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Stepping Up, Stepping In

Available housing in Europe as of February 2014.

Today the pope called on all institutions under his control to accept refugees fleeing the ongoing horror in the Middle East. Notable in beating the pope to the punch are some EU countries, Germany at their fore. Equally notable in their rejection of refugees is the UK, battling their influx through the only land connection, the Chunnel.

us_wallThe United States, with a rather larger body of water separating it and a frenetic tempest around illegal immigration and religious ethnocentrism, is having little to nothing to do with the millions probably permanently displaced in the years-long battle to eliminate Alawite control over Syria, which has turned into a war against the cancer that is DAESH. To say nothing of Chad, Mali and other African countries where terrorism in the name of religion metastasizes as the ripples of America’s destabilization of a quarter of the world in 2003 continues. America’s avoidance of social responsibility for its previous actions not only shames it, but reduces America’s standing among the nations of the world. If it — we — want to make a difference, we need to be part of the solution to this wave of immigration, not just the instigator. And throwing money at immigration and relocation efforts, while a poor way to do it’s share, would at least show the America is part of the family of nations.

Germany isn’t just accepting newcomers out of the guilt of its post-Holocaust heart: it’s doing it because new immigrants work hard, provide a steppingstone for existing citizens to move up in their professions and generally make the economy larger.

french_ghettosFrance’s immigration experiment has failed for a number of reasons, including treating non-“true” French as outsiders for generation, creating ghettos that surround Paris and other major cities, and a cognitively dissonant government policy of acknowledging Christianity while vociferously suppressing religious expression. Combine the negative birth rate of “native” French and a social system exceeding every other EU country in payer to beneficiary ratio, France is ill-prepared for an influx of even more people of passion about their religion requiring all manner of basic services.

Italy… well, the pope has spoken for his domain, but it’s doubtful the Italians, whose government rivals that of Greece is some ominous ways, can take in massive numbers of immigrants and successfully integrate them into their society.

Which brings me to he most interesting EU country in terms of immigration: Spain. The country has an almost death spiral of rural population, with entire towns up for sale or even being given away as people flock to the cities. It has a very small population relative to the size of the country, and, with its Moorish history, makes it an interesting choice for fleeing Syrians. I propose that EU countries not willing or able to host refugees pay for their relocation, en masse, to parts of Spain, including the rural northwestern provinces. There’s an existing infrastructure, their culture shock can be ameliorated, it’ll be easier to provide social services and it is not the start of a ghetto: it’s a chance for people to start a new life in a less traumatic way. Sure, there are possible issues, but the tragedy of migrant deaths are more pressing than the longer, generational issues of integration of immigrant populations into society.

Housing is available throughout Europe: countries need to step up and bring in the next generation of future, hard-working citizens.


Wallowing in the Corner

firstimpressionfearThere’s no more dangerous an animal than one trapped, cornered in the English idiom. In the wild no animal looks to be cornered — by definition it’s the worst place to be in the scheme of continuity of the species. Animals that feel trapped over time exhibit a wide range of behaviors, from antisocial aggression to cannibalism of the young. Lashing out wildly, instead of with purpose.

We humans have “evolved,” if that’s the correct term, to a point where we corner ourselves. We soak in the information available to us and whip ourselves into an emotional frenzy, gleefully aided and abetted by alleged news and (anti)social media. Where this typically happened in places with poor communication and where rumor trumps fact, it has spread from the nomadic clan through the conspiracy-minded to, in America, the mainstream. Extremism equals Islam to many. Terrorists are the other. No matter than some of our worst terrorist acts, excepting 9/11, were committed by extremists like Timothy McVeigh. (And there are plenty who would argue that the American government, for some reason, killed its own thousands — not Al Quida.)

When people are cornered they feel entitled to lash out: they’re defending themselves as if their lives are threatened. And that translates to many things: from police who shoot when other options are open to politicians who feel quite comfortable in their homophobia, xenophobia, trypanophobia. Not ethnocentrism (favoring one’s own ethnicity or culture), but outright anger, engendered by fear.

Citizens in free countries look to representatives and leaders to chart the best course for the whole population. Acting out of personal, usually imagined, fear garners nothing for the country be a spread of the plague of cowardly anger.

The High Neap Tide

As I write this the US/coalition attack on ISIS has begun in earnest. I hope that civilians can find shelter and that forcing attacking ISIS keep safe.

An air offensive has a precipitously steep decline in impact on a war: lots of juicy primary, secondary and tertiary targets, and then it’s a $500,000 device to kill three guys in a jeep.

That doesn’t mean this is the wrong thing to do: it means that this won’t stop ISIS. The only way to stop it is to stop the funding (not that the US has the guts to take on Qatar directly — there’s too much oil involved). And make it so a governing body wants to take care of its citizens, not kill them as meaningless ants, as the Assad regime has been doing for going on three years.

But to see this as the alpha and omega of destroying ISIS is a delusion: the really hard work comes after ISIS gets bombed into the stone age. Boots on the ground, bodies shipped back home. Whichever the country, this must end with a ground operation.