For the first time in history a whole continent commits a heinous humanitarian crime. And the rest of allow this to continue. We are despicable.
A new bout of cold weather across southern Europe has reignited fears for thousands of refugees and migrants sheltered in deplorable conditions in Greece.
Forecasts of freezing temperatures have also been met with trepidation by international agencies, aid groups and local mayors on islands.
“Thousands of people are poised to suffer needlessly in conditions that are becoming increasingly desperate,” said Eva Cossé at Human Rights Watch. “Europe’s failed policies have contributed to immense suffering for people warehoused on the Greek islands.” Greece was the focus of public outcry this month after shocking footage emerged of refugees on Lesbos living in flimsy, snow-swamped tents as an arctic blast sent temperatures plummeting to -14C. The outcry prompted the government to dispatch a naval ship to temporarily house up to 500 people detained at the island’s vastly overcrowded Moria reception centre. Others were moved into heated containers, hotel rooms and apartments.
When there’s a cloud this large and foreboding no lining, silver or otherwise, will suffice. This was a year in which vulgarity, divisiveness and exclusion won – a triumph for dystopian visions of race, nation and ethnicity. Those thought dangerous and marginal are now not only mainstream, they have power. Immigrants and minorities are fearful, bigots are emboldened, discourse is coarsened. Progressive alternatives, while available, have yet to find a coherent electoral voice. You can polish this turd of a year all you like – it won’t stop it stinking to high heaven.
But while the prospects for hope are scarce there is, none the less, one thing from which we might draw solace. The right is emboldened but it is not in the ascendancy. The problem is that the centre has collapsed, and liberalism is in retreat. There is nothing to celebrate in the latter but there is much to ponder in the former. It suggests that this moment is less the product of some unstoppable force than the desperate choice of last resort.
Americans did not turn their backs on a bright new future but on a candidate offering more of the same at a time when the gap between rich and poor and black and white is growing. Nor did most of them vote for Donald Trump. Not only did he get fewer votes than Hillary Clinton, but he got a lower proportion of the eligible vote than Mitt Romney in 2012, John McCain in 2008, John Kerry in 2004 and Al Gore in 2000 – all of whom lost.
The worst thing that could have happened, the shoe waiting to drop, was a terror attack at Christmas time in Germany by an asylum-seeker linked to Islamist terror groups. It is just that which took place in Berlin this week.
That the inevitable has now occurred likely seals the political fate of Europe. Public opinion will surely turn decisively against the open-arms refugee policy of German Chancellor Angela Merkel — the most prominent defender of the troubled European project of integration and the free movement of people.
Alternative for Germany party and other anti-immigrant groups are already capitalizing on the incident.
In his 2004 novel The Plot against America, Philip Roth invoked the spectre of a fascist regime in the United States of America. Squarely in the tradition of counter-factual narrative Roth asks: what if? What if not Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but Hitler fan and airflight pioneer Charles Lindbergh, courted by Goebbels, had made it to the White House as the thirty-third US President? Many in conservative circles at the time thought that would be a good idea…
Hitherto, to a European observer such a scenario would have seemed far-fetched. Roth’s historiography in that case would have been just a fantasy. Although, to be sure, we – and our parents’ generation of 1968 – nurtured our anti-Americanism, our easy criticisms focused less on possible fascist structures and rather on the excrescences of American finance capitalism, commerce and consumerism.
The “Great Satan” served as the explanation for every ill and thus anti-Americanism became an “ideological all-purpose explanatory model”. So far, so unsatisfactory. But is the latest expression of Transatlantic friction – Donald Trump – solely an American phenomenon?
The EU’s conditions on Turkey’s membership are a recipe for disaster, throwing fuel on to the flames of polarization, punishing all Turkish citizens, particularly those who still dream of a full democracy with the rule of law, press freedom and all other human freedoms, and, more than likely, generating an uncontrollable influx of refugees into Europe, an extreme nightmare scenario!
Europe has missed a grand opportunity for inter-cultural dialogue and a step towards a more tolerant world. Turkish membership would have been more than a trade/political cooperation deal. It would have democratized the Turkish state, helped settle the Kurdish issue through democracy, stimulated economic growth, and, at the same time, it would have cemented a cultural bridge between the Christian and Muslim worlds.
Donald Trump’s victory has sent the liberal world order into a tailspin. We are not just facing a wake-up call; this wave of authoritarian national populism with shades of protectionism has stormed the castle walls. A racist president, unpredictable and misogynist, who defends a white isolated “America”, is about to take leadership of the first country in the developed world. The rebellion against the elites is complete, taking the guise of a vindication of the white man’s burden. And this is happening after numerous indications of anger and discontent over the direction which globalization has taken. Just look at Brexit.
It is time to rethink the last great bastion of open and tolerant societies: Europe. A Europe battered by the effects of the economic crisis and in a process of deconstruction, haunted by the same ills and tics that affect many western democracies.
It is urgently necessary to reconstruct the European Project, dealing with the causes which have led us to this mess, as Trump’s victory certifies the death of the neoliberal consensus (both geo-strategic and economic) which emerged after the fall of the Berlin wall.
One of the most telling indicators of the moral and political crisis in Europe has been its political elite’s appeasement of Turkey’s AKP regime. EU governments and the European Commission have bent the rules by delaying publication of critical reports on Turkey to please Recep Tayyip Erdogan. They also failed to demonstrate any honourable reaction to repeated insults by Erdogan and various AKP leaders against European officials and values alike. One might hope that the latest huge European Parliament (EP) majority for suspending accession negotiations would instigate serious EU soul-searching. Yet the signs are not encouraging: both government officials and experts are scrambling for reasons as to why it is necessary to continue appeasing Turkey; and why the EP’s decision should be ignored.