DAY 183: Clash of Civilisations

August 10th, 2016 § 0 comments

It’s a familiar phrase; but it’s increasingly making sense to me. Gandhi was famously asked what he thought of Western civilization, and replied: ‘I think it would be a good idea’.

The thought came to my mind particularly after reading Izzy Tomico Ellis’ 13600202_10205399735667015_3513019393025522990_nreport from the island of Chios yesterday.

‘Today on Chios we spotted a boat that was filled with refugees, trying to make the dangerous crossing from Turkey.

We soon realised it was in difficulty and followed it for four hours nearly to the end of the land, throughout this time the authorities were repeatedly called and asked to pick it up. They did not, despite being aware it was adrift and in severe danger.

There were 9 children onboard this boat.

Even worse, a team of rescuers were prevented from going to save them. After the boat was nearly away from land and13938566_10153855450958481_748493931533022194_n completely out to sea, they eventually went to collect the people.

When they were brought to the port the doctors were told they could not go to them and check their health, they were sopping wet, cold and shocked; our teams were not allowed to provide our small food parcels, dry clothes, information or simply reassure the people.

I watched thirty people board a bus after being stuck out to sea, scared for their lives (and rightly so) be refused medical checks, food, clothing, information or any kind of humanity.

Children who were almost to scared to walk properly, women who looked terrified and men in utter disbelief.

The Europe many of you imagine, with it’s democracy, it’s human rights is a farce; it’s not real it’s instead a complete disgrace. Your governments who condemn regimes abroad are willing to do anything to keep a totally illegal deal with Turkey, to let people drown and prevent people who are long-term victims of their disastrous foreign policy from even receiving healthcare, food or dry clothes.

The question is what will you do? Please, if you have humanity, you will ensure it is something.’

Indeed, as Gandhi implied, ‘Western civilisation’ is increasingly a sham – where a few profit while many starve, and the rulers are increasingly devoid of all humanity – even to the extent of denying help to drowning refugees.

Has this always been the case or has it crept up on us? After all, the Geneva convention which supposedly granted refugees rights was – largely – a product of Western thinking. And yet the same inhuman practices are visible in the determination of the French state (which I write about in the last post) to suppress shops, cafes, all social life from the refugee camp there and so expose children to dark and danger. What values are at work here? When Samuel Huntington wrote The Clash of Civilizations in the 1990s (bear with me: I’m pretty ignorant), he saw the primary clash as between Christian and Islamic values. In the vulgar version often promoted by our politicians, (was Huntington more sophisticated? I don’t know), the Christian values are liberal, the Islamic ones intolerant. How does this square with the determination of ‘Christian’ Europe to allow Muslim refugees to drown? As Izzy implies, any system of government which promotes such actions is not civilised by any definition. I wouldn’t even call it Christian, but my definition of Christianity is a rather narrow liberationist one – you are supposed to love your neighbour and so on. As with that of Islam, which is reflected in the quote: ‘O People! We created you all from a single man and a single woman, and made you into races and tribes so that you should recognise each other.’ (Qur’an 49:13). Currently, we have to recognise that in the clash between the European states and the (mostly Muslim) refugees, it’s the Europeans who hold the power.

A photograph which has had some publicity cultural-differences-olympic-games-lucy-nicholson-rio-de-jeneiroshows an Egyptian and a German competing, with the headline: ‘Cultural Differences at the Olympics’. This is, of course, a gross misunderstanding of what cultural difference is. The two women share the culture of their sport, and the differences in dress are not so important. It’s the cultures of the rulers (for whom sport is a mere means of earning more profit) which constrain the people and who may decide that some will live on shore and others will drown – they define the real clash of civilisations.

[At this point, I must perhaps rethink, having looked at Wikipedia's definition of 'civilisation'. This starts in ancient Babylon or thereabouts, and all it involves is a complex structure where the rulers extracting taxes from the ruled, and impose misery; and has nothing to to with 'being nice'. When the common meaning of civilised behaviour emerged (not throwing defenceless people int the water) is unclear, although I think it's what Gandhi had in mind - having seen British soldiers massacre defenceless Indians.]

The outlook for our civilisation – real civilisation, in Gandhi’s sense – may look bleak from our outpost of Fortress Europe. But I think we must believe that we shall overcome.

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