Sunanda K Datta Ray, senior journalist, columnist and
author, Deccan Chronicle, Jan 3, 2017
The year that has just ended marked the end of willing globalisation
(Note: Colour is skin-deep only. Beneath the skin runs the blood which is red in all humans. Skin a white man and an African and ask anyone to identify who is who or which is which. None can make out from the colour of the life-giving blood. Yet humans even in this modern day of radical thinking and acting, are easily carried away by what is superficial, what is skin-deep. If this is civilization who wants it?
What differentiates Homo Sapiens from animals in the wild is one’s intellectual capacity to dive to depths of the oceans and soar high over the clouds. That capacity is not decided by the colour of one’s skin.
Humanity created or evolved from the first pair (parents) is relentlessly and inexorably rushing towards unity, universality and globalization breaking all barriers, mainly three: geographical, cultural and ideological. The last fortress to break through was the ‘bamboo and iron cartons’. They fell apart with the advent of internet and instant communication. There is no power on earth now to break up minds reaching out in loving embrace to polonaise and produce their hybrid. But in this obstacle race the lowly placed colour bar seems to be growing now like a Himalayan hurdle to scale and that even after Obama the first US African-American has masterly scaled the highest political office of the presidency of US.
If that has been done it can be repeated again. (Ab esse, ad posse valet illacio) From the first success million possibilities are wide open. Similarly Gunnar Myrdals theory of ‘melting-pot’ in US is also melting in spite of all the continued resistance. Even so we shall also overcome the worst religious obstacles like Islam and other racial or ethic hurdles to achieve perfect globalization. Only we have to hasten slowly (festina lente). Rome is not built in a day! What we are going through is not death pangs but birth-panges of a new humane humanity. james kottoor, editor).
The year that has just ended marked the end of willing globalisation. Oh yes, world leaders will continue to pay lip service to the concept.
They — even US President-elect Donald Trump — will encourage the movement of goods and services when it’s to their gain.
But as distressed and deprived Asia knocked on prosperous Europe’s doors, it became clear that the fundamental element of globalisation — free movement of human beings across the borders of race, colour and religion — was not welcome. Germany’s Angela Merkel is an outstanding exception among white leaders.
I am not talking of voluntary economic migrants like Indians who consciously subordinate loyalty and honesty to the quest for money and flock to the US to seek green cards and well-paying jobs. I mean people who are forced to abandon their homes, of whom there were over a billion in 2015 when Thomas Neal published The Figure of the Migrant. “The stricter the immigration laws, the more migrants are in violation of them”, says Neal, “thus, criminal statistics reveal the ‘need’ for harsher laws because of the ‘increase’ in immigration violations. Migrants are a constitutive part of a juridical feedback mechanism that requires for its expansion the legal expulsion of a migrant population. I am not saying this is the conscious plot of some evil politicians — well, maybe Trump, but I hesitate to call him a politician — it’s structural. It is part of the fundamental kinetic structure of juridical power”.
The West which sets the framework of all global discourse remains obsessed with European Jews and Hitler’s infamous “final solution”. Victims of other tragedies were not such effective publicists. Those who take a less blinkered view of history cannot forget 1947 and the plight of millions of evacuated Hindus and Muslims, the bloody wars of Hutus and Tutsis, and waves of Chinese emigrants who peopled Southeast Asia and set up Chinatowns worldwide.
Persecuted Tibetan Buddhists, Rohingyas persecuted by Buddhists, Afghans fleeing the Taliban and Sri Lankan Tamils fleeing Buddhist Sinhalese are part of the global diaspora. The horrors of risky Mediterranean crossings have now forced the world’s attention on victims of Syria’s civil war. Many regard the United Nations’ 2016 estimate of 13.5 million Syrians in need of humanitarian assistance (4.8 million in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Iraq, over a million in Europe and more than six million internally displaced) a gross under-estimate.
Like the Jews of whom Hannah Arendt, the German-Jewish-American political philosopher, spoke, “It was not only their own misfortunes that the refugees carried with them from land to land, from continent to continent, but the great misfortune of the whole world”. They would not be experiencing such hardship if outside forces had not encouraged Syrian dissidents to revolt against Bashar al-Assad as part of what was exalted as the “Arab Spring”.
No one wants to bear the burden of the fallout. George Orwell once wrote in the British socialist journal Tribune that 100,000 of the Jewish refugees struggling to reach Palestine should be invited to settle in Britain with UK citizenship. Instead, the British forced the Palestinians to accommodate European Jews, which made Palestinians the world’s first permanently stateless community. Orwell recognised that far from being the solution, Zionism was another dangerous form of the nationalism that prevents people from responding hospitably to suffering. But despite serving in the Indian Police, Orwell missed the significant aspect of race, which Disraeli called “the ultimate reality”.
During the year or so I spent in Honolulu, American military men were anxiously assessing the exact number of US personnel killed in the Vietnam war. If I remember right, the figure was 58,200. To me, as an outsider, it seemed a fleabite considering that nearly five million Vietnamese soldiers and civilians also perished.
The contrast recalled Jawaharlal Nehru listing how top-drawer Britons divided the world. The English (no Asians and West Indians then to muddy the racial waters) were followed after a long gap by the whites of the old dominions and by Anglo-Saxon Americans (“not dagoes, wops, etc.,”). Then came Western Europeans, the rest of Europe, Latin South Americans and, after another long gap, “the brown, yellow and black races of Asia and Africa, all bunched up more or less together”. Nehru’s rueful comment was, “How far we of the last of these classes are from the heights where our rulers live!”
The world has made some progress since then. The first US African-American President is ending his tenure. An ethnic Pakistani is London’s mayor. Portugal’s Prime Minister who was a state visitor in India the other day is of Goan descent. But welcome as they are as evidence of dawning enlightenment, they offer no clue to the reality of power. Polish, Slovakian and Hungarian resistance to Syrian refugees is more relevant. So is the rise of Austria’s anti-immigration Freedom Party, of Marine Le Pen in France, and — above all — Britain’s Brexit vote. Yet, 60 million Europeans colonised the two Americas, Australia and parts of Africa in the heyday of empire.
Today, refugees are viewed as threats to internal security. They are regarded as unemployable or politically dangerous, subjected to indignities and treated as burdens on charity. European Union members would like to pull up the drawbridge to bar over a million men, women and children fleeing the Syrian war. They are refugees. They represent a crisis of humanity. “No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land”, wrote Warsan Shire, the London-based Somali poet. The New Year can redress the balance of the old by recognising refugees as victims of history. They must not be treated like self-seeking economic migrants. Europe can save or kill globalisation. The world is watching.
(The writer is a senior journalist, columnist and author)