand the living space of all the humanity (Hawking 2013). The second way is to start confrontation with “Others”, “Non-Natives”, their traditions and customs, and, in this confrontation, lose ourselves. The third is to start interaction with Non-Natives and Others, their culture, and, in this symbiosis, define ourselves in a new way. For most of us, the first path is simply unrealistic, the second is quite traumatic, and the third is incredibly utopian.

References:

Arendt Hannah (1994): The Origins of Totalitarianism. New York, Harcourt Books.

Hawking Stephen (2013): Eine kurze Geschichte der Zeit.

Krastev Ivan (2017): Europadämmerung. Berlin. Suhrkamp Verlag.

Mashable   https://mashable.com/2017/05/28/european-refugees-in-egypt/?europe=true#8ZQDR73qpiqI

Prinz Alois, (2015): Hannah Arendt oder die Liebe zur Welt. 13 Aufgabe.

Rinke Timo, Marco Funk (2018): Opfer ihres Erfolgs. https://www.ipg-journal.de/regionen/europa/artikel/detail/opfer-ihres-erfolgs-2916/

Sahl Hans (1991): Das Exil im Exil. Memoiren eines Moralisten II. Hamburg.

UN Archive (1948 a, b, c.) in: https://search.archives.un.org/middle-east-relief-and-refugee-administration-merra-united-nations-relift-and-rehabilitation-agency-unrra-policy.

 

Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Association of Schools of Political Studies.