“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
Though often ignored, the fear of the unknown is real: affecting us individually and collectively, it frequently camouflages anticipated enforced barriers, whilst conditioning self-understanding and generally inhabiting social interaction. As our society is subjected to ethnic diversity challenging accepted norms and treasured traditions, the fear of the unknown is tangible; ignoring it simply enhances its impact.
Racism doesn’t appear to be the norm, but this does not mean that the silent majority are happy to witness an increasingly migrant presence. But if we have to speak of migrants, then it’s important to distinguish at least between economic migrants and refugees.
While refugees should be given all the assistance necessary, together with residency and citizenship if and when necessary, economic migrants should be subject to objective criteria along lines long established in other countries.
These criteria should address two fundamental factors: the country’s ability to integrate them economically as equal citizens with all the rights and duties envisaged, and the immigrant’s willingness and ability to integrate within his or her adopted new social context.
Of course, an island tends to be clannish: the sea, while providing opportunities to enrich and define more clearly its identity, can also insulate it. Reassuring in troubled times; the sea can also be a source of unwarranted fear.
Things get murkier as the much discussed proposed passport scheme provokes praise or damnation, depending on which side of the fence one stands. Moreover the rush of irregular migrants further complicates things. Neither should our circumscribed space and relatively small numbers, expressive of a fragile socio-economic reality, be underestimated or ignored. Thus a nagging query: “Do we have the right as a sovereign state to choose who should be accepted to live within our borders?”
While not denying the prerogative to do so, it’s imperative that a conscientious effort be made to plainly identify immigration’s input within the local economy when answering this question. Fear is a self-consuming sickness that disarms our ability to think clearly, and that’s the point of this reflection.
Rather than being “politically correct”, it’s healthier to squarely face our fears, thus ensuring that we are not intimidated by the challenges confronting us. Motivated by the willingness to rationally discuss these difficulties empower us to focus on positive means to actively determine our future. The alternative is an insularity often associated with fringe groups exploiting salient but veiled fears to impose their own distorted views of what it means to be human.
A history regulated by fear ultimately leads to violence: the diverse is demonised, his (her) face is obscured, and its humanity scorned. Eventually this will simply ensure social instability, because the suppressed anger created will eventually overspill beyond the invisibly imposed ghettoes walls.
Concluding, history can be determined by our willingness to look forward and explore the opportunities rather than merely suffer the difficulties encountered. New challenges can strengthen our resolve to built on what has been passed on unto us by our forefathers. And if perhaps we doubt ourselves, let us not forget that there are historical examples of other communities who grew stronger and wealthier by exploring and transforming apparent difficulties. Moreover the history of our little archipelago reflects an underestimated diversity testified by our surnames: this should already serve as an eye opener to those who perhaps are tempted to use ethnicity as a tool to exploit existing veiled fears of the unknown.