When Frantz Fanon’s Les damnés de la terre (The Wretched of the Earth) was published in 1961, the Martiniquan-born psychoanalyst, social philosopher, historian, activist, revolutionary… was specifically referring to the plight of colonized… post-colonized Black people.
But looking at seemingly endless human crises since Fanon penned his seminal work, he could’ve been writing about the millions of people who have been forced for sundry reasons—drought, famine, ethnic, religious or racial persecution, conflicts and wars—to flee their native lands to seek refuge in foreign countries, particularly western Europe. Simply resorting to that innate predisposition: to seek refuge in tumultuous times. Which is what the world has been witnessing for the last three or four decades.
But there are times when internal conditions become so dire that those who are being impacted can no longer be constrained by their own borders, or other peoples’ for that matter.
What we’re witnessing today is the result of the upsurge of violence and resulting economic hardship that continues to plague the Middle East, and people wanting out (of Syria, Libya, parts of Africa), many believing that life is better across the Mediterranean. And news of the treacherous trip (thousands of deaths by drowning in the Mediterranean) is no deterrent. Many who have survived the journey have said, “It’s all worth it.”
North Africa, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan… people are risking their lives to escape what in part is the result of perpetual geopolitical business in those parts of the world.
To television viewers, the thousands who have perished so far remain nameless. But once the international media lens locked on what a local radio guest panelist during a discussion of the constant flow of migrants arriving on European shores and border crossings recently referred to as “the white skin” of that little boy lying face down on a Turkish beach, the Mediterranean still lapping at his body, the world was embarrassed into expeditious action, with another outpouring of humanity, some countries essentially beckoning the migrants.
It was akin to an auction, countries outbidding one another by pledging (or being pressured) to “do more” and accept more refugees. In the end, Germany has emerged the winner, saying it will accept 800,000, or as many as 1 million, much to the chagrin of nationalist elements in that as well as other European countries.
Wonder if this vast, under-populated country, Canada, couldn’t outbid Germany and welcome 1.5 million to build and inhabit some of that wide empty space I’ve seen across the country. Maybe if we had an indigenous prime minister or immigration minister.
Meanwhile, the Hungarian prime minister says his country “will seal its borders…” And that anyone—adult or child—caught trying to enter the country will be prosecuted. (Given the dire circumstances of the refugees and the domestic backlash to the presence of the refugees, I wonder if he meant, persecuted?)
The country has become so overwhelmed by the human tsunami that following a series of measures, including building a long razor-wire fence to discourage migrants, holding them in cages like animals and throwing food at them, threatening to order its security forces to use rubber bullets, and even live ammunition on anyone who tries to sneak into the country, essentially “threatening the country’s national security,” according to the prime minister at a recent news conference. Hungary says its borders are officially closed.
Yes, according to media reports the refugees are primarily from Syria, fleeing that country’s ongoing civil war, which is blamed on one person: Bachar al Assad.
For close to five years the world’s powerful geopolitical players have been telling the Syrian leader (strongman, dictator, killer…) that he “must go…” be a refugee himself, but none have ever said exactly where he should go (seek refuge himself).
So as NATO and other jets (Australia has recently entered the fray) laden with weapons of mass destruction continue to unload on Syrian targets in some bid to get rid of a human pest (or better stated, a Frankenstein) known as ISIS which has been wreaking havoc in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere…
Problem is, we hardly hear any serious discussion about the genesis of ISIS, which some of the geopolitical alarmists readily describe as a “threat to the world…” so continue dropping bombs.
From what I hear in the alternative media news and discussions, the Libya debacle some years ago, with the resulting overthrow and video-taped murder of Muammar Gaddafi, aided and abetted by NATO fighter jets supporting one set of two governments which now run the chaotic country, is a microcosm of the larger picture and cause of what’s now happening in the always tumultuous Middle East and the resulting exodus of mostly Syrian nationals (among others) who continue to show up… wash up on European shores and at borders.
Many years ago I took a course at a university; the syllabus included a very interesting article (which I regretfully, unfortunately, stupidly loaned to someone; she never returned it). That article spoke directly to the human crises unfolding in Europe today—“people washing up on European shores” is a line that I distinctly remember from that article.
Watching the news of migrants fleeing poverty and war in Africa and the Middle East and survivors of the human tsuname washing up on Europe’s Mediterranean shores, or arriving at its northern borders is a tragic sight of human desperation.
They’re lucky they’re not Black Africans. Many of them might’ve been killed by Hungary’s bullets, which the government has threatened (or promised) to use if the migrants attempt to breach that razor-wired fence Hungary’s government threatens to build.
Over the years we’ve seen news footage of how African migrants/refugees are treated.
Imagine throngs of Africans crashing Europe’s borders?
Like my mother, now in the winter of her life, inevitably says whenever she watches the chaos in the news, “God’s world is messed up. He made His world for all of us to make ourselves comfortable, but some don’t care about anyone else…”
That sentiment speaks to many of those continental European countries (and off-continent Europeanized ones, such as Australia) where everything is been done to discourage refugees…
Today’s migrants are not quite Frantz’s Wretched… just recurring 21st century versions; but their condition still elicits genuine human reaction: empathy and sympathy, much like stories of the Middle Passage.
Our final destination was plotted and set when our predecessors were involuntary corralled (Like those refugees in Hungary, but worse), then forced into dungeons, then onto boats… At least “they” had floating dungeons to make the journey across the Atlantic—at least those who were not thrown overboard.
A few centuries on, we still haven’t been afforded full human rights. In fact, centuries on, we’re still not completely woven into the fabric; the colour is still too troubling… to some. We’ve carved out a place, yes, but imperfect social conditions (and there are many aspects) persist hundreds of years on to ensure that we never find a haven. That is unless we make a voluntary return trip… this time by Jumbo jet.
Frantz Fanon was right…
One thing is certain, that little boy who died so tragically under such trying circumstances has a global identity. His name is Alan Kurdi, 2 or 5-years-old? He has become the face of a refugee crisis that continues to unfold in Europe and attract the attention of the world, also a catalyst and impetus for a semblance of international action.
But the world is a mad house, so look for more tragedy and refugees…