The Brexit Series, Episode 1: Immigration, Donald Trump, and The Incredible Human Journey

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Immigration – The action of coming to live permanently in a foreign country: ‘a barrier to control illegal immigration from Mexico’ (source: Oxford Dictionary online).

It was one of the key issues raised by the Leave campaign in the lead up to the E.U. referendum; but immigration is clearly a controversial topic, and one of the main dividing lines among the electorate. So what can an independent Britain do about immigration?

The Politics

Trump’s Travel Ban

It’s probably best to start, given the popular narrative at present, with what Donald Trump is already beginning to implement. He has taken a list of 7 countries identified by the Obama administration as ‘countries of concern’ and refused entrance into the U.S from natives of those countries. Although mainstream media outlets are reporting it as such, this is not necessarily a ‘Muslim Ban’. In fact, none of the top 5 Muslim countries in the world (by population) are included in the ban. What Trump’s policy intends to do, rightly or wrongly, is prevent any more potentially dangerous people from entering the country.

But is this practical, or fair? There are likely already numerous ‘dangerous’ people within America (and Britain, for that matter), and the majority of terrorist attacks in the U.S since 9/11 were not committed by people from the countries Trump has refused entrance to. So will preventing the entrance of people from this list of countries affect the rate of terrorist attacks in the U.S? Probably not.

But in the case of Syria, at least, there is a large pocket of the population who do sympathise with ISIS, and so allowing refugees in from Syria could open the door to more of these kinds of people. However, even this is not sufficient explanation for Trump’s plot. Locking Syrians out of the country won’t achieve much in terms of tackling the core root of terrorism (which will be explored later in this article), nor will it make America any safer – neither would a similar approach in Britain.

The Refugee Crisis

Nevertheless, in spite of the flaws in Trump’s proposals, America or Britain allowing thousands of Syrian refugees into the country will not necessarily help with the refugee crisis, nor will it help with tackling the bigger picture of world poverty. In time, allowing such influxes could increase a country’s population into impractical numbers, which would likely not be a positive change for anybody. For example, Sweden currently find themselves with an immigrant problem having allowed too many people in; and Britain itself already has a budding population of homeless migrants. So how can Britain expect to adequately take care of refugees, on top of the immigrants already coming in annually? I believe it is possible to take care of everyone; but with current economic practices, I can’t picture it in the near future. And even if Britain were to let in a few thousand refugees, it wouldn’t change the fact that there are millions of displaced refugees in Syria – there is a far bigger issue at hand here.

But what can Britain do to help refugees? Leaving them in Syria only condemns them to frightening and unpredictable territories. So what can we do to help them? Well we could start, perhaps, by stopping bombing the shit out of their countries, and encourage the U.S (certainly the biggest culprit in this) to do the same. It would surprise me if Trump doesn’t follow a similarly vicious tactic to Obama’s tactics, if not more aggressive judging by what he has said already on that matter; and it would appear Theresa May’s government will be supporting any of Trump’s ventures, given her recent state visit to the U.S. But there is no evidence that engaging in warfare defeats terrorism in any way. If the Iraq War 2003 has proved anything, it’s that fighting fire with fire will only produce more fire. It doesn’t take a linguist to realise that ‘the war on terror’ is a contradictory expression: engaging in warfare on foreign turf and killing thousands of people is precisely what terrorism is. Obama’s orders resulted in the deaths of far more people than the actions of ISIS so far, and I’m convinced that Trump will act in a similar manner. But is anyone – on either side of this war – genuinely playing the good guy here?

The Scrutinisation of Government

It seems to me that there is, as Jiddu Krishnamurti put it, “a crisis in consciousness.” People are attempting to tackle issues through the means of politics – an ill-equipped problem-solving method through which bias will always have its input. We’ve seen many people protesting against Donald Trump lately, and I don’t disagree with people who stand up against the political establishment; but why is it that people are angry with Trump, yet were not equally as angry with Obama when he was bombing the countries Trump has locked-out? And why such anger against Trump’s declaration to build a wall along the U.S-Mexican border? There has been an armed barrier on that border since 1994; why has it taken 23 years for people to voice their anger about it? It seems contradictory, and suggests that we have an electorate which is misled by the narrative of the mainstream media. Still, for people to feel pushed to protest, they must be aware that something in Western politics has gone wrong – even if they can’t define what it is.

