“Show us the way to South Africa!,” said those thin, famished men, clearly Ethiopians who had come all the way from their country, dreaming of a paradise at the end of their road.
guest column: Fr Oskar Wermter SJ
Why do people get up and walk, up the mountains and down the valleys, crossing rivers and looking for sea-going vessels, unafraid of the ocean?
The people meant to receive them and give them a new life think the newcomers want to win their country, their wealth and prosperous living. But what drove them onto the highways and byways are not such dreams.
They seek a better life, true, but above all, they want to escape their suffering at home and find a steady income and a welcome among strangers. All that they are lacking where they come from.
There, young men are facing conscription into the army, to fight wars that waste their young lives, are paid almost nothing and live in fear and terror to be killed in senseless violence.
They look for the wonderful land of their dreams, and run away from the reality of their nightmares. From their own “failed State”, which is a no-man’s land, where there is nothing for them and their children.
They do not come to us so that we share with them what is ours. They love their country and want it to thrive and flourish. But oppression, exploitation, denial of respect for their human dignity, a state that deprives them of their life power and the fruits of their labour, taxing them almost out of existence, is more than they can bear.
Migration is caused by countries that produce very little, have no work places for parents who need to feed their children and see no openings. We may think they are mere parasites, lazy and unable to earn their own food.
No, their own leadership and government have driven them across deserts and oceans. They would do their work and earn a living if they were allowed to live their own quiet lives and were not pressed into military service and slavery.
The countries they hope to enter and settle in are wasting their time making life miserable for the immigrants. If they want to cut down on the crowds knocking at their doors demanding documents to make them “legal”, this is pointless and hopeless.
The leaders of these countries overrun by migrants need to work towards the rehabilitation of their “failed States”. There is no prosperity in countries that are unproductive and unable to employ workers.
There has to be dialogue and diplomatic contact, international trade and exchange of technology, and an international community of solidarity, of sharing their resources.
That requires a new vision and a new ethos and morality. A complete transformation of peoples and their leaders is needed to put an end to corruption and the abuse of what sustains the country.
Migrants may be highly skilled people. They may be able to make enormous contributions to the country of their birth. Such people are needed in their own homes.
Why should they run away and increase the wealth of already highly developed countries, while neglecting to push forward the development of their own countries?
I am indebted to the country of my birth. I have a duty to promote it and develop it. Given to me for free as mine, I must also make it go forward and make it flourish.
This country was created by my maker, who wants me to produce for the generation after me. Running away from reality will never do.
The people of the country that receive me are very well off. They do not need me and my labour to enrich them further. But my own country and my own people are miserable and need me very much.
Abandoning them — what good does it do to anybody? Sending home as much of my salary as I can may help for a time; it helps to keep the government causing our misery in power. That is a service we should not render to our slavemasters.
If there is a social breakdown, what is actually causing it? What is demeaning women? Prostitution. Yes, certainly. And why is there this abuse of women? Is it their own lack of morality? Their own lack of self-control and lack of self-respect?
No, it is the demand by the male population for certain “sexual services”. If men would not demand it, women would not provide it. There must be a market for a supply to become available.
In Scandinavian countries, they no longer arrest women seeking customers in the “sex industry”, but those male customers who keep the “sex trade” going. Primarily the men, not the women, are the moving force; they are the guilty ones.
One of the great evils in our world is drug-taking and drug-trade. Drugs are grown by small, impoverished farmers in Colombia and bought and sold in the United States.
That is where the demand is and addicts seek what satisfies their unquenchable addiction.
The Americans used to burn and bomb the coco fields and processing plants of the mountains peasants. That did not make a difference. The selling price went up, but the addicts were ready to pay any price. It did not change the market. It just made the traders even richer.
As long as there are people addicted to drugs, this giant business concern embracing the whole globe will continue to be enormously attractive. The Colombian peasants will not give up this crop if other crops do not keep them and their families alive. There is only one way to cut this trade down, and that is to bring down the demand for this stuff.
This, of course, means attacking a whole (rather rotten) culture and turn it round. Too many young people in the US are stuck in this rut and cannot be without the drug.
As long as this addiction continues, who will give up on the lucrative income from growing this drug and opt instead for an income of almost nothing?
As long as there is a demand, the supply will keep hitting the market and young addicts will continue being destroyed by that sort of poison.
Do not bomb the producers, but help the consumers to abstain; which would be a miracle, but there would be no other way to hit the worldwide drug market.
Only if the addicts fade away, will the market shut down. Only if new avenues are opened, and young people discover worthwhile tasks in a meaningful existence, and drugs are no longer a substitute for a wasted life , can we hope to be able to protect the next generation from this colossal waste of young lives and win the battle which rages all around the globe.
For any social disaster, there is a reason. There is something causing it. This needs to be discovered and exposed to the public, inside and outside our borders, everywhere.
Fr Oskar Wermter is a social commentator