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Posts Tagged ‘Immigration’

Teetering

21/06/2016

As anyone who follows the Status Viatoris Blog Facebook page will know (and I apologise if you are finding it a little tedious), the run-up to the UK referendum on our Europe Union membership is seriously perturbing me.

Political referendums are tricky things. Essentially they are asking a public who has very little practical understanding of the political and financial workings of their country (myself most definitely included) to make a vitally important decision on… the political and financial future workings of their country. It is a big ask, denoting big responsibility.

But if said public were handed all the pertinent facts and figures in an impartial manner, and allowed to trawl through them and ask questions of impartial experts in the various fields before deciding which vote made the most sense to them as a layman, it would at least be a fair ask.

What we have been witnessing over the last weeks/months, however, is about as far from fair as it is possible to get. Both sides have preyed on the public’s ignorance in an attempt to frighten them into the desired vote, and the Leave campaign in particular has shown a viciousness and immorality that should cause any sane voter, even one that despises the EU and all it stands for, to stop dead and wonder what the hell is happening to their country.

For a large percentage of the general public will not be going to the urns armed with facts, they will instead be walking in with minds full of baseless yet highly inflammatory rhetoric, designed only to trigger existing preconceptions, fears and prejudices. The “facts” they think they have in their possession, turn out at best to be incomplete representations of the actual situation.

At worst they are quite simply lies, perpetuated by a group of people confident that their audience will be too busy enjoying having their existing preconceptions, fears and prejudices validated, to bother cross-checking the “information” they are handed with any reliable, and impartial, source.

Brexiteers are being promised a rosy future that nobody can actually vouch for, based on a premise that is no more than mere speculation and which is fuelled by hatred, mistrust, feelings of superiority, and a nationalism that history tells us we would be wise to be on our guard against.

We all know that there are many problems in the UK (as there are, always have been and always will be, in all countries), and I’m sure it is comforting for many to at last be able to openly slay their chosen scapegoats: Europe and the immigrants. There. One foul swoop and the majority of our niggles will apparently be gone.

I see exactly the same scenario being played out in my country of residence, Italy. Except here they have real problems as well: a corrupt (really corrupt, not David Cameron doing a small, perfectly legal offshore investment corrupt) behemoth of a ruling class, high unemployment, low wages, high taxes, minimum government assistance… And yet Europe and the immigrants are often top of the list in the blame game, simply because they are so ridiculously easy to hate: untangling the country’s actual problems is an infinitely more daunting task, requiring some serious and uncomfortable national introspection.

But beware of snake oil salesmen offering a quick fix: be it diet pills that will magic you effortlessly thin in a month or a single political decision that will seamlessly return us to a supposedly halcyon past. Such people are either after money or power; they are unlikely to be motivated by the best interests of their rapt audience.

The European Union (like any group of people just trying to get things done in an ever more challenging world) is not perfect, and mass immigration is far from ideal, bringing with it as it does undeniable complications.

But attempting to isolate ourselves (once again) from our nearest neighbours, rather than seeking strength in common good does not seem to me to offer any real solutions. And turning our backs on a massive humanitarian crisis rather than accepting the realities of the world we live in, acknowledging that sometimes we need to be flexible enough to absorb such consequences into our way of life and accepting that what is desirable is often not what is either right or necessary, does not seem like any kind of progress.

At the end of the day, if we were dealing in comprehensive facts and figures, both for and against, I would be able to observe this process more philosophically regardless of the outcome. But I cannot watch my country basing such an important decision on little more than hyperbole, scaremongering, preconceptions, fear, prejudice, hate, half-truths and untruths, without at least having a stab at expressing my feelings.

And for those of you who, like me, have been feeling hugely frustrated by the seeming lack of accessible, unbiased facts, I offer you this:

EU law expert responds as “industrial dishonesty” video goes viral

This:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07jczmc

This:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07jl61s

And to add some much-needed humour to the table, this:

Best of British for the 23rd, chaps. Use your collective power wisely.

