As the world witnesses a hopeless effort on part of its Caucasian minority to retain for as long as possible its supremacy over the other 84% of the world’s population, the example of Africans and Middle Easterners fleeing to Europe appears to have served as an impetus for Venezuelans fleeing an economic meltdown. However, unlike the old continent vis a vis Africans and Middle Easterners or the US vis a vis Latinos, Latin Americans, who share a mestizo heritage — part Caucasian, part Indian, part African — appear more inclined, after some initial protests, to assist each other in times of economic hardship.
Since 2015, 1.6 million Venezuelans have fled, as President Maduro accuses the US of waging an economic war to undermine the Bolivarian Revolution, refusing international aide (a human rights violation), for fear it would lead to political intervention. As if to confirm his suspicion, it is not the indigenous Mercosur that meets on its home turf, but the OAS in Washington. Originally called to ‘adopt common rules regarding refugees’ travel documents’ the gathering issued calls to depose Maduro. (In parallel, though unrelated, the Trump administration is confiscating the passports of American citizens born near the border, whose birth certificates issued by midwives rather than doctors are viewed with suspicion.)
The American drawbridge effect is mirrored in a new period of division between Eastern and Western Europe. The European Parliament — the closest thing to a democratic body that the EU possesses — recently voted to censure Hungary for its ‘illiberal democracy’ that refuses to accept Muslim immigrants fleeing Middle East and African disasters, having already censured Poland for similar reasons. The two are not alone in their turn toward authoritarianism at home and rejection of ‘others’. Joined by the Czech and Slovak Republics they constitute The Visegrad Four, which openly rejects Europe’s Enlightenment values.
In a debate televised on France 24 on September 12th, a Polish participant called his Western pro-migrant opponents ‘dirty leftists’ claiming that Europe’s true values are not humanitarianism, but Christianity. A few days ago, I wrote: “Having lived in Eastern Europe in the sixties, I’m certain that many of its inhabitants see their rejection of Muslims as payback for three or four hundred years of Ottoman occupation.” I didn’t expect this insight to be confirmed live on television, and yet, in a stunning example of Poland’s obsession with its tragic history, the Polish politician raised his voice to force the point that in the fourteenth century, Poland pushed back the Ottoman occupation of Europe – a momentous event for which Hungary takes quieter credit.
It may be useful for the beleaguered countries of Europe facing far-right-and-sometimes-outright-fascist-parties — not to mention the US contending with its Alt-right descendants of the KKK — to consider the broader meme that is infecting the entire planet — see Rohingas in Burma, or the minorities in African countries whose names are unfamiliar in the North (or ’West’). To say that this is all about Otherness, as I wrote in A Taoist Politics: The Case for Sacredness, may not tell the whole story: somewhere along the line, place may be part of the us-ness chromosome.
In Hitler’s Germany, “He, she, they are not one of ‘us’ was about ‘blood and soil’, in France, even today, social phenomena or habits are referred to proudly as ‘bien de chez nous’: ‘our very own’. When, after six decades, communication between Northern and Southern Koreans was permitted, a few months ago, the latter queued at restaurants to eat a favorite northern dish.
In Latin America, however, in addition to shared genes, another important factor comes to mind, and that is ideology. Gone are the days when Fidel and Che inspired an entire continent — as well as distant Africa — to throw up socialist leaders, who, while freeing their individual countries from North American subservience, unified around progressive organizations such as Mercosur and the Andean Pact. Today, with Fidel and Venezuela’s Chavez gone, Raul having passed the Cuban Presidency to a newcomer, Brazil’s Lula da Silva fighting corruption charges (over a beach-front apartment!), his successor Dilma Roussef having been impeached, Argentina’s progressive Kirschners, husband, then wife, having been succeeded by the neo-liberal Macri, only Mexico, which for decades informed the US of travelers transiting to Cuba, awaits a progressive president on December first.
Thanks to his country’s relatively good economic numbers, Manuel Obrador is unlikely to welcome Trump’s proposals for a new trade deal — much less a wall. This new attitude suggests that Latin Americans’ search for better lives among themselves, as they trek through the Andes, is likely to leave the Southern continent in better shape than Europe in its noble, but perhaps misguided attempt to assimilate Africans thrusting themselves into the Mediterranean.
Deena Stryker is an international expert, author and journalist that has been at the forefront of international politics for over thirty years, exlusively for the online journal “New Eastern Outlook”.