Strangers at Our Door - Zygmunt Bauman - E-Book

Strangers at Our Door E-Book

Zygmunt Bauman

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Beschreibung

Refugees from the violence of wars and the brutality of famished lives have knocked on other people's doors since the beginning of time. For the people behind the doors, these uninvited guests were always strangers, and strangers tend to generate fear and anxiety precisely because they are unknown. Today we find ourselves confronted with an extreme form of this historical dynamic, as our TV screens and newspapers are filled with accounts of a 'migration crisis', ostensibly overwhelming Europe and portending the collapse of our way of life. This anxious debate has given rise to a veritable 'moral panic' - a feeling of fear spreading among a large number of people that some evil threatens the well-being of society. In this short book Zygmunt Bauman analyses the origins, contours and impact of this moral panic - he dissects, in short, the present-day migration panic. He shows how politicians have exploited fears and anxieties that have become widespread, especially among those who have already lost so much - the disinherited and the poor. But he argues that the policy of mutual separation, of building walls rather than bridges, is misguided. It may bring some short-term reassurance but it is doomed to fail in the long run. We are faced with a crisis of humanity, and the only exit from this crisis is to recognize our growing interdependence as a species and to find new ways to live together in solidarity and cooperation, amidst strangers who may hold opinions and preferences different from our own.

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Contents

Cover

Title Page

Copyright

1 Migration Panic and its (Mis)uses

Notes

2 Floating Insecurity in Search of an Anchor

Notes

3 On Strongmen’s (or Strongwomen’s) Trail

Notes

4 Together and Crowded

Notes

5 Troublesome, Annoying, Unwanted: Inadmissible

Notes

6 Anthropological vs Time-bound Roots of Hatred

Notes

End User License Agreement

Guide

Cover

Table of Contents

Begin Reading

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Strangers at Our Door

Zygmunt Bauman

polity

Copyright © Zygmunt Bauman 2016

The right of Zygmunt Bauman to be identified as Author of this Work has been asserted in accordance with the UK Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

First published in 2016 by Polity Press

Polity Press65 Bridge StreetCambridge CB2 1UR, UK

Polity Press350 Main StreetMalden, MA 02148, USA

All rights reserved. Except for the quotation of short passages for the purpose of criticism and review, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher.

ISBN-13: 978-1-5095-1220-1

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Bauman, Zygmunt, 1925- author.Title: Strangers at our door / Zygmunt Bauman.Description: 1 | Malden, MA : Polity, 2016. | Includes bibliographical references.Identifiers: LCCN 2016002256 (print) | LCCN 2016009972 (ebook) | ISBN 9781509512164 (hardback) | ISBN 9781509512171 (paperback) | ISBN 9781509512195 (Mobi) | ISBN 9781509512201 (Epub)Subjects: LCSH: Emigration and immigration--Social aspects. | Immigrants--Public opinion. | Refugees--Public opinion. | BISAC: SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General.Classification: LCC JV6225 .B396 2016 (print) | LCC JV6225 (ebook) | DDC 304.8--dc23LC record available at http://lccn.loc.gov/2016002256

The publisher has used its best endeavours to ensure that the URLs for external websites referred to in this book are correct and active at the time of going to press. However, the publisher has no responsibility for the websites and can make no guarantee that a site will remain live or that the content is or will remain appropriate.

Every effort has been made to trace all copyright holders, but if any have been inadvertently overlooked the publisher will be pleased to include any necessary credits in any subsequent reprint or edition.

For further information on Polity, visit our website: politybooks.com

1Migration Panic and its (Mis)uses

TV news, newspaper headlines, political speeches and Internet tweets, used to deliver foci and outlets for public anxieties and fears, are currently overflowing with references to the ‘migration crisis’ – ostensibly overwhelming Europe and portending the collapse and demise of the way of life we know, practise and cherish. That crisis is at present a sort of politically correct codename for the current phase of the perpetual battle waged by opinion makers for the conquest and subordination of human minds and feelings. The impact of the news broadcast from that battlefield now comes close to causing a veritable ‘moral panic’ (by the commonly accepted definition of that phenomenon, as recorded by the English Wikipedia, the concept of ‘moral panic’ stands for ‘a feeling of fear spread among a large number of people that some evil threatens the well-being of society’).

