The first half of June has given the world examples of how bad is turning into horrible. [Una versione italiana di questo post, qui.]
First, the US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made it clear that the policy currently at work at the US-Mexico border, that is resulting in the separation of kids (even infants) from their parents, is useful in his mind to pursue a specific objective. Widely spread news about the cruelty of having kids crying in terror because they have been separated from their parents would be a deterrent for further migrant/asylum seekers to attempt the travel.
Second, the NGO-funded and controlled ship Aquarius, which had previously saved 600 migrants/asylum seekers from the waters of the Mediterranean sea has been prevented (by that immense piece of shit in the shape of the Italian Interior Ministry Salvini) from reaching the nearby Italian docks. Forced to cross half the Mediterranean sea, despite severe weather conditions, the ship Aquairus took several extra days to travel to Spain to receive assistance.
We did not reach this stage in a day. EU and US policies towards migrants have been horrible for quite some time, so we might be tempted to put everything to scale and simply try to keep up fighting the good fight against the root causes for this increasing racism. Pointing the fingers at the brutality against migrants, who only serve as a scapegoat to hide the real objectives: the reallocation of economic resources from workers (by decreasing minimum wages, welfare state, union rights, protected leave etc.) towards the powerful and rich, the top 1%. There is a reason why emotional responses are usually frown upon in building leftist politics, as they easily lead to over-simplified representation of reality and all too frequently play into the narrative of the extreme-right. After all, all these racist and cruel policies are based on over-simplified and fundamentally flawed talking points. The idea that migrants are responsible for unemployment or poor working condition and lower salaries (just to use wide spread examples) is easily dismantled noting that, for instance, the US currently shows one of lowest rate of unemployment in recent history. In Countries like Italy which are affected by chronic high rate of unemployment, there is no correlation with migrant influx across the last decades. Countries like Germany or France or Sweden show better working conditions and more protections than both Italy and US, and at the same time greater numbers in terms of refugees (as a percentage of the population) or recent influx of migrant workers. In other words, migrant can come and go. Employment, working conditions and in general the rate of inequality in any Country are regulated by completely separated factors. It is even laughable to state that the richest countries in the world might be facing economic difficulties in aiding even tens of thousands of migrants per year, especially taking into consideration that at the same time new laws are passed (in US) or discussed (in Italy) to provide immense tax breaks to the richest. What about the correlation between migrants and violent crimes? Both in the US and in Italy the number of crimes has been decreasing almost every year for the past 35 years. No correlation whatsoever.
[NB see references and materials after the photos]
So the data and the neo-fascist narrative simply do not add up. However, there are times when numbers and hard facts are not nearly enough to understand and to fight back. It becomes all too clear, without numbers and stats, just giving a glimpse to a few photos. Like with another photo taken in June (1972), emotions are just overwhelming. At that time the world had to face the horrific reality of the consequences of dropping napalm bombs on human beings in Vietnam. Today, we see the Aquarius and the US-Mexico border and before any possible reasoning may kick in, as human beings we feel sadness, fear, anger. We cannot avoid identifying those in the photos as humans in distress, people treated with cruelty. Even those who then claim that they do not know what else to do and they would prefer these migrant would not start their travel, so to avoid this suffering (as if they had a choice), even those who try to find a reason to justify a cruel and racist action, at the core they understand what is happening is just wrong. Unnecessary, hateful, repugnant.
These unavoidable gut reactions are caused by those neural mechanisms that allow to understand and recognise the suffering and distress of a child (if not of an adult), so that we can feel compelled to take action and stop this suffering. We do not need to explain ourselves why. We just feel the urge to stop it. Despite the representation provided in folk psychology of emotions as opposed to logic and reasoning, these responses are essentially genetically encoded processes for rational decision making. A classic example is provided by a lab rat: generations spent in a laboratory environment, never seen a cat and yet, if one perceives the smell of a cat, it reacts with fear. Why? Because those rats that showed genetically encoded fear and decided to fight or flight had more chances to survive than those who did not register the presence of a threat and decided to explore further what that smell was. Emotions have on their side millions of years of evolution, in comparison with the alternative forms of decision making, which are grounded on some decades of learning via direct experience. This is why it takes an extra effort to ignore a strong emotional response and to become complacent with these forms of terrorism and child molestation. This is why we should embrace our anger, our sadness and disgust for what is going on and we should work to prevent others from ignoring their emotions.
We need to use these emotions because they are fundamentally the right reaction. They simply tell us: “the time to pick a side is now!”. Either to collaborate with this cruelty, or to act to stop it. Like a mantra, I will repeat that this war against the scapegoat migrants will not make any country richer, will not favour the creations of more quality jobs, will not help increasing the quality of life or increase minimum wages anywhere, for anyone. The enemy is not outside the socio-economic system in which we live. There is no poison or pollutant that is damaging the system from working well for everyone. The system is based on exploitation, it is designed to make the 99% poorer and poorer while the the 1% gets richer and richer. It boosts inequality, it is so cartoonishly evil to shamelessly embrace cruelty against kids: this is not the first time, neither will be the last. It will go on until it either cannibalise itself in another world war or it is stopped and kept at bay with adequate (enormous) force and checks.
The enemy is the all devouring unchecked capitalism, the economic liberalism, the laissez-faire and all that bullshit about the self-regulating markets. Everything else is weapons of mass distraction.
Migrants rest on the ship ‘Aquarius,’ in the Mediterranean Sea, June 14, 2018, during their journey to Valencia, Spain, in a photo provided by the NGO SOS Mediterranee
A two-year-old Honduran asylum seeker cries as her mother is searched and detained near the U.S.-Mexico border-John Moore-Getty Images
June 8, 1972 – South Vietnamese forces follow after terrified children near Trang Bang, after a South Vietnamese plane accidentally dropped its flaming napalm on South Vietnamese troops and civilians. Credit: The Associated Press/Nick Ut
References and materials
On Jeff Sessions’ statements: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-44503318
About the Aquarius: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-44510002
The number of Mexican migrants reaching the US has grown until 2001, and it has been declining sharply since then, de-correlated from the 2007 crisis (and its internal causes). The number of migrants from the “northern triangle” has doubled in the years 2011-2014, while the US were in full economic recovery (http://www.pewhispanic.org/2017/12/07/rise-in-u-s-immigrants-from-el-salvador-guatemala-and-honduras-outpaces-growth-from-elsewhere/).
Similarly, the number of foreigners in Italy essentially stalled in 2014, (5 mln circa http://demo.istat.it/str2017/index.html), while the number of migrants (both Italians and former immigrants) leaving the country has significantly increased in the last few years, as an effect of the decreased work conditions, despite some improvements in terms of total number of Italians employed (https://www.ft.com/content/cb9bd2ee-c07d-11e7-9836-b25f8adaa111).
About the crime rate, in the US in particular, see an analysis of the steady decline that has been recorded since the early nineties across multiple Countries: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/02/12/the-great-crime-decline
A Trump-funded analysis of the economic impact of refugees to the US economy has found a net increase by 63 billion in the past 10 years (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/18/us/politics/refugees-revenue-cost-report-trump.html). Similar data can easily be found for any country in Europe.
A simple and quick recap of the extent of increased inequality since the year 2000. https://www.theguardian.com/inequality/2017/nov/14/worlds-richest-wealth-credit-suisse