Tag Archives: Author: Brian Murphy

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 .

Thumbs Up by Bryan Murphy

  

        Luanda. The fifth century of war. The South African army is trying to kill us all, but it is a fly that nearly does for me. A fish fly, “mosca do peixe”, so small you do not see it as it buries its even tinier eggs under your skin. Usually, like a tattoo artist, it chooses fleshy parts of the body to work on, bits that are generally covered up and left in peace, so I assume the irritating white spot on my left thumb is the bequest of a mosquito. Days pass before someone kindly puts me right. Everyone knows what to do. You sterilise a pin in a flame and use it to roll back the skin from around the white spot. Then you get a very good friend to squeeze all the eggs out. The pain is bad, but the consequences of not getting all the eggs out are worse.

This time, it is too late for such home remedies; surgery is called for, simple surgery. But where? People reckon the French Embassy doctor to be the best bet, and he proves willing. My colleague Dunhill returns a favour by accompanying me there and watches as I stare anywhere but at my hand, while my foot stamps on the floorboards like John Entwistle on stage. The only anaesthetic in town is reserved for major operations and the military. No complaints about that. You get a ration of painkillers for afterwards, but the time between the effect of one wearing off and your being able to take the next passes very slowly. I learn that pain does not make you heroic so much as self-absorbed.

I give a repeat performance when the stitches come out. Later, after the bandages have come off, I phone the doctor and tell him the thumb does not look good. “Well,” he says, “if it does not improve over the weekend, you may end up losing the use of that hand.”

Those words kick-start the healing process. I live with a numb thumb for years. It is still a bit slender, but the whole hand works, and I have a small scar to show as I sing for my supper.

You can read more of Bryan Murphy’s stories, poems and articles here: http://www.bryanmurphy.eu