I sit in front of my computer screen. It’s early in the morning, it’s September 12, 2015. What happened on this day fourteen years ago, the day after the twin towers collapsed, the day North America announced its “war on terror”? I think of the myriad events, people, places, ideas, initiatives, and war.
News today is not about what happened in New York that day. The news I am watching is the reporting on refugees from war zones in Syria, Afghanistan, and North Africa. The “Arab Spring” is a memory, another chapter past, along with summer, and now winter stands at the door. Rain storms and chilling weather, wind, and a man, standing on a muddy field wearing only a T-Shirt, after walking for days, weeks, and maybe making that decision to walk only after months of running from bombs, hunger, thirst, and making that decision to run from bombs only after having lost your home, your friends, your family, and maybe your hope. It’s 2776 km from Homs, in Syria, where some of the first, and heaviest fighting began in Syria, to Vienna, in Austria. That’s if you walk the most direct route, that’s 549 hours of walking, not counting stops. That would be twenty three days, more than three weeks, just walking, if you say that you only walk eight hours a day it means you’re walking for 69 days, more than two months, if you take the shortest route, the most direct route. And where do you sleep? And what do you eat?
This is perhaps not the time, or the place, to question the collective actions of our western “developed” world after that day fourteen years ago. Suffice to say that the refugees from the war zones in the Middle East and Northern Africa are the “collateral damage” from the war on terror. We have a collective moral and ethical responsibility to aid, assist, help, accompany, do whatever we can, to lessen the burden these people have been carrying for too long.
It is interesting, and perhaps not surprising, is to observe what has been happening in the world during these last fourteen years. From my perspective we have seen the story of oil, Peak conventional-low-cost-to-extract Oil. We reached this Peak Oil between 2005 and 2008, that is, the world-wide Peak conventional-low-cost-to-extract Oil. The end date of that coincides with the world financial crisis, which some say, convincingly, is still raging. There is also this story of money, and the relationship between oil supply and financial markets. Some even say, and I include myself, that the “Arab Spring” was a direct result of trading on financial markets and the price of oil, which you might remember, was hitting close to US$140.- a barrel in 2008. One thing leads to another, and when fuel prices go up so does the cost of food. When you can’t feed your family, when your children are hungry, I pity the man, father, or woman, mother who would not do anything, anything at all, to feed his/her children.
So my thoughts return to the man standing in a field in Röszke, in Hungary, last weekend, wearing a wet T-shirt, who has walked thousand of kilometers, carrying his son, or daughter much of the way, who is tired, and hungry, and wants nothing more than to live an honest and peaceful life, and provide for himself and his family.
I think of this man, and the many thousands of men, and women, and children, actually more than twelve million displaced persons from the war in Syria alone. I think of these human beings, and our humanity. I thank these fellow human beings for giving me the opportunity to show my humanity, and I can’t think of enough ways to do it, or do it fast enough, because they are waiting for us help them on a safe journey to freedom.
Thank you Christer, this is such an insight into the stark reality facing our brothers and sisters forced into fleeing their homes. The way you illustrate their journeys really puts so much into perspective.