This picture of a little toddler boy laying dead on the beach of Bodrum, Turkey broke my heart into pieces. I have a little boy similar to that age and if that were to happen to either of my kids I would be inconsolable, nothing will ever matter to me again. Nothing I do will never have real meaning again. I would be a shell of my former self, going about my days until God decides it’s my time.
Thousands of men, women and children have died during their perilous crossings from the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. Most are fleeing war, conflict, political instability and poverty as humans have done for most of our existence. No sane person would risk their lives and the lives of their children in boats that aren’t seaworthy if everything was peachy at home. For most of human history, when one area becomes unsustainable due natural or human causes, humans migrate to a place where life is sustainable, except now there are borders, politics, xenophobic and irate locals to contend with. The irritation is not totally unjustified, the EU, with the exception of Germany and few others, is still reeling from an unending global financial crisis and the recession that resulted from it. For many countries in the EU, unemployment is in the double digits, they’ve seen their benefits and social services slashed to the bone, and prospects for getting back to full employment for some demographics remain slim. So, the prospect of hosting hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions when it’s all said and done) of desperate, hungry people also in need of jobs (the elusive commodity that everyone wants) when the local population have had to endure a severe decrease in living standards is hard swallow. Germany (Frau Merkel) has demanded the weaker Southern European economies to tighten their belts and adopt austerity policies but at the same time lecturing them to taking in hungry, scared and desperate people can make anyone’s blood boil. At least Frau Merkel sees the irony in this and Germany has made the first move of taking in 800,000 asylum seekers just for the year of 2015 alone. But living in reduced circumstances in Europe or America, even if one is living in ‘poverty’ in the affluent West is far better than living in abject poverty in developing or Third World countries. This serves little comfort for the Greeks who have been jobless for 5 years but a little perspective can help.
The rest of Europe, Great Britain and America have been shamefully silent at the human tragedy in the Middle East and Africa. There’s no need to debate the geopolitical policies, causes and who’s ultimately to blame for the human tragedy that is happening right now. It really doesn’t matter anymore when a little boy washes up the shores of Turkey still with his shoes on, probably one his mother lovingly picked out for him to accommodate walking long distances for when they reach Europe.
“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”
― Elie Wiesel
This loud silence from and outright refusal to acknowledge a crisis even when it’s beating at your front door (Great Britain) is eerily becoming reminiscent to events just 70 years ago. Denial and indifference is very dangerous and it can allow evil flourish. The ‘evil’ in this case is turning away masses of humanity who are in need of help and aid.
Many thousands have died in their journey to Europe in the last few years. This little boy isn’t the only one that lost his life, but his lone lifeless body washing up on the shore is symbolic of all their journeys regardless of age. They are alone. There is no one to protect them save a prayer, good weather and a little luck. It’s dangerous not just on the sea but the smugglers they must entrust their lives with out of desperation. These people are not idiots, they know exactly what kind of people they are entrusting their lives and those of their children with, but they’ve no choice. They also know Europe is not the Promised Land, there is no pot of gold waiting for them. They know life will not be easy just because they step foot in Great Britain, Germany or elsewhere. They will have get used to a new culture, new language, a new life with reduced circumstances and face a new set of hardships. But all of that is better than the alternative, the choice of being gassed, bombed or maimed by the Al-Assad regime, being captured or killed by ISIS, facing persecution or death due to one’s ethnicity or religion or fleeing to Europe, that is no choice at all. It is choosing the lesser devil and hoping that fate is on your side. And for those that say (paging Theresa May) making this journey is pointless and they should stay home and fight their battles at home and fight for their rights at home, they are either being willfully ignorant or just plain stupid.
Not enough credit or respect is given to all the tireless rescue and aid organizations assisting with rescues and treating all the trauma and injury of the desperate people, they deserve all the respect. For those of us who sit in comfort and security of our homes, the very least we can do is spare a thought or prayer for all those helpless people trying to reach safety.
As for that Tiny Boy in the picture and all others who have perished in the sea or on land, may they all Rest In Peace.