Thursday, 17 March 2016

One German View of the Migrant Crisis

Part One 

Notburga tries to sort out how she feels about the million-plus refugees/migrants in Germany and begins, as Germans can't seem to help doing, with the Second World War.

I don't believe Notburga is older than 35, which would mean she was born 35 years after the Second World War ended. Neither Notburga nor her parents (presumably either small children or not yet born in 1945) had any responsibility whatsoever for anything that happened in Germany during the Second World War. Nevertheless, like every other German I have met of Notburga's generation, she is haunted by Germany's role in that war. In 2006, when I commented on the egregious behaviour of English football fans then strutting around Frankfurt, a 21 year old boy said, "Well, we bombed Coventry."

Notburga mentions that two of her grandparents were refugees, only what she means is that they fled from the easternmost regions of then-Germany to more-western Germany--presumably before they could be murdered or otherwise ethnically cleansed out to make room for the Poles being ethnically cleansed out of what is now called Ukraine. The snottiness her relations encountered about being "Poles" reminds me of the snottiness southern Italians have encountered in more northern Italy about being "Africans" and even of Canadian Newfoundlanders confronted with unkind "Newfie" jokes in Ontario.

However, Notburga's grandparents were (I believe) ethnic Germans who went to live with other ethnic Germans and rebuild Germany with all the other badly off post-war Germans. It was an entirely different situation from that of refugees and economic migrants sitting in Germany right now. Strikingly, nobody in the 1940s had a mobile phone, and whatever men at leisure to flee were all accompanied by women. (How many German men of military age were not, between 1939-1945, either at the front or POWs?) However badly contemporary Germans want to feel about 20th century Germans, German men didn't have so much a sense of masculine superiority that they would willingly leave their female relations to armies of rapists, if that's what it took to save their own skins.

For, despite her attempt to identify with the refugees, Notburga mentions the embarrassing detail that most of them ("a curious preponderance") are young men without any family. She also reports that attempts to keep Christian refugees safe from attack by Muslim refugees by segregating the two groups--which should not be a radical idea to any historically Catholic/Protestant country--have been rejected. Why this is, is a little unclear. Is it because the "Muslim" centres will be burned down at a greater rate? It seems rather mean to let refugees persecute other refugees, not to mention cowardly to allow a continuation of the persecution from which the Christian refugees have fled.

Well, I don't want to critique Notburga's piece too harshly. For one thing, she was clearly browbeaten  into writing it. But what strikes me about it is that it is not so much a picture of the refugee crisis as it is of a thoroughly educated, 21st century German mind. Take these sentences: No one nice dares to say that in the long-run (at least after the immediate crisis has past) it might be a country’s right to decide which rate of permanent immigration it thinks is compatible with national welfare. Actually, even hypothetically writing this, a part of my mind denounces me as a crypto-fascist.

Part 2

I frankly believe it is citizens' right to decide which rate of permanent immigration they think is compatible with national welfare, and no part of my mind denounces me as a crypto-fascist. When I have a vague thought that one might as well give up and let the world become one vast Toronto--Toronto is a nice place--I denounce myself as a traitor to all those little countries whose cultures would be swallowed up by whatever percentage of the world's 7.4 billion people might decide to move there. If everyone who wanted to move to Paris moved to Paris the effect would not be Toronto (let alone Paris), but Calcutta crossed with Beijing, much to the disappointment of the Indians and Chinese who moved to Paris.

Any fair-minded reader should now be screwing up their eyes and asking, "And what about you?" True, oh reader. Good point. It is a terribly irony that of all the voices on Scottish buses I hate most, it is the North American. My ear isn't usually good enough to distinguish urban U.S. accents from Canadian, so I have to assume some of that overly loud, air-piercing, concrete mixer gable is coming from Canadians, and so I sound like that, too.

Who knows what Americanizing effect I am having, in my own small way, on Scottish culture? However, to be honest, I was raised with Scottish values by women of Scots ancestry, so I do not feel any more at war with wider Scottish society than I did with wider Canadian society. Above all, I believe in the right of a Briton born in Britain to live in Britain with the spouse of his/her choice, no matter where that spouse is from or how grating his/voice on my nerves. It is perhaps a very old-fashioned notion, but it goes together with my old-fashioned belief in the nation-state.

It is inevitable that cultures will change as they mix and intermingle. Can this be stopped? Should it be stopped? I see in today's Telegraph that elderly Englishmen and Englishwomen in Yorkshire have been prevented by Muslim caregivers from eating bacon sandwiches. This was in Bradford, which has the largest proportion of people of Pakistani origin (20%) in England. However, that is not a lot of people, as Bradford has, tops, 529,000 citizens. There are more people of Pakistani origin in Toronto than in Bradford, but I do not foresee any bacon sandwich bans there because Toronto is too diverse for members of any one group to impose their own dietary prejudices on the elderly.*

This, I think, is the secret to Toronto's relative success. The city is not 80% Old Toronto (which is to say, Canadians of mostly pre-war British migration stock) and 20%  A Unified Group That is Entirely Different, but (by ethnicity) English (12.9 %), Chinese (12%), "Canadian" (11.3%), Irish (9.7%), Scottish (9.5%), Indian (7.6%), Italian (6.9 %), Filipino (5.5%), German (4.6%), Polish (3.8%), Portuguese (3.6%), Jamaican (3.2%) and so forth.

One group not mentioned by the Wiki article is the one actually native to Toronto, which is to say the Mississaugas of New Credit.  Wiki says that in 2005 there were only 1,375 of them left. Mass migration with no respect for the wishes of the original inhabitants certainly took its toll. The major difference is that the Mississaugas really didn't have a choice.

P.S. Happy Feast of Saint Patrick to readers in Ireland and Irish ex-pats but not to anyone else because, having made apparently unconvincing claims to Irishness in my youth, fake Irishness now drives me nuts. (I permit myself make claims to Irish Catholicism when someone around is badmouthing Irish Catholicism.)

*Update: After pondering the justice of this statement, I think I should add that there must be other factors in play, including education, career choices/skills, Canadian priorities in admitting immigrants and opportunities. I have read that 90% of caregivers in Canada are Filipino; whereas this may be an exaggeration, it does suggest another difference in the cultural dynamics at play in Bradford and in Toronto.

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