Just over a year ago, I sat in a dark lighthouse on the island of Lesbos in Greece. My task was to look for inflatable boats with people on the run, and then guide them away from dangerous waters. I thought, "This is no longer going on. The world needs to sharpen. "
We can choose not to join the populist patchwork policy, and rather to address the causes behind the challenges the world faces.
One year later, I wonder where the world is headed. I know that we humans have created the structures that form today's world order, and I know that we can change them. But I admit it – I'm more disillusioned than I've been in a long time. Shocked and despairing. Not primarily because Trump is president of the world's most powerful country, but because of what's happening in Norway and in our neighboring countries. For how is that possible? How can we, knowing what happened last time Europe based politics and rhetoric on the fear and dehumanization of people, allow the same thing to happen again? How can we allow discourse in society to criminalize the weakest and justify sending children back to war?
Populist. A society with great economic inequalities is a dangerous society. In January, Oxfam released a report showing that the eight richest people in the world own more than the 3,6 billion poorest. We live in a world that is anything but poor, it is unfair. We see that growth benefits the richest and that the poorest remain in poverty. The frustration and inequality paves the way for a right-wing populist wind where simple solutions are the answer.
The solution to the problems of the global community is not simple – we must look at the symptoms and address the basic challenges – such as capital flight that hinders the development of sustainable health and education systems, climate change that destroys vital crops and a weapon industry that serves to keep the conflict level up. No one has said integration is easy. Still, there is something fundamentally wrong and incredibly frightening when our response to people fleeing from war and asking for help is to close the door, continue arms exports to regions where there is armed conflict and look for more oil.
We have a choice! We can refrain from joining the populist plastics policy, and rather address the causes behind the challenges the world faces. We may require that where you come from should not decide whether you are treated as a human or not. And we can demand that our elected officials, who will take care of us and create a secure future, do not allow the sale of military equipment to countries that bomb schools and hospitals.
We can choose not to endure so badly the injustice that does not affect ourselves.
Now it is up to us to create the community we want to be part of.
Humanity. Now I sit far away from the cold lighthouse on Lesbos, and it's easy to close my eyes. It's easy to pretend that I don't know, and it's easy to forget the reality outside of my safe Norwegian bubble. A bubble that to the degrees gives the most powerful opportunity to strengthen already unfair structures. In recent weeks we have seen the bubbles no longer keep people off the streets; Attorneys have worked for free to secure refugees the assistance they are entitled to, and signature initiatives reach new records. For while it is frightening that Arnulf Øverland's poem is as relevant today as it was in 1937, we see that the world is waking up. Now it is up to us to create the community we want to be part of. With compassion it is possible.
We must not sit safely in our home
and say: It is sad, poor ones!
We must not endure so well
the injustice that does not affect ourselves!