Syria and Internationalism

Written By: - Date published: 4:02 pm, September 6th, 2015 - 90 comments
Categories: aid, democratic participation, Ethics, human rights, International, Media, Social issues, Syria - Tags: , ,

I wonder if the current public outpouring of sympathy for Syrian refugees is nought but a ‘fashion’, or whether it’s the beginnings of a renaissance for internationalism.

My cynicism whispers to be mindful of the fickleness of any collective ‘social conscience’ and the ephemeral ‘humanity’ that momentarily throws money out over wringing hands in an exercise of self congratulatory conscience salving.

Before pictures of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, drowned and lying face down on a beach, occupied the front pages of major newspapers and various internet ‘feeds’, where exactly did the humanity of most people in the relatively safe haven of ‘the west’ register? There are many good people among us, no doubt. But if newspaper headlines and previously successful political campaign strategies are anything to go by, the majority opinion and attitude towards refugees is, or has been, rubbing the fucking ground.

So how long will it be I wonder, before it’s reported – of course in full blown sordid technicolour detail – that a refugee or some refugees have committed some heinous crime, and for that to precipitate all the ‘good folks’ to go scurrying back behind the barricades and into the sanctuary of their comfortable small world, from where they can decry the collective evil they’ve unwittingly delivered upon themselves? I can almost hear it coming down from the future as I sit here and type – the earnest and veiled yet hateful protestations that, ‘we’ would never behave like ‘that’… to be followed quickly by how ‘they’ are so ungrateful and undeserving afterall. Then a potentially fucking awful backlash begins…

My cynicism, loud through weariness, suggests I won’t be waiting too long.

My hope, quiet, is merely hanging by a slender vibrating thread that would rather I believe we’re witnessing a genuine, nascent internationalism.

So, as far as Europe is concerned, the likes of the UK will work to accommodate some 250 000 of the current 2 million refugees from Syria, Eritrea and Afghanistan.

Down this way, the likes of Nauru and Manus Island will be emptied in the near future as NZ, pulling it’s weight, commits to a refugee population density way in excess of the current 1 refugee for every 3 700 residents (UNHCR figures for 2013). As a matter of priority, NZ will bolster existing frameworks and develop new ones where necessary, to ensure that future intakes of refugees can be handled effectively and smoothly.

Okay. The reality will likely be paltry action from government coupling up, by and by, with major media seeking to wean us from any ‘misguided’ or ‘naive’ sense of humanity. But headlines that talk in terms of ‘swarms’ or of us being ‘swamped’ and such like, or articles that suggest refugees are just cunning economic migrants, these things must never work again; must never have us being in any way indifferent to men, women and children, either traveling over land in search of sanctuary or who risk drowning at sea in search of sanctuary. An enduring solidarity towards all those ordinary people, who only find themselves in a precarious position due to extra-ordinary circumstances, would be a bedrock, a beginning.

I guess we’ll know where we’re all at on this in about six months or so…

Meanwhile, here’s a link to the poem “Home” by Warsan Shire, a Kenyan-born Somali poet living in London.

90 comments on “Syria and Internationalism ”

  1. stigie 1

    Well, it sounds like Key is doing the right thing then and holding back taking some sound advice rather than rushing in to please the media and the left.

    • Rob 1.1

      Unfortunately I suspect you just lack humanity
      Key probably fits in with you as he only does things that will benefit him!

      • stigie 1.1.1

        Thats the story Bob, just jump in boots and all right this very moment because it feels good without stepping back and doing things proper ?

        • GregJ

          Actually there have been calls for NZ to take in more refugees for quite some time now and to actually fulfill the quotas we have (and the last Labour-led government was also remiss here). The Syrian refugee crisis is just bringing our appalling lack of action into stark relief.

          It’s an emergency – it needs a swift response – boots and all is what you do in an emergency – we can take immediate steps and then follow through with the planning & organization. It’s not as if we don’t already know how to accomodate and welcome in refugees.

          I know it takes time to stoke up the boilers to warm Key’s heart – so much for “compassionate conservatives” eh?

          • miravox

            “It’s an emergency – it needs a swift response – boots and all is what you do in an emergency – “


    • Hanswurst 1.2

      What you describe actually fits the Greens’ and Labour’s attitudes, and looks more or less like the antithesis of Key’s. Labour and the Greens had already taken a stance on at the point when it was certainly current, but hardly sexy. Key was content to kick the ball down the road, as he does with basically everything (except flags), until a provocative photo went viral. Now, all of a sudden, it would seem that he’s hitting the “OMFG” button, while trying not to look too much like he just shat himself.

