Dominating the news for some weeks now has been the refugee / migrant crisis in Europe. I believe that most of the people endeavouring to come to Europe are refugees but there is a broader view that freedom and progress are to be found in certain countries and that others are backward. I have talked with students who came to the UK to study and have sought to stay. Their view (this isn't an accurate survey or study) is that there are more opportunities here and that it will take some time before their home countries catch up. Yes, some of these students come from countries that are in political upheaval or war but many are from countries that seem to be politically stable and making progress in the prosperity stakes. So shouldn't we be asking why this movement of people and how do we correct the underlying issues?
I do agree that the answer is difficult and there is no simple solution especially in war torn regions such as Syria and Iraq. However, I also believe there is a wider problem that the countries that dominate the big economic gatherings ignore. I am thinking wider that the G7 (Germany, France, US, UK, Italy, Japan, and Canada).
I see a lot of our world problems coming from the attitudes that fuelled colonialism and empire building. Where it used to be control of countries, it is now control of the economic resources. Some might say it is corporatism. Allowing the major economic units to flourish despite the nationalism associated with political boundaries.
However, it is easy to place the blame on others for the displacement of people and the economic, educational, and general inequality that exists in our world. I have struggled with my response to the people seeking refugee in European countries. Yes, these people need a place that is safe and access to the normal things of life but is migration to other countries the solution and what pressure will it put on the resources of the destination countries? Are these issues that we should be taking into account?
Brian McLaren (2007) describes the interlocking systems that he sees make up the world societal system. These are the prosperity system, the equity system, and the security system. All of us has a desire to be prosperous. We all seek security and strive for at least equality with others. As I reflect on the refugee crisis, I find myself seeking to provide equality for the refugees but I also want to retain my own prosperity and security. Putting up barriers to entry helps retain my prosperity and sense of security but it does nothing for those who have lost or never had prosperity and security. As to equality, how does that apply across international boundaries? I have already talked about the search for somewhere better in a previous blog (5 September 2015). However, inequality is more than economic equality.
In the end most of us want to have a “business as usual” situation. We don't like things that change the way things are done. We want stability. As a result, we seek to protect what we have and that means not giving access to what we have to those who don't have what we have. Our desire for prosperity drives our desire for security and overrides any feelings that their should be any form of equality. We play a certain amount of lip-service to equality providing opportunities to others as long as it doesn't impact our prosperity and security. These attitudes exist on a personal level, a community level, a regional level, a national level, and at an international level. I would contend that these are part of the framing story that we live by and that I personally struggle with.
If we are to see an end to the problems that disturb our world then we need to ask questions about what we need to change personally, what we need to change locally (community or workplace), what we need to change regionally (town or city or district), what we need to change nationally, and what we need to change internationally? The starting point is with ourselves and what we are prepared to accept and not accept. Are we in this world for what we can gain for ourselves or are we in this world for what we can contribute to the lives of others? When our prosperity improves, how do we pass the same benefits on to others? On an international front, how do we spread economic prosperity to all nations in a way that ensures equality especially when we see concentration of ideas and wealth in a few nations?
I am struggling with writing this because as soon as I ask a question, I am asking whether it is the right question. For example, if I was to ask why I wouldn't live in certain countries or places, and then say if I helped that country to remove that obstacle then we would have solved the problem, have I asked the right question and obtained the right answer? I suspect not. To some extent, trying to resolve the answer to that question has caused some of the problems as we have hoisted our ideas and solutions onto others. Providing our solutions, rather than letting them develop their solutions has caused more problems because we have destroyed some of what they already had that we didn't see as important. But if we say it is their problem to resolve then we may not be ensuring that they have access to the resources that they need in order to be able to resolve the problem.
Who is to blame for the refugee or migrant crisis? We are all to blame and we are all part of the solution but it has to be done with the people and not just for them or by them. We have to listen and work with them but we have to also be willing to let go of some of what we have in order to bring equality and stability to all.
McLaren, B. D. (2007). Everything must change: when the world's biggest problems and Jesus' good news collide. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.