The migration debate and guilt
Good stuff, Ed. It illuminates a feature of the contemporary Western mind that I have been pondering; namely, an extension of the Good Samaritan rule whereby inaction becomes tantamount to being a knowing accessory to the underlying crime.
Somehow, not taking in Syrian refugees is the same thing as being a Baathist tyrant. Not aiding Ukraine is somehow the same thing as helping Putin. Not affirming one's "gender identity" is the moral equivalent of bigotry, etc.
All nations, not just Western, owe their citizens a duty to maintain a sense of social trust and stability. The current progressive ideology, shaped in part and trapped by the prison of history, ignores this reality.
A civil war is bruing in Britian, it's the look on some people's faces and it's occasionally suggested by some people if you drop hints, no look of disgust or repulsion to the idea just a simple, 'yeah, most likely.'
The idiots in Westminster will reap what they have sown in now, no getting out of it.
Very interesting. But a few quibbles:
(1) The British left who push for open borders are not at all sympathetic of Israel. This does not square with the holocaust shaping their world view.
(2) The US is generally very disinterested in things beyond its borders, and prevaricated (especially so Democrats) about getting into the war, despite mounting evidence. Also, the US left seems so obsessed with African slavery as to have no band width for anything else. Although the treatment of American Indians is sometimes tacked on, but very much as a half hearted afterthought.
(3) Related to (1), the history of Jews is not one of victimhood but one of self reliance and overcoming. These are not things the left likes. There is no perma-victim to justify the left’s existence.
(4) That said, Jews were hugely influential on 20th C US culture, and the impact of the holocaust would have been expressed and incorporated, thereby, far more than if that had not been the case.
(5) I suspect some left leaning people are highly emotional, and struggle with the hard case, to the exclusion of the bigger picture. For example, the horrific images of Aylan Kurdi would touch anyone, but one’s feelings about that are not a realistic basis for policy.
(6) And there are many on the left who simply hate/think very poorly of the existing order. For them immigration is simply a great way to bring it all down.
I grew up in a Northeastern city with a large Jewish population. One of my childhood friends was a Jewish girl whose father had been one of the lucky ones who made it out of Germany in 1938; but his brother did not and died in the camps. My friend was a Reform Jew and while very secular, she was still very into being Jewish. When Trump was elected she had a bit of a freak out - every day posting on Facebook how Trump’s immigration policy was Exactly The Same as what caused her uncle’s death in Auschwitz, and building the wall was basically being Hitler. In fact she was so upset about Trump that she emigrated to Israel...which, last time I checked, actually has a wall.
I'm sure you're right that many pro-refugee advocates see things in such terms. I feel equally sure that many who are pro-open borders for other reasons (economic, ideological) are quite happy to use such historical examples to shut down meaningful disagreement about limitations on current accommodation. Certainly the treaties entered into after the War have now become blockers to enacting any kind of border control at all, even though the world has totally changed. We appear to have lurched from an instinctive culture of miserliness about such things to a total abnegation of national interest. I think that's decadent rather than admirable, but it's not going to change now. If even 'post-Fascist' Meloni is content to see immigration at the current levels, then there's clearly no will from any governing class to do anything about it.
It's worth recalling that the Evian Conference took place in a year in which the Great Depression went into a double dip in the US. Unemployment in the states, which had gone below 15% in 1937 surged to nearly 20% the next year in what is sometimes called the "recession in the depression."
Given this, it's hard to believe FDR could've summoned the political will in the US to do anything about accepting refugees even if he was inclined to do so. Where would they find work in a country where one of out five adults was unemployed?
The Democratic Party was the more immigrant friendly party at the time. The New Deal coalition included those many Jewish and Catholic immigrants that were afterwards excluded by the 1924 Immigration Bill. But it was an impossible sell during the Great Depression to argue that the US should reopen its gates to allow in refugees.
It is difficult to think with wisdom and clarity within one's time. For one's time always has a way of warping one's thinking. In the meeting you well recount, leaders were close to clueless about the danger to Jews. Today, leaders are clueless (or don't care) about the harm the mass migrations are doing to the West.
More on how time warps our thinking:
In allt the debates about immigration, people have been very ready to accuse their opponents of wickedness.
But there has only been one real villain in the debate, and that is the Conservative Party - by which I don't mean the ordinary backbenchers or members, but those Tories with influence and nous.
Since 2010 at least, the Tories have been stringing the public along by pretending to hear their concerns, pretending to be about to tackle and reduce immigration - but never doing so.
