30. 06. 2016
Countering the globalisation of indifference
In a recent essay for the London Review of Books, British journalist and historian Frances Stonor Saunders offers provocative comment on the nature of borders in the post 9/11 world. She observes that borders are managed, unsurprisingly, in the interests of the rich and powerful. If your passport is issued by a wealthy country such as Australia then you enjoy a high degree of travel freedom. An Australian passport currently lets you enter 169 countries and territories without a pre-arranged visa. If, by contrast, your passport is issued by a poor country such as Eritrea, for example, you have visa-free entry into only 34 countries. The two lowest ranked passports on the global ladder are currently those of Iraq and Afghanistan. Which is why, Saunders observes, if you were driven to flee one of those countries due to fear of persecution from the governing regime then you may well need to travel on a people smugglers’ boat, without paperwork.
In July 2013 the newly elected Pope Francis visited the Italian island of Lampedusa, seeking to commemorate the thousands of migrants recently drowned in attempts to reach Europe from North Africa. “Where is your brother?” asked Pope Francis. “Who is responsible for this blood? Everybody and nobody. The globalisation of indifference makes us all responsible, and yet nameless and faceless.”
Elaborating upon the Pope’s sentiments, Saunders confesses that:
“I don’t understand the mechanisms by which globalisation, with all its hype of mobility and the collapse of distance and terrain, has instead delivered a world of barricades and partition, in which entire populations seem to be living – and dying – in a different history from mine.”
How is it, in this unprecedented age of networked data collection – when we are numbered, scanned, micro-chipped, photographed and monitored within an inch of our lives – that we are fighting a global war against a largely faceless enemy? And how is that so many of the bodies washing up on the beaches of European islands are unidentified and nameless?
The recent ‘Brexit’ vote demonstrated one country’s popular desire to fortify its borders. “Strong border control” is a catch-cry in the current election campaigns of both Australia’s major political parties. But in a globalised economy, who and where are our true friends and our true foes? The difficulty we encounter in answering this question undoubtedly explains our willingness to find easy scapegoats for our fears and frustrations.
(You can read – and listen – to Saunder’s essay at: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v38/n05/frances-stonorsaunders/where-on-earth-are-you )