Monday, 4 July 2016

The Dangers Of The Past's Prologue


Although media headlines are completely dominated at the moment by the EU referendum result, we still shouldn't lose sight of the fact we are currently in one of the most severe and globally unsettling refugee crises of the past 70 years.

Irrespective of domestic political leanings or views on the EU, let's never forget that we are human beings first, and that across the world right now there are hundreds of thousands of displaced people seeking a safe haven because they have suffered or have been in danger of suffering persecution by horrid groups like Islamic State or murderous dictators that run their country.

There's also a lot of feeling (correct feeling, in my view) that we in the UK are not doing enough to help refugees - particularly with the current crises in Syria, Iraq, Libya, and the countries like Yemen, Mali, the Central African Republic, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burma, Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan that have endured decades of open-ended war and civil unrest from which many of their citizens have fled.

Because of this, there is repeated talk of whether our domestic politicians are doing enough to help (and I haven't exactly been silent on the issue myself). Given the foregoing, I thought you might be interested in this little bit of history that has been pretty much airbrushed from British and American discourse.

Once upon a time there was an initiative called the √Čvian Conference which was set up in response to the plight of the increasing numbers of dispossessed Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution throughout Europe. Hitler's response to the conference was to say that if the nation state members (including the UK and USA) could offer them refuge he was ready to put them at their disposal and even send them on ships if necessary.

In response, most of those nation states were extremely reluctant to take in very many of the persecuted Jews - a mistake that was exacerbated when shortly after in that same year Britain and France gave Hitler the right to occupy the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia, which led to a further 120,000 Jews becoming stateless.

After a multi-national failure to deal with the problem of so many persecuted Jewish refugees, we all know what happened next - Hitler dealt with them through his genocidal Final Solution, in which he systematically looked to eradicate as many Jews as he possibly could, and ended up exterminating two thirds of Europe's Jews.

One hopes that we'll never see anything so horrific on that scale again - but it's certainly a sobering lesson regarding the hell that can be unleashed when political leaders are casual and reticent about offering refuge to some of the world's most persecuted people. Let's hope we don't find what Antonio and Sebastian found in Shakespeare's The Tempest when conspiring to kill Alonso the King of Naples - that, unfortunately, "What's past is prologue".

If you're familiar with The Tempest you will recall that Antonio and Sebastian were thwarted by Ariel. Politicians by nature are usually narrow and provincial, and internal in-country political disagreements (what Freud called 'the narcissism of small differences') often means they are allowed to get away with most of it.

Consequently, unless we become a nation of caring and kind individuals that is outwardly vocal about wanting our politicians to represent that care and kindness in helping the world's most vulnerable people, they will continue to get away with their far too indolent attitude towards the refugee crisis. And given that there are some forces in the world who desire to unleash a hell even worse than that of Hitler, indolence and complacency is not something we should allow to continue.

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