Comment Of The Day: “Open Forum Ethics III,” Migrant Thread

Mea culpa: I am only now catching up on all of the 144 comments in the December 19 open forum. Once again, the commentariat here covered Ethics Alarms with glory.

The first Comment of the Day from that post comes from a non-U.S. commentator, one of several here, whose perspective is often contrarian but always well-stated.

Here is Andrew Wakeling’s Comment of the Day on the post on the immigration/migrant thread in the post, Open Forum Ethics III:

There is something unsettling about foreigners (or rather those outside our community being accorded ‘rights’) that impose on ‘us’.

Migrants are drowning as they attempt to cross the Mediterranean and obtain a better life in Europe. I don’t blame the migrants for trying and some of them may well be escaping quite dreadful conditions. And as a European (at least until March 2019) I broadly support sustainable collective decency, admittedly being quite unclear how this should be done. I am not therefore unsettled by a European Court ruling that migrants rescued by EU vessels must be taken to a safe port. That seems to me to be a quite reasonable codification of a collective decision which I assume (without great confidence) has some democratic legitimacy. (ie. ‘We’ have decided.)

But I am more than unsettled by the claim, as in an NYT opinion piece today that migrant drownings show that: “European governments are avoiding their legal and moral responsibilities to protect the human rights of people fleeing violence and economic desperation”.

Of course such unsettlement risks me being marked out as an uncaring fascist, and at least in my mind this really isn’t the case. I don’t easily accept that ‘you’ (a foreigner outside my family and community) can have any ‘rights’ that impose an obligation on ‘me’. That does NOT mean I will necessarily refuse to help you. I want to be a decent charitable man, and I will within reason finance my family and community to so act.

There is a very practical as well as ethical angle here. It is unclear to me why the ‘Good Samaritan’ helped the distressed traveller. May be he was always ‘good’. Maybe he had just won Lotto. The important point is he ‘helped’ while others didn’t ; and it cost him. His charitable act should not place any obligation on him, or others, to help the next distressed traveller. The ‘cost’ of helping ‘one’ must not be inflated to an obligation to help the many. The tendency will then be an unavoidable drift to meanness and away from charity. All will lose.

 

4 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “Open Forum Ethics III,” Migrant Thread

  1. I agree with Andrew’s analysis. The logic must also apply to any nation’s decision to assist people fleeing poverty.

  2. I think the problem is that the left makes no distinction between refugees fleeing terrorist violent societies vs poor people with few usable skills looking for better economic opportunities in a wealthier country that their own. That’s why we currently have the partial shutdown of the government in the USA: Democratic politicians seeking more votes so they can further their agenda regardless of the cost to our country. Compassion for the individual must be balanced with common sense.

  3. It is unclear to me why the ‘Good Samaritan’ helped the distressed traveller.

    Everything hinges on interpretation. Irenaeus offered this one (which I offer here with a slight, but not absolute, note of irony):

    “The fate of the traveler represents the fall of the human race into the hands of demons; [the traveler] is Adam, who has left Jerusalem, the heavenly city, for Jericho, the world. The Samaritan is Christ, the inn is the Church, the promise to return, the Second Coming”.

    You wrote:

    Migrants are drowning as they attempt to cross the Mediterranean and obtain a better life in Europe. I don’t blame the migrants for trying and some of them may well be escaping quite dreadful conditions.

    What I find interesting in your comment is that it recognizes, in an exclusive way, only the advantages of a better material life. Since Europe possesses that, it is natural that the only object for the human of today is to ‘get to that’ and to ‘get there’.

    Today, people who examine this ‘crisis’ do so from a limited stance. I call that ‘the contingent’ but what I mean is the immediate. It comes to us through the spectacular image (a boat filled with suffering humanity, et cetera). Their view of the immediate is a sentimental one. This is not necessarily bad but it is very problematic if it gains power over the rational and the logical.

    To have a rational and a logical view will necessarily be a ‘long-view’, it seems to me. But in our present people, emotionally and sentimentally, focus on an immediate and merely contingent event.

    We say that *Europe is being threatened*. And you also are aware that we say that whiteness is being attacked and, if *they* have their way, would be destroyed. We speak of ‘white genocide’ and refer to what happened / what is happening in South Africa.

    We say that the European world is being threatened — is under *attack*. Is in danger. Even in order to say that, and certainly to see it, requires a far longer view than what is commonly offered. Therefore, a longer view will be one more similar to Irenaeus.

    The question then becomes: What is service to the ‘distressed traveler’. What does it really mean, from a longer historical view, to ‘help’?

    I think I might propose that taking that distressed traveler in is not — not rationally, not logically — the best course. It is the emotional and sentimental course though. The only real way to help *those people* is to help them in their own social and cultural context. It is unhelpful to present them with the seduction of leaving kith & kin simply to achieve better material conditions in Europe.

    But a whole discourse follows from this, and must necessarily underpin any statements made about the present. Europe must defend itself. Recover itself. Strengthen itself. Recover its *identity* (which means to resist the *attacks* on it). It has to fight against, resist and defeat those who undermine it in all the myriad of ways that we now witness.

    The same is actually true in América. Therefore, my point is that we need a long-range and truly historical-rational view. We have to deliberately unchoose the immediate, contingent, sentimental views offered through The Spectacle.

  4. I agree with Andrew (surprise!) in that nations must look to their own citizens first. I believe that this is what Merkel has lost sight of: Germany should above all protect her citizens.

    The ‘cost’ of helping ‘one’ must not be inflated to an obligation to help the many. The tendency will then be an unavoidable drift to meanness and away from charity. All will lose.

    These words sum up the Conservative position nicely. (American Marxist corrupted conservative little ‘c’ to some here: Happy New Year, Alizia!)

    Our nation has the rule of law… for the most part, anyway, progressive intentions notwithstanding. This is what the nations those ‘huddled masses’ are fleeing lack. I feel for the individual, but judge the nations that cause the suffering when the law is not equal.

    Lest we get prideful, America is headed that way as well.

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