The four weeks are over and I have left the refugee housing and Buch. It was quite emotional to leave, and now almost a week later I feel still as emotional about it.
It was also the first and kind of ”main” reason for me coming here (and also for visiting the refugee camps in Athens in 2016). Getting past the vague “people” label with the distance that we so easily hide and somewhat shield our lives behind. I wanted the emotional connection and understanding that you get through meeting people in real life. Seeing, talking and glimpsing each others minds and hearts I believe to be the only way of making someone else real. Even though we follow news and the global situation on our screens, it does not make us feel and understand the reality of what we are looking at. Without the physical meeting and experience we also don’t realize how naturally we care for each other, and that we are here together.
The uncertain lives and futures of the many people I met is not something that I will forget. Throughout the residency my thoughts have constantly been going between the refugee situation and its connection to the bigger general situation, here in Germany, in Europe and in the global world.
The flaws of our system are so central to the situation. Our political system that is not capable of – or even built for – long term solutions, seems absurd. Incapable of looking more than a few years into the future or the past.
We have created a world where money is what matters and what everything is built up around and to a large extent even on. The by now pretty mad looking and in my opinion derailed concept of eternal economic growth lies at its center. A motor that has generated so much good but that sadly also is running on a use and abuse mentality, where the poor ARE the slaves of the rich and part of the fuel that is burnt, together with any natural resource available.
We are all trapped in the system but still refuse to acknowledge it has become our prison. Before our eyes, but unable to act or change, we can see how the monetary system and our way of living is hollowing out our societies, values, cultures, democracies and our human values. How it’s impacting both our physical and mental health. We can even see how we are wrecking the whole planet and its intricate eco-systems that has been developed through millions and millions of years, soon even over what seems to be the point of no return.
These are of course very big and complex systems, thoughts and concerns that I am trying to capture in a few clumsy words, but I don’t believe we can talk about or address the refugee situation without also looking at how we and the global world are linked to its creation. The connection to the many situations the refugees are fleeing from, where wars, oppressive regimes and poverty (with its lack of basic human rights, security, stability and future), are either a direct consequence of the control (or grab) of resources and power, or the fight for them.
But the refugee situation is also connected to “our” way of living at the other end too, which I believe is quite a central and overlooked part of the problem we are having with integration. Because if the aspect or foundation of our culture that I’ve just tried to describe is true, it must also be considered somewhat central to who we are. So what are our values we want people to adapt to? How sustainable is our “western” culture when taking this into account? Is this what we want? Creating and valuing our lives, freedom, stability, possibilities and material convenience around the accumulation and use of money? On the cost of others? What other values do we have and cherish, that are not based on consumption? What are our social and human values worth? Why are we not meeting the refugees at the border and helping them in any way we can? Does it make better sense to spend most of our time working and passively watching TV and screens?
I hope we, as a global community and society, will get our act together and take responsibility and control of who we are and would like to be.
I wish and hope that with time, a new culture will arise through the problems and global economic, social and natural crisis that we dive deeper into every day, even though the first and immediate answer will probably be the opposite.
Maybe living in and truly experiencing the crises and consequences is the only thing that could create the incentive for the change that we need? No matter what, I believe it will be our last chance.
A few photos from one of my last nights, that for me, at the moment, captured what lies there behind, somehow broadening the perspective of the situation and the refugee housing. The lonely person in the middle of the night, smoking his shisha. The concrete buildings of Buch being the immediate background to the refugee housing, the world in which it resides and belongs to. Then further away, the Moon and even Jupiter is slowly and quietly passing by, reflecting the light from the sun, giving us a more planetary perspective, pointing our attention to our connection to the universe and the grand mystery that seem to have been central to the human species and the societies we built throughout our history…