By Victor Schultz
According to many rising stars of the multiple populist movements around the globe, there is an epidemic of refugees and foreign migrants that is besieging their nations. These untamed hordes of job-stealing, cattle-rustling, no good rascals are accused of ruining economies, corrupting moral values, and are trying to proselytize governments into draconian theocracies. To these new nationalists, immigration is the primary source of a country’s problems.
Is that statement an over-exaggeration of the populist opinion? Not according to Madame Marine Le Pen, French National Front darling and aspirant to the French Presidency. She’s gone on record likening the influx of Muslim refugees to German Occupation during the wars. Mme. Le Pen has also stated that all Muslims wish to impose Sharia Law on all of France, despite demonstrating only a dodgy understanding of what Sharia is when asked to elaborate. Additionally, she conveniently ignores the fact that many refugees are fleeing countries with such an arrangement in place.
Perhaps the most striking example of this mindset is President Donald Trump. (It wouldn’t be a topical article without mentioning him at least once) One of his staunchest platforms was his plan to build a “Great Wall of America” to keep out immigrants. Freedom and liberty are great, but the land of opportunity should only have opportunity for the real Americans. No, not the Native Americans, just the ones that immigrated in first. You know, the real Americans. Anyone who immigrated here with the first colonies, up until Alaska got its star stitched onto the flag. Those ones. Just them, they get opportunity.
And of course, nations like Japan and the UK have a bit more xenophobia in their society due to the geographical advantage an island nation enjoys. Often, the xenophobic attitude isn’t even outright hostility, instead manifesting more as a condescension or just passive isolation of foreign elements. Thanks to the EU, and also the complicated monarchal webs that were spun in the middle ages, Britain can claim a much greater cosmopolitan outlook than Japan, but even so, the Brexit vote shows that wariness and fear of migrants has not left the UK.
Japan, on the other hand, largely pursued either an isolationist or an imperialist attitude for the majority of its history, and this is still reflected in many of the policies for migrating or attempting to nationalize.
So globally, there’s a lot of bad vibes towards anyone trying to move around from one country to another. The reasons that generate these attitudes are varying, if unsurprising. Us-versus-them mentalities, nationalistic pride, religion, and instinctive territorial behavior have all been blamed. All or none of these reasons would make sense.
Right now, the more important focus that an individual needs pertains to what one can do about it. Is this an attitude you want to encourage? That’s going to take a lot of mental gymnastics, as it’s likely that you are a migrant reading this. For the most part, you need to do what you can in your own sphere. Be kind to strangers. Represent yourself well. Educate yourself and avoid preaching to others. No one enjoys getting sucked into Facebook debates, but if a family member or close friend says something that perpetuates mistrust without reason, or is just outright wrong, don’t be afraid to speak up.
It’s so easy to distance ourselves from big concepts like government or society, and thus remove any culpability for the negative aspects of these larger structures. But the people and the resulting policies in power are what we collectively allow them to be. It’s good to remember that.