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This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

"Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me"??

Austerity policies and anti-terrorism strategies have become two of the strongest parts of European government responses to the global crisis which has gripped the 21st century……precisely the conditions for stoking up public fears about the wave of refugees pounding European borders.

The shocking scenes which hit us earlier in the year from the Mediterranean and now from the Balkans show a crisis, we are told, as great as any in the post-war period. Figures become meaningless after a time – so what are we to make of the figure of 50 million “forced refugees” – quickly taken up to 60 and then 70 million?? This report is a useful guide to the problem.

 Before any comment, let’s remind ourselves of some previous “flows”…..

·         Armenians were brutally evicted from their lands by the Turks after accusations that they had been helping the (Russian) enemy – the famous travel writer, Leigh Fermour, paints a vivid picture in his final book of meeting up with some of their descendants in the early 1930s in Plovdiv in central Bulgaria (as I did 75 years later).
·         Greek aggression led in the early 1920s to savage ethnic cleansing and population exchange between Turkey and Greece;
·         Italians bled from the country in the early part of the 20th century – whether to the US or my hometown in Scotland
·         Hitler’s persecution of Jews in the 1930s led to a massive exodus from which America and Britain were the beneficiaries;
·         no quarter was given during the murderous Spanish civil war and led to a huge refugee flow across mountains to southern France.
·         The end of the war – and the radical redrawing of European boundaries by the victorious forces – saw tens of millions of people forcibly removed from their homes and trekking in all directions. Keith Lowe’s 2012 Savage Continent; Europe in the aftermath of World War II rightly talks of it being “an until now unacknowledged time of lawlessness and terror” to whose portrayal the final section of Stephen A’Barrow’s recent Death of a Nation added a powerful voice.   
·         Post war saw the first ships arrive in Britain with West Indians seeking a better life – joining Indian and Pakistan middle class people whose restaurants woke the country up from a gastronomic torpor…
·         and Germany was, of course, the recipient of many Turks in the 1970s also seeking a better life there….

In 1975 John Berger wrote a book called The Seventh Man - one in seven of the working force in Britain and Europe was then an immigrant. And indeed – full disclosure - so am I! My blog masthead states, rather cheekily, that I am “a political refugee from Thatcher’s Britain” but I am actually more of an economic refugee. It’s the fees I earned from my work with (mainly) Danish, Dutch and German companies when I chose to leave the UK in late 1990 that keep me in my current life- style in Bulgaria and Romania. No need to make ironic comments – call it “reverse flow”……
The Scots and the Irish have a reputation for leaving their country to seek fame and fortune in far parts of the globe and have done fairly well out of it – although some of the early migrants were driven from their homes by rapacious landlords (The Highland Clearances) and famine.

This short but masterly podcast about the situation puts to shame the outpourings of the corporate media which spew their poison at us every minute of the day. A real example of what a lone voice can achieve!!!! And the inestimable John Harris gives an important lesson in lexicology here

The initial responses of the German people and leaders are what we expected in the past when hearts and homes were open to those driven from their countries by forces outside their control. This was my parents’ response in the early 1940s when they took in a family belonging to the Free French forces stationed in my home town – I still remember the red, white and blue of the silver-crepe ornament which adorned our front window at Christmas in the 1950s; and our PE teacher was a refugee from the Greek Civil War……

But materialism and fear (the later instilled by the prejudice whipped up by the media) have hardened our hearts. It appears that the old spirit is 
still alive only in Germany….scenes at Munich central station described here. Two factors explain the initial positive German response – historical feelings of guilt and their current manpower needs - but that response is careless surely of the potential effects on the country’s social fabric. But the political position quickly changed

I must confess to having some difficulty myself with the initial welcoming response to the refugee flow from “liberals” whose secure lives all too easily lead them to an insensitivity about the anxieties of the average citizen.

Update from 2 November blog 

update from May 2017 https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/31/jared-kushner-grandmother-refugee-holocaust

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