Friday, 4 September 2015

People Like Us

I dunno. I've tried not to listen to Twitter on Syrian refugees. Trying to disentangle genuine heartfelt anguish at the struggle and disaster people are facing - the majority -  from people just wanting to make a party political point, from utter racists. It's all a bit much. And our heartfelt responses aren't necessarily always the best. And I still don't see that sharing photos of a dead child - especially when the media is already doing it - is the right thing to do.

Should David Cameron have done more earlier? Yes, I reckon. Does declaring we "welcome refugees" without thinking about the consequences of that statement - of more, not fewer, unsafe boats heading out into dangerous water - does that risk increasing the disaster? Yes, probably. That mere message, regardless of what we actually do, may have that effect.

Was invading Iraq an act of monumental stupidity and hubris? Yes, for sure. Was providing indirect upport to remove the Libyan leadership because the Arab Spring seemed to be a good thing a mistake? Yes, in retrospect.

Was David Cameron a fool to want to bomb Assad's forces in Syria? Oh boy was he. Would it help people to go home quicker, if we swallowed our pride and principles and made common cause with Assad against Isis? I don't know. I'm an Archdruid, not a sooth-sayer. You'd still want to protect the Kurds from him, and for that matter protect them from Turkey.

And can I understand why people who are at least moderately safe in Turkey decide to take a massive risk and get on a dangerous boat - knowing how dangerous it is - in the hope of a better life? Frankly I can't. But I'm not there. I don't know what dreams and fears drive people.  Maybe I'm just not as brave as them.

But I know this. We can disagree on policies, practicalities and the best way out of situations. But people who aren't like us are not swarms, tides, or dogs. They're people. They may speak different languages, have different faiths, come from different backgrounds. But they're still people. They have dreams for the future and aspirations for their families. They have hopes and fears. They act, in times of peril, remarkably like us.

And the reason for that is that people who aren't like us, are actually just like us. Whatever we work out as the best way to deal with a complex, fast-moving, hideous situation - that's still the place to start.


  1. I feel the same way; although, if it takes a picture of a little boy washed up on a beach to make us realize that human well-being is far more important than religions, cultures, economics and politics then I suppose that's progress of sorts.

  2. I agree with Steve. We need to combine the romantic heartfelt, Don-Quixote, urge to rush in with the practical nitty-gritty skills of Sancho Panza in order to deal with the crisis. Romantics are all welcome, especially if they are willing to work in tandem with, say, brigadiers!


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