The “Not on our Doorstep” Delusion

This week I’ve been feeling particularly depressed about the migrant situation in Calais (and, as an aside, also furious with David Cameron for referring to human beings in crisis as ‘swarms’ and expressing his condolences not to the families of the displaced people who have died trying to enter Britain, but rather to British holidaymakers for the inconvenience to their travel plans – disgusting).

The migrant situation is bleak indeed, and with the current political climate and rise of groups like IS it’s hard to see how things will get any better – more likely they will get worse. It makes my blood boil when people say those attempting to enter the UK should just ‘go back to where they came from’. In many cases they would see that as a fate worse than death, and in many cases it would be.

It is also infuriating to hear the argument that migrants should go elsewhere in Europe – what this ignorant ‘not on our doorstep’ stance fails to recognise is that other European countries accept far more displaced people than attempt to enter Britain each year: according to this article in the Huffington Post, Germany, for example, takes over 100,000 asylum seekers compared to Britain’s paltry 20,000, and Turkey is hosting the largest number of refugees in the world – at least 1.59 million people according to the UNHCR. Why shouldn’t Britain help?

I’m no expert on humanitarian crises, but as I see it the only way the current situation can be resolved is to tackle the problem at the source – through a coordinated and sustained attack against the groups that are oppressing and killing those same innocent civilians who are being forced in their thousands to flee, so that one day their homeland may be a place they can safely return to.

I’m also no advocate of war, but let’s not forget the UK government is in no small part to blame for the rise of groups like Al Qaeda and IS – instead of building fences to keep their many victims out of the UK, therefore, would it not be more responsible to take action and stamp them out?

The fundamental truth that many are conveniently choosing to gloss over is this: Most of the migrants entering Europe are doing so not to ‘seek a better life’, but to escape from one that was a living hell. These people are not cockroaches, scattering amongst our ‘civilised’ society to wreak havoc and threaten all that we hold dear. These people are PEOPLE. And, no matter how much you want to make out otherwise, they have the same right to a fear and oppression-free life as you or me.

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Small Kindnesses in a Hate-Filled World

Few could fail to have been moved by the recent news (and news reporting – but that’s an inflammatory issue for another post) of American journalist James Foley’s death at the hands of Islamist militants in Iraq, or haunted by the images below of two of the many Yazidi girls who have been caught up in a war that’s not of their own making – one who looks little older than a child but is forced to carry a rifle to protect her family. Such stories and images are heart breaking, but, for westerners, it is still somehow so hard to grasp that atrocities like these are taking place on such a large scale when the comparatively ‘civilised’ society in which we live is at the opposite end of the spectrum of humanity.

So many terrible, evil things are happening all around the world, and though we fortunate folk may feel sickened, we also feel powerless to help. And, granted, when it comes to the poor souls being persecuted in Iraq, Syria, Gaza and all the other places where oppression, violence, corruption and hatred are as widespread as the oceans between us, we ARE powerless. But there is one thing we can do: Reach out to the people in our immediate vicinity, undertaking acts of kindness that will bolster the collective morale and prove not only the strength and beauty of the human spirit, but also that goodness still exists in the world. Just like this man, hairstylist Mark Bustos in New York, who gives up every Sunday to roam the streets in search of homeless people who need a haircut, whilst his girlfriend takes the trouble to ask them what they want to eat (rather than giving them scraps and leftovers). You might think a haircut is a shallow thing, but he said this of one of his most memorable beneficiaries:

“After offering him a haircut and whatever food he wanted to eat, he didn’t have much to say throughout the whole process, until after I showed him what he looked like when I was done … The first thing he said to me was, ‘Do you know anyone that’s hiring?'”

It’s small acts of kindness just like this that have the power to restore people’s faith – in themselves, in the world around them, and in humanity itself. I’m not saying we should all go out with a pair of scissors every weekend, but I am saying this: We may not have the power to heal the world, but the power to heal those closest to us is absolutely in our hands – if only we choose to acknowledge and act on it.

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