As I write these words, another tragedy – one born of callous unconcern and moral blindness – lies in wait to strike. Signs are piling up that public opinion, in cahoots with the ratingscovetous media, is gradually yet relentlessly approaching the point of ‘refugee tragedy fatigue’. Drowned children, hastily erected walls, barbed-wire fences, overcrowded concentration camps and governments vying with each other to add the insult of treating the migrants as hot potatoes to the injuries of exile, narrow escape and the nerve-racking perils of the voyage to safety – all such moral outrages are ever less news and ever more seldom ‘in the news’. Alas, the fate of shocks is to turn into the dull routine of normality – and of moral panics to spend themselves and vanish from view and from consciences wrapped in the veil of oblivion. Who remembers now the Afghan refugees seeking asylum in Australia, hurling themselves against the barbed-wire fences of Woomera or confined to the large detention camps built by the Australian government on Nauru and Christmas Island ‘to prevent them from entering its territorial waters’? Or the dozens of Sudanese exiles killed by the police in the centre of Cairo ‘after having been deprived of their rights by the UN High Commission for Refugees’?1

Massive migration is by no means a novel phenomenon; it accompanied the modern era from its very beginning (though time and again modifying, and occasionally reversing, its direction) – as our ‘modern way of life’ includes the production of ‘redundant people’ (locally ‘inutile’ – excessive and unemployable – due to economic progress, or locally intolerable – rejected as a result of unrest, conflicts and strife caused by social/political transformations and subsequent power struggles). On top of that, however, we currently bear the consequences of the profound, and seemingly prospectless, destabilization of the Middle-Eastern area in the aftermath of the miscalculated, foolishly myopic and admittedly abortive policies and military ventures of Western powers.

And so the factors behind the present mass movements at the points of departure are two-fold; but so also are their impact at the points of arrival and the reactions of the receiving countries. In the ‘developed’ parts of the globe in which both economic migrants and refugees seek shelter, business interests covet and welcome the influx of cheap labour and profit-promising skills (as Dominic Casciani pithily summed it up: ‘British employers have become savvy at how to get cheap foreign workers – with employment agencies working hard on the continent to identify and sign up foreign labour’2); for the bulk of the population, already haunted by the existential frailty and precariousness of their social standing and prospects, that influx signals, however, yet more competition on the labour market, deeper uncertainty and falling chances of improvement: a politically explosive state of mind – with politicians veering awkwardly between incompatible desires to gratify their capital-holding masters and to placate the fears of their electors.

All in all, as things stand now and promise to be standing for a long time to come, mass migration is unlikely to grind to a halt; neither for the lack of prompting nor for the rising ingenuity of attempts to stop it. As Robert Winder wittily remarked in the preface to the second edition of his book, ‘We can park our chair on the beach as often as we please, and cry at the oncoming waves, but the tide will not listen, nor the sea retreat.’3 The building of walls in order to stop migrants short of ‘our own backyards’ comes ridiculously close to the story of the ancient philosopher Diogenes rolling the barrel in which he lived to and fro along the streets of his native Sinope. Asked the reasons for his strange behaviour, he answered that, seeing his neighbours were busy barricading their doors and sharpening their swords, he wished also to add his own contribution to the defence of the city against being conquered by the approaching troops of Alexander of Macedonia.