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Just Don’t Pray

14/11/2015

Charlie Hebdo, the apparently unstoppable rise of ISIS, refugees dying in European waters and now Paris.

Trying to make some sense of it all and attempt an opinion based on head and not heart is the hardest thing. The current trend of relying on the rhetoric of those who (albeit with the best of intentions) insist on turning the grey tones of reality into a feel-good monochrome of good vs evil and right vs wrong, is as harmful to the freedom of thought and expression as everything they believe they are taking a stand against.

Maybe some people sleep more easily at night if they have spent their day championing their chosen unfortunates through social media memes and surprisingly vitriolic attacks on those whose opinions they consider less altruistic – I am sure the certainty of their place on the moral high ground is some comfort to them in an increasingly chaotic world. But I am not convinced that their positions, as loudly as they proclaim them, are thought through with any real honesty.

I previously addressed the apologist “It’s not Islam” argument here, and although I am not going to bore you all with it again, I have to reiterate that although most Muslims are not extremist terrorists, most extremist terrorists are Muslim. And they ARE Muslim. It is dangerously naive to declare otherwise. Islam, like all Abrahamic religions, can be interpreted pretty much any way suits an adherent’s lifestyle. An extremist Muslim is just as much a Muslim as a moderate Muslim, they just take different messages from their holy book. And as long as Allah continues to resist making a personal appearance in order to mediate and clarify, that will remain the case.

It is not ‘racist’, it is not ‘discriminatory’, it is not ‘Islamophobia’. It is simply fact.

A few months after Charlie Hebdo the mass arrival by sea began and after that the heartbreaking images of Aylan Kurdi, sparking a massive response from an aghast European audience who were quick to assure the struggling refugees that they would be welcomed in Europe: an understandable reaction to the sight of a tiny body – victim of his family’s attempts to give him a more stable future, but was it really the solution?

Surely the prospect of a relatively indiscriminate welcome in Europe would (and indeed has) only serve to propel yet more people into the arms of utterly inhumane people smugglers and their unseaworthy vessels?

Surely the prospect of a relatively indiscriminate welcome in Europe would (and indeed has) encourage economic migrants to try to pass as legitimate refugees in order to take advantage of the situation?

Where is this huge influx of migrants going to live?

What are they going to survive on?

Where are they going to work?

How is Europe going to ensure that such large numbers of people are able to fully integrate into European life, and assimilate the European values that have made this the relatively successful group of countries people wish to flee to?

What explanation is there for the fact that there are children of previous Muslim immigrants – young adults born in Europe and brought up surrounded by European life and values – now taking part in murderous attacks on their countries of birth?

Who is going to rebuild countries like Syria if the brightest and best (or at least those with the funds to pay the immoral people smugglers) have been encouraged to attempt new lives for themselves in Europe?

The West has demonstrated time and again its total incomprehension of the cultural and historical mindset of Islamic countries – intervention by Western leaders is partly to blame for the spreading Jihadist mess the world finds itself in today – but is there another way in which the general populations of these countries can be given support other than the minefield (excuse the pun) of military intervention, or mass emigration?

Sadly I don’t have the answers I am only consumed by the questions, and perturbed by the attempts of some to simplify a highly complex situation by whitewashing many of the most pertinent issues, whilst allowing knee-jerk sentiment to drive their social judgements and political demands.

While the voices that appear to be shouting the loudest on the UK platform are those mentioned in the first two paragraphs of this post, the story in Italy is a very different one, partly (amongst a host of other reasons) due to the fact that Italy has long been obeying Europe’s orders to rescue and offer safe haven to boatloads of illegal immigrants, with very little back-up. Most of the memes I have seen circling here depict variations on a theme of happy immigrants living off obscenely generous government hand-outs, whilst Italian grannies hunt through the bins for scraps. No more factual than the mock-up of David Cameron, surfboard under his arm, stepping over Aylan’s corpse, but just as inflammatory – the savaging I got for taking one Italian social media commentator to task still boils my blood whenever I pass the man on the street.

