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Ever growing numbers of Syrian refugees from war and hunger gather near Ommonia Square, Athens, Greece. Photo: Dubravka Franz via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).
Ever growing numbers of Syrian refugees from war and hunger gather near Ommonia Square, Athens, Greece. Photo: Dubravka Franz via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).
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Welcoming refugees is the first step to freedom and justice

Matt Mellen

17th August 2015

By working together and caring for those in need we can show that human kindness and global cooperation are stronger than competition and fear, writes Matt Mellen, and essential to building the better world we seek. Let's begin by recognising the humanity of the refugees washing up on Europe's shores.

The fossil fuel agenda doesn't just deny the perilous state of the world; it causes it. This wilful obfuscation of responsibility has a human face when politicians and media barons outdo each other to dehumanise the desperate people on our borders.

The mainstream right wing press is awash with racist fear-mongering, reminiscent of the darkest periods of human history.

Refugees are abused daily in the popular press - compared to cockroaches in The Sun, and even the Prime Minister has described vulnerable, displaced people in Calais as "a swarm."

Under this swathe of noxious abuse the Tory cutting machine dismantles our nation's capacity to help those in need, whilst our borders are fortified.

For those of us who seek to practice compassion in our daily lives, believe that the stronger in society should help the weaker and hold that our state should be founded on morality, this is a horrifying time calling upon us all to personally and purposefully present an alternative.

Fundamentally, the grave ongoing mistake causing so much misery is the insistence on The Other. We all live on one planet, we are all one species - dependent on one biosphere and the problems threatening the foundations of our society are global.

Retreating into violent parochialism doesn't just fail to rise to the challenge ... it fails to recognise the challenge at all. We have become a planetary species, now facing planetary challenges that, by definition, can not be solved through national self-interest. We have to think globally.

The all pervasive human influence on our planet

The human influence on the planet is so pronounced that the climate changes. Deserts around the equator are growing, droughts and wildfires increase and food production capabilities in many countries that are already failing to meet their people's needs are diminishing. People in these countries are anticipated to move so that they can live.

The spark of genius that ignited the industrial revolution, that created the engines, that burn the fossils, that loads our atmosphere with greenhouse gas happened in an Englishman's brain on these shores. For over 300 years we used this technology to subjugate much of the world in an empire upon which 'the sun never set'. Against this historical backdrop, aggression to climate refugees is especially cruel.

More recently, our governments, in close partnership with the USA and other neo-liberal powers, have waged wars to secure oil to continue the endless expansion of a highly-polluting, linear, industrial economy. Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and other nations have all been catastrophically attacked. Now, many millions flee the terrible war-torn remains.

The recent film Bitter Lake brilliantly demonstrates how decades of Western foreign policy has simply seen a new version of colonial warfare, domination and resource grabbing, further dividing the world and exacerbating a 'them and us' narrative in which the white western world is 'good' and any opposition is terrorist.

The ruinous state of the Middle East and North Africa is essentially down to 'us' - UK, Europe, USA, and NATO. Furthermore, every conflict on earth is compounded by resource depletion and climate change. Scientists now link the 2012 droughts in Russia, Ukraine, China and Argentina, which drove up global food prices with the Arab Spring, widespread civil unrest and subsequent carnage.

We need solutions, not wars

We need our leaders to end the aggression and create the clean energy infrastructure that will spare future generations the apocalyptic scenarios we are pushing up against. Instead, the oil we have seized fuels the ongoing war machine.

Domestically, these backward policies go hand in hand with shredding support for renewables and fast-tracking fracking. This is the road to hell.

The fossil fuel agenda doesn't just deny the perilous state of the world; it causes it. This wilful obfuscation of responsibility has a human face when politicians, media barons and pundits try to outdo each other dehumanising the desperate people on our borders.

It is cowardly, callous and miserable to cause gross suffering abroad and then cower behind fences, refusing to acknowledge the catastrophe we have visited on our fellow human beings. This might be the behaviour of over-privileged Etonians, bankers or Tony Blair - but most ordinary folk help those in need.

If we drop the antaganism for five seconds we can see the people in Calais are not a "swarm" of insects but fellow humans in need. Stigmatising traumatized refugees on our borders is nasty but it is what we have come to expect from a corrupt, toxic and politically-biased media machine.

Moving beyond fear and hatred

For those of us not personally invested in oil, war and racism we have to think differently. If we want to create a better world in which there is less war and poverty, the environment recovers and people can live meaningful and decent lives, we have to think above and beyond the nation state - an outdated concept.

Linking up with fellow activists and citizens around the world - we can transition out of this doomsday economy. Working together and caring for those in need we can demonstrate that global cooperation is more important and effective than competition.

We need to rapidly manifest a sane alternative to nationalist posturing because it is clear that any civilisation attempting to sustain itself by barricading itself against the rest of a world - in which so many have nothing - is doomed from the outset.

The first step out of this dismal dark place is to provide properly for the worst off - migrants and refugees. This kernel of compassion could help reignite our imaginations about what it means to be human.

We are not just tooled-up, territorial monkeys any more - we are capable of great things. The greatest of all is kindness.



Matt Mellen is Founder and Editor of EcoHustler.


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