On Naive Humanitarianism
Irrational Seeming Rational Center
Angelina Jolie is a Special Envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
In her speech “Refugee system breaking down”, she says:
“At its extremes, the debate about refugees in western nations has been polarized, with on one hand, some people calling for open borders; on the other hand, for the complete exclusion of all refugees or worse, for certain groups of refugees. But policies should not be driven by emotion. By what might be termed as naive humanitarianism. Placing the perceived needs of refugees above all other considerations, or by irrational fear, an unacceptable prejudice. Instead, we need to find a rational center rebuilding public confidence and ensuring democratic consent for the long-term approach that will be needed. ”
Naive humanitarianism!... Well... Mine is definitely not naive humanitarianism. True, my heart is bleeding, but it is bleeding for the injustice of blocking some areas of the world to some people because they were born someplace else. It is not bleeding especially because people are dying on the way to get to Europe or America. I mean it is sad of course, but there are people dying everywhere in the world because of wars too. Our hearts cannot bleed so much for so many people we do not know personally. That is a fact. Otherwise, life would be unbearable and we would need to commit suicide. Sure, just like any decent person's would, my heart bleeds for all the victims of violence. But I see that as the cruelty of men, the greed of men and unfortunately, there isn't much to be done about it. Plus, almost everybody condemns wars unlike the injustice of borders which almost everybody considers “natural”. That's what I personally cannot stand.
There is no excuse for InjusticeAtBirth, for GlobalApartheid, for BirthplaceRacism. Justice cannot be given up because it is impractical, it cannot be written off as “naiveté”.
“Rebuilding public confidence and ensuring democratic consent” is certainly essential. However, sorry to say to Jolie, the only center we need to find here is the irrational seeming one. The unreasonable one. The only rational center is coming to our senses and removing borders as blockage of movement. Movement is not even supposed to be considered a right; it is a fact, it is a life force. It is unacceptable when all animals, goods and financial capital can flow freely, but flesh and bone humans are denied that freedom.
Policies or Un-policies
Top-down Policies or Natural Matching?
“I believe each government should make a new compact with its people, setting out what their country can contribute, based on an objective assessment of the needs, of the available resources and the capacity of local communities to absorb certain numbers of refugees where that is appropriate. It calls for policies which balance the needs of local communities, with the needs of refugees which are properly funded, communicated and implemented consistently over time.”
Yes, it's correct to balance the needs of local communities with the needs of refugees and migrants; however, this doesn't call for “policies”; people will be doing this on their own. Migrants can match and adjust themselves much better than top down policies can. Just don't interfere!
The Real Naiveté
“The point is every country must do its fair share, and no country can abdicate its responsibility. I suggest this should be based on four principles. First, it is not wrong for citizens in any country faced with a sudden surge of people seeking refuge within their borders to want to know that there are strong processes in place to prevent law and order, to preserve and to protect their security. No one should be crossing a border and not registering and going through an asylum process.”
Oh, so no one should be crossing a border and not registering and going through an asylum process?! Yes, sure, that's what governments and government entities like UNHCR wants. One of the comments on the talk went like this: “As for refugees abusing aid that is why how we let them in must be organised and follow law and order without loopholes. Those who come in must all be registered, have a legitimate reason to come in and their progress followed whatever needs to be done to benefit both sides.”
This is the real naiveté! To think you can order everything, control every human being, where they go and what they do. Don't you think it's time to let go a bit? Let life take its course.
Let alone the human life cost, Not seeing the total absurdity of the cost-ineffectiveness of trying to impose and control borders is the real naiveté.
In the paper “International Migration, Border Controls and Human Rights: Assessing the Relevance of a Right to Mobility” by Antoine Pécoud and Paul de Guchteneire, published in Journal of Borderlands Studies, Volume 21 No.1 Spring 2006, it says:
“Controlling migration is costly. According to an International Organization for Migration (IOM) report, the twenty-five richest countries spend 25 to 30 billion dollars per year on the enforcement of immigration laws (Martin 2003). These costs stem not only from controlling borders, but also from issuing visas and residence permits, prosecuting, detaining and removing undocumented migrants, carrying out labor inspections and implementing sanctions on employers, treating asylum-seekers’ claims, resettling refugees, and searching for undocumented migrants.”
Thinking that border controls can stop the movement of people is the real naiveté.
“Restrictive policies do not keep people from trying to migrate illegally. More liberal policies would have little impact on those who leave their country, whether it is authorized or not; it would only reduce the dangers they are exposed to. Restrictions on mobility also limit migrants’ freedom to circulate, thus leading to a higher rate of permanent settlement and discouraging migrants from returning, temporarily or not, to their country. Mexican migration to the United States illustrates these points: migrants keep trying to cross the border until they succeed and, given the difficulty of doing so, tend to remain on a more permanent basis in the country. (Cornelius 2001)”
Thinking that border controls can stop "terrorists" is the real naiveté.
