The Prophet Moses-led exodus from Pharaoh’s Egypt towards the Promised Land shows all the perils of mass migration. First: Hardship and deprivation in the Sinai, then: An unwelcome arrival. What is more, not all who start the voyage make it to the end.
Today’s African and Arab migrants journey near where the people of Moses once wandered, and the dangers are equally biblical.
People everywhere have always been on the move towards plenty, just as even the Prophet Joseph and his brothers � the ancestors of Moses � are said to have fled the droughts of Judea and ended up in Egypt in the first place.
For Europeans, this represents a growing crisis. They had not anticipated becoming the target destination of even the present number of over one million migrants currently seeking asylum, and so made no plans for how to absorb them.
Yet the wars, droughts and economic breakdowns driving northward migration � particularly from Africa � are likely to increase over the coming decades.
This is serving to resurrect primal fears embedded deep in the European cultural psyche, particularly among the Mediterranean states to the south and the Balkan states to the east, that long served as the shock absorber of the thrusts by the Turkish Ottoman Empire (1299-1923) into Europe, reaching as far west as Venice, Italy in 1571, and Vienna, Austria in 1683.
In this, Serbian, Albanian, Croatian, Greek, Hungarian, Moldavian and Bosnian peoples, Christians all, often found themselves under sometimes centuries-long occupation by this mighty Muslim power. Many civic and religious rituals still exist among them, commemorating their deliverance from that domination.
This helps explain the greater rigidity demonstrated by the politicians and citizens of those spaces on the question of where these largely Muslim migrants will finally be settled.
A Balkan consensus is emerging that, if their bigger European Union partner countries further north and west will not allow the immediate forwarding of refugees, then they are going to just fence them out. And that is a compromise position.
Hungary’s President Viktor Urban has bluntly opposed the very idea of their presence in the first place. (They) have been raised in another religion, and represent a radically different culture. This is an important question, because European identity is rooted in Christianity, he stated in a German newspaper.
This panic suggests a European crisis of destiny. At stake is Europe’s idea of itself as the custodian of the Developmental civilisation ideas upon which the world is currently governed, which serve also as Western justification for conquering the rest of the world to build up its wealth and prestige.
A rejection of the migrants exposes what is false in that idea, and therefore in all the imperial violence and looting that it legitimised. But with its decline into a collection of second and third tier powers, already saddled with the near-Third World countries of the Balkans, can Europe cope with the avalanche, as the German finance minister has termed it?
Perhaps not. However, to have spent decades bombarding the world’s poor with consumerist propaganda flaunting the glories of your social and economic systems, and then not expect them to want to join you in the fun, is simply unrealistic.
The Western Development mantra, as taught to generations of African schoolchildren, holds that modern is better than traditional, urban is better than rural, and North is better than South (or put another way: the West is better than everywhere). From the ordinary African’s perspective, migration is therefore actually very logical, despite the risks of drowning and being trafficked.
If the goal of Development is urbanisation, then why not bypass the half-baked African efforts, and go directly to the mother of all urbanity? As is said about another Prophet: If Development will not come to you, then you must go to Development.
African migration is both an internationalised extension of the rural-to-urban drift, and its logical conclusion.
These starkly different perspectives led to the unusual sight of African presidents turning down a Western aid package.
At the early November European Union-African Union summit on Migration held on the Mediterranean island of Malta, a trust set up to hold some 1.8 billion euros intended for projects ranging from training and small business grants and combating food shortages to schemes directly aimed at cutting emigration and tackling radicalisation and other violence. was criticised by the African delegates as conceptually flawed. Instead, they called for a focus on reforming global fiscal and trade governance.
African economies are being re-oriented to extractive industries, specialised high-end tourism and large-scale mechanised farming, all privately owned. This new economic design was designed and imposed by the West. It displaces large numbers of subsistence peasant communities and other indigenes.
The African governments have been caught between letting the resultant large, unskilled population for which the new economy has no use find their own way out of Africa, or risk seeing them become future foot soldiers for rebellions and uprisings at home. This is where the death-boats come in, since neither air tickets nor visas are on offer.
We can only hope the African presidents will break other taboos, since they are now speaking their minds, and talk about reparations for Europe’s imperial ravages of the past.
But then, they may find themselves also being barred from entering Europe as well.
SOURCE: The East African