  2. infused 2

    The media have been fucking terrible. Made this whole thing in to an emotional sensationalist fuckup.

    You cant go taking hundreds of thousands of refugees like germany and turkey. Here will be an uprising soon as these countries struggle to cope.

    Sort out Syria. Give aid.

    • b waghorn 2.1

      A100 000 life jackets would be a good start

    • Pascals bookie 2.2

      “Sort out Syria”

      Good oh. Wonder why no one has thought of that before, simple really.
      We’ll just tell our allies in Turkey not to worry about Kurdish nationalism, and our allies in Iraq not to worry about a Sunni takeover in Syria; We’ll just, y’know, kill the bad guys and everyone will be happy as, coz everyone agrees who the bad guys really are and we totally have regional consensus about what a ‘sorted’ Syria would look like.

      • infused 2.2.1

        No ones *really* trying to sort out Syria.

        • Pascals bookie

          That’s just silly. Loads of people are, that’s why there’s a war.

          ISIS is trying to sort in one way, Iran/Iraq/hezbollah/russia another way, assorted Islamist groups with support from the Gulf states are trying to sort it yet another way.

          • infused

            Yeah. Rag tag rebels. Like i said, no ones really trying to sort it.

            • Pascals bookie

              Ok, so what would sorting it look like?

              No tautologies like ‘sorting it would be creating a lasting solution to the conflict’ please, I’m genuinely interested in what you think could be done to resolve the conflict in a lasting way.

              Take into account the actual regional, political, reasons for the conflict lasting so long, or else you are just playing games.

              • BM

                Nato or some other ‘World army’ goes in and shoots anyone who won’t give up their weaponry.
                Place is run by the UN for as long as it takes.

                • Pascals bookie

                  Nato includes Turkey, so i assume you include Kurds in the group of people to be shot, coz that’s who Turkey is most concerned about.

                  How much more tax are you prepared to pay to help fund this as long as it takes effort?

                  When the government in Baghdad objects to this plan, and all of a sudden we start getting blue/green attacks in training camps in Iraq, do we then include Iraq in the area of ‘UN Control for as long as it takes’?

                  But anyway, this plan would increase, not decrease the refugee problem.

                  • BM

                    Kurds lay down their weapons and they won’t be shot.

                    Facts are a lot of places need a neutral organization to run them, until they learn to live together there’s no other option.

                    You fight you die, them’s the rules.

                    As for tax dollars, like most countries we have an army sitting around doing fuck all, you may as well put them to good use.

                    • Pascals bookie

                      There is no such thing as a neutral organisation. The UN is made of Nations, whom the troops will have to be drawn from.

                      This is just the magic wand nonsense that passes for thinking about the military on the right.

                      So the Kurds in Syria have to lay down their weapons to Turks, the Kurds in Iraq and Iran won;t react to this because they just won;t because magic, Syrian Kurds won’t cross borders to arm up and fight from outside the area of UN control because they just won’t because magic.

                      The Iraqi govt won’t care about what is happening in Syria and react in any way because they just won’t because magic. Hezbollah won’t do anything because they just won’t because magic.

                    • Pascals bookie

                      “As for tax dollars, like most country we have an army sitting around doing fuck all, you may as well put them to use.”

                      From the economic geniuses behind the GWB administration. Wars cost money, usually heaps more than you think they will.

                    • weka

                      It’s ok, BM has this whole Mad Max fantasy, so he’ll be happy to sign up for free. That, or we introduce conscription.

                    • miravox

                      Nice reading through that logical stepping Pb – thanks.

                    • Tricledrown

                      Boringly Mindless.
                      Redneck philosophy.
                      Why not just nuke em all.

                    • Anno1701

                      “like most countries we have an army sitting around doing fuck all, you may as well put them to good use.”

                      the NZDF would get chewed up and spat out pretty damn fast IMO….

                      our special forces are world class, but the rest of the “green” army not so much

            • Draco T Bastard

              People from outside the area can’t sort it – you’d think we would have learned that lesson by now. We could give aid to those there who are trying to sort it but even that would be a long considered decision. ISIS rose because of the support that the West gave them to oust Assad.