The paper concludes:
“A right to mobility may appear as a naïve utopia. However, it is equally utopian and naïve to believe that minor arrangements of contemporary policies will provide sustainable answers to the challenges raised by international migration. Considering mobility as a right is a provocative way of questioning the justification of policies that are now taken for granted. Today’s utopia may be tomorrow’s reality and innovative debates and ideas are necessary to ensure new direction.”
And I heartily subscribe to it.
Why not? That is the question!
“Second, it is important to maintain the distinction between refugees and economic migrants. An economic migrant chooses to move in order to improve their lives or livelihoods. Refugees, have to move if they are to save their lives and preserve their freedoms. However difficult the situation economic migrants are seeking to escape, however understandable their motivation... there is no blanket human right to resettle in another country.”
Why not? That is the question!
The Answer Blowin' in the Wind...
“And there is no answer to global poverty and insecurity that involves the mass transfer of people.”
Sure, there is an answer! Change the tax system, change the financial system, put away the welfare state and bring the Universal Basic Income universally, ie. That is for every single person in the world. Stop spending money on promoting war and destruction, and start spending it on people and infrastructure for a better living of all.
Plus of course STOP producing weapons! Mark Akkerman's article “Border Wars, The arms dealers profiting from Europe's refugee tragedy” on TNI is a very important piece that has, unfortunately, not got the attention it deserves. I don't see it circling around in social networks like many stupid jokes and videos that keep hitting you in the face here and there.
The problem is not to find the answer, the problem is to find the leader with the political will and courage to implement the answer; plus, with the capacity to drag the other leaders and crowds along.
“Yes, ’n’ how many times must the cannonballs fly
Before they’re forever banned?”
Bob Dylan, aged 21 at the time of writing...
“To put it in another way, all human beings deserve equal human rights, but all people seeking asylum do not have equal ground for asylum.”
Fair enough. Migrants do not need to be given asylum status. They just need to be able to move freely and go wherever they wish on the Earth they were born, that's it. That's simply it. Don't give them any special rights or treatment, just let them go. That's enough.
A Duty to NOT Obey Unjust Laws
“Everyone must respect the laws and asylum procedures. That said, we must bear in mind that the distinction is complex.”
Sure, the distinction is complex. It's the governments who think they can make a distinction and complicate things more than necessary. What's more, I don't agree that one must respect laws that are unjust.
My husband suggested I add “like many more of some importance before me” to the above sentence. So here I go:
"If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so."
“If the machine of government is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law.”
Henry David Thoreau
"One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. Letter from Birmingham Jail
Tolstoy and Gandhi were of the same opinion as well.
Hasn't Jolie ever heard of Civil Disobedience? That's a rhetoric question. I'm sure she has. But obviously, she chooses to ignore it.
Yes, ’n’ how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
Yes, ’n’ how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn’t see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind
Bob Dylan, age 21 at the time of writing
Failing the Basic Test of Humanity and Falling into the Injustice Abyss
Here is the part where Angelina Jolie falls short of seeing the complete picture, thus falling into the injustice abyss from that crevice:
“We would fail the basic test of humanity if we discriminate between refugees on the basis of religion, race or ethnicity. When I meet a refugee I do not see a Muslim refugee or a Christian refugee or a Yezidi. I see a mother or a father a son or a daughter. A person with an equal right to stand in dignity on this planet.”
We are not failing the basic test of humanity if we discriminate between people on the basis of where they are born??
Or on the money they have in their bank account?? As it takes only a couple of hundred thousand Euros to get some European Union citizenships.
So Jolie, when you meet a refugee you “do not see a Muslim refugee or a Christian refugee or a Yezidi,” but you see a Syrian refugee or a Vietnamese refugee?
What do you see when you see a migrant? A Syrian migrant or a Vietnamese migrant?
What about European or American expats? Do you see an Ethiopian migrant and a British expat?
Don't you see a mother or a father a son or a daughter when you look at migrants?
How is a person's position and ability to move around the world s/he is born determined? By the geographic area s/he was born. A Pakistani baby does not have an equal right as a British baby to stand in dignity on this planet. Is that fine with you?
Only if you were born in a prestigious spot in the world and/or if you have money, then you can stand in dignity on this planet. Believe me, at this point, the world has flunked miserably on the basic test of humanity.
I understand Angelina Jolie represents an official organization that embodies the status quo; therefore, she cannot stray away from their discourse. However, I somehow feel she is quite sincere when saying this, she is just not aware that she falls short of seeing the complete picture thus falling from that small crevice into the injustice abyss.
Unfortunately, as such, she too, fails the basic test of humanity.
