May 26, 2012

Question of Immigration

Several news sites, newspapers and magazines have published articles that one way or the other talk about the "immigration problem" either openly or just touching the subject. Somehow with time, and as Europe hits the marker of a big shit storm - otherwise known as a "crisis" - the topic flares up again and again, curiously forgetting what happened in the middle of the last century regarding similar thoughts and questions. In depressed times, people try to find the cause of the mysery in whatever evil - real or invented - around them, and make anything to ignore the fact that they might be part of the problem as well.

One of the favorite evils of all times are minorities, specially when it's perceived that those minorities have grown out of a nicely contained ghetto. Xenophobia and all sorts of versions of racism step in and take away the clear view, the open understanding of things. Hatred for the Jew, for the Muslim, for the Black, for the Latinos, for whatever immigrant of choice, are fueled up, and nobody thinks about what have they done to allow things to go on the direction things have gone.

But lets talk about the topic of immigration, and lets leave the whole economical impact for another day.

For me, as American - though I am European as well - it's rather interesting to watch my European siblings complain bitterly about immigration and how minorities of all sorts are taking away the "European way of life", gradually eliminating the culture and everything that's European to turn the place into an extention of their homelands, thus overtaking, conquering and colonizing Europe and making it disappear. Many stand up now and demand that this "European culture" and this "Sacred heritage" to be defended agains the invading hordes and swear to protect it against the foreigners people of other etnicities, to keep it pure, to keep it alive, almost as if one culture could entirely overtake and erase another.

Europe certainly has a history full of violent overtakings and devastating conquests. Africa, America, Oceania, but even within Europe itself there have been many examples when an Empire or even a religion sweeps up large expanses of land barring and aggresively destroying every bit of the original inhabitants and imposing their own way of life. From the nomads and barbaric hordes to the Romans and the subsequent kingdoms and empires taht took over countries changing languages and customs, through the explorations, discoveries, conquests and colonization of new lands such as America, and reaching even to the sistematic baning of Pagan religions to impose the Christian one, Europe has been at the head of an overtaking that sought to bring the "European way of life" in a uniform, homogen way all around the globe. Yes, others have also tried to copy the pattern, such as the Turks and the Mongols, but basically Europe has lived in fear that others would do what they have been doing, or more exactly, what they belive they have been doing.

As Americans, a land conquered by force and torture, enslaved and robbed, we also know that the impact of Europe wasn't a one way thing, but as Europe impacted America, so America impacted Europe, forming in the touching point of both a new culture. The process too time, and with the years a culture formed that's unique abd beautiful. However, America is a magnified example of something that happens day after day, that's natural and goes on all over the world in less violent colors. Truth is that cultures and ways of life change every day and every minute, and the touch of two cultures, just as the touch of two points of view, normally enrich each other, but at least provoke a change on each of them. Positive or negative, that depends on the people experiencing the exchange, and how are they willing to take it. Do you want to learn from the experience and take with you what's positive, or do you wish to make it into something negative and believe it has taken away from you?

It's interesting to notice that when we talk about culture - being culture what we choose to do what we choose to believe and the way we choose to live - this "taking" is more often than not a question of us stopping something, we ourselves removing it from our actions rather than someone else taking it away from us.

Cultures and ways of life - being something live withing dynamic people who is alive as well - is prone to change. These are not things that can stay frozen in a static way, to be contemplated forever, never changing, but as life changes, and the people keeping it alive change, so does the culture change. The Europe of the XII century isn't the same of the XV century or the XIX century, or the Europe of today. Cultures are bound to change, and this change isn't less important or less dignifying if the burqa is accepted or not, or halal and kosher food are prohibited. Foreigners aren't the ones to be "blamed" for the "losing of the culture" if the people who live in it, has either cared not for keeping it up, or are flexible, curious or live enough to broaden their cultures to accept elements of other cultures, reinterpret them and make them their own.

Why to blame the immigrants? Honestly, what have YOU done for the continued survival of the way of life you wish to upkeep?

Now that's the uncomfortable question, and that's - I believe - the real root of the resentment, that it's easier to blame others than to take responsability for one's actions.

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