Monday, 21 November 2016

The benefits of being an immigrant / Everyone is relatable

One day we might open all the borders and create a centralised universal basic income for every citizen, everywhere. To get to this stage we need to recognise the worth of every single individual on the planet. Why are we not there yet, and how can we advance to that point?

Australia, the country from which I am privileged enough to have a viewpoint, is firm in the grip of a white supremacy. Collectively, "we" have difficulty relating to people who don't look like "us" ("us" being white people). One example of this is the fact that Australia has never had a Prime Minister who is a person of colour. Oh sure, there are individual PoC who rise to positions of power (e.g. Penny Wong), but as a class, people of colour remain underrepresented in the politics. In an Australia where race (and ethnicity, and immigrant status) is not a problem, 1 in 4 politicians would be an immigrant (to match the general populace).

Perhaps most telling is how Australia currently treats the most economically vulnerable people of colour it has responsibility for: refugees. More than one leftie has suggested to me that the detention camps at Manus and Nauru might more accurately be called concentration camps. I suspect this might be anti-Semitic itself, but it does evoke the death, torture and degradation that is a feature of those sites. Behind this cruelty is misguided fear and hate of people who are relegated to the class of unrelatable. They are instead seen as a scary threat.

It is because white supremacist Australia won't extend its empathy outside its narrow in-group that we have this problem. Empathy has a healing, heartening result. The more examples I have around me, the more likely I am to extend my empathy myself. We need empathy towards people outside our borders, people from developing nations who don't know how to demand the kind of civil rights we take for granted. We need to want to see them to flourish as we do our neighbours. If we wanted to live in a world where resources were spread much more equally, where people didn't need to immigrate to another country to increase their quality of life, then we could put in place the mechanisms needed to make centralised universal basic income a reality.

As an immigrant from Bulgaria, I have the gift of knowing that Bulgarians are, yes, relatable. They are warm, jealous, patient, cold, you name it. You can find any kind of human in a nation of under 8 million - your best friend, your worst enemy or just someone to chat to for a while to help pass the time. Bulgaria is like every other nation on earth. Dehumanise its residents at your own emotional deprivation. If you want a rich and robust appreciation of the human race, empathise with people from Thailand, Libya, Peru... the limit to your empathy is up to you.

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