Source: In These Times
The refugees won’t all make it to Norway. Nor does the Norway they seek exist.
In her classic study On Death and Dying, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross proposed the famous scheme of the five stages of how we react upon learning that we have a terminal illness: denial (one simply refuses to accept the fact: “This can’t be happening, not to me.”); anger (which explodes when we can no longer deny the fact: “How can this happen to me?”); bargaining (the hope we can somehow postpone or diminish the fact: “Just let me live to see my children graduate.”); depression (libidinal disinvestment: “I’m going to die, so why bother with anything?”); acceptance (“I can’t fight it, I may as well prepare for it.”). Later, Kübler-Ross applied these stages to any form of catastrophic personal loss (joblessness, death of a loved one, divorce, drug addiction), and also emphasized that they do not necessarily come in the same order, nor are all five stages experienced by all patients.
Is the reaction of the public opinion and authorities in Western Europe to the flow of refugees from Africa and Middle East also not a similar combination of disparate reactions? There was denial, now diminishing: “It’s not so serious, let’s just ignore it.” There is anger: “Refugees are a threat to our way of life, hiding among them Muslim fundamentalists, they should be stopped at any price!” There is bargaining: “OK, let’s establish quotas and support refugee camps in their own countries!” There is depression: “We are lost, Europe is turning into Europa-stan!” What is lacking is acceptance, which, in this case, would have meant a consistent all-European plan of how to deal with the refugees.
So what to do with hundreds of thousands of desperate people who wait in the north of Africa, escaping from war and hunger, trying to cross the sea and find refuge in Europe?
There are two main answers. Left liberals express their outrage at how Europe is allowing thousands to drown in Mediterranean. Their plea is that Europe should show solidarity by opening its doors widely. Anti-immigrant populists claim we should protect our way of life and let the Africans solve their own problems.
Which solution is better? To paraphrase Stalin, they are both worse. Those who advocate open borders are the greater hypocrites: Secretly, they know very well this will never happen, since it would trigger an instant populist revolt in Europe. They play the Beautiful Soul which feels superior to the corrupted world while secretly participating in it.
The anti-immigrant populist also know very well that, left to themselves, Africans will not succeed in changing their societies. Why not? Because we, North Americans and Western Europeans, are preventing them. It was the European intervention in Libya which threw the country in chaos. It was the U.S. attack on Iraq which created the conditions for the rise of ISIS. The ongoing civil war in the Central African Republic is not just an explosion of ethnic hatred; France and China are fighting for the control of oil resources through their proxies.
But the clearest case of our guilt is today’s Congo, which is again emerging as the African “heart of darkness.” Back in 2001, a UN investigation into the illegal exploitation of natural resources in Congo found that its internal conflicts are mainly about access to, control of, and trade in five key mineral resources: coltan, diamonds, copper, cobalt and gold. Beneath the façade of ethnic warfare, we thus discern the workings of global capitalism. Congo no longer exists as a united state; it is a multiplicity of territories ruled by local warlords controlling their patch of land with an army which, as a rule, includes drugged children. Each of these warlords has business links to a foreign company or corporation exploiting the mining wealth in the region. The irony is that many of these minerals are used in high-tech products such as laptops and cell phones.
Remove the foreign high-tech companies from the equation and the whole narrative of ethnic warfare fueled by old passions falls apart. This is where we should begin if we really want to help the Africans and stop the flow of refugees. The first thing is to recall that most of refugees come from the “failed states”—where public authority is more or less inoperative, at least in large regions—Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Congo, etc. This disintegration of state power is not a local phenomenon but a result of international economy and politics—in some cases, like Libya and Iraq, a direct outcome of Western intervention. It is clear that the rise of these “failed states” is not just an unintended misfortune but also one of the ways the great powers exert their economic colonialism. One should also note that the seeds of the Middle East’s “failed states” are to be sought in the arbitrary borders drawn after World War I by UK and France and thereby creating a series of “artificial” states. By way of uniting Sunnis in Syria and Iraq, ISIS is ultimately bringing together what was torn apart by the colonial masters.
One cannot help noting the fact that some not-too-rich Middle Eastern countries (Turkey, Egypt, Iraq) are much more open to the refugees than the really wealthy ones (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar). Saudi Arabia and Emirates received no refugees, although they border countries in crisis and are culturally much closer to the refugees (who are mostly Muslims) than Europe. Saudi Arabia even returned some Muslim refugees from Somalia. Is this because Saudi Arabia is a fundamentalist theocracy which can tolerate no foreign intruders? Yes, but one should also bear in mind that this same Saudi Arabia is economically fully integrated into the West. From the economic standpoint, are Saudi Arabia and Emirates, states that totally depend on their oil revenues, not pure outposts of Western capital? The international community should put full pressure on countries like Saudi Arabia Kuwait and Qatar to do their duty in accepting a large contingent of the refugees. Furthermore, by way of supporting the anti-Assad rebels, Saudi Arabia is largely responsible for the situation in Syria. And the same holds in different degrees for many other countries—we are all in it.