Old Diary

The short view of history


img_0883I WONDER how people 100 years from now will regard this generation?  One of the largest problems of our day, and one that we see precious little media coverage about is the subject of refugees.  All of our war mongering and the mismanagement of the planet have created a historically unprecedented flood of refugees and not only is no one talking about them (relatively speaking, compared to the coverage of other more sound-bite worthy topics) but more importantly precious few souls are doing anything about them.

This simple story about a boat captain instrumental in saving refugees points out the problem.  It seems a strange world in which someone who acts to alleviate the suffering of others should, themselves, be put at risk for having done so.  20 years in prison is no “slight inconvenience” for having done a humane act, and yet that’s the world we live in.

If we who live in the U.S. think that the Donald-Trump-fueled-paranoia over immigrants is unique to our shores need only look beyond our boundaries to realize that nations around the world are struggling over how to maintain their own integrity in the face of mounting immigrant/refugee pressure.  The U.S. is no longer a burgeoning nation in need of every able hand and keen brain to build a new nation. Now we are an established entity and those in power would very much like to keep things just as they are.  They don’t want “different” folk coming in to accumulate wealth as they have done;  after all, those with wealth view the wealth that they do not own as their right to accumulate and woe be unto anyone who gets in their way — even on the smallest scale.

All of the European nations are struggling with nationalism and refugees just as we are struggling with immigration.  The thing is, we humans really would like the world to stay as it is, for as it is right now is something we know, and that we are more or less comfortable with.  No one, specially those with assets to protect, is enamored of the great unknown.  Wealth, in large part, is a matter of scarcity and public opinion.  The great wealth of the super-rich is often not a matter of gold in vaults, it’s company stock — and company stock is valued by how highly the public regard the company.  A scandal at the right level can make a blue ribbon company’s value plummet overnight.  No.  No one in their right mind is eager to plunge into the unknown.  Not even at night in the forest with no flashlight.  On a macro scale, and on a micro scale, uncertainty scares the pants off of everyone.

And the biggest problem with refugees is that they present uncertainty.  Will they assimilate? This is what happened here in the U.S. 100 or more years ago. Immigrants arrived, they learned the language, they learned the customs, the wanted to be Americans, and that is what they became. The worst off among them could not change their color or the shape of their faces — these felt the longest ongoing discrimination as longer-time immigrants — those who thought of themselves as the real citizens of this country could identify the new ones who looked different, and so they treated them differently out of fear that their visual difference would manifest in a change in our country.

But in the 21st Century things are no so easy.  It’s not just visual differences that people fear.  The immigrant today — commonly more a refugee than a true immigrant — has arrived on strange shores because they have been driven out of their country by war, by discrimination, by hunger, you name it.  They have often arrived in a new place not because they wanted to be different but simply because they wanted to survive.  And they aren’t in a big hurry to give up their old ways, they just want to have enough food in their belly to live as they want to live — frequently as they were living in their homeland.  And to talk as they have talked.  And to carry forward the customs, and the ideals, and the prejudices, and the hatreds that they carried with them from “the old country.”

This is a very different climate in which to enter a new country.  It may not be necessary to fear such people but one thing is sure:  they are feared.  Not in the U.S. alone, but in every country around the world.  And that has been the case for at least the last 75 years.

The question comes to mind, however, does it make sense for a sea boat captain to face prison for being humane?

What are we doing to ourselves if an act of compassion is viewed as criminal?

If you scour the media you will find that this single incident is not singular!  There are events not much different occurring every day around the world.   Laws have become more important than results.  And just where that ends … well, your guess is as good as mine.

And the bigger question is, all those people have become refugees because of the actions of others: the wars, famine, and pestilence that they flee are caused by greedy men and women who want more than their share of something.  How long before we say “enough” with wars over oil, wars over territory, wars over ideology? How long before we let people live, and recognize that they are human just as are we, and they too deserve to live.

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5 thoughts on “The short view of history

  1. Reblogged this on ~Burning Woman~ and commented:
    Priceless blog post. As a human??? (human has to mean that we are innately humane in all our interactions) civilization, how much do we know, or even care about current events that increasingly plague us and scream at us to change literally everything we have believed about ourselves and our world? So, are we going to get serious about what we need to change, beginning with a very bad attitude, or are we going to forge ahead, condemning millions, more likely billions, to death with us in the benighted “west” somewhere in between there, dying too, blindly, stupidly, never able to make the connection between the lifestyle we feel entitled to and how it kills others. Consumerism is a weapon of mass destruction. It created single-handedly the global refugee crisis we so wish we didn’t have to deal with. Well, it’s here. Read this post. Well written and it makes the point clearly and succinctly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Sha’tara. Thanks for sharing this. You probably will not be surprised if I contest your assertion that “Consumerism is a weapon of mass destruction.”
      It was certainly never intended as such and, hitherto, it has been the motor of the very opposite – a rapidly increasing, and increasingly well provided for, population. I agree it has morphed into a force which, if left unchecked, will lead to mass destruction. I remain optimistic about humanity’s ability to change direction.
      I would add that a good proportion of the immigrants that populated the Americas and the antipodes through the nineteenth and into the twentieth century were in fact refugees, not migrants by choice. Whether escaping famine in Ireland and elsewhere in Europe or the racist terrorism of the pogroms, they were no different to the 21st century’s refugees. And some, of course. were transported to distant lands as a punishment.
      The difference is that back then there was the promise of an empty land to exploit. Those days are gone. The land, and much of what lies beneath, has been exploited to the point of near destruction, hence your claim. When the population of lemmings increases beyond sustainability we know what they do. We are close to that point and face the same fate or worse.

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      • Well Frank, in ‘defense” of my comment, the global refugee crisis I was referring to was the one we’re faced with today, not all the others, not excluding the Neanderthals fleeing floods and ice ages! And as a by the way, those lands weren’t empty – they were cleared of natives through genocide conducted by white Europeans and their Christian gospel. Then they were exploited through slavery and labour oppression. Those methods led to the creation of a whole new approach to the “good life” through the offer of cheap goods. That’s consumerism. It wasn’t intended as a weapon of mass destruction but that is exactly what it has become and now people with money, or credit, are addicted to this sickness. Obesity and hoarding are among the diseases created by this capitalist monster. Today, the less people can afford to buy, the more the ubiquitous ads and associated purchasing gimmicks, proliferate. Will this change in time to prevent an extinction? Only if the resources run out or become more costly to dig out, convert and ship to a dwindling collection of consumers.

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  2. A timely and eloquent plea, reminder and finally warning.
    Sadly our history (I’ll start at about 2000 B.C for convivence sake) is littered with these patterns. As folk we prefer to take our often sordid and violent histories and mould them into ‘legends’ or golden ages when all was fine and everyone was nice. Although peoples such as the Vikings refuse to be fitted in, but never mind we find ‘good’ noble’ leaders who defeated the beastly fellows and all was well.
    In the meantime many are the folk who ‘bravely fight for their freedom and independence’ from tyrannies, and on achieving this impose their own tyrannies and set about persecuting minorities luckless enough to be caught within these ‘borders’.
    Folk do not like to be reminded of their complicity in flaws and transgressions they prefer to blame nebulous agencies such as governments, corporations, religions while not perceiving that without their complicity at some level OR paradoxically their extreme and violent opposition to such they are actually the sources of the problems as each single act of careless, hate, or selfishness contributes to the malaise.
    It is only be the single person adhering to small acts of kindness, and the trinity of Compassion, Respect and Tolerance will these cycles of waste, suffering and foolishness be broken.
    Otherwise by a longer view of history of this world we become our own Extinction Event and a smear on the fossil record.

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