There has been expansive discussion about people across the mainstream and social media. These people have been categorised and delineated as migrants, refugees and asylum seekers without distinction. There has been a vocal call to look after our own first, our homeless ex-armed services personnel, there has been spin and story and partial reporting to support whatever point of view is being promoted with little relation to the truth. But what is truth? This is something I have been pondering over the last couple of weeks and consider a couple of thoughts from clamour of debate.
This is a discussion about cause and effect rather than a critical appraisal of the benefits (or otherwise) of displaced people, migration or the economy. I am not a political analyst or historian and only offer my thoughts from my observations to promote a calm debate about consensus solutions routed in faith in our fellow man.
Firstly is to understand the nature of mainstream media which is fuelled by headlines and the need to sell newspapers, advertising space or viewing figures. Having seen many protagonists in these debates quote one source of the media as reliable and truthful over another source of the media it does strike to the heart of the question of truth and why do we believe one headline over another. We all feed into this confusion and I am as guilty as any other person retweeting from one source and not from another; however my motives are more about education of issues for discussion rather than promoting a finite and definitive solution. The reality is that most issues are much more complex than can be stated in a headline or even in one or a series of balanced articles and the need for instant, bullet point answers directs the media to provide for masses in a manner we can digest in our busy daily lives. How do we have time to research the background to journalist assertions and our trust of that which is reported as truth is being challenged. This then becomes an enigma when considering our faith in truth being reported by those we trust, but when asked a majority of people consider journalism untrustworthy so why do we place such faith in that reported truth. An ipsos-MORI poll in January this year found that only 22% of respondents trust journalists to tell the truth. So my thoughts turn more towards caution in believing anything reported without understanding the context, history and subjective/objective nature of what we see, read and hear.
The second thought for discussion is probably more controversial in that when you strip back the arguments and rhetoric of those that are saying we cannot take these people into the country the solution lies within Green Party policies more than anywhere else and I will attempt to explain why these policies of hope and tolerance address the fears raised in the debate. With the odd notable exception we share a common good where the better angels of our nature are being drowned out by the fear of the unknown, the confusion of messages and the exploitation of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
Common reasons brought to the debate by those opposing our helping of people include
- We don’t have room
- We need to help our own first e.g. homeless, ex-servicemen
- Our public services can’t cope e.g. schools, hospitals, social services
- We have no control and this will lead to an influx of terrorists e.g. ISIS
- Stay where they are or their closest neighbour
If we sit on the other side of the debate we should not dismiss these concerns as invalid, racist or uncaring as, to me, they are just that concerns which need to be addressed. But as I say I believe we are closer in consensus than we probably admit because fundamentally as a nation we want to help those less fortunate than ourselves and can be demonstrated through the years of hospitality, charitable donation and the helping hand we often offer to neighbours, friends and strangers. Again there are exceptions to this statement but generally the conversations start with “I’d love to help but ….” And we have responsibility to understand the “but”. I am not going to get into the arguments here which are being played out across society from both sides of the divide however I will re-frame the debate as to the nature of cause and effect.
To me the answer lies within the nature of the austerity agenda pursued by the Tory (and allies) political elite and their corporate oligarch paymasters. For over two centuries the western world has pillaged the resources of the countries we now fear to build the wealth of the few and, if we stand together, they fear that their control will crumble to dust and their disproportionate accumulated wealth will mean nothing. If this wealth was taxed on an equitable basis we could end the strife in the world which causes fear which, in turn, prevents action. I realise this sounds utopian but believe we must start from a point of understanding the destination before planning the journey.
When we consider the financial aspects of the opposing argument i.e. we can’t afford it, public services can’t cope, we have our own homelessness etc. these can be addressed through understanding the nature of the austerity agenda. The common aspects of life which we all share in need is for utilities (water, heat, light), infrastructure (homes, roads, rail), amenities (schools, hospitals, social services), communication (post, internet, telephony), public safety (fire, police) and each of these have been established over the generations for the common good, assets of the people administered by our elected officials. Throughout my adult life each of these have been moved away from our (public) ownership to corporate ownership which now drives the needs of the few over the needs of the many. We have a generation growing up in the shadow of the transfer of common public ownership to profit driven exploitation. This strikes at the heart of the problem that we have under invested in each aspect of our common existence for nearly four decades to the point where we know very little difference.
Business is for profit, is a very simple and truthful statement. If we accept that as a simple truth then we should accept that truth in the privatisation and profiteering of the common aspects of life. The provision of these services by corporations is for profit. I am not naïve to say we should be living in a totalitarian state and very much appreciate that entrepreneurism and business plays a part in the innovation and enhancement of life. Do we really think that if Costa were not on the street corner we would not drink coffee or if Amazon did not sell books we would not read. Clearly this would not be the case and the market would provide an alternative within each community and indeed would support the development of small business and control of our destiny. So why is the response to austerity important in addressing the financial arguments affecting our response to displaced people, I believe listening to these arguments that there would be a broader consensus to respond more generously if these common aspects of life were funded correctly. They are not mutually exclusive and we should ask why, as the sixth richest nation on the planet and over two centuries of exploitation of resources, we are not in a position where the common aspects of life are not fully and fairly funded. The answer is that the wealth plundered has been concentrated in the few rather than the many and if this was addressed those opposing the welcoming of displaced people, however categorised, would dissolve away. Therefore I would encourage everyone not to accept the premise of austerity and campaign for a society for the common good and oppose austerity as this will deliver the solutions you promote.
