Thursday, September 03, 2015

End of European Moralism

The current crisis with migrants has one, and only one, casualty - the European moral high ground! 

European governments feel uniquely entitled to lecture others about humanitarian issues. They project themselves as the keeper of morality in the world, often bombing or sanctioning against other nations when they think they are on the wrong side of the moral line. Once they faced the same test that some of the Asian and African nations face routinely, they failed though - and failed miserably.

Imagine what would have happened if Iran barred refugees from coming in. Or, India left them stranded in the shores. Or, a Pakistani columnist suggested that they send gunboats to stop the infiltration. Or an African President called them swarms. If they died in a locked truck in Egypt. Or, if Sudan limited the number of people allowed to come in every year to 50. 

There would be an international outrage, thousands of column inches of editorials, Hollywood stars descending on the nearest conference to denounce such barbarity, and privately smug citizens taking this on as another example of Asiatic backwardness.

But, when the challenge comes to Europe, all of the above sound perfect reasonable, and even politically popular. And, indeed, as one must add, everyone seems to think that people are coming to Europe because it is too soft, while the fact remains that it is happening because the European countries, particularly Britain, have intervened, on the humanitarian excuse, in various countries and helped destroy order. Even if the regimes in Libya, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan were wholly unpalatable, what came in its place is worse. No wonder that people prefer taking their chances on rough seas rather than getting slaughtered, raped or maimed by ISIS. 

There are stories of generosities of private citizens emerging - from Iceland, Hungary and elsewhere - but they are as much a party to this shameful act as their governments. The fact that such generosity makes news means that these are man bites dog affair - exceptional! While such acts must be celebrated, they can not be identified as European. European is what the governments and majorities are effectively doing, trying to shut themselves down from the world, supporting extractive regimes and causing misery elsewhere and giving brownie points to those like David Cameron who intentionally sound hateful!

And, surely, one would need to call out the European media, so self-righteous and smugly lecturing and commenting on other peoples indifference to human misery, but intentionally blind, as if embarrassed, with the calamity in its hand. It is both pathetic and amusing to watch the documentary on Calcutta/Kolkata yesterday night on BBC, which highlighted the City's misery and the supposed, colonial, glories of the past, and, as the main message, highlighted the divide between the rich and the poor. Yet, that Calcutta has been a great centre of migration, and the waves of migration, as the residents will tell you, changed the city, is missed by the presenter. While she was eager to showcase the Asiatic indifference, she did not want to bring the story any closer home. 

This, and what comes next, would perhaps end the spell of European moralism. That Europe is a great humanistic project has already been laid bare in the Greek crisis, and the migrants would spread this message globally. The decline of Western influence does not come with the rise of China, but in the exposure of its own hypocrisy. 


 



 


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