Systematic Humanitarian Blackmail via Aquarius?
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 20 Aug 2018
Confronting Europe with a Humanitarian Trojan Horse
Challenge of the “headless hearts” to the “heartless heads”?
The economist Paul Collier has argued that: the debate on migration is polarised into two strident positions, a heartless and the headless (On Immigration, Head to Head: Al Jazeera, 7 August 2015; rerun on Head to Head, 18 August 2018). Subsequently he clarifies:
To rise to the challenge, we need to combine the instinctive compassion that mass suffering arouses with the dispassionate analysis necessary to craft an effective response. We need the heart supported by the head. The growing humanitarian crisis has come about because we’ve deployed one without the other. Our response has veered between the heartless head and the headless heart, and the results have been calamitous. (Why camps are the wrong way to help today’s refugees, The Spectator, March 2017)
In an extensive review of the book which Collier co-authored (Refuge: Rethinking Refugee Policy in a Changing World, 2017), the metaphor is further emphasized (David Jimenez, How Europe’s ‘Headless Hearts’ Made Refugee Crisis Worse, The American Conservative, 27 September 2017). The current role of the migrant rescue vessel Aquarius in the European policy debate on refugees is an exemplification of this.
Significance of a name? In heroic response to the influx of refugees into Europe from across the Mediterranean, through its name Aquarius effectively frames humanitarian intervention in terms of a popular 12-fold pattern — whether inadvertently or deliberately. This is curiously reinforced by media coverage of the retrieval of refugees from what are generically named as Zodiacs. The life-saving operation occurs within a highly controversial public relations framework in which imagery is vigorously exploited by all parties, as may itself be controversially examined (Starvation Imagery as Humanitarian Trump Card? Counterproductive emotional blackmail engendering worldwide indifference, 2016).
This invites reflection on the remarkable unexplored preference for strategic formulation in terms of a 12-fold set (Checklist of 12-fold Principles, Plans, Symbols and Concepts: web resources, 2011). Examples from there include:
- 12-Point Checklist for Disaster Recovery Planning
- 12-Point WHO Strategic Action Plan for Pandemic Influenza (2006-2007)
- 12-Point Action Plan (World Economic Forum, 1998)
- 12-Point Plan to Combat Terrorism
- 12-Point EU Action Plan to support the Millennium Development Goals (2010)
- 12 Leverage Points to Intervene in a System (Academy for Systems Change, 1997)
Subservience to this pattern could be considered to date from the sets of 12 deities of ancient Greece and Rome — now variously echoed in the iconography of the agencies of the United Nations and otherwise.
Framing the one-dimensional focus of Aquarius within a 12-dimensional system? Under the symbolic banner of the astrological sign Aquarius, there is therefore a case for reframing commentary on the life-saving initiative within a potentially richer 12-fold framework — as its use might unconsciously imply.
- Resentment: Engendering increasing irritation and resentment in migrant receiving societies, thereby:
- undermining credibility and appreciation of valued humanitarian initiatives elsewhere
- alienating support from humanitarian well-wishers
- Indifference: Engendering increasing indifference to suffering elsewhere in societies pressured to receive and accommodate refugees
- Opposition: Engendering increasingly active antagonism and resistance in receiving communities — whether “politically incorrect”, irrational, or otherwise
- encouraging overreaction and unreasonable response
- reinforcing extremist far-right agendas, populist protest, and “political incorrectness”
- increasing support for “building walls”, whether tangible, bureaucratic, or otherwise
- the greater the success, the greater the opposition, and the greater the risk of total rejection
- privileging refugees relative to the disadvantaged in the receiving communities
- Violence: Engendering increasing violence and fatalities in receiving communities
- without consideration of the implications for those affected, or provision for the threats they experience
- without consideration of increasing security issues (insulting behavior, break-ins, muggings, rape, knifings, etc)
- Deteriorating quality of life: Ensuring further reduction in quality of life of receiving communities, already stretched for resources
- without consultation or consent from the communities in question
- without provision for effective mediating or remedial processes
- ignoring cumulative effect in communities where quality of life has long been cultivated and valued
- False hopes: Engendering false hopes in millions in disadvantaged countries
- that the challenge of their lives can be resolved by migrating to a Europe faced with its own socio-economic problems
- discouraging efforts to resolve issues in those countries, especially by encouraging risk-takers to emigrate
- Exploitation: Cynical exploitation of suffering and disadvantage as a form of strategic “humanitarian shield” or Trojan Horse
- subtle media manipulation to further particular political agendas — without transparent consultation
- imposition of a political agenda to share the advantages of others — without their consent
- Irresponsibility: Deniable culpability of those responsible for strategy
- systemic irresponsibility and indifference to wider consequences
- implication that it is others who are responsible for any systemic consequences — or should be, whether or not their approval has been sought
- Short-termism: Unquestionable increase in “knee-jerk” preoccupation with the short-term
- “don’t think, just act — as we righteously prescribe”
- obscuring wider and longer-term systemic considerations
- reinforcing avoidance of wider issues in other arenas in preference to responsiveness to the news cycle
- skillfully ignoring the many effectively condemned to death in the future by focusing narrowly on those who can be saved with full media coverage
- Obfuscation: Complicity in obscuring wider systemic role of those engendering conflict, thereby ensuring a continuing flow of refugees
- whether benefitting from manufacture and sale of arms to combatants
- or active use of arms in conflict arenas as a strategic foreign policy
- complicity in destabilizing Europe
- Complicity: Exploiting duplicity of receiving governments
- in need of replacement labour but unable to engender it otherwise
- deriving economic and strategic benefits from the process which engenders refugees
- massaging statistics — reunion
- Arrogance: Dangerously reframing and eroding the image of humanitarian agencies like Médecins Sans Frontières, SOS Méditeranée, and the like
- increasing the impression of presumption and righteous arrogance, following the pattern of TINA, and “You’re either with us, or against us“
- implication of an ambition for a humanitarian equivalent to full-spectrum dominance
- evoking suspicion as to whether “blackmailers” participate in accommodating refugees according to the degree required of receiving communities
Especially striking was the contrast made between video reporting of demands made of European governments in declarations — following the “success” of the most recent operation of Aquarius — compared with the wording of the formal press release. Unfortunately, the more relief agencies consider themselves to be unquestionably “right”, the more others will frame the perception as “wrong”. The wider systemic implications of a 12-fold pattern within which the singular Aquarian perspective may be embedded are considered below.
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