Friday, 11 September 2015
Most of us know the story. If not from education or interests encompassing classical Greek literature, many have seen the film Troy with Brad Pitt and Eric Bana. The Trojans are the humanitarians of their day, seeking to honour the gods and do the right thing; they defy the wishes of the sceptical among them, and unwittingly invite in a crack team of blood-thirsty Greeks who annihilate them completely.
I've come to the conclusion that our leaders must feel a bit like Priam and Hector at the walls of Troy. The unfolding Syrian refugee crisis is a catastrophic event of biblical proportion that could realistically change the world as we know it—but more people in the UK are probably actively pondering whether to watch Strictly or X-Factor.
The significance of today's date should not be ignored.
Both Right and Left seem to be offering equally unpalatable/impractical solutions, with Hungary, Turkey and Greece currently acting as Europe's hard-nosed bouncers. Whilst any human being with a vague sense of empathy wants to help these poor souls fleeing for their lives across the Mediterranean, anyone who truly believes it's as simple as welcoming thousands upon thousands of traumatised refugees to integrate into Europe is dangerously naïve. For the first time ever, I've found myself sympathising with a Right wing point of view.
Those fleeing war and atrocity need to be cared for humanely, and with a sense of urgency: I would wish the same for any citizen of this planet. However, neither can it be ignored that in the current situation, absolutely anyone can turn up on the doors of Europe without identification or passport, claiming asylum. The alibi is pre-established. To think for one second that enemies of the West won't attempt to capitalise on this terrible state of affairs would be foolhardy, especially with ISIS and other militant Islamic fundamentalist groups being such dangerous and relatively sophisticated powers in the regions from which the majority hail.
There are heart-breaking clips of emotionally battered refugees reunited with their families, crying with gratitude to the sound of welcoming German citizens. They are beautiful scenes to survey—any other reaction seems unthinkable. On the flip-side, I've also seen disturbing footage telling another story. A story of riots, one of violence, intimidation and ingratitude, one of refugees throwing provisions in the faces of aid workers who've supplied them, chanting religious rhetoric. Reports of intimidating gestures on camera to journalists, suggesting this is the beginning of the end for Europe, or part of an ulterior scheme. If even a tiny percentage of the people arriving harbour malign intentions, let alone more, and are then able to spread across hosting countries of the EU, we are undoubtedly inviting in that Trojan Horse. Many Islamic clerics of Europe and beyond have openly boasted such intent well before now. Whilst few would endure such a dangerous and traumatic journey alongside their families without necessity, extremists who encourage self sacrifice in the name of Jihad and a "greater good" are likely to jump at the chance. The perils of a boat journey are far less finite than the intended designs of a suicide bomber.
Even if we ignore the dangers of infiltration (place a pin in them for a minute), we are potentially proposing to irreversibly alter the ratio of naturalised Western European citizens with a virtual continent of people from the Middle East. Many will be untrained or illiterate, even in their own language, or have no comprehension of tolerance, scepticism, scientific reason, the separation of church and state, the rights of women, sexual freedoms—the list goes on and on. Such a dramatic shift of commonly conceived values could irreversibly alter Europe dramatically for the worse. Our laws and government, our public services and education systems, our very freedom to choose how we live our lives. To roll the dice and trust that currently grateful refugees will always remain so—all amenably integrating into secular society without ever seeking to change or rise up against it, seems a pretty hefty bet to me.
Some countries within the EU (such as Belgium) have Islamic populations quickly overtaking all other ethnicities and backgrounds, with powerful political groups emerging demanding Sharia Law be enforceable at government level. Whilst this seems unthinkable in Europe at present, we are now dealing with displaced nations of people seeking refuge in the West, who mostly believe in infallible religious authority and often polygamy. Our birth rates pale by comparison, and our traditional family nucleus is in decline. All too soon, within even a couple of generations, people who started out seeking refuge could potentially be the naturalised ethnic (and far more importantly) religious majority, and propositions like Sharia Law could be stark reality for the peoples of Europe. That is Realpolitik.
Many might argue the West have caused the problem, meddling in affairs of the Middle East and beyond for far too long, or that the military-industrial complex actively pursues war for profit. There is widespread trepidation that the Islamic community worldwide are being set-up as enemies for the permutation of such conflict, or even that Israel are manipulating events and Western alliances towards anti-Islamic agenda. Others blame the manoeuvres of Russia and China. The overwhelming majority aren't interested in international politics; they simply see a humanitarian crisis unfolding and want their governments to do something about it. However, contributing factors wouldn't alter colossal implications of the EU granting asylum to all those fleeing, as many well-meaning EU citizens are demanding.
As the son of an Austrian Jewish refugee granted citizenship in Britain during World War II, some might say for me to argue anything but open arms for those in comparable predicament is the most vile ingratitude. However, I would retort that in the case of European Jews, it was open persecution of citizens already naturalised and integrated into supposedly secular society, for no other reason than ethnicity. The Jews (and many others who suffered at the hands of the Nazis) posed no threat to the values/rationale of Europe; instead they'd integrated so well and helped fuel economies so successfully that many might cite jealousy as a cause for anti-Semitism, going back centuries. This is not the same. This would be openly inviting a vast contingent of people from a single region—a huge proportion possibly accustomed to uncompromising medieval religious attitudes and an abhorrence of Western values, moving into our towns and cities to set up communities en masse.
Do I consider myself liberal, and welcoming of cultural diversity? Yes. Do I believe all people should be born to equal rights and opportunity? Of course. However, would I be prepared to risk the erosion of thousands of years of European conflict and history—a bloody and traumatic history that painstakingly resulted in worldwide sense of reason, ethics and liberty? I'm not sure I could. Throwing wide the gates to once subjugated peoples didn't turn out so well for the Roman Empire (an institution with which the EU shares more than a few similarities), let alone the Trojans. While a statesman of any political system has a moral obligation to serve the whole of humankind, one could argue it first and foremost their duty to be a student of history, and to serve the interests of the nation they represent.
It took centuries for European powers to work out that autonomous regimes are intolerable, that religious denomination is not a justified premise for war, and that a just society has to be governed by secular elected authority. It is a rationale that many of us take for granted: a fragile gift passed on from real people who lived through similar death and terror even as late as the last century. If we lose or muddy it now to a historically opposing ideology, albeit motivated by noble and humanitarian compassion born of those same values, it would be a tragedy of cataclysmic proportion. Religious liberty in Europe could be lost.
That's certainly not an environment I want my child—or indeed anyone's to grow up in.