What has happened most recently, however, in the last few years, is an enormous leap in the numbers added by refugees and asylum seekers to the total volume of migrants knocking at Europe’s doors; that leap has been caused by the rising number of ‘falling’, or rather already fallen, states, or – to all intents and purposes – stateless and so also lawless territories, stages of interminable tribal and sectarian wars, mass murders and catch-as-catch-can, round-the-clock banditry. To a large extent, this is the collateral damage done by the fatally misjudged, ill-starred and calamitous military expeditions to Afghanistan and Iraq, which ended in the replacing of dictatorial regimes by the open-all-hours theatre of unruliness and the frenzy of violence – aided and abetted by the global arms trade unleashed from control and beefed up by the profit-greedy arms industry, with the tacit (though all too often proudly displayed in public at international arms fairs) support of GNP-rise-greedy governments. The flood of refugees pushed by the rule of arbitrary violence to abandon their homes and cherished possessions, of people seeking shelter from the killing fields, topped the steady flow of the so-called ‘economic migrants’, pulled by the all-too-human wish to move from barren soil to where the grass is green: from impoverished lands of no prospects, to dreamlands rich in opportunities. Of that steady stream of people seeking the chance for a decent life standard (a stream flowing steadily since the beginning of humanity, and only accelerated by the modern industry of redundant people and wasted lives4), Paul Collier has the following to say:

The first fact is that the income gap between poor countries and rich ones is grotesquely wide and the global growth process will leave it wide for several decades. The second is that migration will not significantly narrow this gap because the feedback mechanisms are too weak. The third is that as migration continues, the diasporas will continue to accumulate for some decades. Thus, the income gap will persist, while the facilitator for migration will increase. The implication is that migration from poor countries to rich is set to accelerate. For the foreseeable future, international migration will not reach equilibrium: we have been observing the beginnings of disequilibrium of epic proportions.5

Between 1960 and 2000, as Collier calculated (having available at the time of his writing only the statistics up to 2000), ‘what took off, from under 20 million to over 60 million, was migration from poor countries to rich ones. Further, the increase accelerated decade by decade … It is a reasonable presumption that 2000 continued this acceleration.’ Left to its own logic and momentum, we may say, the populations of poor and rich countries would behave like the liquid in corresponding vessels. The number of immigrants is bound to rise towards equilibrating, until the levels of well-being even up in both ‘developed’ and ‘developing (?)’ sectors of the globalized planet. Such a result will in all probability, however, take many decades to reach – even barring the unanticipated turns of historical fate.

Refugees from the bestiality of wars and despotisms or the savagery of famished and prospectless existence have knocked on other people’s doors since the beginnings of modern times. For people behind those doors, they were always – as they are now – strangers. Strangers tend to cause anxiety precisely because of being ‘strange’ – and so, fearsomely unpredictable, unlike the people with whom we interact daily and from whom we believe we know what to expect; for all we know, the massive influx of strangers might have destroyed the things we cherished – and intend to maim or wipe out our consolingly familiar way of life. Those people with whom we are used to cohabiting in our neighbourhoods, on city streets or in work places, we divide ordinarily into either friends or enemies, welcome or merely tolerated; but to whatever category we assign them, we know well how to behave towards them and how to conduct our interactions. Of strangers, however, we know much too little to be able to read properly their gambits and compose our fitting responses – to guess what their intentions might be and what they will do next. And the ignorance of how to go on, how to deal with a situation not of our making and not under our control, is a major cause of anxiety and fear.

These are, we might say, universal and extemporal problems when there are ‘strangers in our midst’ – appearing at all times and haunting all sectors of the population with more or less similar intensity and to a more or less similar degree. Densely populated urban areas inevitably generate the contradictory impulses of ‘mixophilia’ (attraction to variegated, heteronymous surroundings auguring unknown and unexplored experiences, and for that reason promising the pleasures of adventure and discovery) and ‘mixophobia’ (fear of the unmanageable volume of the unknown, untamable, off-putting and uncontrollable). The first propulsion is city life’s main attraction – the second being, on the contrary, its most awesome bane, especially in the eyes of the less fortunate and resourceful, who – unlike the rich and privileged, capable of buying into ‘gated communities’ to insulate themselves from the discomforting, perplexing and, time and again, terrifying turmoil and brouhaha of crowded city streets – lack the capacity to cut themselves off