Migration - the West caused the problems

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Migration – the West caused the problem

For decades we have told people in the Global South how wonderful it is to live in the West with consumerism. So it is not surprising that migrants want to share our good life now. By Jeremy Seabrook.


London's Oxford Street: Extreme Western consumerism. Giulio Jiang under a Creative Commons Licence

After the many terrible stories of people escaping from war, persecution and poverty, European leaders now say they will work with representatives of African and Middle Eastern countries to make sure the countries have enough. Then people will not need to leave the countries.

The media talks about the migrants using very negative language: ‘invasion’. ‘marauders’, ‘influx’, ‘menace to law and order’, ‘swarms’. And international groups try to make countries promise to increase aid money and help develop the areas hundreds of thousands of people have come to Europe from this year.

Now the leaders of Europe are talking about urgent development, they are also agreeing that they did not plan very well when they pushed globalization. When they talked about how good ‘global integration’ is, they were also saying how good the Western way of life is. And they told everyone in the world how much better it is than a simple life. Now it is too late, and the British government now wants to tell everyone that Britain is not a perfect country, full of gold. This is the opposite of what the West has been saying.

Promising an easy tomorrow

This was not the plan. At the end of the Soviet Union, most of the world came together in one global economic model. Each country was expected to develop like the rich Western economies; get money and opportunities for the poor and for people who had been controlled by empires, the military and dictators.

People thought that economic growth would bring a large middle class. They would create more money. And they would demand good laws and democracy. All countries would follow the countries of the West and eventually be rich and peaceful.

The West kept showing the rest of the world how rich and wonderful their life is. Advertising promised the world that tomorrow will be easy. The West showed that they had no more poverty, no more sadness, and life would continue for ever. If you have spoken to poor people in the Global South, you will know that this was successful: people there do not believe that there are still poor people in the rich countries; and they cannot understand why we do not want to share our money and fortune with them.

In many of the countries of planned ‘development’, people saw only violence and civil war, poverty, lack of basic necessities and a growing gap between rich and poor. It was taking too long to get the benefits. As people tried to get richer, the money got further away. When the West sold consumerism, they didn’t say that it took 6 or 7 generations of industrial misery, and hundreds of years of exploitation of the empire to become so rich.

Everyone was confident that there was only one way to develop – becoming like the West. Most countries did what they were told and started out on this journey to money and happiness. We were very confident that our way was the only way. So we couldn’t understand that some people might be angry or get violent. Some people did not accept that the West thought they were trying to help. Some militants (not all Islamic) had violent responses to this. But we then used even more force to justify that we were right.

But not even this stopped the West thinking that they were the only ones who are right. They continued to get rid of dictators and prepare countries for democracy and the free market, even in unlikely places like Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq, later Libya. These were not very successful, and sometimes they caused even more problems. But people still said that the people who left these countries were coming to the West because it is richer and more peaceful.

But now - too late - we see that this movement of people is out of control. War, poverty, repression and social violence at home will not lead to money and happiness tomorrow. The many people trying to get to the West is not an attack on civilization: it is, at least in part, because we sold them for so long ‘our’ way of life.

Europe, North America, Australia have worked together to cause these big changes in many countries. And now they say they are not responsible.

Globalization is not a steady and predictable process. It is now a very big, powerful way to make countries unstable. And we cannot now change these countries back to what they were before.

It is clear what people need to do (but Western leaders do not want to say it – they think ‘national’ boundaries must allow all goods and money to pass, but not people).

First, the best way to rescue the desperate from ‘people traffickers’ is to divide them between Western countries, according to the size and wealth of the country.

Second, we need to work very hard on overseas aid, growth and development to try to stop poverty and oppression. But not in the model of global growth we have now – that people will slowly rise out of poverty. We need to change the world order to make it more equal. If this means the richer countries develop more slowly, that’s OK. It will be the best we can hope for after being so selfish to want to change the whole world to be like us.

NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: http://newint.org/features/web-exclusive/2015/09/02/migration-europe-push-factor/ (This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed).