In this article we will make the case for the
unrestricted right to migrate. I will use at my best the
skills that KEY intends to promote: critical thinking
and empathy. KEY 1.0 will not present its "
official doctrine " regarding the migration
phenomena or any other topic, neither to the classes nor
to the teachers. Also, nobody has to agree with us on
any topic as a necessary condition to participate. On
the contrary, we wish for a cooperation between people
with very different perspectives.
We are certain there are opinions different than that expressed here and yet compatible with critical thinking. Presenting any concept, no matter how valid, as an unquestionable truth, would be completely at odds with our methods and values.
The core philosophy of KEY 1.0 cherishes the dialogue between people with opposite views, but also the courage to take clear and firm positions when needed. KEY 1.0 is a project of SOS Racismo, which advocates that the freedom of movement should be recognized as a fundamental human right. I believe that, in a society oriented by critical thinking, this principle would be more popular than it is today, and this is the position I will stand for throughout this text.
Modern Western culture explicity claims two fundamental values: personal freedom, and the ethics of reciprocity, the golden rule, treating others like you want to be treated. Limiting the freedom of non-Western citizens to live in the West, is an obvious contradiction with our dearest shared values. We should take them more seriously. In addition to this, the majority of people that are denied access into our countries, do not choose their destiny, as they should be entitled to, but are compelled to do so by dramatic circumstances. Even in the most serious cases of families escaping from wars, many people question their right to the refugee status. The decision of Europe to guard its borders, costs hundreds of lives every year.
And yet I would accept the necessity of patrolling the borders if somebody showed me that it prevents worse tragedies than the loss of human lives that it causes. What risks are we reducing by restricting immigration? What advantages are we aiming to? Many Western people feel that something terrible would happen if borders were opened. We would be immediately invaded, crime would increase, and so social problems and terrorism, our allegedly superior society would be corrupted. The assumption below many of this fears is that our needs are more important than the needs of the people who were not born in the West. This position is rarely taken in a clear and open way, since it contradicts many of the principles that we all explicitly defend. When we human beings hold two conflicting ideas, values, or attitudes, we tend to solve this contradiction by rationalizing, i.e. by finding a justification which is not a valid argument, but it is appealing to us anyway because it eases the psychological burden of the dissonance. I believe that this is the origin of the following opinion: “we don’t have to open our borders, but help the migrants in their countries instead”. I always wondered how could this statement be so popular among otherwise judicious people. Moreover, I find it even more surprising that the obvious following counter-argument is not at least as popular: regulating the migrations does not help in any way to mitigate the economical unbalance between rich and poor countries.
Jonathan Haidt, American social psychologist I often agree with, defends that an excessively open attitude of a part of the population towards immigration, leads to lenient policies, which in turn boost the fears of the rest of the population, thus increasing xenophobia. I am willing to partially follow Jonathan Haidt’s reasoning. In spite of not being rationally justified, the fear of migrations exists and has to be taken into account. If today, all of a sudden, borders were fully and unconditionally opened against the will of a large part of the population, the negative reaction of this measure would probably cancel all its benefits. However, an anti-racist movement would never have the power to implement an extremely unpopular action, even if it wanted to. What anti-racist movements are trying to do, is to promote a narrative favorable towards the opening of borders. Legislation will only be altered when this goal is accomplished. History has shown how narratives can dramatically change in a few years, so the purpose of movements against racism is not unrealistic.
There is only a useful comparison of such kind: the one between our present culture, the only culture we can directly influence, and a possible future version of it. I am going to use the example of personal improvement as a metaphor to explain the statement made in the previous subparagraph. I can confidently say that Nelson Mandela was a better person than Ted Bundy, the notorious serial killer of the 70s. I am sure that there are better individuals than me, and worse ones also. The concept of better person and worse person, are not always totally pointless. It is just not fruitful or interesting to ask oneselves if we are a better or a worse person than anyone else. Thinking that we are worse than someone is not good for our self-esteem and doesn’t help us to improve. Thinking that we are better is not good for the self-esteem of the other person and it has adverse consequences for our personality as well. The most intelligent attitude is to do our best to always improve ourselves. The only constructuive comparison is the one between the person we are now and the person we may be in the future. If in this process of improvement we include factors like empathy, awareness of the social consequences of our actions, social contributions, commitment and respect for other people, we are also promoting a better environment around us. The people who are part of this environment, will certainly get on with us, making our life easier and this will encourage more people to follow a similar path. Of course there will always be somebody much more interested in their immediate personal gain than they are in our needs. Therefore, the capacity of defending ourselves and demanding respect, are also desirable social skills Nevertheless, it’s essential to be patient and tolerant with the faults inherent to human nature. Similarly, it’s useless to ask oneselves if the West is better or worse than any other civilization. Nobody needs to hear that her culture is superior or inferior to another one. The natural reaction of most people would be contempt in one case and envy and resentment in the other. What we do need, instead, is openness and curiosity towards other civilizations, and the awareness that, in the end, there is one single human civilazation. The wheel, the agriculture, the domestication of animals, the writing, the present numbering system, the scientific method … are all results of conquers from very distant cultures in time and space, being the most recent impossible without the previous ones. They are all part of a chain of cultural developments that unify the whole humanity. This inter-connection has reached unbelievable levels in modern times. We all belong to the same world, whthere we like it or not. It’s good for our Western culture to continue to pursue the undeniable progress concerning gender equality, civil rights, the recognition of the legittimacy of different lifestyles and sexual orientations, and so on. But looking down on some cultures for being, really or alegedly, behind us in this path, is detrimnental to the promotion of these values outside the West and to the harmony among peoples and cultures.
Many Western individuals do not feel that they belong to the West, actually they feel a stronger sense of belonging to the whole humanity. I am one of those. However, instead of a sterile controversy on this point, I prefer to grant the right to feel Western. I just want to promote, at the same time, the idea that this pride should be inspired by our positive aspects and inspire to challenge the negative ones. I wouls like a West open to everybody.
A thorough analysis of arguments for the closing the borders, and a careful counter-argumentation based on documented evidence, goes beyond the purposes of the present article and the skills of its author. However, I have done my best to practise my critical thinking. We believe that the role of science and philosophy teaching, is to favour this attitude, whatever the conclusion this path will take us to.
Key 1.0. Team Coordinator
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