              • In Vino

                Quite right. We have caused this whole fiasco by supporting really dumb policies in the past. Starting (for simplicity rather than going earlier) with supporting George Dubya with his socially destructive invasion of Iraq. USA is still never going to succeed in Afghanistan – yet we supportively have troops there. Real dumb.
                We were dumb enough to believe in Right Wing propaganda about the so-called ‘Arab Awakening’. Ha bloody ha – how has that gone in Egypt, Libya, or Syria? We have colluded in causing the current situation, yet so few of us can even conceive of that idea. NZ needs to be nailed to its responsibilities for the current disaster, rather than pretending that we are some benign people from far away who may be able to provide a few places for a few refugees.
                Sickening evasion of admission of responsibility.

              • GregJ

                People outside probably can’t sort it but after nearly 5 years in the Middle East I’m not convinced those inside the area can sort it either – well not without considerably more bloodshed and oppression of minorities.

            • AmaKiwi


              “Like i said, no ones really trying to sort it.”

              Wrong. Throughout the region people are fighting with sophisticated WEAPONS THEY CANNOT MANUFACTURE THEMSELVES.

              People are displaced by major powers supplying advanced weapons to fighters on all sides.

              • Wayne

                Most of the weapons are not advanced. Mostly AK47’s, heavy machine guns, RPG’s, mortars, improvised explosives. The Middle East has been awash with these weapons for many decades. And there large stockpiles in many quite modest nations, who will supply anyone who pays. In the case of ISIS they have all the stuff they have got from the Iraq Army.

                So realistically not much will be coming from western nations, maybe some special optics gear and other surveillance gear.

                And the Syrian govt forces now seem to be using homemade “barrel bombs” dropped from helicopters. So while the Russians may be supplying logistics support, it clearly does not include new air to ground weapons, such as laser guided bombs.

        • Tricledrown

          Confused do us all a favour sneek out of the country go to Sryria and sort it out.

      • Pat 2.2.2

        sort out Syria…like we sorted out Iraq and Afghanistan you mean?

  3. Ad 3

    I will never have to go through what that poet has written about. Nor will I ever.

    I recall in Lower Hutt after World War 2 a cruise liner of Polish children turned up. They have made our country richer. By and large I trust our cultures and cultural frameworks to absorb and enable them to be productive and good citizens.

    I am also clearheaded enough to believe that different people are evaluated as security risks for very good reason. I really believe the SIS, Immigration border security, and other services, exist to protect New Zealand.

    I hate the MSM manipulating me for million-plus clicks. I don’t mind emotion informing judgement, but only a little.

    Perhaps 200,000 people turning up in Europe will encourage NATO armies not to bomb the crap out of countries over decades. Perhaps. There really are consequences to a high set of file flags, and everyone should be evaluated.

    We should let thousands more in. We should do it with discipline, with our eyes open, and with resource. Immigration – in extremis or otherwise – has made us who we are and we should be proud of it.

    • infused 3.1

      Read the process. You cant let thousands more in. Jobs need to be found, housing etc. Its a long process.

      • Draco T Bastard 3.1.1

        Yep. People just don’t seem to realise just how much work goes into relocating thousands of people into a country.

        • Pascals bookie

          Either that, or they are saying it’s worth doing that work, it needs to happen, and we should get started on it.

          • Draco T Bastard

            Sure – until they have to pay for it.

            That’s the thing about all this demand for the government to take in more refugees. It has to be paid for and that will (well, should) require higher taxes at which point they’ll probably shut up about it.

            IMO, people are demanding it but don’t understand that it will cost them. They’re just thinking that it will cost the government whom, after years of propaganda, they believe is ripping them off.

            • Pascals bookie

              A lot cheaper than this:

              “In my view it’s far better to help those people make their own homes secure rather than making it so that it’s easier for them to leave situations of their own making”

              But I disagree in any case. The cost of settling some thousands of refugees will not be exorbitant in comparison to many other things we spend money on.

              The amount we have spent on camps for example, is about the same as what we spent on an agrihub in Saudi Arabia, (which was signed off by cabinet fairly quickly and has seen no benefit whatsoever) I don’t recall our taxes being raised to pay for that. We are talking about some tens of millions, well within the MoE for treasury’s budget forecasts.

              • Draco T Bastard

                A lot cheaper than this:

                Probably not. If we help them sort their shit out then the costs come to an end whereas taking in more refugees would be ongoing.

                We are talking about some tens of millions, well within the MoE for treasury’s budget forecasts.

                Tens of millions over how many years? It’s not a one off cost but an ongoing expense. What is going to have to be cut so that we can pay for it?

                • Pascals bookie

                  Not my decision, I’m just reacting to your weird claim that no one realises it will cost anything. I doubt that is true. I’m just saying people who think we ought to do something, are saying we ought to pay for it to be done. Same as with any other political thing.

