Thinking Your Way Through a Labyrinth of Contemporary Issues
I’m sat here listening to a piece by the late John Tavener, it’s called Funeral Canticle and it is a masterful piece on it’s own, just off its technical merits. But the emotional weight carried is particularly poignant for me right now.
Today, following a steady escalation, is the day that many papers and the journalists published the pictures. We’ve all seen them. We all know what’s in them. They’re pictures of dead kids washed up on beaches around the Mediterranean.
Usually, I despise these sorts of shock tactics. I believe that you don’t need graphic pictures to persuade people to do the right thing, that you don’t need to stun people into being humane, that terrorizing them with heartbreaking pictures isn’t needed for empathy.
Maybe I’m naïve, maybe I’m innocent but what I really am, is ashamed. For some time now this crisis has been building, I saw these refugees on the streets of Istanbul at Easter and now I’m seeing dead ones on beaches. I’ll tell you why I’m ashamed.
This has been described as the biggest humanitarian crisis the EU has faced since the end of the war. Millions of people are fleeing wartorn countries, a situation we helped create through our destabilization of the region. These people are desperate, they’re fleeing on what could charitably be described as rafts. Not just by themselves, but accompanied by hundreds of others. There is no sanitation. No water. No food. No navigation.
The sea is a cruel mistress, even with all our modern conveniences, every sailor knows just how hard it is to be upon the ocean, how dangerous it can be. That’s with the weight of modern technology behind them. Now imagine crossing that distance in a raft.
Now try to tell me that the people embarking on these rafts are doing so for £37 a week. Try and tell me that you would do such a dangerous thing for such a measly amount of money.
But despite that, the rhetoric that has been dominant in our public discourse isn’t one of good will, of aid and kindness, of solidarity and hope for those who have none of that.
It’s been one of disgust and dehumanization. Our own government has alternated between pretending nothing is happening and using some vile language to try and side step the issue. We have people laughing at these deaths, at these pictures. Our national discourse isn’t one of what we can do to help, it’s one of disgust that these terrified people may even consider coming here for safe haven.
I don’t recognize this country anymore. I’ve read many times about the Blitz spirit, about solidarity, about community but I’ve never seen it. All I see is selfishness and divisiveness. When our cities were being bombed and our children needed a place to go, they found places, be it with strangers in the countryside or strangers stateside, they found a safe haven. People rolled up their sleeves and helped each other, because it was decent, it was the right thing to do. Where is that now?
The Sun has decided to lambast Mr Cameron for doing nothing. An admirable stance had it not been preceded by the very dehumanizing rhetoric Mr Cameron is now basing his shirking of responsibility on. The Sun aren’t alone on this. For some time now, we’ve been inundated with stories of migrants attempting to enter our country, even though it often conflates refugees and migrants together. We’ve had a racist take part in our political debates and tell us we’re full up, even though it’s manifestly untrue. 4 million people went on to vote for that racist’s party.
I can draw this into a wider political point, I can point out this is just one out of many incidents in the past decade in which our country has miserably failed upon its humanitarian responsibilities, not only to it’s own people, but to those of other nations too.
I’m not going to. I can’t. I’m sorry if I’m repeating myself, I’m emotionally shot. I can’t look anymore, I just can’t. What else is that I can say? If these photos have no effect on you, if you aren’t moved by the suffering and the depth of the human tragedy, what can I say that will change anything?
Very few times in my life have I ever been cut adrift onto a sea of hopelessness and despair. Tonight is one of those times.