Refugees and populism

This time I’m writing on a hot topic. Not hot because of its popularity, but hot because it causes controversies, pain and even war.

People tend to classify everything they get in contact with: colors, numbers, food, things and even people. How many classifications of the human race have there ever existed? If I remember the history book on Colonial New Spain, there were quite a lot. Now, how many wars have included racial definitions, belief or other human definitions as reasons to fight for?  What is race? What is religion?

We have all been following the press reporting on the US presidential campaign, either, if we are interested or not,  A radical and racist guy, we know who, is running a campaign to be elected President of one of the most influential countries in our times. In Europe, it’s not that clear because there are usually more than two parties running for elections. However, in France a party of the extreme right has been elected and has won in many of the French regions or départements. Germany has had a history of racism that caused millions of deaths is having again a problem that may have to do with the definition of ‘race’ believed by some people, maybe too many.   There is now a new party, the AfD or ‘Alternative für Deutschland’ a right-wing populist political party founded in 2013 that has won 7.1% of the votes and 7 out of 96 German seats in the 2014 European Parliament.  Some years ago, the Green Party was the third in the country and now?

In my opinion this party supports those old views and and is even worst than the New Nazis party. The New Nazis were mostly supported by young men with little chances in society, many unemployed or with bad paid jobs, with very little education. This has changed in the past years and the new extreme right is now supported by educated people and more women have been participating actively and have even got higher positions in this new party. If we look at the traditional way of life and the way families are organized, women are the ones responsible for passing their values to their kids, that is, to the next generation. These women and men are well educated…

(If you speak German, watch the documentation: Die Anti Asyl Front , http://goo.gl/KxgogV on German TV)

We my come to the conclusion that in Europe this phenomenon may be caused by the millions of refugees that have got there last year and the thousands who have tried it by sea in the last years crossing the Mediterranean and dying in the intent. This may be the case in Europe, but where are the millions of war refugees trying to get to the US? Isn’t ‘America’ an immigrant country or better an immigrant continent? I really dislike the idea of calling the US by ‘America’.  Since the 16th century people have been arriving there. Who were at that time the refugees?

I used before the word ‘race’, how do you define it? We are in the 21st Century, haven’t they heard about genetics? About the origins of the homo sapiens? about phenotypes? I have just read an article in the German paper talking about the Neanderthal genes that we all have.  Even in the same family, one child maybe blond and another have dark hair, one can be short another tall, one can have blue eyes, the other brown. What does this have to do with race and more, what does this have to do with nationality?  I wonder…

What is now happening in Europe, more precisely in Germany, where I lived for more than 20 years, is really shocking. On the one hand the arrival of more than a million of people with nothing would collapse any country and forgetting that not all are good souls, it simply gives me the creeps. Imagine that you invite two or three friends to dinner and they arrive with their families, friends and even their neighbors…  Oh, and they would stay indefinitely. I imagine that you wouldn’t be that pleased.

Germany, well, Angela Merkel, was the one who offered to welcome the refugees and to help them and the country started receiving refugees not only from the Middle East, mostly from the bombed Syria. However, Germany is already very crowded in a small space and the land doesn’t have enough space or schools or hospitals or homes for the people already living there. I don’t want say Germans because exactly using that term is what causes so much tension. Are only Germans entitled to live there? Who are those Germans? By nationality because they live and are registered there or because of their ‘blood’?  The ones living there, working, paying taxes, with children in school, or the ones whose families were there for generations and they may look a little bit alike? Are the first ones less ‘German’?

The current situation with a rise of populists parties all around Europe is not only a result of not liking foreign or different looking people, but it has also to do with the fact that people in the middle of the society fear loosing their status and their work gained position in society. This fear is exactly what those populists do, agitate people using their fears against those who are different or foreign.

I really would like to know where all this is going, but I prefer not to think and not to imagine… The scenarios may be horrible.

To understand a little bit more, you may read the following article: https://goo.gl/s8W0he

Madame Mallory and bureaucracy

Imagine a nice village in the South of France. The smell of herbs, lavender, thyme, rosemary… The quietness of a house out of the village with a marvelous sight and a restaurant with the best French cuisine ever. Does this sound attractive enough? To vary your meals you may want to eat at the other restaurant in town, an Indian specialty restaurant. In the middle of nowhere?

Sometimes we have dreams that seem risky or impossible to achieve. Other times destiny or life, as you may want to call it, puts us on a difficult path and we have to throw away our initial plans or way of life. This happened to a numerous Indian family living in Mumbai who have to leave their country and get to Europe to try to rebuild their lives. However, their first choice turns out to be cold, wet and with vegetables and fruits that have no soul. Therefore, they move again searching for a nicer place. “Destiny’ takes them to France where after some initial difficulties they can finally open an Indian restaurant.

