What is to be Done?

by NORMAN SIMMS October 29, 2015

Because of the instantaneous and unfiltered media by which we receive the news these days, it is hard to tell what is really going on: what happened, where, by whom? Who said what, in which context, and for what purpose? What are causes and what are effects and what are merely unconnected parallel or marginal actions?  Who can we trust, them or us: our sources or our own common sense, rationality, or gut instincts? Have we generalizations based on anecdotal or insufficient information or has someone or a group of investigators collected sufficient data to form patterns of explanation?  Are they lying to us or telling us the truth? 

Is it the whole truth and nothing but the truth, that is, does it contain everything we need to know to make a proper assessment and plan of action in response, or does it consist of some real statements and some partial accounts, such as lies, naïve misreadings and ideological generalities?

For example: Most immigrants coming into Europe over the past three to five years are escaping intolerable situations-war, famine, persecution; or most refugees are not refugees at all; they are instead, illegal immigrants from Africa and Asia seeking to avoid the long waits required by government agencies, merely hoping to better their economic prospects, or are they escaping from prosecution for social or political crimes? 

The case is this: the world is flooded with facts, or assertions of fact, and they are either very mixed and inaccurate or they are contradictory.  I would say, rather, that the interpretations are contradictory and the facts are either true or partly-sometimes, occasionally, distortions and outright lies, or misunderstandings of deliberate and egregious kind. So there are several problems to be solved, and not just the apparent-and often very real-emergency that must be addressed as quickly as possible.  Do we believe what the migrants say? do we take as beyond question the official documents issued by the governments of the states these people already on the road (or on flimsy ships at sea) haven reason to flee?  Reports tell us, on the other hand, that many of these people are not from Syria or Libya, the sites of two impossible conflict zones, impossible because there are too many sides fighting one another, none of which offers a peaceful resolution to the conflict and an alternative to immediate danger; but they have thrown away their passports and other travel papers and now claim to be Syrians and Libyans, whereas they are either from other nations-Afghanistan, Egypt, Cameroons, Nigeria-or, wherever they were born, have lived in Turkey or Jordan or Iraq, perhaps in squalid and most insalubrious transit ("concentration") camps, or perhaps not.  They are, by one set of accounts and television or video reports, families in dire straits, whole extended families, parents, children, grandparents and other relatives forced out of their towns and villages, leaving behind businesses, professional careers, and educational achievements.  Another stream of reports and images tells us these people on the road or at sea are more than 80% young men of (17-30 years old) and they are running away from military call-ups or deserters or fanatical implants.  How do we know?

Reports from police departments and town councils where many of these so-called or    would-be refugees have passed through or already settled in the lands which they wish to live---and they claim not only their rights as political and war refugees to be given food, shelter, medical care and jobs commensurate with their past experiences; but the right to pick and choose which country they want to settle, contrary to the international  regulations which grants those first set of rights only in the first "safe" place they reach----these usually unpublicized reports tell of fighting (rioting) between different migrant groups (e.g., Christians and Muslims, Iranians and Iraqis), an epidemic of rapes (of women in their own group and of locals), robberies, intimidation, murder. But if these reports are only hinted at or whispered in rumour at or uncorroborated by normal evidentiary means, how do we know which, if any, are true?  Who, in this crazy world of ideological conflict, can we trust?  Many well-intentioned reporters and even high-placed government experts do not have all the facts either, or have proved themselves in the past subjectively biased or excruciatingly innocent of basic logic, historical knowledge or the protocols of presentation. 

Yet there is a crisis and something must be done.

Or is there a crisis?  Perhaps it is all a hoax, a sham, a propagandistic show.  Or, if it is real, in what does it consist?  Has it been orchestrated by external forced to destabilize Western Europe, to cause friction between the old Soviet bloc states of the East and the long-time democracies of the West? Just because something is possible does not make it probable or actual.  Glib speeches and tear-filled harangues do not provide cogent proof.

