A need for new conversations

We would like to proffer a reflection on the migration campaign whose context moves beyond the scientific methods of conversation to one centered on the need to create a new vision on the engagement between the culturally different countries of north Africa with those of Europe.

The issues related to migration, refugee and asylum seekers coming into the European Union, especially from the north of Africa, continue to rise high in the agenda of nation states. These evoke numerous discussions within the corridors of power, national election campaigns, the labor market and other spheres of life. Undoubtedly, the events of September 11 and more recently, the horrific Madrid bombing only add to the complexity of balancing the trends of human mobility against human rights, security and market demands.
The context of south-north or north migration, as many would argue, is not a new phenomenon. The movements by people have always been based on necessity and in most cases, search for a better way of life. Development as we understand it today, such as rapid advancement in technology, transportation, the quests for knowledge and better standards of living, most notably in last twenty-five years, have reshaped the tenets of the evolutionary process. In this modern age of development the world continues to be polarized. For instance, by a few who have much and a majority that continues to be impoverished, to live beneath the poverty line. Again, a line determined by economic yardsticks such as per capita income and gross domestic product.

There continues to be a feeling of hopelessness amongst a vast majority of the youth population in North Africa. The problems of governance, fundamentalist and extremist assertions of Islam, conflicts, unequitable distribution of resources and opportunities, unemployment, lack of infrastructural support that could support formal and non-formal education are just some of the societal problems centered on the current development model that encourages migration within these countries and also to Europe. Perhaps it would be correct to note that development in itself, as Dr. Corinne Kumar (A Sociologist, poet and pilgrim of life. She is currently the Secretary-General of the El Taller Foundation, an International NGO based in Tunis, Tunisia) says, was never in doubt. The fundamental tenets of the development paradigm, despite the imbalance it brings, have always been left untouched.

Productivity, profits, progress, all tied to a world market economy and the consumerist ethic has in fact created despair and dispossession for the majority, a model that has brought with it the desacralising of nature, the destruction of a way of life of entire cultures, the degradation of women, engendered a new categorisation of humans in the classic context of the other; the un-civilised, the under-developed, the un-educated. The current development logic for example determines political, social and economic arrangements of our times. While the European Union has as a fundamental pillar, the legal freedom of movements of persons, the same is not equally applied to non-Europeans, especially at the borders of Europe. The inherent mind construct of the other demands a different set of rules, a different standard.

Perhaps we must begin to understand from the perspective of those in these countries that development reduces all differences into a flatland called modernity, where explorations for oil, gas and construction of modern cites displaces peoples; cash crops in place of subsistence farming, forests and rivers become resources, knowledge bases become institutionalized in schools, universities etc. For even in the current century when we speak about equality in the context of human rights, the market in its logic of competition, profits etc. will always ensure inequality.
The South will always blame the North for creating situations that demand migration and on the other hand, the North will always blame the South for poor management, lack of democratic institutions etc; it is a vicious cycle of apportioning blame. What is clear is that this new global world order continues to create new institutional frameworks
for marginalisation and exploitation and that migration, be it refugee movements; asylum seekers or labour migration is directly related to the disintegration of communities and the vulnerability created by extreme insecurity of livelihoods.
We must then begin to re-look at the existing frame of development, while also coming out with other alternatives that will seek to connect the visions of those in the North with the South. We must seek a new language that will break the mind constructs and reclaim both the subjective and the objective modes of knowing in which the observer is not distanced from the observed, the researcher from the researched, poverty from the poor, the politicians from constituents. We need to explore a new discourse in conversation with other cultural perspectives of reality, other notions of development. We need a new vision that will evolve out of a conversation across cultures that are not mediated by hegemony but by diversity, and this would mean another ethic of dialogue, a dialogue centered in the dignity of all persons.

FYEG is taking steps towards this very important conversation, bringing fresh, green insights on the current international debates on refugees and asylum-seekers, by situating themselves for exchanges, sharing their life’s journey with those affected by the current migration policies of the European Union. The holding of a migration exchange in Tangier, Morocco, will hopefully contribute to the construction of a regional friendship, or for genuine processes of regeneration be able to give new forms of solidarity.

This only means that hopefully, the reductionist, inhumane approach to migration issues and the subsequent destructive effects will begin to change. It will represent a call to the ‘good people’ everywhere as well as those in policy and decision making positions, to think and to work together for example, with those whom these policies affect. It should prompt everyone to begin the genuine work of self-knowledge and ‘self -polishing’, a modest exercise that enables us to listen more carefully to others, in particular to those who are able to do the same. It could be the beginning of a long process aiming at replacing the present chaos by an aesthetic order based on respect of differences and the uniqueness of every single person and culture.

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