Our world is changing, piece-by-piece, sometimes at a searing pace. In this environment, it gets harder to imagine what it means to be a citizen. In many ways we are all becoming global citizens, even though some of us are keen on fighting the change that is coming. The issue of citizenship is an important one because it is one that we tend to use in order to separate ourselves from others. Technological advances have allowed us to become more connected on a larger scale than ever, yet we still hang on to old ideas about belonging and otherness.
Globalization has changed everything, and continues to change things. Whereas American consumers could once say that the products they were buying were made in America, these days, many products in the American marketplace are made elsewhere. This simple fact is enough to create resentment towards people from other places. If you feel as though what was once yours has been yanked from its roots, it is not beyond reason to think that other people are now the beneficiaries and you are left with nothing. This is one of the side effects of globalization. The more businesses expand their outlets and look for ways to be more efficient and cost effective, the more regular people will be cut out of the process. In America, that has meant that a lot of people have lost jobs that once guaranteed them and their families, a comfortable life for generations. Having to start over or carve a different space when this vital resource is removed is a daunting task.
However, it is important to highlight the fact that globalization plays a major role in the refugee crisis that the world is currently grappling with. It is globalization –under the veil of multiculturalism that brings multi-national companies to far-flung places, in search of resources to plow. This in change gives opportunities to unscrupulous people who want a piece of the pie and are not opposed to breaking the rules to get what they want. It is globalization, which brought the message of American style democracy to places in the Middle East that has led to the displacement of millions of people and little chance for actual democratic processes. It is globalization, which has forced the destabilization of once stable places.
Historically, in moments of strife, the world has not always been quick to come to the rescue of people in need. The fact that the Jews were sent back from the United States is one clear example of this. However, the United States traditionally has done a better job than most in welcoming displaced people. What led to the so-called melting pot of America is the fact that this country was willing to be a place of refuge for people who had nowhere else to go.
we look at refugees with caution, if not outright disdain
In today’s world, because of the so-called war on terrorism and other well-crafted propaganda about the otherness of people who do not fit the image of acceptable people, we look at refugees with caution, if not outright disdain. Suddenly we are less willing to open our doors for people in need, and even less willing to open our arms to make them feel like they have a place in the world. We, and I mean we in a global sense, those of us living in the western world, have less tolerance for what we cannot understand.
Ultimately the case can be made that the plight of today’s refugees comes down to the fact that there are sections of the world where their rights as humans are neither respected nor acknowledged. Places where ideas of what society should look like are projected upon them rather than organically their own. So when they come to our borders, our doors, when they trudge along our fountains, wallowing in despair because they have been displaced, perhaps on some level, they have a hard time feeling human. To be able to have human rights one must first be human, and as long as we are unable to see refugees as members of the human race, we are unable to sympathize with them. Refugees need, above anything else, hope. Hope that what they’re running to is measurably better than what they ran from. They need hope that while their new life will be full of unknowns; they can come out on the other side of it with a better future.
As is often said, there is no one size fits all answer to the world’s problems. Where it concerns those who unfortunately have been forced by accident of birth and displacement, to seek refuge in lands beyond what is naturally theirs, we must refrain from looking at them as numbers in a story of migration, but rather as humans, people, with hopes and fears aligned with our own. We must seize the opportunity to show every young man and woman who has had to make difficult decisions about their future, that there is space for them in the world beyond what is currently a horrendous lived experience.
For a little rounder introduction to globalization take a look at Manfred B. Steger’s book Globalization: A Very Short Introduction