“The flow of refugees from Africa and the Middle East into Western Europe has provoked a set of reactions strikingly similar to those we display on learning we have a terminal illness, according to the schema described by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her classic study On Death and Dying. First there is denial: ‘It’s not so serious, let’s just ignore it’ (we don’t hear much of this any longer). Then there is anger – how can this happen to me? – which explodes when denial is no longer plausible: ‘Refugees are a threat to our way of life; Muslim fundamentalists are hiding among them; they have to be stopped!’ There is bargaining: ‘OK, let’s decide on quotas; let them have refugee camps in their own countries.’ There is depression: ‘We are lost, Europe is turning into Europastan!’ What we haven’t yet seen is Kübler-Ross’s fifth stage, acceptance...”
When I started reading the article “The Non-Existence of Norway” on LRB Online · 9 September 2015... I was just amazed and thought to myself “This is the best analogy I have ever read!” It described the situation so perfectly.
Of course, I right away checked the name. Who had written this? It was Žižek. Slavoj Žižek. The Slovenian philosopher. Or “psychoanalytic philosopher, cultural critic, and Hegelian Marxist” as Wikipedia calls him. Or “Elvis of cultural history” as he has been dubbed.
I had heard of him, but had not really gone into reading him. When I bumped on this piece about migration, I dag into him too. I do that. I read almost everything what they have written, what people have written about them once someone comes into my circle of interest.
Anyway... The piece which started out so wonderfully, went on logically, then deviated horribly!
“What should be done? Public opinion is sharply divided. Left liberals express their outrage that Europe is allowing thousands to drown in the Mediterranean: Europe, they say, should show solidarity and throw open its doors. Anti-immigrant populists say we need to protect our way of life: foreigners should solve their own problems. Both solutions sound bad, but which is worse? To paraphrase Stalin, they are both worse.”
It's logical to conclude that they are both worse. I accept, open borders is not an easy task given the current situation and the political order of the world. However, I believe there is no way around open borders. It's a moral imperative and if there is somebody to pay the price, we are the ones to pay it. As both are worse, the thing to do is to set up a policy based on principles. And that principle has to get rid of perhaps the biggest crime in the history of mankind: #InjusticeAtBirth
As I wrote in“The case for #FreedomOfMovement is clear – let’s start planning now” the case for Open Borders is clear. We simply need to accept it as Žižek so precisely makes the analogy with acceptance of our immortality. The sooner we accept it, the lesser the damage we will cause.
Žižek, however, deviated from this perfect analysis when he went on saying:
“The greatest hypocrites are those who call for open borders. They know very well this will never happen: it would instantly trigger a populist revolt in Europe. They play the beautiful soul, superior to the corrupted world while continuing to get along in it.”
I'm sorry, as someone who practically calls for open borders, I fiercely reject this accusation! He is the one in denial, I know very well that it will happen! There is no way things will go on like this. Movement is a natural human force. It cannot be stopped or controlled. Eppur si muoveranno...
But yes, he is right about the fact that it would trigger a revolt. That's why we need to accept it as soon as possible and start discussing how to make it happen instead of losing time and energy over who is a migrant who is a refugee and what are our international obligations. Let's have the tiniest bit of a brain.
And yes, we continue to get along in this corrupted world. Žižek is right about that too. But that's because we are obliged, that because states have the police force, not because we like it. I personally cannot stand national sovereignty being above humans. I cannot be a spectator to all this. That's why I spend my time attached to this stupid computer reading and writing about migration and freedom of movement instead of writing my travel books, writing my fictional memoir or playing around with my sweet 5 year-old daughter, or simply going out in my garden and enjoying the beautiful day and the sunshine.
If there are any hypocrites, they are the ones saying #RefugeesWelcome They pretend they care about the sick and the elderly, they are the good souls. It's only their generosity and their ego. They expect gratitude in return.
If you haven't read it, read the Guardian article “The Ungrateful Refugee” written by Dina Nayeri:
Here is an excerpt:
“In Amsterdam, I got to know Iranian refugees who didn’t have my kind of luck with their asylum applications. One man in our community set himself on fire in Dam Square in 2011. He had lived in Amsterdam for a decade, following their rules, filling out their papers, learning their culture, his head always down. He did all that was asked of him and, in the end, he was driven to erase his own face, his skin.
Remembering Kambiz Roustayi, a man who only wanted a visa, his family and his own corner of the world, I want to lash out at every comfortable native who thinks that his kind don’t do enough. You don’t know what grateful is, I want to say. You haven’t seen a young man burn up from despair, or an old man faint on a football field from relief and joy, or a nine-year-old boy sing the entire Marseillaise from memory. You don’t know how much life has already been spent settling into the cracks of your walls. Sometimes all that’s left of value in an exile’s life is his identity. Please stop asking people to rub out their face as tribute.”
Enough! Enough of this torture of people because of their birthplace. Enough!
Yes, I may be pretending to have high morals as well. Maybe I am. But even if so, let's pretend to have the moral high ground on a principle of justice. It's certainly much better than all the other states of mind!
Or let's admit our selfishness and let's stop the real hypocrisy: let's stop pretending justice. That's fine with me too.