Anyway, at least people are starting to scrutinise their government. Because it’s through the lack of scrutiny that we have been led into a world where “President Donald Trump” isn’t just a joke from The Simpsons.

The Bigger Picture

The Beginnings of Human Migration

Looking at an issue such as immigration through political lens’ – regardless of political orientation – is always problematic, because politicians will always consider their short-term careers before considering the bigger picture. To adequately understand the issue of immigration today (in Britain and the rest of the world) I think it’s necessary to understand the objective reasons behind human migration. I will begin by discussing the earliest ever human migration.

It is widely accepted among anthropologists that the evolution of modern humans has its origins in Africa. In a 5-episode BBC documentary, The Incredible Human Journey (2009), Dr. Alice Roberts explains the evidence for the Out-of-Africa theory, and also touches on the Multiregional theory in its second episode. The documentary serves as a fascinating introduction to the ongoing anthropological study of the origin of our species, and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested. Knowledge on this topic is limited, and anthropologists are learning new things all the time (for example, recent research has found Neanderthal DNA in modern humans, despite Neanderthals being originally thought as an evolutionary rival). Still, the science tells us it is safe to assume that modern humans are ancestrally tied to Africa: today, from this perspective, every human outside of Africa is, by definition, an immigrant.

The reasons for the early humans emigrating from Africa remain unclear. It isn’t impossible, and the romantic inside me would love to believe that they simply wished to explore the world, to delve into the unknown! The more convincing theories, however, suggest that they were looking for better living conditions, either due to drought or some other change in climate. But the reasons for the migration of humans today possesses a different flavour.

Modern Immigration and ‘Vacation Culture’

Immigration into Britain has been met with hostility throughout modern history. Whether it be the Irish, the Jewish refugees, Indians, Pakistanis, Polish – you can be sure that they’ve been welcomed by at least a dash of hostility. Today, the hostile pockets of the population will sometimes exclaim that ‘Enoch Was Right’, in reference to Enoch Powell’s 1968 “Rivers of Blood” speech. In the speech, Powell warned about the violent potential of multi-cultural societies. However the results of multiculturalism would tell us that immigrants have successfully settled down in Britain, and it’s not at all unusual to see people of different race and ethnicity getting along with one another.

Furthermore, we live in an age where ‘taking a vacation’ is a common, almost entitled aspect of 21st Century living. Through vacation, people enjoy travelling the world to experience different cultures, different climates, and different ways of life. Vacations/holidays can be considered a modern invention – as can careers – but nonetheless they have become an important, healthy, and educational facet of the modern global community. This invention has brought humans from all over the world much closer together, and when we consider the ripe young age of the vacation culture, it is truly exciting to think of what the global community may look like later on in the still unfinished story of “the incredible human journey.” In the age of the traveller, one would think that immigration should not be considered even a slight issue.

That being said, Britain is a small island. If the influx of immigrants continues at the current rate for another decade or two then cities could potentially become jam-packed; and, in an ideal world, cramming so many humans into such a small place on such a big planet would not be considered logical, would it? Ideally, we’d like to spread out – surely even the most avid claustrophilics would agree.

But this isn’t an ideal world…

Well, not in political terms! However in astronomical terms ideal is precisely what this world is. In relation to the sun, we are in exactly the right spot – not too hot, not too cold – with resources adequate enough to feed and home all humans (even if we haven’t yet achieved that). If that isn’t an ideal world, I don’t know what is.

But in terms of humans ‘spreading out’ … from where we’re standing, in the current human condition, it’s not so straightforward. When the early humans were migrating from Africa for better living conditions, their task was to find land which was rich enough to feed them. Today, people are are still looking to improve their living conditions; but instead of searching for rich or fertile land, they search for those places where they can earn the most cash, one way or another. The focus is on where there is money, not the tangible resources. Humans’ relationship to money could be compared to the relationship of flies to faeces: they bunch into the proximity, they buzz around, and claim every nibble they can manage to get their teeth into. And seeing as though large amounts of money pools tend to get crammed into a few bank accounts, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise when rich countries attract foreign opportunists who could smell the piles of money. If human economy focused on scientifically objective resources rather than opinion and speculation, we would see swarms of humans migrating back to Africa, where there is acres upon acres of unused, fertile land.

“in astronomical terms ideal is precisely what this world is. In relation to the sun, we are in exactly the right spot – not too hot, not too cold – with resources adequate enough to feed and home all humans (even if we haven’t yet achieved that). If that isn’t an ideal world, I don’t know what is.”