What must be done expeditiously may not be what ought to be done most efficiently and fairly.  Letting hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants pass through a half dozen countries into Germany or Great Britain will not solve the problem of what to do with so many individuals and families, neither in the short term (right now before winter sets in) or in the medium term (over the next two or three years before they can be expected to learn the language and customs of their hosts, find paying  jobs, have permanent residence), let alone the long term (when their children grow up discontented, alienated, and ripe for fanatical radicalization). Will European civilization be overrun and wiped out in less than another generation?

Historical Background and Social Context

One might have said the same, if one were in America in the 1880s when vast numbers of East and Southern European migrants began to pour into the continent, an exodus feuled by pogroms, wars, famine, persecution and rumours of a new and better life. They came over year after year in their tens of thousands, their hundreds of thousands, their millions.  They looked different, they spoke other languages, they were uneducated, unsophisticated, strange creatures who threatened whatever it was that made America America; or so it seemed.  They crowded into the tenements of the Lower Eastside of Manhattan and similar neighbourhoods of Philadelphia and Chicago.  But they worked hard at whatever they could find to do: sweatshops, peddlers' carts, hard labour on the docks, anywhere.  They pushed their children to go to school and assimilate.  They didn't ask for special privileges.  When they succeeded and many did, they walked, talked, dressed and spoke like everyone else, but they also kept their memories and their identities.

Sure, there were occasional criminals amongst them---Italian gangs and Polish gangs, Jewish gangs and Russian gangs---but most were honest, hard-working and wanted more than anything to become Americans.  My parents' parents were among them,, and many of their relatives and friends.  When the massive immigration started again in the 1930s by people seeking to escape from persecution and impending annihilation, they sought refuge anywhere they could, and they did whatever they could to fit in when they were allowed in, whether in America or Canada, the Dominican Republic or Nigeria. In Shanghai or Singapore-they didn't fuss.  They pleaded for a chance to be safe, to find a job or set up their businesses.  If they couldn't be doctors or lawyers or architects, they would be shop keepers.  They didn't claim rights or privileges; they asked only for opportunities.  They didn't rape or riot, tear down shelters offered to them or fight with police officers trying to maintain order. 

 On the other hand, it is hard not to feel compassion for those families, including children and old people, caught up in what has been termed Europe's most extreme refugee crisis since the end of World War II. They have indeed ventured all to make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean to Greece, Italy or Malta. They have been the creatures of organized people smugglers.  They are victims, to be sure. 

In this whole confusion, the European Union has come out looking very poor, indeed.  The United Nations continues to expend more time and energy denouncing Israel than dealing with Iran or Syria.  The states of western and eastern union have not made appropriate plans to deal with the massive influx of people seeking asylum, and seem caught by surprise, still many months into the crisis, without even counting the millions stuck in tent-camps just across the border from Syria.  Only Russia seems ready to break the shibboleth of "boots on the ground," and yet their whole involvement smacks more of cynicism than compassion. 

So we come back to the questions we opened with, since ordinary citizens around the world, while viewing with horror the plight of so many refugees, cannot be certain that what they are being told or being shown represents a true and accurate account of the crisis at hand.  Manipulation by the media and governments for too long has made us all wary of believing what we are supposed to.  Our sympathies and credibility have been traduced too often. Nor can we be sure that an immediate response, such as putting more money into humanitarian organizations.  The United Nations, Doctors without Borders, and other international aid organizations have compromised themselves in the last few years too.  Video footage of UN agents gloating over the stabbing of Israeli citizens, doctored images of atrocities, and similar tricks of the digital trade make us reluctant to think well of their efforts or to act on our own, if that were at all possible. 

What is to be done?

Norman Simms has just published the first volume of a new book, Jews in an Illusion of Paradise: Dust and Ashes (Cambridge Scholars Publisher.  Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, UK).  It is available from the publisher as well as amazon.com and other online bookseller sites.  The second volume may be out before the end of this year    


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