It pains me to experience that I live in a world full of prejudice and hatred. It is not that I did not know. But, it continues to astound me and hurt me. Perhaps it has to, so that I do not become one of the people, who have distanced themselves from others.
This time, the discussion is around refugees from Asia and Africa, trying to escape from horrors in their own countries, by boat to Italy. So many people have already died, trying to make this trip. Still, boats filled to the rim with men, women and children, spite the fear of dying. To me, that is a testament that staying must be worse than dying.
I have experienced fear, indeed, but this kind of fear, I do not think I could even imagine. Could you?
Many, many Norwegians have commented on the news online today, wishing death upon these refugees, wishing that someone would take care of this “problem”. What if, that “problem” was you, or someone you love?
What if it were? A generation or two ago, life was hard here in Norway, and as many as 1/4 of our population travelled by boat to the Promised Land, the US and Canada, to build themselves a better life. Many were able to do just that, and built themselves a life, from hard work. What had happened if the USA and Canada did not want them there. What if they had sunk the ships? What if they had been full of hatred towards the people who wanted to buy a piece of land, so they could support themselves and their families? What if 1/4 of us had died a horrible death?
We need to have a political discussion on how many a small nation like Norway can save, that is true. This, though, is something far beyond a political discussion. This is a total lack of empathy. This is fear. This is an us-against-you attitude we have seen present so many time, when peoples of the world have experienced their privileges threatened. This is a way for us to distance ourselves from others, emotionally, and leaves us with a feeling of justification for our attitudes. This is simple psychology. This is a common defense mechanism. This is, by extension, primitive.
To those of you who say that some countries need to start to make the changes they want to see. I hear you! That is crucial. Does that make the tragedy less for those who feel that there is no other way than risking their lives on a boat? Hardly.
Imagine, 1941, a Norway occupied by the Germans. Some people lived in fear of their lives. A few decided to fight against the new regime, underground. Many died from it. Some could not live in fear anymore, and escaped to Sweden. Sweden, luckily, welcomed them and took care of them. They did not blame them for being in the situation they were in. They offered a place, in which they could continue to fight for changes, but away from the immediate fear of punishment and death. If it were not for them, for the Allies, the armed forced that helped…who knows where we would have been today. Desperately trying to board a boat along the coast to get to England? To Iceland? To anywhere that could seem like a save haven? Would you have gone? I probably would, even though the odds of surviving would be small. Because where there is not hope, there is no life….