Friday, 4 September 2015

Migrant Crisis: Stop Playing Politics And Sort It Out!

Cartoon: Aylan Kurdi's corpse in a policeman's arms reassuring EU about immigrants
Alan Kurdi, the little Syrian Kurdish boy whose body washed up on a Turkish beach has finally got politicians talking about the migrant crisis constructively, was buried today in his home town of Kobani. He was three years old. His mother and brother were buried beside him. Why did this happen?

If you can't read the speech bubbles, the man on the far side says, "Keep those people out!" while the policeman holding Alan's lifeless corpse says, "Well you don't have to worry about this one."

Why are the authorities only waking up to this now?

They've been aware of it for some time but have framed the argument to make it look like people wishing for an easy life in Soft Touch Britain are swarming, marauding, and otherwise trying to force their way into an overcrowded island to complete the process of destroying our over-stretched resources, or something. That's how the Sun described it on 17/04/2015 in a hate-filled column by Tory troll Katie Hopkins.

Make no mistake, these migrants are like cockroaches. They might look a bit “Bob Geldof’s Ethiopia circa 1984”, but they are built to survive a nuclear bomb. They are survivors.

The truth is, while it was "over there" it was "their" problem. Now it's over here, it's ours.

We need to stop framing and tell it straight

You can read the rest of Katie's ugly rant at HuffPo, where they've got screencaps, if you're enough of a masochist. The point is, they've known about it for a long time but we rationalised it by saying, "There's not enough room over here," "Why can't they live closer to home, " "They want a Western standard of living," and "They'll bring their social problems with them if we let them in."

Now that "they" have been humanised as actual people who don't enjoy being terrorised, shot at, or bombed, we're beginning to realise that this is something we are going to have to deal with. It's a shame it took the death of a man's family to wake us up to that. The framing has got to stop, people. It's hard to think straight when you're groping about in a miasma of fear and loathing. Tell it like it is: these people are fleeing the likes of ISIS, and who can blame them?

We are responsible for this

Whether you vote or not, you, dear reader, bear some responsibility for this. The reason is, if you don't vote you're not working to be part of the solution, you're just letting things happen. If you do vote and you voted for one of the Big Three, you voted for the people who are actually causing this problem via the policies they enact into law in Parliament. Just sit back and let that roll around your head for a minute: you either voted for or allowed these people to be voted in. Here's the problem, in a nutshell:

The "defence" industry

Cartoon: UK foreign policy, the arms trade, and immigration. Cause, meet effect
The UK is among many armaments manufacturing nations supplying arms to Middle Eastern nations to wage war on their neighbours — and sometimes their own citizens. The trouble is, these weapons don't always stay where they're sent: ISIS is getting hold of them, for a start. The result is a flood of human misery as the smart (and comparatively well off) people make their way away from the conflict zones to the relative safety of the West. The problem is that the defence industry is mostly run for profit. War is good for business. Solve that problem and the rest get easier.

Climate change

Audrey Quinn and Jackie Roche lay the blame for the crisis in Syria at the door of climate change. You can see their explanatory comic on Tumblr. Short version: after years of little or no rain put farmers out of business, they moved to the towns and cities with their families. Less food production put food prices up, creating unrest in a country run by the dictator President Assad. The final straw came when some youths were arrested for spraying graffiti on a wall. They were tortured, a public outcry began, and all hell broke loose as Assad's forces tried to contain the resulting riots. The comic infers that, were it not for climate change, the regime's hegemony would have persisted. It's possible: hungry people do become desperate and prone to violence as a result.

Western governments attempting to control the global oil supply

Ever since oil was discovered in the Arab lands, we in the West have been anxious to gain and maintain control of it because it is the basis of our industrial superiority. Indeed, though the Arabs have great wealth, they tend to keep it in the family, so there's a huge gulf between the very rich and the very poor. How do you convince people to accept the authority of the governing family and to try to enjoy being poor? Religious authoritarianism is the favoured method over there. The ruling families support and are supported by the clerics, who encourage the people to be obedient and accept the status quo. However, it's a double-edged sword: the ruling families are obliged to uphold the rule of the clerics in civil affairs, whether they want to modernise or not. Western governments sell arms and provide support to those rulers who are willing to work with them, overlooking peccadilloes such as flogging bloggers, etc., in return for the cheapest oil they can get. Any attempt, then, to run the oil business for the benefit of anyone but the Western powers tends to be ruthlessly crushed, often with horrible results.

So yeah, we're responsible. Now what?

Well to me it seems a no-brainer:

  • Nationalise the armaments industry

This would force Rolls Royce and BAE, etc., to diversify into other industries in order to stay private. If countries only made what they needed, perhaps even contracting out to private enterprise as and when required (and no more!), that would end the profiteering over war. As it is, this is a major problem as "analysts" and lobbyists continue to make the case for arming those factions whose goals align with the West's.

  • Tackle climate change

It's not that hard to force the oil companies to diversify into renewables. We can achieve energy security by moving away from fossil fuels. Even digging up our own just kicks the can down the road till it runs out. This is something we CAN export without qualms of conscience, creating jobs and prosperity on a global level. Imagine solar furnaces in Libya, Syria, and Iran exporting energy to their neighbours. End of problem! We can do it if we want to.