Let's be aware that our falling short of seeing and stating the complete picture as is, is the problem. Let's pass the basic test of humanity by taking that step to admit that it's everybody's right to move freely on the Earth they are born.
“Yes, ’n’ how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?”
Decency Upon Facing Indecency
Angelina Jolie goes on with her speech saying:
“Populations uprooted are the future of their countries. These are decent families registering and waiting peacefully for a chance to return home. And the majority of them are women and children. We should never make them feel like beggars, or worse like a commodity to be traded between countries, a burden, or even a threat, or that their children are not considered equal to others.”
We don't need to make them feel their children are not considered equal to others. They are not, and it's so obvious, so right in front of everyone's eyes. Eyes that are blind...
Or perhaps I should say eyes that are blinded by being brought up in a world with borders, believing the status quo to be the ultimate just reality.
“Decent families...” Yes, if you register and wait peacefully, if you do not cause any problems for the “authorities”, then you are called “decent”. Well... Of course I do not want more uproar in the world which has enough conflicts the way it is, but I wish there were more indecent ones among them as what the world is doing to them, putting them in such a situation, not letting them go somewhere on the planet they were born is an unacceptable injustice, it is outrageous and deserves an uproar.
Jolie, obviously, feels the need to say the majority of them are women and children. Seriously... Why the discrimination? I mean I have sensitivities for women and children. I believe children and women need to be protected and taken care of. However, this is about the justice of being able to move around the world. What about men?
Actually you know what; we should confine all able-bodied and fit men, regardless of their nationalities, to the town they were born and let women and sick men move around with their children. That might be an interesting experiment!
Guilty Until Proven Innocent
“Nobody wants to be a refugee. Nobody deserves to be a refugee. And for as long as war is part of the human condition, none of us are immune to becoming refugees. So all refugees merit equal respect and compassion.”
Okay, I agree with all of this. Plus of course, All people merit equal right to move around the world as they wish.
The question that popped into my mind when I wrote the above sentence was “Don't people locked up in jails merit equal right to move around the world as they wish?”
Of course the answer is easy. They merited it, then they used their liberties for bad and somebody decided they did not merit walking freely anymore. That's the only way it can be done. You allow everybody to roam the world they were born on freely. If you see a reason why that freedom should be taken away, then you block them. You cannot, as borders and visas do so currently, block some people because of the place they were born in, and let them pass only if they satisfy certain criteria. Workings of the world is all upside down!
My Neighbor's House on Fire
“And third, it would be naive to think we can protect ourselves selectively alone from the challenges in a globalized world by pulling away from other countries or peoples. As with any global problem in the 21st century, uncoordinated national responses are not the answer. An unstable world is an unsafe world for all. And there is no barrier high enough to protect from such disorder and desperation. If your neighbor's house is on fire, you are not safe if you lock your doors.”
So true. And in the globalized world, we are all neighbors whether we like it or not. It's illogical for you to stay in your house in the first place. Sooner or later, that fire is going to reach your house too. You'd better get out and do something to stop that fire!
However, the solution is not taking arms and fighting back, as so many people suggest the ones fleeing war should be doing. The fire in the world can only be put out by making a radical change in the things that kindle fires.
What are those things that kindle fires? For one, it's a mistaken belief of belonging to a certain group of people that has been inoculated among the masses: that is what's at the roots of nationalism. Those who want to rule these masses need to divide people and they do it on the grounds of pride and fear. The other is the crooked economic system we live by. At the root of course, is man's nature, the greed, be it for material things or for power and domination. However, there is the good too in man. It's a matter of proportions. 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. Then, no wonder, we have the world burst in flames.
Isolationism and Strength
“Isolationism is not strength, fragmentation is not the answer. Strength lies in being unafraid in working with others and living up to our highest ideals. We must not change who we are, because we face a crisis.”
Why should isolationism not be strength? I mean, to me, it is. Daniel Suelo, who has quit money and lives in a cave is certainly strong. How many of us can do what he has done?
Of course, it's not as if he lives in isolation; he is a part of society. How many people can live like monks, plus providing for themselves from the wild like Suelo? I'd say that much isolationism, standing on one's own, would be inhuman. After all, as Donne said about four centuries ago, no man is an island.
Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, written in 1624
with Donne's original spelling and punctuation:
No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee
or in the modern form:
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
Of course Jolie is talking about countries and governments here. Isolationism in that sense can only be achieved by banning the internet (or at least some access to it) as in China and North Korea, with huge infringements of personal liberties. What's more, no country can stand isolated forever. As seen in North Korea, you need to open up as you need hard currency if you want any progress in both technical terms and in standards of living.
However, I agree: “Strength lies in being unafraid in working with others and living up to our highest ideals.”
Failures and Flaws: The System or the Man?
“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 my comment on the comments of this Angelina Jolie speech.