I’m sure people of Europe watched their TV news in shock in late August as a wave of immigrants literally crashed through the border between Greece and Macedonia, ignoring border guards who were reluctant to shoot, their impotence plain for all to see.
Further north, Hungary began reinforcing its border with razor wire. One wonders if guards will be issued orders to shoot to kill, as well.
Europe is being overwhelmed by a wave of humanity. What do you call them? Illegal immigrants? Economic migrants? Refugees? Criminals? Human smugglers?
In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue, and for the next 500 years, Europe has been exporting people. At first in small numbers, to Jamestown and Quebec, then by the thousands, then tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands. Any reason was acceptable to leave crowded, hungry, disease-filled, war-ravaged, religiously-oppressed Europe. Catholic under Protestant rule? Get out. Protestant under Catholics? Leave. Jew? Head to Brooklyn. Napoleonic wars? Get on the ship. Potato blight? There’s food in North America.
Those were people who chose to go. But large portions of the world were used as dumping grounds for undesirables. Harsh legal codes in England could land you on a ship to America for stealing a loaf of bread in London (hanging was a favourite alternative). When enough of those malcontents held a revolution, the English started to ? ll Australia, on the exact opposite side of the planet, with convicts instead.
By the 20th century Europe had conquered most of the world through various colonial empires. Literally the sun did not set on the British Empire, at least until the decolonization period from the 1940s (India) to the mid1960s (most of Africa).
European descendants took over and utterly dominated three other complete continents, North America, South America and Australia, brushing their indigenous peoples to the side like dust from the floor.
Now, after half a millennium of people leaving Europe, the tide has turned. Instead of being the place to get out of, it is seen as a safe haven, with economic opportunity, plentiful food, freedom of religion, generous social programs, top-level health care, and a lack of war.
This year represents the 70th year since the last major war in Europe. Rising from the ashes of the worst conflict in history, the Europeans spent decades creating a society where their common market would unite, not just for economic purposes, but for peaceful purposes. France and Germany were at the heart of both the First and Second World Wars, but also the War of 1870 and the Napoleonic wars. Now they are so economically joined at the hip, the prospect of hostilities between them seems ludicrous.
Those architects of the European Union probably didn’t realize the net outcome of their peaceful intentions. By ridding the continent of war through peaceful trade and unguarded internal borders, it would lead to a 21st century full of people desperate to come to it.
Now the people of Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya are boarding anything that ? oats, from smugglers’ ships off Libyan shores to rubber dinghies to make the transit from Turkey to the Greek islands. The “soft underbelly” of Europe is impossible to defend, since no one has the guts anymore to shoot these desperate people or torpedo the smugglers’ boats, something that, 100 or 200 years ago, was much more likely to happen. Compassion instead of cold, hard-hearted ideology has taken over. Drowning women and children are rescued, not recovered.
And so the tide continues to build.
There are only a few ways to stop this tide. One, fortify the border, which essentially means sinking anything full of migrants crossing the Mediterranean to Europe. Two, stop all wars in the Middle East and Africa. Three, bring the rest of the world to the peaceful and prosperous standards of Europe.
The first option is horrible and untenable. The second is impossible, and the third might take 100 years, maybe 500. It would involve resolving little issues like the schism between Sunni and Shia flavours of Islam. It might also involve sorting out the conflicts between Christianity and Islam. That didn’t work out so well during the crusades, did it?
Europe is about to get a lot more crowded.