  • Stop interfering in Arab politics

Given that our efforts so far have created an anti-Midas effect (everything we touch turns to sludge), I think we should just get out of there and leave them alone. They can work it out for themselves, they pretty much gave us civilisation as we know it. And what did we give them in return? Neoliberal hypocrisy and the fetishisation of the market as a cornucopia of fortune and glory. None of that is true: certain corrupt officials were willing to do what we wanted so we propped them up and looked the other way while they did awful things.

Yes, I said "migrants."

One person on Twitter said that the difference between refugees and migrants is that migrants choose to leave while refugees are forced to. Yeah, about that...

...I'm a migrant. I'm Irish, born in Dublin and arrived in Birmingham, England, in 1989. I've lived here ever since. I've claimed benefits from time to time but I'm gainfully employed at the moment, paying tax and taking nothing from the state bar the medical services I need to stay on my feet so I can work. I came here because I didn't fancy my chances in the Irish job market and I tell you it's the best decision I ever made. Yes, I would have stayed at home if I'd had better opportunities there. I know other people from overseas who say the same thing. Ghanaians, Nigerians, Cameroonians... it's the same story over and over again: it sucked where we lived so we came over here. So any migrant-bashing can start with me because I am one.

Can we successfully absorb a mass influx?

It's easy to dismiss those who object to increased immigration as xenophobes till you see what mass immigration actually does. Ireland has about 4.6 million inhabitants, per Wikipedia. Nearly 15% of those are foreign born. Over here, it's slightly less at 13% or thereabouts. The free movement enthusiasts don't like to think about the impact on infrastructure, social services, schools, or jobs. While it is true that immigration can fill jobs by providing skilled workers, we have an unemployment problem NOW. What about our people?

Meme: Maru in a tiny box - Any philosophy predicated on a best case scenario is ultimately doomed to failureOne of the reasons I left Ireland was a lack of employment opportunities, remember. There's also the matter of alterations to our society: multiculturalism tolerates differences in outlook, religion, etc., and doesn't demand conformity with Anglo-Irish social norms, which is fine as long as the prevailing demographics persist. However, we're seeing enclaves develop where English is a second language in British cities NOW. It's one thing to tolerate difference in our neighbours, but what will happen if they won't tolerate us being different from them when they are in the majority? I am a pragmatic realist, not some UKIP-voting right-wing loon. As I've said any number of times, any philosophy predicated on a best case scenario is ultimately doomed to failure. We need to take the ideological blinkers off when looking at this.

Okay, what do we do NOW?

Due to the prevailing tendency to ride the Left-Right see-saw instead of scrutinising the problem and enacting solutions it is highly unlikely that my suggestions would even be considered let alone acted upon. We need a make-do solution for now. A short distance across the sea is the Calais "Jungle," where desperate migrants wait for an opportunity to jump on a truck and stow away in the hope of arriving in England, where they hope a better life awaits them. I had an easier journey myself, but just like them I wanted a better life and believed I would find it here in the UK. The French are torn between providing basic aid and not making it too attractive by improving conditions but the problem is, they're looking at it from the wrong angle in the wrong way. Here are my suggestions for dealing with refugees:

  • Create and defend safe zones in or near the areas they're coming from
  • Provide infrastructure, social services, and the means for them to make a living there
  • Encourage economic development so they pay for themselves
  • De-fund their oppressors so they will be able to return home eventually

For economic migrants:

  • Address the root causes of their poverty
  • Provide funding for infrastructure and social services to build an economic framework
  • End the neoliberal policies that drive them from their homes in the first place

For the ones who are here now:

  • House, feed, and clothe them
  • Provide education and training so they can fill jobs
  • End neoliberal policies and look at ways of creating prosperity at the community level


Well now you know: I'm not a fan of mass immigration as a solution to the problems caused by neoliberal policies in Africa, the Middle East, and other global hot spots. I see the solution as ending neoliberal policies.

Let's take responsibility

I personally lay the blame for the mass migration we're experiencing now firmly at the door of neoliberalism's destructive policies. I also blame the left, the right, and liberals for using a dead child as a political football now when they could and should have dealt with this mess long before little Alan, his brother, and his mother perished at sea. It's easy to blame Canada for not taking them in but they had ISIS on one side and President Assad's evil regime on the other — that's what they were fleeing in the first place. Both of those are funded via petroleum oil revenues. Shouldn't we be moving away from that to other energy sources?

Make their homes safer and better to live in

I would have stayed in Ireland if the economic situation had been better for me, that's a fact. And I can tell you all now, hand on heart, if we made life better in their own lands for those poor migrants struggling to get here, they would stay there. The only reason we're not doing that is that there's too much money to be made from dealing in oil, weapons, and human trafficking to persuade the powers that be to do so. There's too much political capital to be made from taking advantage of binary thinking over heart-wrenching pictures of dead kids for the vast majority of politicians to do anything but stick to their ideological guns instead of looking for real solutions. Yes, there's a crisis, but it can't be resolved till Our Glorious Leaders stop playing politics and sort it out. I'm not holding my breath waiting for that to happen. We're going to have to make them.

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