                  Now how much do you think your option of fixing syria would cost?

                  I see BM and infused are completely fucking clueless as per, but I’m curious as to what you meant?

                  • Draco T Bastard

                    Now how much do you think your option of fixing syria would cost?

                    Hard to say as it would be dependent upon what sort of support we gave. Education and leadership training, mediation services, shipping in food and supplies, helping them build infrastructure. All difficult but the type of stuff that could help them rebuild their community.

                    Could go from a couple of million per year to tens of millions per year. The difference is that this would come to an end whereas merely taking in refugees would be permanent.

                    • Pascals bookie

                      You do know there’s a war on right? Leadership training and education? Building infrastructure?

                      It’s the barrel bombs and artillery that are driving the refugee flow, not the civics

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      Of course I do. Obviously, that list isn’t comprehensive. The idea would be to look for ways to bring about the end of the war.

                    • Pascals bookie

                      So your alternative is to ‘try and stop the war somehow, idk’?

                    • Bill

                      That makes no sense.

                      Far cheaper to move a person in one direction to where all the stuff you want to shift in the opposite direction already exists.

                      Hmm. Since many of those people will be skilled up in all manner of trades and professions, then apart from the uselessness of doctors due to NZ medical fraternity running a closed shop, NZ would benefit hugely.

                      Also, if you haven’t yet read the poem I attached at the foot of the post, I’d suggest that you do. People aren’t fleeing Syria just because it might seem like an okay idea to them.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      Far cheaper to move a person in one direction to where all the stuff you want to shift in the opposite direction already exists.

                      Unlikely due to the problems of moving millions of people.

                      Since many of those people will be skilled up in all manner of trades and professions, then apart from the uselessness of doctors due to NZ medical fraternity running a closed shop, NZ would benefit hugely.

                      Bullshit. And that’s on immigration – refugees will be far worse.

                    • Bill

                      That article is a critique of the specific immigration criteria of NZ with all the low skilled migrant or seasonal workers who are enticed into working the agricultural sector and so on included. In other words, it’s skewed.

                      What needs to be looked at is permanent immigrants and their impact on the economy. If NZ is different to other western countries that have looked at this, I’d be surprised. All those other countries report that immigrants represent a net gain to their economy.

                      That aside, take a slice of a country’s population and you’ll get a representative cross-section of skills, aptitudes and what not. In the case of a country like Syria, those skill sets and their preponderance will probably be about the same as for the already resident NZ population.

                      The case of the people currently in Nauru, Manis Island and whatever other black holes Australia has thrown refugees into, that might not hold. It kind of depends on the make-up of the society they came from. Regardless, NZ should be taking a pile of those people in (as should Australia) and the places shut down for good. (They number only a few thousand))

                      Anyway, we aren’t talking millions of people, no matter the area looked at. If NZ was in Europe and so fielding the Syrian, Afghani and other refugees turning up on Europe’s shores, then the numbers would be around 25 000 if in-take was proportional to a country’s already existing population.

                      In the future, as climate refugees likely make it this way from various other Polynesian Islands, then sure, the total number of desperate people will increase. And NZ can put the systems and infrastructure to deal with them in place now.

      • AmaKiwi 3.1.2

        “You cant let thousands more in.”

        Merkel is not worried because 40% of the people coming to Germany have university degrees. Plus they are young enough and healthy enough to have made the arduous journey.

        Not such a bad intake for a country (like us) worried about its aging population.

  4. Draco T Bastard 4

    I wonder if the current public outpouring of sympathy for Syrian refugees is nought but a ‘fashion’, or whether it’s the beginnings of a renaissance for internationalism.

    I’ve been reading the articles of people turning up with toys and food and offers of places to stay for the last few weeks and wondered when it will all end. Today, tomorrow, next day? Because it really won’t be long before all these people realise that they don’t have enough individually to support all these people coming in and from there it’s just a step to realise that they can’t do it collectively either.

    In reality there are limits and people are all suddenly acting as if those limits don’t apply.

    An enduring solidarity towards all those ordinary people, who only find themselves in a precarious position due to extra-ordinary circumstances, would be a bedrock, a beginning.

    In my view it’s far better to help those people make their own homes secure rather than making it so that it’s easier for them to leave situations of their own making.

    • weka 4.1

      “In my view it’s far better to help those people make their own homes secure rather than making it so that it’s easier for them to leave situations of their own making.”

      We can’t even do that for Chch, what makes you think we can do that for people on the other side of the world in completely different cultural and socioeconomic situations?

