Generally speaking, I tend to avoid politics in these posts for the same reasons one was always urged to avoid politics and religion at the dinner table, because it causes arguments. Except, of course, my very presence here is its own kind of political statement: I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think that young people forced out of their war-torn homeland have a right to the same liberal educational opportunities as everyone else.
I do understand that people have fears of “the other”, that many people are worried about the preservation of their own culture. But I also believe that a strong culture is able to absorb other influences and grow as a result. Britain has always done so, from the Normans and Huguenots down to West Indians and the peoples of south Asia, who have enriched and renewed the Britain we know today. Especially as climate change takes its toll, the pressures caused by people forced to flee their land for very survival can only increase. Building ever higher and stronger walls is no answer. Where they have been constructed – in Berlin, Palestine, Northern Ireland, and maybe yet on the southern border of Trump’s America, the result has not been peace and security, but ever-growing human misery. Groups of people who were themselves migrants now decide it is time to pull up the ladder on future generations, amid claims that their country is now full are demonstrably false, such as in Britain when we do not have the people to run our NHS, pick our fruit, care for our elderly.
I have been reading a very coherent and well-argued book – Persistent Myths About Migration in Greece, published by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, which backs up its arguments with well-sourced statistics. I know, of course, that people read material which already chimes with their own opinions, and it is difficult to counter this, since it is something we all do to a greater or lesser degree. However, I find that the arguments in the book correspond with my own learnt experience. The young people that I have met and taught here would be a tremendous asset to any society; their religion is irrelevant, for they are kind, funny and intelligent, and I am proud to call them my friends as well as my students.
One particular myth that the book addresses is the “pull” factor, the notion that by offering common humanity (let alone warmth), we are somehow encouraging people to come. In my own case, the idea that young people are risking their lives in order to be directed by me in a production is sort of flattering but also idiotic. Instead, people who do good are demonised, even criminalised. Instead of lauding people who leave water in the Mexican desert, or who rescue the drowning at sea, they are cast as criminals. What would Jesus do?