The film “The Hundred-Foot Journey” with Helen Mirren is being shown in German cinemas as “Madame Mallory and the smell of Curry’.

Mme Mallory and Hasan

Madame Mallory cooking

(Image from http://www.badische-zeitung.de/kino-11/36-komoedien-dramen-und-dokus-aus-aller-welt–87671108.html)

The difficulties in the film are sometimes funny and sometimes rough or cruel and they involve love, hate, jealousy, talent, friendship and family… Would it be so easy in real life to move to a foreign country, let’s say in Western Europe, and simply open a restaurant? I sincerely doubt it…

In the case of the film, this part was obviously skipped because if not it would have turned into a paper war against the ministries and the immigration offices 😉

At the beginning of the film while entering the Continent the family members are asked some questions about their profession, time they plan to stay in the country, etc. This shows a little bit of it…

Some countries are more willing to receive foreigners and to let them live in their territory, others not really. All around Europe radical groups have been spreading and attacking in word and some times even in actions ‘foreign’ looking people. Who is foreign in a country? Is a person who got there as a youngster, has lived there for years, worked and paid taxes still a foreigner? France adopts immigrants more easily than other countries and helps them to settle. Some nationals believe that immigrants get too much and that they are entitled to too many social benefits while French aren’t. This leads to outbreaks of radical groups and foreigner hate.

Germany would love to receive more and more immigrants… Really? Only those young, highly educated, with lots of experience in their professions and willing to work under conditions that not many Germans would accept. In this case even bureaucracy would work smoothly and they would get the necessary help for their paperwork.

Back to our example in the film, what kind of bureaucracy, that is government administration, would the family have to deal with? I imagine at the very first, they would have had to get the visas and then the residence permits. Afterwards, the working permits, then the license to open a business and especially a business in the food area would require lots and lots of permits and fees… I don’t know, if they could have open their place in the first year. It is of course not impossible…

Now, the children… I never saw them going to school, writing their homework and learning French! This last task would take longer. I don’t really know how it works in France with children and schooling. In Germany all children have to go to school and there are only the official schools in the neighborhood. So, imagine the children who have to go to Elementary school and who don’t speak German =:-o

Bureaucracy… What does it really mean? The word bureau or office is hidden in there and office has to do with paper… Paperwork! Some countries love paperwork more than others, I suppose. In Brazil, for example, everything has to be officially recognized or you cannot even buy a cell phone. You need to have a residence permit with the necessary ID card and number and you have to have a Tax number to show that you ARE paying taxes. I still remember the very crowded offices where you have to get your documents and where you have to get your signature registered and approved. Without these steps, as I told you before, you can’t live as a person… After accomplishing all this and while living there, if you pay in the supermarket with your bank card you always have to say your tax number and sometimes your ID number, too. To get into any building because for example you have an appointment at the doctor’s or are going to a business meeting you also have to register at the entrance and give all your numbers. By the way you should know them by heart. If you don’t do so, you become immediately a suspect… of what? Of anything.

Another item that points out to my mind when dealing with anything official and bureaucracy. I don’t know why, but you’re always looked as a suspect… You don’t really feel comfortable, as if we all had something wrong to hide. Is this part of the bureaucrats school? I imagine the teachers in the bureaucrats academy: “make them feel guilty, because for sure they are. Make them suffer and don’t let them leave here fast. They have to remember us and talk about us”

In Germany bureaucracy consists of many different special forms, strict and spare opening hours, lots of rules and dont’s, but at least it works. Once you’ve read all the papers and have understood the complicated bureaucrat’s German language, then it will work. Another good thing is that they usually give you an approximate time when you will be able to get your paperwork done, and things will be ready usually on time or even before the mentioned date. That I love!

I believe that the German government loves bureaucracy and I was amazed when I found out (well, taken from Wikipedia) that “The German sociologist Max Weber argued that bureaucracy constitutes the most efficient and rational way in which human activity can be organized, and that systematic processes and organized hierarchies were necessary to maintain order, maximize efficiency and eliminate favoritism. But even Weber saw unfettered bureaucracy as a threat to individual freedom, in which an increase in the bureaucratization of human life can trap individuals in an “iron cage” of rule-based, rational control.” I also now know why a place and an Underground Station in Munich is called Max Weber. And believe it or not I always lose my way or take the wrong train in precisely that station!

Max-Weber-Platz

Max-Weber-Platz with Underground station in Munich

(Image from http://www.panoramio.com/photo/23093419)

In other countries it doesn’t work this way and I know that I am going to miss German bureaucracy (to a certain extent ;-))

And last but not least, after watching the nice movie we enjoyed an Indian dinner and I didn’t think, not even for a tiny moment, about paperwork. Enjoy the film and your food and till next time.