      I do agree in the abstract that it’s better for people who live in a place to solve their own problems (assuming the resources are there to do that), because those people are going to understand the situation better than outsiders, and because in general outsiders have their own agenda. But I don’t see how we get past the problem of who gets to decide who gets to decide? Are you suggesting we leave them to it and offer resource support later once they’re sorted out who is in charge? Or something else?

      • Draco T Bastard 4.1.1

        Are you suggesting we leave them to it and offer resource support later once they’re sorted out who is in charge?

        Something else.

        We help the groups that want to bring peace to bring that peace through supplying of resources and education but not arms (the inflow of arms from outside is something I think is a major issue that’s exacerbating the war) as well as providing neutral mediation.

        • weka

          Which groups in Syria would that be? And the other countries/organisations involved? Would those groups be able to defend themselves with arms? How would the inflow of arms be stopped?

          I tend to agree with what was said above about there is no such thing as neutrality, but for the sake of argument, who could provide neutral mediation in Syria?

          I’m quite interested to see if this would actually work in more detail.

          • Draco T Bastard

            Which groups in Syria would that be?

            Did you see the bit where I said that that itself would be a long considered decision? We would have to look at the groups and see which are worth supporting.

            Would those groups be able to defend themselves with arms?

            Sure, we’re just not going to supply any.

            I tend to agree with what was said above about there is no such thing as neutrality, but for the sake of argument, who could provide neutral mediation in Syria?

            We don’t provide neutral mediation in Syria – we provide it here including transport and communications to and from here.

            • weka

              who is the ‘we’ in those 3 sentences?

              “Did you see the bit where I said that that itself would be a long considered decision? We would have to look at the groups and see which are worth supporting.”

              Who, specifically, would decide who is worth deciding?

              • Ad

                Personally I would hope that would be the UN. It’s their role.
                Won’t happen for a bit, but similar peace has held with their assistance in bits of Lebanon, Golan Heights, and the Sinai.

                Not that I’d be expecting leadership from NZ to propose the remit.

                • weka

                  One big problem with the UN is it has the Americans in it.

                  Plus, the issue of there being no such thing as neutrality in this context. Who would be able to do the things that Draco is suggesting without having their own agenda? Not saying it’s impossible (or possible), just that I’d like to see the detail thought through.

                  • Ad

                    There is no room for a “peacemaking” solution yet.
                    It will become possible after two points:

                    – once the Russians and Syrians together realize that their enclaves of control have shrunk to the point where there is no longer a viable state to recover from.

                    – but for the Russians to unlock their vote on the Security Council, they need to see the Iran sanctions vote pass the US Senate. That sanctions vote puts Iran into US orbit. That in turn will put the shits into Russia, because Syria would then have an arms funnel from the US through Iran to Syria – bypassing Russia. Russian influence shrinks, and Syria is no longer buying its weapons.

                    At that point Russia realizes it can move its UN Security Council vote.

                    US Senate Vote this week. Events are in the saddle and we ride.

        • Bill

          If ‘we’ were gods and there were no other players, then at a hell of a stretch….maybe. I doubt it, but hey, for argument’s sake let’s go with it. So ‘we’ provide all the support that might be required and don’t provide any arms.

          Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia continues to supply arms. Meanwhile, the Daesh still sells its oil on the black market. Meanwhile, Turkey still hammers the crap out of the Kurds. Meanwhile,… and so it goes on.

      • AmaKiwi 4.1.2

        “We can’t even do that for Chch”

        It’s not a priority in Chch. The Nat’s priority is lucrative contracts for the big guys.

        • weka

          yes, and it’s more complex than that. How many people in Chch voted National at the last 2 elections? How many people outside of Chch even care what is going on there? Or care about the democracy issues?

          • Puddleglum

            In the Christchurch urban electorates (not counting Waimakariri or Te Tai Tonga) in 2014 National received 80, 442 votes, Labour 43,961, the Green Party 24, 837, New Zealand First 12,596, Conservatives 5,766, Mana 1,401 and ACT 1,115.

            In 2011, the corresponding votes were: National 74.581; Labour 42,957; Green Party 23,226; NZ First 8,099; Conservatives 3,130; Mana 384; ACT 1.073.