Instead, in recent years the Tories have handed out immigrant visas even more liberally than Labour did.
Of course the Tory leadership never had any intention of reducing immigration ! Their Busines and Financial backers wouldn't want them to.
In other words, the Tories are guilty of criminal fraud and deception.
Which are evil in anyone's money, whatever beliefs about immigration they hold.
An excellent essay, tapping into the tug of war between recognizing a sense of equality with all other humans and the fellowship in our humanity, versus wanting to protect and preserve your own cultural niche with the knowledge that significant migration will forever change that culture. Both are strong human needs, and are often contradictory.
I tend to justify my dislike of mass immigration with scientific-sounding arguments like, 'There's already a housing crisis...Diversity leads to a reduction in social capital etc. etc. Yet if there were a huge natural disaster in Japan tomorrow I would say, 'Let's take in all 125 million of them!' whereas I'd rather not take in a single Traveller family. I'm guessing that Guardian readers feel the same way about African and Middle Eastern men, and indeed the whole world (perhaps minus white people), as I do about the Japanese. So though I can understand the compassion of Guardian readers - which reminds me of Christianity's blanket injunction to love ALL men -, I find I really don't love all men. I only love a few...plus the Japanese.
It will be interesting to see (the gods being good, of course) whether the mythic influences of WW2 wain as the generations that can remember it and the aftermath pass on. Even growing up in the 80s, 'The War' still cast a long shadow, from grandparents recollections to the endless war movies repeated on TV.
Yet, as the 21st century matures, the distance for newer generations will seem as far away in time as the Napoleonic Wars did to our late 20th century minds. Can it still exert the same power and serve as the foundation of the new moral order?
The prosperous liberals who have led the pro-immigration cause have so far been unaffected by immigration.
But with Britain running out of accommodation for migrants, and with students being turfed out of their promised residences to make way for migrants, things are beginning to change.
But it will be too late to save the prosperous liberals, Brits of any race or class or Britain itself.
All will be crucified by chaos, poverty and mass-homelessness, perhaps compulsory billeting.
Perhaps that's what Christianity demands. I only hope we're all prepared for it.
Whether Jesus would answer the question "What would Jesus do ?" by being very liberal on immigration, I don't honestly know.
I wish we'd taken 100,000s of Jewish refugees in 1938. I think you're right that this is what has established our world view, which has led to utterly insane levels of immigration, which no major party has made any effort to control, for the 20 odd years since Blair came to power. This immigration has probably been a good thing for the immigrants, and has led to London evolving into a truly global city, which at least makes it a very easy place for a new arrival to fit in. In terms of identity, it seems to me that British can act as a broad and non-ethnic label, like Roman once did, we are all British Citizens (formerly subjects). Whereas English should be reserved for people who are actually ethnically English. Which implies that you don't have to be English to play for the England football team. (These are the circles my brain moves in).
The same Colombians did not save the Basques from Franco or the actual Luffwaffe bombs-despite the fact that Basque business sense and skill brought industry to their continent. Neither did Devalera import Basque or Slovak widows and maids to find matches for the Batchelors of Connaught. Rhodesia turned away Polish RAF veterans. History doesn't strike me as a prison because remembering is as it (always was an active choice)
A Dane at work mentioned that all Danish kids go to Aushwitz before their schooling finishes. I found that baffling. I am not saying don't teach the holocaust, or anything like that.
When is it maochism and not memory?
When Britain's liberal conscience and God Emperor of Centrist Dad Podcasts Gary Lineker said the government's rhetoric on migrants was like 1930s Germany, smarter people than me pointed out it was actually closer to Britain's attitude to Jewish refugees of the era.
History is indeed a prison - a kind of mental gulag, wherein we eat the thin gruel of received wisdom, kept 'safe' from the inconvenient truths that lie outside its sheer and spotless walls.
Had England simply made peace with our fellow Germanics, when the opportunity presented itself, rather than pursue the insanity of further conflict (with half a million German civilians incinerated in the holocaust of Allied bombing raids), while saving the worst despotism in history from its deserved destruction, then the mass shootings of Jews in Eastern Europe might have been averted, and the Madagascar plan implemented.
Instead, we fought an unnecessary war, and pursued the total defeat that resulted in famine, medical shortages, and a typhus epidemic that killed millions of concentration camp inmates.
Today, hostility towards the mass immigration of refugees derives from the noted negative impact they have on their new host societies. Perhaps an analogous reality explains the delegates' reticence in 1938?