Here are some basic figures to demonstrate the unequitable distribution of wealth
Wealth begat’s wealth and this shows that we will never be in a position to be counted as one of the wealthiest 1% as enormity of the generational wealth is so far beyond imagination that we cannot comprehend the scale. The minimum wage is £6.70 per hour; a living wage is £7.85 per hour; the average annual salary for a full time worker in the UK is £27,271; the average house price in the UK is £183,861; the national lottery win is at odds of 14 million to one;
The top 1% of the UK population have an average income of £259,917 with the top 0.1% this exponentially increases to £941,582 per annum.
The top 1% in the UK have an accumulated wealth of £2.1 trillion and when you consider the threshold is £3 million it is really the top 0.1% or even the 0.01% where this wealth is accommodated. With assets of £3 million and assuming a 5% rate of return on capital you could expect assets to grow by £150,000 per year. That is a salary of five and a half times that of the average wage just for having money without the need to work for it or produce anything at all.
I am not against aspiration or ambition but with that success comes responsibility and obligations beyond self-gratification.
The second string of the argument not to accommodate displaced people centres around the people staying where they are, fight for their own country, they will bring terrorism to our shores. These are all routed in the imperial exploitation of resources undertaken in our name where we determine our allies by their usefulness to us as opposed to shared value for human integrity. We should consider why these people become displaced in the first place and we can look at these in turn but in general relate to the follow
- Economic migration
- Environmental migration
- Refugees from war
- Asylum seekers from oppression
Similarly to the above I do not wish to discuss here the contribution these people make to our society this is a discussion about cause and effect. Why are these people displaced in the first place.
Broadly speaking the causes of each of these share a common link through the passage of history and the greed to exploit resources in the regions affected. The decision for anyone to move not just to the next village or town or country but in some cases across a continent is one not entered into lightly or without a great deal of motivation. Our aggressive foreign policy agenda over the last three centuries (and more) has two effects, firstly to build up resentment of the exploitation and secondly to harbour jealousy of the quality of life generated on the back of this exploitation. Economic migration occurs through the generational twin peak and valley of shining a light like a halo on the western world and driving darkness and despair in to the countries of use to us after that usefulness has expired.
Environmental migration is developing as a direct impact of human-influenced climate change where we are seeing an increased prevalence of severe climate incidences whether that be extreme storms or extreme dry weather. This can only be addressed through the development of a sustainable energy policy linked to the other aspects of addressing displaced people.
Refugees fleeing war and tyranny is about the peaceful aspects of our society not wishing to be caught between two (or more) sides of a war to control resources in these regions. There are many aspects to modern warfare which present destructive power, unimaginable unless witnessed directly and it is understandable that people would not want to remain in these regions. This then expands to the argument of “nearest safe port” but I find it difficult to accept that you necessarily appreciate a border when fleeing for your life across other regions of unrest, corruption or unease. Further that western foreign policy is integral to the causes of the reason to flee that we have an obligation to care for those affected by our decision to intervene in their region to control resources.
People seeking asylum from oppressive regimes is again a reflection on the direction of foreign policy directed towards resource exploitation rather than the common good. These can occur for a number of reasons whether we have supported oppressive regimes or despots to control the exploitation of resources or not supported regimes where resources are not available (or have been exhausted) for exploitation. If we had a more human-centric approach to foreign policy we would surely intervene on conscious rather than an exploitative greed for resources.
The difficulty with understanding the cause of the animosity in the world does not necessarily help with a direct solution and we would likely prefer to take the stance of “not wanting to start from here” but here is where we are and the lack of trust, the bitterness and hatred has been fed for too many years by the corporate greed of the few. I do not counsel the abolition of the army or the dissolution of our defensive capability at all and accept the reality of the world today but believe two key actions would allow us to develop a human-centric foreign policy which promotes our place in the world as a beacon of peace which will build bridges over the coming generations to exit this seemly eternal circle of hate and war.
This first part leads into the financial discussion earlier that we should oppose the premise of austerity and fight for an equitable provision of wealth to fund the common aspects of life. The second relates to having a sustainable, self-sufficient energy policy predicated on renewable energy and micro generation throughout communities and our transport infrastructure. In this way we would not need to promote an aggressive resource-centric foreign policy to deliver a safe and secure society.
This does not mean we isolate ourselves from the world or become uninvolved in the common decency of our fellow man to the detriment of our common interests but it would mean a different place in the world where we are able to defend ourselves and protect the safety and security of our citizens whilst promoting peaceful resolutions and supporting a human-centric foreign policy with clear conscience and principled moral objectives.
As I have stated a few times the issues here are not simple and I do not believe the answers are simple or easy to implement. There has been a confluence of issues which have become entangled and almost indistinguishable which need reframing if we are to address them. I maintain that if we do not accept the premise of austerity then this is the first step to driving change for our children and our children’s children. Austerity is not inevitable, austerity is the crisis, austerity is ideological. Further a self-sufficient renewable energy policy will promote a humane foreign policy and both of these together will embrace the better angels of our nature to deal with the crisis caused by todays aggressive resource-centric foreign policy whilst preparing the ground for a generational paradigm shift to promote peaceful relations in the world at large and disassemble the causes of hate and terrorism.