So I was curious to see what would happen when a group of illegal immigrants arrived to be housed in the village. Dad, mum and small son from Ghana, two women in their early twenties from Nigeria, and two sisters of a similar age from Senegal.

The muttering from some quarters can probably be heard in Brussels (the village further up the hill got a large consignment of young African men, and the weight of the villagers’ displeasure led to the Mayor submitting his resignation) but a surprising number have been supportive of this development. And whilst the Ghanaian parents are so reserved I cannot quite see how they are going to begin making their way here, their six-year old son is already the life and soul of the party and as for the two Senegalese sisters, well they have brought with them an almost tangible sense of joie de vivre.

This, I think, has the potential to be a successful immigration story: a drip drip drip of people making it through the net in small enough numbers that the local community, rather than feeling overwhelmed, instead is able to welcome the newcomers; help them to find their feet and to integrate, whilst at the same time being able to enjoy the richness that the introduction of other cultures brings to all our lives.

And now Paris.

Disaffected young men whose apparent inability to find a sense of purpose in their everyday lives made them the ideal target for some particularly amoral puppet masters whose task is made even simpler by the ease with which religion can be interpreted to justify even the most heinous actions. It defies the imagination of normal people, as well it should.

But Paris wasn’t the first, and it won’t be the last – that much is certain. And whilst we should not play into the Jihadists’ hands with unjustifiable hatred towards all Muslims (another ‘Holy War’ – Islam against the world, is exactly what they are hoping for), we owe it to ourselves and to the innocent lives lost to be brutally honest about the causes, because only then have we any hope at all of tackling them.

So think about Paris, cry for Paris and mourn with Paris, just don’t pray for Paris – more religion is the last thing they need.

(DISCLAIMER: This jumble of thoughts and ideas masquerading as a blog post is the result of my own difficulty in trying to understand what is currently occurring in the world. I am still very far from understanding much at all, but in a way I’m rather glad to be aware of that…)

*Edited with this message to the posters of this morning’s overly dramatic meme: While it would, have course, have been unforgivable on the part of the world’s press to have neglected to report on the terrorist attack in Beirut (they didn’t), claims that the world ‘only cares about white lives’ is another patently over-simplistic response. The Middle East has been in chaos for a long long time – the loss of life there as tragic as it is pointless – and many Westerners struggle even to begin to comprehend how people’s everyday lives play out against such a backdrop. But France was a country at peace, and we know France. We know Paris. Many of us have walked its streets, spoken to its people. They may speak a different language, dress slightly better, eat slightly differently; but their everyday lives are almost as familiar to us as our own, and if it happened to them, it could happen to us. Just as we are all horrified by cancer, by stillbirths, by death in general – the emotional impact is always greater when these things strike the people we know.

That does not in any way mean that we do not care about the Middle East, or about its long-suffering inhabitants, but their struggle is so complicated so apparently lacking in solutions, and so far removed from our own experiences that we no longer know how to react to it.

Childishly dramatic denunciations of a cruel and heartless ‘world’ (I presume the meme posters do not include themselves in this) are not only divisive, they serve no purpose whatsoever.

Those Maleficent Men ‘n Their Mud Machine

15/05/2014

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

There can be few things in this world as baffling (and as terminally depressing) as Italian politics.

I have now been in Italy for almost four and a half years – a period of time that was sufficient to endow me with a reasonably fair understanding of the way the political tides ebbed and flowed in Spain and then subsequently in France – but to my shame, with regards to this country I have long given up even trying to work out what’s going on.

Recently, however, I inadvertently brought a small smidgen of political machinations into my own life… and oh how I regret it.

It all started with a Facebook spat about immigration – far from the first of that nature I have had on that particular forum, and unlikely to be the last given how I seem to enjoy giving myself angst-filled and sleep-deprived nights whilst I mentally harangue people whose attitudes make me feel ashamed to be human.

