Jan 162016
 

It is very rude, in polite society, to say “I told you so”. But I don’t belong to polite society. I’m just one of those solitary creatures swimming around in the sea and observing the growing mess humanity is making of it.

And indeed I did say, again and again, directly and indirectly, that the poor would eventual break down the walls we have put in place, and flood all over our precious continents. You cannot dangle a delicious piece of T-bone steak in front of a mammal’s nose and expect it to shrug and go back to sleep. Dogs, of course, are an exception. They are slave mammals. But humans, who are no less mammals than tigers, will not sleep. They will ponder, lie in wait, mutter and murmur, riot, write treatises and, eventually, one way or another, claim their part of the steak, maybe all of it. If need be, they will do so violently. Violence is, after all, one of the stuffs little boys and girls are made of, and that’s why we have to have laws and courts and armies.

So now it happened: The barriers around Europe broke, and immigrants flooded all over the continent. I shall not treat you to the figures, but they are dramatic.

Determined to shut up for a change, to sit back and watch, I must admit that the way it happened took me entirely by surprise. It was not through violence, not through an international court and not by bilateral agreement that the immigrants gained access, but by appealing to Europeans’ compassion and awareness of injustice.

For months we had been staring aghast at the gaily bobbing vessels slowly coming into sight from our shores, overloaded with colourfully dressed dead or dying Africans. For months we had been the impotent witnesses of scenes from the slaughterhouse that is Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. We knew all too well that sitting along our eastern borders, sore-footed and aching, with nothing to their names but a tenuous link to help or home in the shape of their mobile phones, thousands, tens of thousands, eventually hundreds of thousands of victims sat waiting and hoping. And winter was drawing near.

And all of a sudden, as if by common accord, all of Europe seemed to be clamouring: “LET THEM IN!” I swear I have never in my life been as moved.

But now, Europe has closed ranks again. Disconcerted by the sheer logistical complexity of having to introduce so many aliens to an intricate web of rights and obligations, we find ourselves doubting that we can cope with the task.

Would it not have been better never to have gotten into this predicament in the first place? We knew this would happen sooner or later (or should have known), and it will happen again (or continue happening). The effects of climate change will go on getting exponentially worse, and the number of destitute, desperate people – victims of war, injustice, and/or climate-induced disasters – will continue to rise dramatically.

I ask you – I beg you – to consider:

Where did we go wrong? What did we not do that we should have done? What did we do that we should not have done? And what changes of tack are required of us? I urge you – again, beg you – to please not dismiss this as not being your personal responsibility. Those of us who live in “democratic” societies ARE the law.

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