Angelina Jolie is a Special Envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. In her speech “Refugee system breaking down”, she says:
“Finally, none of this will be enough unless we address the underlying causes of the refugee crisis. Shouldn't we be asking how to make the world more stable rather than asking how to stabilize a mass displaced people?”
Yes, that's exactly what we should be asking.
“What are the failures and flaws of our international system that are causing the number of refugees to grow larger every day? We need to recognize that decades of broken promises, double standards and partial justice are a fundamental part of how we got to today's situation.”
Exactly. But incomplete: I would ask “What are the failures and flaws of our international system that are causing the number of refugees AND ECONOMIC MIGRANTS to grow larger every day?”
Of course, there are so many factors involved in migration like climate change (which we will have to learn to live with) and ethnic conflicts, which unfortunately is a part of human nature. Changing the economic system is a very important step in overcoming the failures and flaws. It's impossible to have easy solutions to all the problems in the world. However, there is one important thing to do. As Mark Akkerman suggests in his article at TNI “Migration- follow the money” Follow it. Stop producing and selling arms. Stop making all sorts of trade deals with underdeveloped countries' elites on the skin of local communities. Voila! Most wars are over (and economic injustices reduced). Game over.
“Yes, ’n’ how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind”
“If we look back and see this many people displaced and this much conflict, and so little accountability, then we have to question the source of the problem.”
Yes, let's question the source of the problem. The source is people's nature. The continuous fight over money, or to put it more generally, over resources. It's the economic injustice. The fight of “us” and “them”. We should set up a system so that brings out the best in people, not the worst! Because that's what the current system does.
Ironically though, the modern political system is based on the grounds of Thomas Hobbes' assumption that “Man to man is an arrant wolf.” In Leviathan (1651), Hobbes advocated the establishment of a higher authority to guarantee peace and order. Since then, social contract theory (which I do not believe in) has been used as the foundation of Western political philosophy and the cornerstone of the modern state.
Whatever Hobbes intended or wished, we know it has not turned out to realize peace. Man is still the major cause of deaths/sufferings for other men worldwide; what's more, it seems to me, inequality and injustice has risen after the formation of social and political institutions. Some men profit from these power institutions, others pay the price and bear the consequences. And as Jolie states, there is almost no accountability. One cannot expect such an imbalance of wealth and power to go on forever.
The present system imposes widespread injustices (in the form of political, economical, cultural, social discrimination), and a part of the population tolerates these injustices because they are spared the injustice themselves and/or their life provides a number of amenities and comforts that soothe or anesthetize them. On the other hand, those who do not benefit from the current system either wish to flee their miserable conditions or try to overthrow the system that causes their sufferings. It should be understood that going for either of these solutions is their right.
Failures and flaws... Are we talking about the failures and flaws of the system or the man? Well... As every system is man-made and run by man, as perfect a system as you may set up, there are bound to be failures and flaws. Still... This does not mean we should stop trying to find the best system; we should strive, we should always strive for the better, that's the essence of our very human nature. And let's focus on the meaning of “better”: a better world cannot be limited to some and negated to others; or worse, attained at the expense of those who “have not”.
Let's build a world where Man Does Not Fear Man. How do we do that?
I do not claim I have the answer to all the world's problems. Angelina Jolie has said “I stand here with humility and respect...” I do too. I have ideas; I don't know if they would work, but I sure think they're worth giving a try.
Hobbes's view of man being man to wolf has been criticized for being too pessimistic. Whether this is the real nature of man or not – a debate going on at least as far back as Hobbes and Rousseau's opposite views on human nature – it really does not matter. As I said, to me, it's a matter of proportions. We all embody both capacities: the good and the bad. Injustice is the key element that enforces the bad in the people who are already proportionally bad, and it triggers the bad in the people who are proportionally good.
So we should strive to eliminate injustice as much as possible. As imposition of visas and permits to move around the world we are born in is a huge injustice, we may start by eliminating that. Or perhaps try to do something about the economic injustice first so that we can open up borders to eliminate injustice at birth without fear of losing what we have.
PS: Please read the full version of the analysis of this speech.
PPS: I wish to thank my husband Carlo for his contribution to this piece.