Solidarity or ‘supremacy’? by Bryan Murphy

 

Many of you reading this, especially if you live on the American continent, are likely to be the children or grand-children of immigrants, if you are not first-generation immigrants yourselves. You will know all too well, from family history or direct experience, the heartbreak that migrants feel on leaving their homeland, and the hardships they withstand when trying to build a better life for themselves and their family in a new country.

No doubt you will feel empathy with new generations of emigrants seeking to escape poverty and persecution. But what about the inhabitants of your ancestral homeland, which is now likely to have progressed to become a magnet for people experiencing even worse conditions elsewhere?

Unfortunately, solidarity is not the automatic response. There are those who feel that “we are the masters now” and it is time to enjoy treating new arrivals as badly as their own ancestors were treated when they sought refuge abroad.

In Italy, where I currently live, the situation is complicated by history. Go back a few centuries and Italy was a collection of tiny states jealous of their own independence. Unification only came in 1861 and, even today, the regions of Italy show enormous disparities and antagonisms, which clash with a far longer tradition of hospitality and openness towards strangers.

In the rich North of the country, there are local supremacists who want to carve out an independent state for themselves and get rid of both old and new immigrants. What would happen if they succeeded? In my stories, “Breakaway”, “Goodbye, Padania” and “Linehan’s Trip”, I look at that possibility.

Frankly, I don’t think they have thought things through. Expelling foreigners now or in the future would make them a pariah state, threatened with both economic and social collapse.

Moreover, history shows that the groups you identify as “the enemy” come increasingly nearer home – in this case, going from “non-whites” to “non-EU citizens” to “foreigners” to “Southerners” to people with “bad blood” to  those from across the valley, until you and your remaining neighbours are fingering each other.

The message: solidarity with others, rather than the pursuit of some imagined supremacy, is the best way to serve our self-interest. Mutual aid is the key to all of us surviving and thriving.

Bryan Murphy is a man of Kent who left the United Kingdom shortly after graduating and has spent most of his adult life elsewhere, notably in Italy, Portugal, Angola and China. Since retiring from his most recent job, as a translator within the United Nations system, he has concentrated on his own words, publishing many poems and several e-books. He welcomes visitors at http://www.bryanmurphy.eu .

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9 thoughts on “Solidarity or ‘supremacy’? by Bryan Murphy

  1. Kenneth Weene

    When we learn that “we are all more nearly human than otherwise.”* We can get to work on the important task of making this a good world for all. Until then, we humans are doomed by our need to be on top of the heap, even if it is only the pile of our own imagining.

    *From Harry Stack Sullivan

    Reply
  2. Delinda

    Bryan, you are so right. The “Us vs Them” mentality has no place in national or international relationships. It is a concept the power elite may use to control the peasantry. it is always destructive. Thanks for the perspective you offer in this piece.

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  3. Trish

    I guess the us vs them concept is what has caused wars from the beginning of time, whether between tribes or countries, and therefore is human nature. It does seem, however that we are evolving and becoming more tolerant of our fellow humans and we can only hope it continues.

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  4. Marta Merajver-Kurlat

    Bryan, if the common sense reflected in your piece could be widely shared, our humanity might deliver us from the horrors of the us vs. them in-country battles. Argentina has always been a welcoming melting pot for every good-willing individual coming from the four corners of the world, as stated in the Preamble to our Constitution. But in the last ten years or so, more and more of our Latin American brothers and some Asians have sought refuge here, escaping from the same horrors our own ancestors fled during their migration processes. As a result, natives are growing increasingly bitter. Our immigration laws are either vague or non-existent, so Argentinian workers are losing their jobs to undocumented migrants that accept lower wages and longer working hours. There should be some kind of balance between our love for our fellow-beings and our legitimate means of survival.

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  5. linniescorner

    We try to legislate human kindness in the free world and spread the concept of equality through world trade and our immigration system. That’s all well and good but we are a vast diversity of cultures, each demanding recognition so as not to get lost in the system. Cultural self-preservation persists in rearing it’s political head in the form of separation, primarily out of fear of losing their cultural identity. What is the alternative?

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  6. Bryan Murphy

    Thanks for the comments, folks. There is indeed no easy answer to the problem of the “Us v. Them” mentality. We can only hope that the younger generations have a broader concept of “Us” than our generations have.
    In my view, identity politics corrodes the social fabric and distracts attention from the real problems of a society. In the case of “Padania”, its proponents are trying to invent an identity that has never existed, in the false hope that it will make them even richer and the correct hope that it will allow them to be nasty to the Southern Italians and foreigners among them.
    The answer to more traditional cultural-minority problems in Italy, since the failure of fascist repression between the world wars, has been to throw money it. Money and special privileges have trumped separatist tendencies in Italy’s French-speaking and German-speaking regions.
    One potential answer to “unfair competition” from immigrant workers is to pass laws on minimum wages and working conditions, and to enforce them. That will benefit all workers. Well, you won’t be surprised, I guess, to learn that I used to work for the International Labour Organization.
    Further comments and corrections welcome!

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  7. Martha Love

    Bryan, I truly loved reading your inclusive view of our human family. You have beautifully pointed to one of humanity’s biggest follies. It seems that people easily forget how they got where they are in their lives. This can lead us to some pretty foolish distorted thinking that we are more important in this universe than we actually are— even to think that we deserve more than others. None of us make it alone, even from birth, and without an accepting heart to encourage us, we can not over come adversities. Without personal reflection on the impact of life, we often miss the fact that we did not succeed in our survival all alone and that we live in a world where all life forms have affects upon us.

    Reply

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