    • locus 4.2

      – in my opinion, addressing the needs of the hundreds of thousands… millions… that the world’s wars are turning into refugees requires a long-term humanitarian response

      – that a long-term humanitarian response might encourage greater numbers to seek refuge is no justification to stop helping, nor is the ‘realisation’ that you might not have enough ‘individually or collectively’ to give the refugees

      – i agree that understanding and solving the root causes of the refugee crisis is critically important – wars, starvation, oppression… these are endemic in a world without humanitarian values

      – Draco, i can see where you’re coming from conceptually, but i don’t think that this is a ‘better one thing than another’ discussion… we have to have a wide front of preventive and mitigating strategies.

      I can’t agree with your view that: “it’s far better to help those people make their own homes secure rather than making it so that it’s easier for them to leave situations of their own making”

      … i’m interested though to hear your suggestions for “making their own homes more secure”
      – should wealthy nations pour in more aid into those war torn countries? should we intervene militarily? should we fund them to fight their oppressors and enemies? should we send in UN peacekeepers and press for diplomatic solutions? should we build and fund refuges in their own country? ….?

      Also, what did you mean by “situations of their own making”?

      if i were living in rubble, mortar bombs and anarchy – long-term promises of security would not stop me from doing everything i could to get my family to safety

      • Draco T Bastard 4.2.1

        that a long-term humanitarian response might encourage greater numbers to seek refuge is no justification to stop helping

        Good job I didn’t say that then eh?

        nor is the ‘realisation’ that you might not have enough ‘individually or collectively’ to give the refugees

        If we don’t have enough to help then we can’t help. No amount of money will change that.

        these are endemic in a world without humanitarian values

        IMO, it’s more that the world doesn’t have enough to support everyone and thus people fight to survive at an individual level which thus brings about wars and deprivation. Throw in religious intolerance and greed from the rich and powerful and goes downhill.

        Also, what did you mean by “situations of their own making”?

        They allowed it to get that bad in the first place. They really didn’t have to put up with the oppression of their authoritarian governments. Sure, the West holds some responsibility because they’ve been supporting those authoritarian governments because they wanted the resources that those nations have.

        • locus

          the world doesn’t have enough to support everyone

          this is your opinion – which is highly debatable, and somewhat off topic ……

          – the question to ask yourself is not whether we have ‘enough’ (i assume you mean food, land, resources, etc..) – it’s whether the rich and peaceful nations of the world have ‘enough’ compassion, or courage, or sense of responsibility, or a duty to give refuge to a few hundred thousand desperate people?

          – right now in New Zealand we’re certainly not doing ‘enough’ – and we certainly have ‘enough’ to do a heck of a lot more

          They allowed it to get that bad in the first place. They really didn’t have to put up with the oppression of their authoritarian governments

          – are you really saying that all of the refugees from these countries ‘chose to put up with oppression’ – that in choosing to keep their families safe by not rebelling against their dictator, they ‘allowed’ it to get that bad?

          – and i’m still interested in hearing your suggestions for how the world can make Syria a “more secure” place so that people don’t have to flee?

          • Draco T Bastard

            this is your opinion – which is highly debatable, and somewhat off topic …

            Actually, that’s what the science is saying. Note: Everyone wants to live like the most developed nations.

            and we certainly have ‘enough’ to do a heck of a lot more

            Where did I say that we shouldn’t do more.

            are you really saying that all of the refugees from these countries ‘chose to put up with oppression’ – that in choosing to keep their families safe by not rebelling against their dictator, they ‘allowed’ it to get that bad?

            Yeah, pretty much. Same as we’ve allowed NZ to get worse at the behest of business leaders over the last few decades. We didn’t have to.

            and i’m still interested in hearing your suggestions for how the world can make Syria a “more secure” place so that people don’t have to flee?

            Then I suggest that you read the rest of the thread.

  5. mac1 5

    In 1874 some of my ancestors left England and came to ‘the land of milk and honey’ as it was described by the Farm Workers Union delegates who came to see conditions here. England had been experiencing a rural downturn so there was a need for emigration. My ancestor had been forced into undetected poaching to supplement his income which had at one stage been earnt by fishing bodies, live and dead, from the Thames, and building railways.

    After one or two years, a public meeting was organised in Loburn in North Canterbury at which the complaint was made that Canterbury was being overrun by “the sweepings of the gutters of Europe’s cities”.

    My ancestor spoke at that meeting pointing out that his family was part of these ‘sweepings’. He spoke so convincingly and well that he was chaired from the meeting.

    Interesting that similar attitudes are being expressed again in New Zealand- the same ‘shut the gates’, elitist, denigration and bigotry that faced immigrants in the 1870s.

    Do we need to learn again the lessons of our history? What is the difference, except being even more dire, between my ancestors and those seeking a place of safety from Syria, or Somalia?

