Americans have been mourning the passing of Mario Cuomo, former three-term Governor of New York. His parents were immigrants.
Immigrants have been in the news lately with boat loads of hundreds of immigrants abandoned by ship crew and left to their fate in the Mediterranean Sea. William Swing, Director General for the International Organisation for Migration speaking to Christiane Amanpour says he has never seen this scale of crises at the same time in his long career citing Iraq, Syria, Central Africa Republic, Libya and South Sudan during the interview. What do these countries have in common? The spectre of war, of course, and the active participation of Western countries, arguably in all of them but one, being Central African Republic!
Following the so-called Arab spring (someone in the west is clever with little colourful brand names for misery) Libya and Syria have descended in to unimaginable chaos for their people with “liberators” Sarkozy and Cameron nowhere to be seen for the former after their five minutes walkabout of fame in Benghazi. Instead, millions of Syrians have become refugees in the middle east as well as “boat people” abandoned at sea drifting towards Europe where hostile people’s movements await them with insults, barely disguised swastikas and hatred.
Sowing chaos in the name of exporting western style democracy and freedom has not worked. Instead to use Amanpour’s words, the chickens are coming home to roost in the form of the extreme right wing movements and political parties that are now threatening Western governments.
Granted, and we must acknowledge this, Angela Merkel, the Swedes and many other Europeans especially in Scandinavia, have spoken out against the “hatred” of the narrow minded who fear diversity. In fact, Europe actively encouraged immigration at one point although this was for selfish ends. In his massive account of Europe’s recovery from its “world wars”, Post War, Tony Judt says, “at the conclusion of the First World War it was borders that were invented and adjusted, while people were on the whole left in place. After 1945 what happened was rather the opposite: with one major exception boundaries stayed intact and people were moved instead.” In this case, it was the movement of displaced people and the numbers are staggering. What is important to note are the words of Genet, writing in The New Yorker in October 1948, “the displaced persons are willing to go anywhere on earth except home.’ Tony Judt continues, “The scale of this achievement needs to be emphasised (…) in the course of half a dozen years, operating in a scarred, embittered and impoverished continent emerging from six years of terrible war and already anticipating the divisions of the Cold War, the Allied Military Governments and the UN civilian agencies succeeded in repatriating, integrating or resettling unprecedented numbers-many millions-of desperate people from all across the continent and dozens of different nations and communities.”
The biggest reasons why the west must take in immigrants include the fact that they built their wealth on the plunder of their former colonies, something which led former London Mayor Ken Livingstone to issue a tearful apology http://articles.chicagotribune.com/keyword/slave-trade . The British government has steadfastly refused to acknowledge this crime against humanity. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2007/mar/21/comment.society Tony Judt again, “Colonial territories from Malaya to the Gold Cast (Ghana) were net dollar earners and kept significant sums in London-the notorious ‘sterling balances’. The Commonwealth was a major source of raw materials and food.” In the case of the United States, the ruling class are themselves immigrants from everywhere. At what point do you draw the line? The argument, though, should never be about the benefits that can arise from having immigrants. For countries that like to call themselves the shining lights of the world in Mr Ronald Reagan’s words, it is a moral obligation, nay a light house type duty, to open arms to the persecuted and the hungry. Especially when your direct actions and greed have helped bring about that misery. Steve Jobs’ father was born in Homs, Syria in 1931. He left for the US in 1954 after political riots in Lebanon at the time. He was an Arab nationalist. Would he be welcome in the US if he got on to a migrants boat today?
How to re-balance the world?
Western governments must do more than condemn extreme right wing marches against immigrants. Cut down on capitalist greed. Promote peace instead of war. Both are tall orders because capitalism is inherently driven by greed and war is quite profitable for some. The best way to restore equilibrium to the world is to build fair trade, social justice and that is only possible when you stop cynically plundering resources off the Gulf of Guinea and off the coast of Somalia for instance. At the height of Somali piracy, Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohammed Ali speaking to the Global Post declared that the more dangerous piracy was “the illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing off the coast of Somalia.” He also appealed to a stop to “the toxic waste dumping in our coastal areas.” You cannot on the one hand create poverty for thousands of Africans through such practices, then on the other complain, with stiff upper lip, about being “swamped” by economic migrants! Fair trade will help poorer countries retain their populations, and their brightest citizens, because they will be able to provide jobs, housing, water and decent sanitation. Whether is through BRICS, WTO, WEF or whatever acronym you want to pick, the world’s economic and trading structure needs to change to allow fair trade and honest opportunities for every country on the planet to better serve her people. John Lennon was not the only dreamer.
And what is this obsession with war? When are the lessons of Vietnam, Iraq, Libya, and Syria going to be heeded? Terrorism in the Sahel today is a direct result of the destruction of Libya. Following the demise of Gadhafi, Hillary Clinton infamously joked with a reporter no less, “we came, we saw, he died!” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b__7Umg9u3Y Is there an inherent ideological bent that refuses to see common sense and prefers war and hegemony? It does not make geopolitical genius when your strategies backfire at your doorstep later. A peaceful world is possible. Jean Paul Sartre gave us a timeless lesson when he said, “to be free is not to do what one wants, but to want to do what one can.” Barack Obama has had the political will and common sense to start the beginning of the end of the unsuccessful US embargo on Cuba which has its roots in the 1803 Louisiana Purchase by American President Thomas Jefferson http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/geopolitics-us-cuba-relations#axzz3MePjLMku
Mario Cuomo’s son is currently in his second term as Governor of New York. He would not have had this second generation chance had his grandparents, Italian immigrants had been shut out. Our world will be safer, more balanced and a better place to live for all when common sense is followed and backed up by political will.