I’ve been in two minds whether to publish this post, it’s an emotive topic and sticking your head above the parapet is asking for trouble from both sides.
But I feel I need to add my voice, stand up and be counted in what way I can, because I can’t stay silent any longer in the face of growing anti-immigrant sentiment. In recent days I’ve seen posts – many from my friends on social media, many of whom I know in life too – demanding houses for armed forces veterans before immigrants, I’ve seen posts threatening to unfriend people if they don’t stop talking about the depressing subject of the refugees at our door, I’ve seen posts purporting to be from the “British people” refuting the need to take in any more refugees, or migrants as they term them, since calling them refugees might be skirting a bit too close to the human nature of the problem. I’ve seen facts and figures about why we can’t take any more and more posts from Britain First and the like than I care to remember. I’m saturating and I feel sick to my stomach that some of my friends who I know to be good kind people, with big hearts are posting these things. I desperately want to denounce them all for what I see as their inhumane sentiments. But everyone is entitled to their opinion, no matter how distasteful I might find it. And I know that all of them would help any person in need that they came across. To forget this and judge them would be giving in to the same black and white views that I’m railing against. So instead, I have spent a good deal of time and energy trying to understand the apparent contradiction of how these good-hearted people can hold such unkind, dehumanising views.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blind to the practical problems of absorbing large numbers of displaced people into any society, nor am I naive of the contributing issues and the need to deal with them. But using these practicalities as an excuse to dehumanise people is not acceptable. I can’t help but feel that we are approaching this from a messed up angle…we need to remember that these are people that we are dealing with, irrespective of the practicalities, we need to put this first as us not doing so will colour all future decisions ahead of us and will affect us deeply as a society. I firmly believe we need to address this issue with compassion and humanity to find a way forward that is good for everyone. I can’t understand why some people choose not to do this, and instead choose to dehumanise and ignore.
One question keeps surfacing in my thoughts.
What are you so afraid of?
Some assertions which I believe strongly: We are all human and in this life together. You are a kind person. Refusing people safety and protection and the chance to live a dignified life free from persecution when we’re in a position to give it is inhumane.
So, what are you so afraid of that you would so willingly cast your humanity aside? Ah well, the fact-wielders will say, the crowd standing at our door now will place an unnecessary burden on our society, on our already over-burdened welfare/healthcare/housing system. Here are some facts and figures to prove it, don’t let them in, they’ll ruin everything.
This is fear. Pure and simple. And the ones in the grip of it are the ones that don’t recognise it. Fear subverts your humanity. In the same way that innocuous shadows on a child’s bedroom wall become demons and monsters, fear turns damaged, needy human beings into thieves and scroungers who are hell bent on robbing you into destitution. It demonises people. It turns the person on the street into a potential attacker and changes your behaviour towards them. And scared people hate. Fear begets anger, unless you recognise it, because none of us like feeling afraid, so we turn on the perceived source of the fear.
The most peculiar thing is that the people who sing this line the most often are the ones who have comfortable lives. They are well fed. They have a roof over their head. They have friends and family around them. Often they also have good health. They have phones, cable TV, computers, internet, a vehicle or two, maybe more. I’m not trying to denigrate the struggles that people have in their life, paying the mortgage, making ends meet, the stresses of work and poor health. But the country desperately needs perspective. Even the poorest of us are rich by comparison to many in the world. The refugees will not take bread from our mouths.
The refugees represent change, an unknown quantity, and that generates fear. Rather than recognise the fear, people set about backing it up with facts and figures to prove to themselves and everyone else that it’s OK to not want the refugees here. Or they refuse to speak about it and get annoyed when people do, that way they don’t have to think about and it’s not real. I beg you, have the courage to stand and face the challenge and do not be cowed by the fact that there is no clear solution, stick to your principles, your ideals, the kindness and humanity that I know is in you.
You’re right to feel fear, it’s natural. The future is unknown and it is deeply embedded in each of us to try to identify potential threats. But what is not right is demonising people who desperately need help and who just want a better life. To ignore the plight of people that we are in a position to help. I’ll be honest, when I think about where the world might be heading it scares me. Life scares me, the future scares me and strangers with different cultures and ideals scare me a little too. But I know it. And I know that the refugees at our door who are living in squalid conditions because it’s an improvement on the situation they fled, because they want a better life for themselves and their loved ones, are not the cause of my fear and so they shouldn’t bear the brunt of my hate and anger at the situation. They are humans. And they are in need. Some may be in need more than others but they all want a better life. Every one of them that has taken that journey has done so to work towards improving their life, why would that person not be an asset to the country they settle in? When people emigrate abroad from this country they are hailed as successful, why do we vilify people that are willing to travel to us in more arduous circumstances? Some will bring more value to the societies they join than others in the same way that of those born here some add more value than others (however you measure value). Do we deport those of less ‘value’? Do we prevent people from having children because our country is so overburdened? No because those would be inhumane actions, and it is inhumane to deny refuge to people who need it. Who are we to judge a man’s worth? Why does the fact that we had the good luck of being born in a temperate, farming-sustaining, water-rich country give us the right to deny entry to others? What makes us better than those others, what makes us more deserving?
You are afraid. And that is OK. But please realise it. Because the world needs people to be kind. The world does not need people who accumulate and hoard huge piles of cash and possessions. I don’t want to live in a world where people cross the road to avoid someone who is in need of help. Do you? If the tables were turned and you needed to seek refuge would you like to think that all doors would be closed? Even if you lack the imagination to put yourself in their place then accept the fear anyway, because they will come, whether you like it or not. We can welcome them and help them integrate or we can shun them and make them hate us and then tell each other we were right all along when they turn against us. If we remind ourselves that these people are human beings, no different from us, then we can move on and apply ourselves collectively to creatively figuring out how to tackle the practical problems of absorbing large volumes of foreign people from different cultures. I do not deny these challenges, to do so would be blind and naïve, but rather than arguing about whether we should address them or not we need to put all of our energy into how to address them. So how about we get creative about solving this problem? How about we take our fear and stop allowing it to drive us towards hate and anger? How about we deal with all humans as equal until they do something that proves otherwise and then we can get on with the issue of negotiating how to move forward towards a better, more humane world?
What are you so afraid of?