There have been at least two generations of refugees in my family, that and a bridge of the potential Clash of Civilizations. I am intensely grateful to the humane impulse of the immigration officer who waved my Granny and mother across the border instead of following the book. The whole thing worries me sick.
The Greeks got a lot of press last month; the previous 20 months not so much. The welcoming impulse is real it is human, people on the frontlines often do most. The institutional welcome is more problematic. The long term impulse to welcome doesn’t have historical precedence. The Swedes and Austrians have absorbed many, with considerable generosity; the balance sheet (economic and/or psychic) doesn’t seem likely to hold much longer. The Poles have a long tradition of xenophobia – they emerged from the Black Death with 1% of the death-toll of their neighbours and as the de facto European power. The Greeks who have long been getting the massive first wave may be more stoic, or more indifferent. Tolerating such large amounts of illegal immigrant street vendors of tax-free cigarettes wouldn’t work in Norway.
But here is my point: the culture of welcome may have a very short shelf life. The Capital of a cultured approach to the teeming masses may work temporarily, but it is subject to considerable backlash. Beyond the footage of proud Syrian families, grateful to be fast-tracked by the Greek authorities to the nearest border to the North, were the other migrants who wouldn’t exactly open the doors and hearts further up the line. The world shall offer us no end of failed states: Syria was a climate crisis before it turned into a political catastrophe. The impeding crop failure in SE Asia, will screw the pressure up yet another notch. What happens when the entire population of East Bengal goes on the run: a massive build of hexayurts in the currently thawing Siberian tiagra?
I once wrote in a Canadian context that 'a family of Métis will be sharing your house – this can be rewritten with any number of population groups soon heading this way. I am not convinced any of us have the cultural knowhow and flexible reaction patterns to absorb but a fraction of this development.