I won’t rehash the discussion for fear it may instigate in some readers a similar desire to throw themselves from a high building as it did me, but here are some of the salient rejoinders to my argument – paraphrased in the interests of succinctness:

– Certain people (me) are ignorant, impolite and lacking in good sense for pointing out that the person loudly posting about how “Italy is for Italians” is married to an immigrant.

– Certain British people (me) shouldn’t call Italians racist (I didn’t) when there are armed police protecting the Channel Tunnel from illegals.

– Italy is a country that welcomes those from all walks of life, such tolerance stems from the traditions and teachings of the Catholic Church (???).

– Certain British people (me) have no right to express an opinion on the subject of racial intolerance (I didn’t) as the concept was only invented when the British imported slaves into America (???).

– Certain hypocritical conformists (me) are only shouting about racism (I wasn’t) in order to indulge in a bit of pre-electoral mud-slinging.

Aha! So that’s what it was really all about: on the 25th of May, My Little Italian Village will be voting for their next mayor.

The current mayor, my neighbour/friend/ex-landlady, is completing her third (non-consecutive) term at the helm of the town hall, and for the last few years at least, has been greatly looking forward to hanging up her tri-coloured sash now she has reached her mid-sixties, and settling down to enjoy a well-deserved retirement.

Local politics, however, was not about to let her go quite so easily.

For as the elections loomed, it quickly became apparent that the only pretender to the throne, together with a number of his merry band of councillors, are of  the opinion that anybody a whisper to their left is a communist, whereas if they themselves shuffled any further to their right it is highly likely they would topple straight off the edge and into the arms of Il Duce.

And although there are many around here who are of a similar persuasion, there is an equally high number who view such monochromatic political leanings with great concern and were therefore unanimous in their insistence that she stand again.

Playing against the newcomers is their lack of experience in the political arena, something that becomes painfully obvious when scanning their scant “manifesto” – little more than pointed and rather libellous digs at the opposition (a few examples of which are paraphrased below):

We promise that if we win these elections we won’t hog the town hall for twenty years! Was, unbelievably, their opener.

We promise that under us, the village will be managed for the people, by the people! As opposed to the current dictatorship, I presume.

We promise that we won’t misuse our powers to give favours to friends! Just… ouch!

We promise transparency in our actions! Especially interesting, as my new Facebook bestie (one of the would-be councillors), rather than creating his own profile, instead uses the profile of his mild-mannered foreign spouse to harangue the “friends” she has amassed through her school and playground interactions with his political issues.

As in between incessantly posting and re-posting variations on a theme that certain people (me) should keep their traps shut, he has also undertaken to swell the party votes by incessantly posting and re-posting variations on a theme that politicians who hold on to their power for too long, are anti-democratic.

Because apparently the democratic thing to do to a village unfortunate enough to have only two candidates, one of whom happens to be long-standing, would simply be to pass the keys of the town hall to the newcomers regardless of majority opinion.

One would hope that the overt mudslinging that has so far been offered in the place of real and attainable goals, plus the vitriolic lack of self-control shown by this particular councillor on his internet platform of choice, would perhaps make people think twice about the newcomers’ suitability to administrate. But perhaps that is just how politics works.

Either way, individuals capable of demonstrating such complete lack of humanity and compassion in their opinions on the human tragedy such as the one ever more frequently unfolding in the waters off Lampedusa, might ask themselves why on earth they feel qualified to look after the interests of others at all.

This is Status Viatoris, not looking forward to the 25th of May very much at all, in Italy.

“There is No Such Thing as an Honest Romanian”

12/11/2013

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Declared some daft besom apropos of nobody seems to quite know what, at the Mothership’s Italian class recently.

And had I been there personally, I would have hauled my pregnant bulk over the desks and taken enormous pleasure in bopping my fist right onto the end of her nose.