    Descendants of my mother’s people fought with distinction in two world wars, played provincial rugby and cricket, were champion dog trialists, farmers, teachers, nurses, coached provincial Rugby including long held Ranfurly Shield tenures; the usual success stories of pioneering families.

    We have room for more.

    • weka 5.1

      My people arrived here in NZ in the 1800s similarly, but they were immigrants not refugees. I think we need to keep in mind these differences. The immigrants from Scotland where my people came from in the 1800s were largely a consequence of change in culture via the Clearances, which was a form of community destruction in the name of profit. That those people came here and were enabled to do the same here (profit from stolen land) doesn’t make either situation right.

      I think that is different than people who are so desperate for a place to feel safe in that they risk their lives.

      I agree we have room for more refugees. I don’t know what we should do with our immigration policy, apart from the fact that it shouldn’t be based on neoliberal economics but rather on sustainability and culture.

      • mac1 5.1.2

        Yes, Weka, there are differences. My point was directed at the tawdry attitudes of people who now speak against increased immigration.

        One point though. The immigration of our ancestors was at some personal risk. Up to twenty per cent of immigrants perished at sea in the first half of the 19th century- some in the so-called coffin ships of the period. How the historical parallels abound between the two eras.

        The very ship my ancestor spoken of above sailed in failed to complete her 26th voyage.

        • weka

          “My point was directed at the tawdry attitudes of people who now speak against increased immigration.”

          Are you talking about immigration or arrival of refugees?

          • mac1

            Both, Weka. Refugees are migrants, as I understand it. And I am hearing criticism of immigrants be they driven by economic reasons, or reasons of war.


            On a similar level of thinking, where I live some people don’t want an emergency house set up as that would mean our town would be overrun by vagrants.

            • Psycho Milt

              Refugees are migrants, as I understand it.

              But not as the law understands it, which is what counts. We have an obligation towards refugees, but we’re free to tell migrants to fuck off back where they came from.

    • GregJ 5.2

      Nicely said.


  6. Ad 6

    “What’s the difference between my ancestors and those seeking refuge from Syria, or Somalia?”

    Their security profile.
    If you yourself even so much as travel to such a country, trust me you have been tagged and filed. And if you try and go back, you will be questioned.
    Let alone if you come from there.

    The Refugee Status Appeals Authority is littered with these arguments.

  7. adam 7

    I think your cynicism is right Bill. Many here and many others I talk to, don’t get internationalism. *sigh*

    An injury to one, is an injury to all.

    • weka 7.1

      I don’t understand what you mean by internationalism as a poltical term. Perhaps you could explain? I’d like to understand it and then look at in the contexts of sovereignty and sustainability.

      • adam 7.1.1

        International co-operation.

        The UN is a type of, indeed so is the world bank and the IMF. All of which ignored Mikhail Bakunin dire warnings about state institutions being inherently oppressive.

        One great irony is free trade was suppose to enhance internationalism and cross boarder communication. Especially amongst working people. How many here know there are major industrial disputes all across China as we speak? Or that conservative governments across the world are speaking the same lies to their population?

        It is but one of many reason why we don’t know internationalism.

        As a country we became so darn focused nationally, and getting sucked into the idea it is just happening here. Or worse – we are the centre of the universe.

        Personally I do it via the web a lot – talking to people, being in groups, actions on boards etc. I’m even old fashioned enough to write letters.

        Co-operation, and realisation – we are not alone.

        • weka

          I suppose I still don’t understand. In the age of TV and the internet, people in NZ for instance, have plenty of access to what is happening internationally, so that’s not it. I don’t think people in NZ think of NZ alone and don’t think about what’s happening in other places. I think many people in NZ don’t care about industrial disputes here or abroad. Or what conservative govts are doing here or abroad.

          On the other hand, I do believe in think global, act local, so my focus on solutions tends to be localised, but I spend a lot of time reading what’s happening in other places in the areas I am interested in (sustainability mostly), and I see a lot of cooperation there internationally. But I don’t believe in open borders for instance. So I still don’t know what you are talking about.

          • adam

            OK, the main point is the co-operation part.

            So when I talk to people in China about tactics and how to organise industrially, I’m working co-operatively.

            It’s the putting into practice and working with people across boarders which is the true internationalist thing here.

            I say

            Engage internationally, work locally. It’s just not enough to read about other people, but to know them as real human beings. Your five minute chat about seed saving, could just be the difference they need.

