Europe : Solidarity! Why?

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Bild: Franziska Gilli

Three decades ago, anti-communist dissidents claimed that Eastern Europe was much more serious about European values than the West. Today, Eastern Europeans are united as never before against demands to help refugees in the name of these values.

           A decade ago, the Hungarian philosopher and former dissident Gaspar Miklos Tamas observed that the Enlightenment, in which the idea of the European Union is intellectually rooted, demands universal citizenship. But universal citizenship requires one of two things to happen: Either poor and dysfunctional countries become places in which it is worthwhile to become a citizen, or Europe opens its borders to everybody. None of these two is going to happen soon if ever. Today the world is populated by many failed states nobody wants to be citizen of and Europe neither has the capacity nor its citizens-voters will ever allow keeping the borders open. So, the real debate in Europe is not should the European Union make its borders harder to cross, it is clear that it should, the split is on whether we should feel morally right doing it and how we should help best to the most vulnerable people in the world.

          In 1981 when the researchers of the University of Michigan conducted the first world value survey they were surprised to find that nations’ happiness was not determined by material well-being. Back then Nigerians were as happy as West Germans. But now, 35 years later, the situation has changed. According to the latest surveys in most of the places in the world people are as happy as their GDP will predict. What has happened meanwhile is that Nigerians got TV sets and the spread of Internet made it possible that young Africans or Afghans with one click of the mouse can see how Europeans live and how do their schools and hospitals look like. Globalization made the world a village but this village lives in dictatorship- dictatorship of global comparisons. People do not compare their lives with the lives of their neighbors any more they compare themselves with the lives of most prosperous inhabitants of the planet.

          In this connected world of ours migration is the new revolution – not the 20th century revolution of the masses, but the 21st century exit driven revolution performed by individuals and families and inspired nit by the ideologues painted pictures of the future but by the Google map inspired photos of life on the other side of the border. It offers radical change now. In order to succeed, this new revolution does not require ideology, political   movement or political leaders. So, we should not be surprised that for many of the wretched on earth crossing Europe Union’s border is more attractive than any utopia. For a growing number of people the idea of change means to change your country, not your government.

          The problem with migrants’ revolution is that it has worrying capacity to inspire a counter-revolution in Europe.

          The myriad acts of solidarity toward refugees fleeing war and persecution that we saw months ago are today overshadowed by their inverse: a raging anxiety that these same foreigners will compromise Europe’s welfare model and historic culture and that they will destroy our liberal societies. Fear of Islam, terrorism, rising criminality and a general anxiety over the unfamiliar are at the core of Europe’s moral panic. Europeans are overwhelmed not by those more than one million refugees that have asked for asylum but by the perspective of a future in which European Union’s borders are constantly stormed by refugees or migrants.

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