Reflections from a refugee’s grandson

quote_2015-09-17by Sam

This is one RIC activist’s reflection on the refugee crisis, in response to this article in the Guardian. Sam’s grandfather went on to become a doctor and help countless people in his adoptive home of Aberdeen.

I’m sorry to always go on about my Grandfather’s experience in the war and his story’s parallels with the current refugee crisis, but as you can imagine it makes this whole thing all the more emotional for me. One of my personal pet-peeves is the idea that helping immigrants or giving aid to other countries is somehow the cause of all the mistreatment of the current UK population.

So let me first of all dispel the myth that the UK was generous and all lovely to Jewish refugees from the Holocaust (let’s forget the other victims of the Holocaust to whom the UK more-or-less turned a blind eye). As the article states, they established a new asylum-seeking process in order to exclude 90% of claimants. To humanise those numbers: my grandfather turned up after repeated failed attempts to escape post-Anschluss Austria. A terrified seventeen-year-old boy and his mother turned up at an airport after seeing the hell that befell their less-fortunate family and friends.

They were called enemy-aliens imprisoned in Duff house and then moved to a camp in Canada until Westminster realised they could recruit the young men to fight. “Chain them all” is what the great Churchill said.

Can you see the parallel? Syrian refugees are “secretly ISIS” just as my Jewish grandfather was “secretly a Nazi” in the eyes of those who are willing to listen to the wealthy elite. Then, as now, they said: “don’t blame us, it was them, the poor powerless people who look and sound a wee bitty different from you. Yes, it is good for everyone for me to have all this wealth and use my power to transfer more of it from you to me. Yes, that is normal and healthy to maintain an economy that generates wealth. And so it must be those slightly different new people who have nothing but still took everything from you.”

The lack of jobs is fault of the Syrians who, having only arrived now, succeeded in retrospectively mismanaging the economic recovery from the 2008 financial crisis. It probably wasn’t the bankers or politicians who caused it in the first place, but the Iraqi fleeing the indiscriminate bombing of his home engineered by that same wealthy elite. Those elites amass all power and wealth, robbing everyone else in society of the common property that maintains our health and wellbeing. When it all goes wrong because they don’t invest in aggregate demand, it is us who pay for it. And then we are supposed to blame all that we have been robbed of on those who have been robbed of everything.

Secondly lets look at the whole wrong and dishonourable, Adam Holloway MP’s claim that he was robbed of his haircut because his Kurdish barber returning to his homeland. Firstly, it turns out that this barber was caravanning in Yarmouth but that is not what is wrong with the Tory MP’s opinion. Why should his barber not want to return to his homeland? After the war my grandfather returned to Vienna. I went with him once in my youth and he told me all the things that had happened to him after the Anschluss. We went to his old house, the graves of our ancestors, the steps he was forced to clean, where he used to have to fight with the Hitler youth.

Until now that his age has prevented him, my grandfather went every year with my late Granny and relived these moments. Despite everything, Austria still held so much meaning to my grandfather and it was important for him to find meaning in all the destruction by revisiting it again and again. Should he have suddenly decided that all he wanted to do was eat strawberries and cream and play cricket like the blue-blooded Etonians who rule this country? Should he have forgotten everything of his childhood, the world he was born into and had just been destroyed before his adolescent eyes?

NO ONE IS ILLEGAL. If there is anything to take from the way we idealise our treatment of Holocaust refugees, despite how the government actually acted, it is this: after the full horror of the Holocaust became apparent, we could not deal with the idea that we stood by for so many years perusing appeasement and simply protecting our own interests, rather than protecting the lives of our fellow human beings being murdered on the continent.

I could not despise Westminster more than I do now. A year ago, my grandfather proudly voted Yes and told me he was Scottish because Britain is just the dying imperial dream of the wealthy in the south-east of England. Of course I know there are a great many English, Welsh and Northern Irish people who share my values and outrage at this, but no one with any power in Westminster does. The current UK may be full of good, kind people who are able to see the common humanity behind the masks the media has put on refugees. But there is not a single person who shares ‘the dream of Britain’ who sees it that way.

It was very heartening walking around Leipzig and Dresden with my Girlfriend two weeks back and seeing both cities plastered in ‘No to Pegida, Yes to Immigrants’ or ‘¡No pasarán!’ Germany has pledged to do so much and take in so many refugees, as has France. Why does the UK shut its gates to all but a token number?

I firmly believe that it is so the elites who seek to maintain and exercise the power their families have accrued over generations of appropriation know that the best remedy for an unhappy populous is to divide it and redirect the fingers of blame towards each other. There is no place for any of us in the ‘dream of Britain.’ So why not let these poor people, these fellow human beings, into the spacious UK, and rather than settle for all of us losing more wealth and power, why do we not demand it back from those who really took it from us? They drove the refugees here in the first place by destroying their families and homes or arming those that did.

There is enough here for all of us to live long, healthy, meaningful lives, even with all the refugees. It just so happens that over the last thirty years almost all of it has been transferred to the 1% at the top.


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About RIC Aberdeen

The Radical Independence Campaign sees Scottish independence as the first step towards creating a fairer, greener, more democratic place. RIC Aberdeen are a local campaigning group, ordinary people who want to make a difference. We do canvassing every Wednesday night, along with other events. Please get in touch for more info.

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