            • weka

              Ok, cool, so unknowingly I already do that via the internet when I am interacting with people there outside of NZ. And your point about knowing people as real humans, that is a political act I think, and perhaps this is more on topic, because how do we do that when we are this far away?

              So one of the things Bill raises is how to be real about refugees beyond the spike from this week that for many has come via the MSM and social media, but how much of it is genuine relationship building that will last?

              It also makes me wonder about what Draco is saying, and I think then it becomes obvious that that conversation only makes sense if there were actual Syrians in it (which is kind of where I am at with the whole thing, that here in NZ we don’t know shit about solving those problems unless we build those relationships).

              Am I starting to get it?

  8. cogito 8

    This article from the BBC is well worth reading:

    “Five reflections on Europe’s migrant crisis

    Arguments about names – “migrant” versus “refugee” for example – ignore the complexity of many peoples’ motivation.

    Speaking to Faris, a Syrian from Aleppo, at the Berlin refugee reception centre, it’s clear that he is escaping a vicious war.

    But when I asked him what he would think about a European Union quota system that might require him to move on to Poland or the UK he insisted, “I want to stay in Germany,” adding this was because of the quality of education available. As soon as he’s settled, Faris intends to send for his wife and children.

    The current argument within the EU about the so-called “Dublin 2″ rules takes us back though to the distinction between asylum seekers (or refugees in this context) and others.

    The rules dictate that people fleeing persecution or war seek asylum in the first EU country they get to. In the current crisis, this would most often be Greece or Italy, but it’s clear that many have no intention of settling there.

    By the simple definitions of the Dublin 2 rules, there’s not much debate – those who end up in places like the Berlin refugee centre are migrants since they have crossed through a number of other EU countries to get there. The search for a better life starts with physical security – but for a great many it is also tied to questions of opportunity.”

  9. miravox 9

    Beautiful poem, bill. Not much more needs to be said about the motivation of the majority of refugees to leave.

    I’m hoping that the very generous people ushering refugees through will be realistic enough to know that people seeking refuge are mostly just like themselves – good, bad, indifferent. Each with priorities that may or may not match their own.

    There is a lot of feel-good in this acceptance of refugees, but there should not be any romanticism. Long may tolerance for people continue – all with varying priorities, different personalities, perspectives and who are a mix of good and bad (just like us) and who have had various and affecting horrors in their journey.

    And this time, may the authorities and politicians get it more or less right in terms of asylum processing, settlement, funding for UNHCR camps and last but not least aid for a new agreement for settling differences (too early to ask for peace, I suppose) in the Middle East. None of these are mutually exclusive, but to me funding the camps and accepting refugees are the immediate priorities.

  10. xanthe 10

    Who makes the guns ?

    • Sabine 10.1

      …..who sells all the weapons, who flies all the drones, who props up what tin pot dictator to then topple that same tin pot dicatotor once he/she has lost value….thats not what we are discussing.

      what we are discussing is how we don’t want to be inconvenienced by the consequences of war coming to knock on our doors, and wanting to share our piece/peace with us….cause we don’t do well when we are asked to share.

      look over there a shiney object…..

  11. I wonder if the current public outpouring of sympathy for Syrian refugees is nought but a ‘fashion’, or whether it’s the beginnings of a renaissance for internationalism.

    Fashion. Once all the feel-good stuff is out of the way and there’s the mundane matter of hundreds of thousands more Muslims setting up enclaves and wanting their new country to be more like the shithole they escaped from, Europeans will wake up with a hangover and go back to normal. I’m picking three to five years, then further increases in support for right-wing nationalist parties.

  12. Gabby 12

    It worries me that Peter Sutherland, who is non-executive chairman of Goldman Sachs International and a former chairman of oil giant BP, and the UN’s special representative for migration, agrees with you.

  13. J Ryan 13

    If the west was on its knees, would we see the hand of compassion from the Middle East? Or feel the cold of the sword???
    Where was the hype recently when children were be-headed, where was the uprising when women are placed in a holes up to their shoulders and stoned to death, where was the masses protesting when gays were hurled from rooftops, where was the help offered when infidels, that’s people like us were sliced through the neck. And it takes the death of a boy to get the masses of sheep bleating with open arms, inviting the very religion that brings so much misery to the world. Everywhere this religion spreads it brings grief, conflict and intolerance. We all want to help, but to see the future of long term Muslim immigration look no further than Europe and England as they adjust their culture to accommodate the demands of this religion and it pushes for Sharia law. When you have a strong safe home, you protect it. One is also selective who you invite in.

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