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  • Evangelos Tsirmpas

Utopia into practice: Refugees Welcome!

Depicture of the drowning bodies of countless refugees in the Aegean throughout the illustration Aegean Guernica by the Bulgarian cartoonist Jovcho Savov.

According to the International Organization for Migration, more than a million immigrants and refugees have crossed into Europe in 2015. This should come as no surprise to the western powers which actively helped to shape the socio-economic and political conditions that lead to the Syrian civil war, during which half the country’s pre-war population was killed or forced to flee their homes. The ongoing brutal conflict in the Middle East along with the refusal of most of the Arab countries to accept them, has resulted in an unprecedented number of people seeking shelter in Europe.

Due to its geographical position Greece has diachronically been a melting pot of different civilizations, a crossroad between East and West. This objective factor has shaped subjective characteristics and mentalities adopted by the Greek people from the ancient times - characteristics much deeper than respect and hospitality. In ancient Greece foreigners were considered to be holy persons, their protection was a moral duty supported by the father of Gods Zeus and the goddess Athena.

Three Greek grandmothers taking care of a refugee baby on the island of Lesvos.

(Photo by Lefteris Patsalis).

After thousands of years, Greece remains a gathering point of the persecuted people who are approaching the entrance gate of Europe struggling for their and their children's survival. And after thousands of years, Greeks stay true to the value of filoxenia despite all difficulties that arose during the financial crisis and show solidarity to the refugees, especially in the Aegean Islands and close to the land borders. At the same time, a large number of self-organized groups and solidarity movements begin to appear all around Europe.

These self-organized solidarity organizations are not doing charity work and are not philanthropic or state-funded foundations. They are active social cells that do not help people in need out of compassion or mercy, but within a framework of struggle for the smashing of racial discriminations and economic exploitation, though the abolition of socio-economic and political conditions give birth to wars and racism. Their action does not tend to cover the system deficiencies, but to change the system and achieve a world of peace, equality and freedom. They are putting utopian ideas into practice and illustrate how a different world is possible and actually necessary. However, we shall not forget that societies are heterogeneous mixtures of conflicting elements. The institutionalized racism, from the recent law that forces refugees to give up their valuables in Denmark to the concentration camps where people are left without water and toilet for days, and various neo-Nazi criminal gangs, from Golden Dawn in Greece to Front National in France and Pegida in Germany, are dystopian clouds gathering over Europe.

Crisis derives from the ancient Greek word krisis that means 'judgment'. The refugee crisis is a decisive moment. The way that we are going to treat refugees is going to define ourselves and our societies. We are already defined by thousands of refugee children that have fallen into the hands of human traffickers, by the thousands of dead refugees and immigrants that we didn't manage to protect. Refugees are becoming the reincarnation of the Agambian homo sacer, the bare life that does not deserve to live, excluded by human rights and even the human status. While humanity has achieved progress only through interaction and transculturation, closed societies without respect for otherness are condemned to disintegrate. But the flame of solidarity is still alight and is strong enough to burn the past and lighten the future. In the following weeks we are going to focus on some solidarity projects and self-organized initiatives, interview them and present their work in our blog; stay tuned!

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