fear is clenching my throat and i yet i do not know where to point first to identify the problem. what i know is that it is not an overwhelming or imminent fear. i do not feel personally threatened or harmed in any way. but maybe this is only because the problem is not clearly identifiable. yes, i am talking about “the migration crisis”, as media calls it – but not just about that. this crisis is only one piece of the puzzle. look at the bigger picture! it is a slow fear; almost like a shadow, cold and dark and ever expanding the further i try to run from it.
i am afraid of the wars; of those that already are, those we still deny happening, those we blatantly ignore, and those we do not yet see coming. where to start explaining this world? the south chinese sea is brewing. china and japan and by extension the united states are eyeing each other. east and west are bumping horns again. ukraine is a mess. and so is libya and syria; and iraq despite most media ignoring it. and have you ever heard of yemen in the past few weeks? people are starving, dying, suffering. egypt and turkey harden their grip on their population. and let’s not even speak of israel and palestine. the balkans are as always in a state of imbalance with nothing but a strong lid of international pressure keeping this bomb from ticking. and i don’t even know what is going on in the continent of africa or latin america! but, to tell you the truth, i am also afraid to ask because i can guess that corruption, civil strives, and suppressions are ever mounting. in gambia, i happen to know, the homosexual laws top those of russian homophobia by miles. and in mali, south sudan, and burkina faso daily life is a mess as well. sadly, some of my readers won’t even know where most of these countries are. and those of you who do are likely to shield themselves in the bliss of ignorance, as i do it quite honestly myself as well; just think if we were aware of all those problems for real – i would not know how to sleep at night! all we get to do, blissful population of those lucky ones born on the right side of the planet, is to relax in the fortress of europe, swing flags of international solidarity, and put some buckets of water onto a conflagration; and then we get to be shocked by the amount of people who are running in our doors.
i am afraid of the migration crisis. either way, either reaction, either action – there will be consequences that are yet unknown. what are the possible scenarios? 1) europe closes the doors to migration. shielding itself from the many ‘imported problems’ in health, expenses and other religions. but thereby europe will lose the standing in the world it worked so hard to build – a european foreign policy based on human right demands will be hard to uphold now without being called hypocrisy. and consequentially, the european union of states loses the only connecting variable across its 28 members. 2) europe opens the doors to refugees. might be that migration becomes even more than what we already see. either way, the right wing parties will gain in the next elections. the society will be increasingly polarized. media puts gasoline on the hot coals. and the social system of central european states will be overstretched to an extent where we will need to rethink it entirely. yes, we would relief those countries surrounding the conflict zones; countries like lebanon, jordan, turkey and the kurdish region of iraq and thereby likely avoid a potential collapse of another few states in the region. and yes, we would be able to put some integrity into europe’s external posture of valuing humanity and rights and solidarity. – either way, there will be consequences. openness of the borders makes people afraid. and closeness of the borders confirms to people that they were right to fear “the other” from the beginning. the unknown makes people afraid; it always has and always will. it’s just that i am not sure whether to be more afraid of a restrictive european migration policy or of the consequential rise of right wing politics due to liberal migration policies?
i am afraid of rising nationalism and right wing politics. it seems an unavoidable consequence. the more we stand up to declared values, treaties, and rights for humanity, the more fear takes over politics. people are worried about being “overwhelmed”. overwhelmed by “the other”; “our nation” is in danger. welcome back, nationalism! “us” versus “them” becomes the main tone of conversation again. and i already had more than one friend of mine tell me “i was shocked to realize how many friends i have who are racist and mean and ignorant towards refugees”. if friendship circles start to break and those you think to know suddenly show sides you never thought possible – you know that society is polarizing. right and wrong. black and white. and suddenly, as the stupid find themselves thinking they are the many, people start voicing ideas and thoughts that might have caused a social exclusion just a few years ago. “burn them all” they said. who thought that oh so gloriously civilized europe would be able to hear a sentence like that again – publicly! on social media. welcome back, far-right! i just wonder which color the new national-socialists will wear this time around.
i am afraid of the radical left. but just as much as the right is frightening me – and it frightens me as i can not, by the life of me, understand how (apparently) non-existent human empathy can be! – the left is frightening me too. as fear is mounting in society, sides have to be chosen. with us or against us? for me, this is the root cause of the problem. as a german singer and songwriter, konstantin wecker, once said quite wisely “following without thinking (meaning: critical reflection) can not be good, not even for the best cause”. and when some people on the left see fit to utter statements of wanting to burn police stations, i can not help but freeze in astonishment of their equal radicalization to the right wing which they so openly criticize and fight. to me, radical is radical; left, right, religious or atheist – and them fighting each other is like the pot calling the kettle black.
i am afraid of the state. in both a left and a right wing state, in both a small and a big nation, in both, fear breeds polarization and nationalism. but fear also prepares the breading ground for terrorism. why? because terrorism feeds off fear. if you are afraid already, a tiny act can make a crown jump. and this, by definition, is the character of terrorism: “if the act itself is disproportionat(ely smaller) than the consequential fearful reaction” (gerard chaliand). so what does this have to do with the state, you ask? well – remember charlie hebdo? i assume you do. but what most people do not remember is the consequences of hebdo. european states, most of them in fact, increased their level of alert. “level of alert” however is not a nice phrase of a meaningless metaphor expressing the need to be cautious. in every country the level of alert comes with actual legal(!) consequences. suddenly, for example, “in dubio pro reo” is no longer a necessity. you can be put under any form of police pressure and attention by mere suspicion only. obviously, the “normal” french or german or austrian or polish citizen will not feel this limiting of civil rights a lot. it is “them” who the state seeks. but, remember, remember, the 27th of February 1933 – eventually ‘the state’ might turn towards you as well. why, you ask? for “national security”. bollocks, you say? did david cameron not call the labor party a threat to national security as recently as yesterday? if political parties and opinions can be called a threat … where does it start, where does it end? or let me ask you differently, at which point are you afraid?
dear reader, my intention is not to spread fear. i would even hate to intensify it with this message. what i aim to do with this message instead is make you aware of your own fears – and the consequences to them. all i am saying, apart from ‘i am afraid’ (and i am!), is ‘be aware’ – wars and conflicts approach slowly; like a shadow. after all, also the second world war generation expressed how they were “surprised” by the societal polarization, the extremism, the radicalism, and the resulting hatred and violence and inhuman behavior of “civilized societies”. it is only in the aftermath that it seems “so obvious” that this was coming. and i personally would rather jump too early than be too ignorant to ever see it coming; so yes, i am afraid.
i am afraid for the many who are too ignorant, too little informed, too stupid, or too weak to resist following the right or the left in pursuit of belonging and expressing what they dare to call an opinion. i am afraid for the few who are still able to resist both the pressures of right and left tearing them into polarization and the waves of media hyping fears. i am afraid for the many who died and are still to die in the wet grave of the mediterranean sea, the burning heat of the desert, or the dark and lonely infinity of yet another forest border crossing. and i am afraid for the few who actually manage to escape the suppression, the fear for life and existence, and the burning pain of suffering from losing loved ones on the way only to end up in the most dehumanizing of all conditions in a country of physical safety and psychological torture.
and i am afraid for my own life, because sooner or later, i fear, i will have to make a decision; between acting through actions or acting through blissfully ignoring the world around me, between leaving a right wing country and continent or staying and fighting back, and between my own ‘career’ and the values i grew up with and stand to defend.