What Britain can do

Clearly immigration isn’t a problem that can accurately be defined as ‘British’. It is a worldwide human problem, and can only be addressed by a turn in degree of economic focus away from money and towards resources.

So what can a small island like Britain possibly do? Physically, within the current political climate and economic system of global monetaryism, there isn’t anything Britain, alone, can do to resolve the issue. But Britain, as a nation with rich culture and a proud, renowned reputation on the world stage, it could take a stand to the other world leaders. To solve these problem requires all the leaders of the world to come together and say, “hey, we could really do with working together to manage our resources in such a way that benefits humankind. That way, immigrants won’t need to come over to our countries.” But its very difficult to imagine Theresa May standing in front of the U.N and saying anything to that effect. She may claim to believe in a vision for a ‘shared society’ but, when it really comes down to it, is she really prepared to do what it takes to help people in need? If she was prepared, she would have funded specific projects in places that need it most, such as Syria; such as Iraq; such as Africa; etc.

But Theresa May would probably argue that the problems posed by terrorism means that helping those who need help isn’t so straightforward. Yet terrorist groups are not to blame for the current human condition – world poverty existed before Al Qaeda. I can’t justify the actions of terrorist organisations, and I can’t deny that it is a genuine issue. I haven’t seen the beheading videos from ISIS, but hearing about them was certainly unsettling. Unsettling, yes … but not altogether surprising. May has vowed to stand with Donald Trump’s aggressive stance towards the Middle East, yet history tells us that this is not the way to combat terrorism.

When we consider the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and the hell that was unleashed there under the masquerade of a hunt for ‘weapons of mass destruction’ (weapons suspiciously similar to those weapons that we openly claim to have on standby), is it really so surprising that rebel forces have formed in the Middle East? Western governments ordered the absolute obliteration of parts of the Middle East; but they have also armed some of the rebels they claim to be trying to neutralise. I can’t help but believe the terrorism problem can be solved much closer to home than in the Middle East. The so-called ‘war on terror’ is completely contradictory: war is the very definition of terror. To play fire with fire and expect anything other than fire is delusional; centuries of warfare haven’t defeated terrorism up to this point in history, and there’s no evidence to suggest that it ever will. To take Hegel’s famous quote: “we learn from history that we do not learn from history.”

Moreover, according to government statistics, there have been 53 deaths by cause of terrorism in Britain since 11th September 2001. In contrast, according to NHS figures, more than 70,000 people per year die from heart disease, yet our doctors and nurses are still forced to struggle due to lack of funding. It would surely be more beneficial to invest the enormous figures spent on failing warfare missions into projects that tackle bigger issues.

Thus, In Conclusion…

There are many things an independent Britain can try to do about immigration; but there is very little it can do to objectively address the issue at its core – the living conditions of certain foreign countries. It is a human problem, not a British problem, and so Britain cannot tackle it alone. This, however, is not necessarily an anti-Brexit argument: the E.U is not an institution void of corruption, and tackling global issues is certainly not dependent on such bureaucratic matters. Brexit could be seen as an opportunity for Britain to take a step away from political corruption and to set a positive, quasi-revolutionary example to the rest of the world. It is an opportunity to begin forming genuinely positive international relations, the likes of which are not possible as members of the E.U (without the E.U having its own, internal revolution). Whether or not the state chooses to take such an opportunity, though, is another question entirely.

On the topic of international relations, I will close this article by introducing you to the upcoming second episode of ‘The Brexit Series’: Trade.

  1. Gabriella

    Finally, got chance to sit down, have a brew and read Brexit: Episode 1, a complex and ambitious attempt to untangle an unseemly impossible web of issues. These are the parts which resonated with me most: “Still, for people to feel pushed to protest, they must be aware that something in Western politics has gone wrong – even if they can’t define what it is.” It’s true, I think in the context of our dominate online culture, possibly we feel more empowered, it’s easier to see that we can to some degree control our fate. And “politicians will always consider their short-term careers before considering the bigger picture.” Yep. And thinking of holidays as a modern invention, that bit made me laugh. So true! -> “but instead of searching for rich or fertile land, they search for those places where they can earn the most cash, one way or another.” London, LA, Dubai, all the major cities. And boom “Hegel’s famous quote: ‘we learn from history that we do not learn from history.’” Also, I’m going to watch The Incredible Human Journey. I had no idea we were descended from Africa originally! Awesome read.

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