These are three distinct but currently interwoven topics. First, Terrorists. Please do not turn off because you think I am sympathizing with terrorists. I am not. I am trying to figure out why there are people who act this way, other than because of basic human meanness and brutality. Perhaps it’s encouraged by the thought that heaven awaits martyrs.
Brian Williams mentioned something after the Brussels attack, commenting on the terrorists, that caught my attention. I might not quote him exactly, but what I heard was, “They have never held a job, nor been taught about responsibility, nor held a woman’s hand.” To me that means they have never had a normal or natural human relationship. I don’t feel sorry for them. I feel sorry for us.
That their warped culture can breed young people having no empathy for other beings, to the degree that they treat others like the avatars in a video game, is horrible. This kind of teaching is a product of religion, and definitely not just of Islam. Forcing people into the straight jackets of celibacy and overpopulation is just one of the tortures visited on people by many religions. At some point individuals escape the cruelty of their repressive cultures and immerse themselves in more open societies, ones having practices that they have been taught are against God’s will. They are then surrounded by what they think of as temptation and evil. Do we wonder that they snap?
All of this is not an excuse for terror. It is a description of what we face. I believe in an open society. I believe in kindness and equality. But insanity needs to be isolated until and unless it can be cured. Of course, the trouble is in the diagnosis. Who is insane, how to figure that out, and also how to cope with the presence of this sickness without figuring it out. Whatever the answers, they do not include letting hoards of possibly infected newcomers disperse throughout a population, nor by ghettoizing ethnic segments of an existing population.
Second, the EU. The EU was created with great hopes for it to be an open society that people would want to live in and would appreciate. It was designed in the naïve belief that people’s petty wants and biases would not be a factor. But they are. It was also designed believing that dozens of independent economic systems could be slapped together, without real change, into one economic fabric. At the formation of the EU, some views in northern Europe saw it as a method by which northern Europe would be perpetually bailing out southern Europe. This appears to be close to the truth.
Free movement between countries within the EU is permitted to EU citizens and most others depending on their circumstances. The details are too complex to relate here. However, entering the EU is not wide open for non-EU citizens who do not have family there, nor jobs, nor special circumstances. This is a very normal situation in the world. Borders are usually controlled and for very valid reasons. If you come from an area with poor living and working conditions, it is not okay to simply go to a place whose people have made it better. So, economic refugees must apply for immigration. At-risk refugees are quite another matter.
The topic of the EU and at-risk refugees has been bothering me for a while. It is certainly a noble thing to give shelter to refugees fleeing for their safety. If a few hundred present themselves asking for help, a country should give it. A few hundred thousand or a few million is quite a different issue. I have no idea what is specified in the Geneva Convention. But, if the sheltering of at-risk refugees is specified with no numeric criteria, then it has a severe deficiency. Also, how to differentiate at-risk refugees from economic refugees is quite difficult and can take considerable time.
Here’s where I really get opinionated; You may well think I already have. In the current circumstances, with millions of people throughout the world driven to leave their homes for fear and/or economic reasons, an orderly and humane method of receiving, sheltering, feeding, and clothing them is needed. I believe there should be settlements in territories supplied by countries (like in the EU) to which the refugees wish to come. The settlements should be walled with controlled access and thorough surveillance. Inside the walls there should be sturdy housing, a safe water supply and sanitation facilities. Food, clothing, healthcare, policing and schooling should be supplied. To the maximum extent possible all internal tasks should be fulfilled by the residents of these settlements. Supervision should be accomplished by citizens of the country supplying the land, and overall oversight should be the responsibility of an international organization by using the surveillance equipment and whatever other methods are needed.
Any resident of the settlements should be allowed to apply for immigration at any time according to the laws of the country (or countries, in the case of the EU) to which the application is made. These applications should be processed in the normal sequence as are such applications now. Security checks and identity verification should be part of this process. Preference should be given to at-risk refugees. If an application is rejected, the person should be allowed to remain in the settlement. Residents should also be allowed to request return to their own country at any time, and transportation should be provided. Those causing trouble should also be returned to their countries of origin. Residents should also be allowed to request transfer to any other such settlement and, given that space is available, this request should be granted.
There are many more aspects that need to be addressed. I don’t pretend that this simple formula is anywhere near sufficient. It is an attempt to develop a compassionate and pragmatic way of handling large scale refugee migrations, while not inundating nations that are good enough to receive new citizens. What we now have is overwhelming chaos, with little security for the receiving nations.
One more suggestion. At no time should any nation be required or expected to welcome home those adventurers who have traveled to a war zone to fight for a terrorist force. There must be some kind of reentry procedure that would allow for unavoidable long-term tracking of the returnees. They may well present a risk to their home countries. I think current experience shows this clearly.