Of course it’s hardly surprising that she, and many others like her, feel utterly entitled to verbalise such prejudice in the righteous foghorn tones so beloved of the rather ignorant, given that their only information on it (and a vast many other subjects) comes from the criminally irresponsible British media.

And it would be a delightful thing if people actually backed up some of the “facts” they absorb from their Daily Rag (right or left-wing, tabloid or broadsheet – they are none of them free from the stigma of politically self-serving partiality) with a dash of thinking-for-themselves and a pinch of additional research, but hey, blindly following somebody else’s neatly packaged ideology-for-idiots is so much easier on an already overstretched brain cell.

(I wonder if any of them, media or media follower alike, has ever given a moment’s consideration to another time a country allowed itself to be whipped into a frenzy of distrust and hatred against a particular group of people. No? You know, way back when a significant proportion of an entire First World nation let themselves be convinced that all their socio-economic problems could be laid firmly at the door of an easily identifiable scapegoat? Still nothing? Oh well.)

Even the Italians, with their long history of fleeing Italian shores in times of crisis in order to seek their fortune elsewhere – North America, South America, Australasia, Germany, France, the UK… loathe these modern-day economic migrants just as much as the British, with their long history of pinching other people’s land and plundering its natural resources whilst oppressing the natives for their own good.

What a pair.

So what of the reviled Romanians?

Well first of all – and this might come as a surprise to much of the British media: all Romanians are not gypsies and not all gypsies are Romanian. Something I can only assume to be a well-kept secret when I note that 90% of articles talking about Romanians in the British press, clearly feature Roma gypsies.

The Roma, or Țigani, have been in Romania since before the 14th century, and, like their cousins in Bulgaria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Spain and many other places, originate from Northern India. They have a rich musical tradition – usually one of the only aspects of their culture that finds favour with their host countries – but in most other ways they tend to be disliked outcasts due in part to their disregard for the local laws and social norms by which the rest of the local community abide.

They do emigrate, and all over the place, but sadly begging and pick-pocketing often remain their employment of choice (and necessity – prejudice rendering most other doors closed to them).

A Romanian is a different sort of character altogether.

Whilst keeping a strong sense of family and community, many are well-used to travelling to find employment, especially when it comes to construction and other manual labour. Sometimes within Romania itself, but very often further afield: Germany, Italy, Greece, Spain, the UK, Israel, Saudi Arabia… Men leave their families, sometimes only returning once or twice a year, in order to work and send money home.

And not just the men, there are also plenty of Romanian women who opt to work (often as carers for the elderly or infirm) far away from their loved ones, so that they are in a position to be able to support them financially.

It is far from an easy life – and certainly not one the comfortable, media-led armchair critics from wealthier nations would consider sullying themselves with – but many Romanians just get on with it.

Because they have to.

Because they don’t have a government that will give them money if they can’t find employment in their home town.

Because there is nobody to complain to if they can’t find quite the right sort of job to suit them, or if the little work that is available doesn’t pay enough to keep on top of the bills.

Because they exist within the harsh parameters of the real world.

Yes; there are dishonest Romanians, just as there are dishonest Brits and dishonest Italians.

And yes, maybe a few might take advantage of Britain’s absurdly generous benefit system – after all, there are plenty of British natives who feel not a jot of loyalty to their country of birth, and happily plunder the loopholes presented by the lumbering welfare state.

But that is absolutely no reason not to accord respect to the vast numbers of hard-working, honest Romanians out there. As well as the Bulgarians, the Czechs, the Poles, the Ukrainians, the Serbs, the Albanians and indeed whoever else is just trying to do what every other human being has tried to do since the dawn of time…

…keep crop, feathers and family together.

It is, after all, a basic human right.

This is Status Viatoris, hoping that her honest, hard-working, kind-hearted, lovely Romanian husband never has to hear the sort of crap her countrymen are capable of coming out with, although after nearly five years in Italy, he is probably getting used to it… 😦


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