By Richard Fraser,
The term ‘humanitarian’ is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘Concerned with or seeking to promote human welfare’.
I suspect for many – as is the case for me – that the term conjures thoughts of government funded aid missions, sending crates of food and water to war-torn countries, or to those who have found themselves victims of natural disasters. Of course this is all true, but to a lesser extent people think of gifting money or food to a homeless person, or talking in a friend who has nowhere else to go.
This brings us to the current situation with Syrian refugees.
Of course, there are plenty other refugees, but this specific issue came to the fore with the publication of the already-infamous picture of Aylan Kurdi (three years old) lying lifeless on a beach in Turkey. Or, at least, that seems to have been the catalyst here in Scotland and the rest of the UK.
No matter what the situation, there will always be those who will maintain that borders should be closed, and no action taken because foreigners entering the country are to be viewed with inherent suspicion; but are these people not also human beings?
I’ve heard some who say that the majority of these refugees are merely illegal immigrants, desperate to claim benefits and enjoy an easy life at the expense of the taxpayer. As far as I’m concerned, no matter how much effort is invested in disproving this myth, surely common sense would prevail; nobody risks their own lives and that of their children to flock to a country which may or may not grant them a minimal sum of money each week to try and survive. These people are not immigrants, they are refugees. These are not interchangeable words.
Do we not have an unwritten duty as human beings to offer assistance in any way we can?
And given that (in theory) politicians and governments are to represent the needs and wants of their people, does that not in turn mean that our parliaments and assemblies should be stepping forward to offer support?
If every other country on the planet were to ‘open their gates’, so to speak, and those seeking refuge from a life of torment and violence were distributed amongst them, it would have no effect whatsoever on the economies of those countries. Any genuine refugee will not care where they end up, so long as they know they’ll be treated as humans rather than a statistic, unbalance a graph of already untenable national burden.
If I see someone who would happily trade their former life for sleeping on train tracks without a penny to their name, risking their life to do so; I’m pretty sure that person’s past is tumultuous to say the least. They’re seeking asylum, not benefits. This is assuming you’re not one of those who would class a socialist society as some kind of privilege which is the reserved right of those who are born here. Perhaps if their skin was a little whiter, and their accents more familiar it would be a different story?
I can only speak for myself – and perhaps my country, too – but it would seem that refugees are not the only recipients of this distrust; the poor are poor through laziness, all homeless people will inevitable spend every donation on cigarettes, drink, or drugs, and almost everyone on benefits are claiming fraudulently.
Perhaps it’s the media’s fault; mouthpieces of governments and organisations seeking a scapegoat to distract us from the real issues?
I’m sure that most normal folk will accept that it’s not the case, but either way, collectively we seem to think that everyone else is of that opinion.
The only conclusion that I can reach is that we as a people, have strayed too far from our interdependent, compassionate origins; swept up in the perpetual capitalist dream of ‘looking our for number one’ in order to propagate consumerism.
We must accept that we are all human beings – some bad, most good – and that if we were in their shoes, we’d be looking to escape too.
Again, it’s a broad subject and further musings would uncover other sub-topics which can be explored and examined in infinite detail, the politics of which could only be tackled after we decide whether we are to be friend or foe to the fellow inhabitants of the planet.
Perhaps the best way to display our commitment to others’ well-being would be to refrain from attacking their countries in the first place. We can still dream, can’t we?