Last Thursday (the 6th August), Dawn and I sat in The Yard as we waited for others to arrive, battling their way through the tumultuous roads of London as we faced another Tube strike.
Our conversation turned to politics, as it often does, and followed on from a previous topic we’d had the day before: the suitability of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, or even Prime Minister.
Both of us would probably be described as “left-leaning” (one of us probably leans further and more dramatically – can you guess which one?) and that often brings up challenging conversations on how we reconcile living in a developed and prosperous Britain, our desire to authentically behave like Christ and our responsibilities as a global humanity.
One of the issues a socialist such as Jeremy Corbyn, or me on a virtuous day, might take particular angst with is that of migration; or the “swarms” of foreigners as our Prime Minister, or beloved national treasure The Daily Mail might say. Isn’t it interesting that when you’re a Brit relocating abroad then you become an Ex-Pat but heaven forbid that someone do the same here. Thus THEY become an “immigrant” or worse, an insect in the “swarm”.
The real issue that we’re currently facing isn’t the masses of dirty foreigners who are threatening to break our borders like a particularly terrifying remake of World War Z; if you believe that to be the case then you can educate yourself here: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/robin-lustig/calais-migrants-refugees_b_7909630.html and here: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/aug/07/britain-refugee-magnet-sudanese-channel-tunnel
Nor is it really that we need to focus our efforts on globalising how we practically handle refugees and migrants – although serious thought into a system that supports the countries as well as those seeking to reside their does need to be given.
But rather the issue, as it has always been, is our “us and them” mentality. For as long as there has been the arrogance of man (and I chose my words carefully there), there has been an “us and them”.
Just by your age, race, gender-identity, sexuality, physical ability or disability, political viewpoint, social class, your living arrangements, and in some totalitarian regimes, your physical attributes such as hair and eye colour, we categorise and assign a worth to everyone. This categorisation often is completely unconscious and is very much a part of the way society (and I speak as a white, British, gay man at this point) works. I still find myself mentally casting aspersions towards someone who culturally I have been formed to believe is a “slacker” or a “sponger”.
As a race, we’ve always been good at ranking and ordering, and thus elevating the chosen few and dehumanising the majority as we all scramble to reach the top of the pile, kicking everyone in the face on our way up and dragging as many as we can with us when we slip and fall back down a few levels.
We’re particularly good, as well, at pointing out these flaws when we see them in others. We look to nations such as Saudi Arabia and deplore their rising death toll due to capital punishment, or North Korea and the long lasting psychological damage such a regime can have on the population. Perhaps Russia is on the top of our list as a country which perpetuates homophobia and has recently decided to go around attempting to violate grab land in a way which hearkens back to the mid-20th Century. Or maybe we’re deeply concerned about the United States and choose to point our figure to a nation which has so much wealth but yet 14.5% of the population live well below the poverty line.
Isn’t it easy to right these lists? To turn it once again into an “us and them” conversation. We might be bad but THEY’RE WORSE. We might not want the filthy swarm to descend on our beautiful island, but look at the Israel/Gaza conflict – THEY’RE worse.
The “us and them” mentality works for so long before it tears societies apart. Look to the Romans, to the Ottomans… even to the British. Eventually people wake up to the startling realisation that those who are subjugated, dehumanised and enslaved are no different to those who subjugate, dehumanise and enslave. They just happen to have been born on the wrong end of the pile.
So, how do you solve a problem like the migrants? Perhaps we should start by removing the forest from our own eyes (paraphrasing Jesus slightly there) and take a long hard look at the type of people that we are. Will we remain the type of people who allow thousands of men, women and children to languish 30 miles from Dover? The “us and them” people. Or will we be the type of people who, if not following Christ, at least adheres to his most beloved of commandments and chooses to love our neighbour?
To quote High School Musical: “we’re all in this together”.