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 .