The Ivory Tower

In an attempt to escape this feeling of a society down the drain, I’ve started doing voluntary work again. While most organizations just ask for money that I don’t have, a few of them are more than happy with a handyman or, as the case may be, translator. They’re still in need for those this day and age, go figure.

One of those jobs is something I’ve been meaning to do and was very excited to, and that’s logistics work at a refugee shelter. It’s a repurposed resting home where war refugees from different countries end up, while waiting for the green light to stay indefinitely.

I’ve always been very careful mentioning this in the many discussions that I go into regarding refugees. Even if I succeed in not using it as leverage to push my opinion onto others, I can imagine it will seem so. All in all, it is irrelevant. I’ve had my opinion for much longer than this and just because I spent 2 days at the most humane shelter of them all, doesn’t mean I have any authority on the matter.

Why bring it up now, then?

In the short time that I spent there, which is more than the vast majority of our population, regardless of their opinion and zeal, I saw my beliefs strongly reinforced and became just a tad angry, just a tad militant when it comes to the fate of these people.
And while I have been avoiding the subject to prevent myself from getting on my little soap box and acting all high and mighty,
Allow me to get on my soap box and act all high and mighty.
And unless you speak from first-person experience, please sit down and stfu.

50% of the war refugees entering Europe are Syrian. They come by plane, by bus, by train, or on foot. Human traffickers make large sums of money illegally transporting people that are afraid and very unwelcome in our society.

Europe’s reaction is to close its borders. This was not a rational, thought-out decision, no, this was a bottleneck cascade of sorts. The western-most countries only allow a certain number of people in, which causes large groups of people to get clumped up in countries like Turkey and Greece, and the Balkan. That only lasts until a single incident, no matter how trivial, ignites the powder keg and those countries close their borders altogether. Not for tourists, mind. Only for war refugees.

And so, we, the rich westerners, have erected a wall between ourselves and the war. To protect ourselves, you see. We’re in a crisis, you must understand. We don’t have money to save you.
Because money is what it boils down to, right? Money and public opinion, the latter strongly steered by media and politicians who have the country’s economy to maintain- money again.
Take this oversimplified analysis as you will.

Do you remember, when you grew up, that feeling that you were born for something? You could sense it- some potential in you, a power, a strength, waiting to come out at the right moment. Maybe you were to save a life one day, or become king of Scotland, or slay a dragon. All you knew is that it would happen, and it would happen soon.
But then it didn’t.
Or did it?

Maybe it was that one time when you saw that person drown, and you watched how several people jumped in and saved them with, let’s be honest, little effort? Or when your friend asked you for money, but you refused because of their unhealthy spending habits? Maybe you missed your chance to be that angel you were born to be? Could it be that your real test was too subtle to notice, and it slipped from you?

If our real test was staring us in the face, would we recognize it?

If 300,000 people needed our support, would we even bat an eye?

In border areas like Calais, which is literally 2 hours drive from where I live, there is a refugee camp of illegal immigrants that want to get into the next country, but can’t. In Dunkirk, at walking distance from the Belgian border, another camp is drowning in the excessive rain that we’ve had in the last couple of months.

People are dying of illness, freezing temperatures that they’ve never experienced in their life, and lack of hygiene. These are some of the world’s worst conditions for humans to be living in, and they’re happening right on our doorstep.
Meanwhile, the police was blocking volunteers to bring in building supplies. Why? I don’t actually know. But I do know that whatever reason they might have come up with, couldn’t possibly justify it.

There are plenty of reasons and arguments not to support the shelter of refugees. I’ve heard dozens of them in the last few months. What they all have in common, is that they are either plainly and simply false and I can disprove them, or vanish in comparison with what these people are going through.

Perhaps the pictures of bombed cities didn’t connect with those opposing, enough to fully realize the impact of a bomb on a human life. Perhaps they haven’t figured out that a war refugee isn’t necessarily poor, and doesn’t need to look like it in order to have a life that is in pieces at their feet. Perhaps they’ve never experienced what it is to run for your life, from people chasing you.

Perhaps we, as a society, must learn that a war refugee isn’t here to ask for money or to harass “our” women. It’s because they are dying. They are us, in different circumstances. Shop owners, lawyers, athletes, scientists, who have no home to return to, no family to fall back on, and they have no other option than to lay down their very dignity and literally beg for our help.

And we stuff them in camps, send them from one country to another, treat them to the most inhumane conditions since World War 2- Yes, I am going there. Our behavior as a collective: The rich, strong and mighty west, is absolutely inexcusable. We, who so eagerly believe that our prosperity is the result of our hard work and successful mentality, can’t be bothered to spare what is necessary to maintain the human rights of refugees of war within our own borders.

We aren’t as poor as we say. There is plenty of space in Europe. Empty buildings, where a small crew can provide humane conditions for the people who are either waiting to be accepted in our arms, or to return to the home they love. And if you think this would open our borders to the world, you might want to stop and wonder why they are so eager to come to this place to begin with:

Could it be because our wealth is boosted by their wars? With our many weapons factories in Germany, Italy, and yes Belgium too, our economy literally goes up as the intensity of the wars around the world increases.
Could it be that their reason to wage war is just a little less religion and insanity-driven and a little more about basic resources like water, food and -go fucking figure- oil, which are all to some lower or higher degree sold to the highest (read: richest) bidder?
There are plenty more questions like this, and if even one or a few can be answered with ‘yes’ (SPOILER it’s pretty damn likely), we are partly directly responsible for the people fleeing to our borders and any excuse we might have to refuse them, is essentially a false one.

This whole debate with Turkey asking European money and privileges in exchange for harboring refugees is moot. This shoving around of responsibility is just an attempt to save face, so that the world (most of all, ourselves) won’t see what monsters we’ve become.

We, with our Geneva convention, with our Human Rights Watch, NATO, and god knows what else. What sad, weak countries we have become. And if you happen to disagree, I suggest removing yourself from my life until further notice, because I’m a little done arguing about it. This isn’t a public forum. There’s no point acting civilized with the uncivilized.

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