And by a prudent flight and cunning save A life which valour could not, from the grave. A better buckler I can soon regain, But who can get another life again? Archilochus

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Migration Patterns

Byung-Chul Han: "Why are people fleeing their home countries?" (Google Translate from Spanish)
The role of the West in the refugee crisis and its historical responsibility.

"Europe, quick and determined in bailing out banks in the 2008 financial crisis, shows a contrasting attitude when it comes to human life in danger." This is one of the statements made by the South Korean philosopher Byung-Chul Han in Where Do Refugees Come From? article where he analyzes the role of the West in the refugee crisis. Han points out that it is necessary to remember the historical responsibility of Western countries in generating the misery from which people are fleeing en masse. From colonialism to today's economic exploitation, the West has played a significant role in the situation in Africa and other affected regions. Through a critical eye, Han raises the need for resolute and reason-driven action to address the refugee crisis and assume greater political responsibility in the world.

Byung-Chul Han, a renowned Korean essayist and cultural critic, has become a leading figure in contemporary Western philosophy. Upon his arrival in Germany in the 1980s to continue his studies in philosophy, comparative literature and theology, he obtained his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Freiburg with a thesis on Martin Heidegger.

Since then, Han has published more than twenty essays, critically addressing Western capitalist society and coining terms that have generated debate and reflection, such as 'The Tiredness Society' and 'The Transparency Society'. His most recent works, including 'Psychopolitics' and 'The Expulsion of the Different', explore key issues in the contemporary political and social landscape. In addition to his outstanding writing career, Han has shared his knowledge as a professor at prestigious German institutions. In his 2019 book 'Capitalism and the death drive', the author takes us into the expansion of capitalism and its repercussions through 14 articles and 2 revealing conversations. This is one of them.

Where do refugees come from? | By Byung-Chul Han
Swift and spectacular were the rescue actions of those banks seriously affected by the financial crisis of 2008. The states of the European Union saved them from bankruptcy with aid totaling 1.6 trillion euros. 1.6 trillion euros from taxes: that corresponds to 13 percent of the European Union's gross domestic product. In Germany alone, the financial crisis cost €187 billion. When the survival of the banks was at stake, Europe was resolute and willing to make sacrifices. On the contrary, when human lives are at risk, it no longer acts so decisively.

Angela Merkel's unequivocal statement in favour of refugee aid is the exception that proves the rule. At the same time, in view of the refugee crisis, it is worth remembering the extent to which the West is co-responsible for the misery from which people are fleeing en masse. Some facts concerning Africa, the continent from which most of the refugee boats coming through the Mediterranean come: European colonialism, which brought indescribable suffering to Africa, basically persists to this day, in a sublimated and internationally expanded form.

At the time, the European colonial powers divided the African continent with an arbitrary drawing of borders, thereby causing conflicts. Also after the end of their colonial empire, Europeans and the United States supported tyrants for decades to impose their own interests. And now it is the greed for cheap raw materials that causes political instability in Africa, and it is also one of the causes of wars with many thousands of victims.

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States like the Congo are disintegrating into territories that are controlled by warlords who command armies of child soldiers. These warlords maintain commercial relations with Western companies, which only care about raw materials. Ethnic conflicts are secondary problems. Rare earths, which are used to make products we love, such as smartphones, tablets or video game consoles, are mined under catastrophic working conditions. The cause of this exploitation is above all China and all the industrial countries.

The well-being of the West is based on the misery of others: a constitutive asymmetry of global capitalism. Violence and injustice are immanent in the system. Global welfare would contradict the logic of capital. In 2013 France sent its troops to Mali. In the first place, it was a question of fighting Islamic terrorists, but here too mineral resources played an important role. The French state consortium Areva mines uranium in the neighbouring state of Niger for nuclear-generated electricity in Europe. Debris that comes out during uranium mining is left in the open. Clouds of radioactive dust sweep across the country. In a report for the magazine Spiegel could read as early as 2010 that the "Areva Clinic" hides the risk of cancer caused by uranium mining and makes malaria diagnoses to those who die of cancer. In his book Mass Destruction. Geopolitics of hunger, Jean Ziegler explains in a shocking way how famines occur worldwide. These famines are often caused by the policy of the International Monetary Fund, which wants to open the markets of the countries of the South to transcontinental food consortia.

But free trade ruins indigenous economies and is co-responsible for hunger and death. Looking at it this way, the Expo in Milan, which aimed to combat hunger in the world with new techniques, was pure cynicism. Or Eastern Europe: during the Kosovo war, NATO bombed the country in 1999 without a UN mandate. The German army also made air strikes. But the extensive reconstruction of the country promised by the German government did not come to fruition. Now the German government returns refugees coming from Kosovo. U Middle East and Middle East: European military intervention in Libya in 2011 plunged the country into chaos.

The current chaos in Iraq was preceded by the Second Gulf War, which the West legitimized with outright lies. Iraq was an area of great ethnic and religious instability and with great potential for conflict, a product of the British colonial empire, as was Afghanistan in the nineteenth century. With the Soviet intervention, the civil war became a proxy war between the Soviet Union and the mujahideen, supported by the United States.

People are now fleeing the Taliban. But here too the West is not entirely innocent. In their study Living Under Drones, lawyers from Stanford University and New York University conclude that preventive killing with drones does not diminish the terrorist threat. It has even increased after the use of drones, because that encourages revenge and hatred.

The more civilians killed, the more terrorists. And daily life is dominated by fear. The biggest threat at the moment is undoubtedly the "Islamic State", and it was also fertilized with the Iraq War. And it should be noted that radical Islamism and neoliberal capitalism are two sides of the same coin.

Al-Qaeda's slogan "You love life; We love death", makes us see that the consumer society, with its hysteria for health that turns life into a mere life emptied of meaning that must be prolonged at any price, and radical Islamism condition each other. And money, by itself, does not generate any identity. The marginalized not only lack identity, they also have no hope. An eloquent example are those teenagers from Dinslaken, a municipality in the Rhineland with a high unemployment rate, who go to fight the 'Holy War'. And finally Syria: the civil war is turning into a proxy war involving Russia, Iran, the United States and the Gulf countries.

Here too, it should be noted that the Gulf countries, with their oil reserves, are outposts of global capitalism. And in which millions of immigrants from Asia and Africa work there as slaves to create well-being. The celebrated culture of welcome, the empathy that leads to applause or the accusation of some European states of lack of solidarity do not solve the real problem. And feelings are short-sighted and fade quickly.

Only reason is far-sighted, and now political reason is needed. The endless discussion on quotas is nothing more than a pretext for insufficient policy. And erecting border fences is a policy of police action that declares refugees criminals. Only resolute action guided by reason can put an end to the proxy war in Syria and the unspeakable misery of the refugees. In this sense, Europe should have more confidence in itself and take more political responsibility for the world out of its history. Otherwise at some point we will get an unpleasant surprise.

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