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by Peter Moskos

September 18, 2015

"Excuse me ladies and gentleman. I'm sorry to interrupt. Can I have your attention."

You know when you hear that on the subway, some obnoxious person is going to come through, asking for money.

Well, I sure am.

I don't ask much of you, gentle reader. But why not give a little money to help feed hungry people? And it will actually go to buying food to put in hungry bellies.


My wife is one of the people behind this, so I guarantee it ain't no scam.

But first read this, by our friend Annia Ciezadlo. Yes, this is what I (but mostly they) did on our summer vacation.

But you may ask why I care. I ain't no bleeding-heart do-gooder. But I do have a soft-spot for Syrians. See I've been there. Twice. For vacation. Aleppo was wonderful. A lot of people don't realize that most refugees from Syria are educated middle-class people. They had lives and jobs and dropped their kids off at school got stuck in traffic and lived in nice apartment buildings. Until the war. And now their neighborhood might look like this:

That was Aleppo back in 2007. At the juice stand by the park. We ordered a tamarind drink and the kid gave us a drink and then wouldn't take our money. Why? Because we were Americans from far away. And he was very sweet. Today he might be marching across Europe today, cursing the Hungarians.

You can even look at the rest of my vacation pictures if it will help you give.

So how does this relate to the Greek island of Mytilene (AKA Lesbos)? It just so happens I've been going there with my family for a long time. And it just so happens that this year a massive humanitarian crisis is literally washing up on the island's shores. And many of these refugees are the same damn people who were so nice to us back in Syria!

My wife and her friend speak Arabic. So they went off to see how they could help. Mostly I hung out at the beach guarding this octopus to make sure nobody else ate it before they got back for dinner.

I didn't want to take up room in the little rent-a-car, which they were filling up with people walking across the island in the heat. Plus, it was vacation. Anyway, I did go one time with them across the island to help out with my limited Greek. See, here's Kara Tepe, the refugee camp, a few weeks ago.

And here's my wife taking and giving polaroid-like pictures to cute orphan refugees. Oh, did I just play the cute hungry orphan card? Gosh, I guess I did. (This is a different camp, just FYI.)

So give a bit to help feed hungry people who are being forced into a trial by ordeal across Europe. They're nice people. Really. And if there's a chance, put "cop in the hood" or something in a message. I'm curious if anybody reading this will be inspired to give money.

Here's the link again: https://www.gofundme.com/dx4293xg.


john mosby said...

Very sorry, Prof, I cannot follow you down this line of reasoning.

Just like the welfare state here creates perverse incentives that help create ghetti like Balmer, the European welfare state and generalized multi-culti social-democratic unicorn/rainbow fantasy are creating perverse incentives that will not help these Syrians or anyone else, especially the indigenous population.

Europe has already proven that it has no idea how to absorb mass immigration. Why doom both the immigrants and the natives to yet more conflict and suffering?

The vast majority of these 'refugees' are coming, not straight from Syria, but from third countries such as Turkey where they are already safe. Then once they're in one EU country, they keep going to wherever they think they can get the best deal. I mean for heavens' sake, they are queuing up in France to jump trains and trucks into the UK! That's nation-shopping, not desperation.


Moskos said...

European countries have absorbed immigrants plenty of times without problems. But we don't think about the successes because it wasn't a long-term problem.

Look, if you're going to have a emigrant(?) crisis, you couldn't ask for a better lot than educated Syrians from Aleppo with money. It's not like they *want* to be refugees. They have skills and western habits. The "problem" immigrant groups in Europe have tended to be A) uneducated and B) they weren't supposed to stay there anyway.

But indeed, the Syrians are not coming from Syria directly. So what? To me it's not about avoiding bombs or being drafted into ISIS. That's why they left Syria. But now what? Where are they supposed to live. Turkey and Greece sure aren't making any plans for their permanent settlement. Germany has opened to the door. So they're trying to get to Germany.

I saw and spoke to some of Syrians in Turkey and Greece. I'm happy calling them migrants or emigrants or whatever. And I asked them why, of all places, they wanted to go to Germany@! When did Germany become the promised land? I missed that memo. But they *all* wanted to go to Germany. It was odd. It ain't like Turkey is so bad. But it was bad for them.

Their answer *always* included a reference to the German education system, university education, and hope for a better future.

So yes, to some extent it is a choice they're making. Just like if you were bombed out of your home or forced to join ISIS. So you flee across the Mexican border. (That part let's say isn't a "choice.") But now what? Do you stay in a refugee camp forever or might you choose to get to Canada or Argentina or anywhere else. You can't live in a refugee camp forever. And you have a college degree. And skills. And children. So I don't fault them for making that choice.

The biggest problem is simply *getting* there. And they have money for flights. It's just that nobody will sell them a plane ticket!

We can talk about immigration policy all day, but in the short term people need food and shelter and sanitation. These folks are in refugee camps in Greece. They are there. And the Greek government isn't doing diddly for them. They need to eat. Somebody really does have to feed the hungry orphans!

john mosby said...

No, you certainly can't fault the emigrants for responding rationally to the incentives that are placed before them. Just like you can't really fault inner-city residents for doing the same.

You can fault the governments that create these incentives.

Just like the Wars on Poverty and Drugs create perverse outcomes, so does the War on War (or maybe it's better labeled as the War on Nation-States).

Turkey and Greece only just won their nation-state status, in the grand scheme of history. (The Turk still hasn't really figured out what it means to be a nation-state when you used to be a multiethnic empire, but he knows that getting overrun by foreigners certainly isn't it!)

The Balkan countries only just became nation-states in our lifetimes.

And for all of these countries it cost a lot of blood and treasure and human misery. They don't want to see that cost spent in vain.

The Germans would probably feel the same - it took from way-BC until 1989 to get all the German tribes into just 2 countries that don't fight each other - but they're still afflicted by their war guilt, and they're strong enough and distant enough that they can afford the luxury of guilt. Or at least they think they can.

Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind. Sometimes that takes the form of letting people take the drugs they want to take. Sometimes it takes the form of putting an expiration date on welfare benefits. And sometimes it takes the form of not letting people into your country, no matter how much they tug at your heartstrings.


Adrian said...

How dare people attempt to improve their own lives by crossing borders! Next thing you know, they're going to attempt to do work in exchange for money so they don't die of starvation or exposure!

Moskos said...

But if you don't let people into a country, what do you do with the people? Let them eat each other in Kara Tepe? Push them into the Aegean? Shoot them at the Turkish border? While they might be traveling by choice, they didn't become refugees by choice.

But even more so, I'm not willing to concede that these emigrants will be burden on Germany or any other country they end up in. We'll see about that, of course. But I'd be happy to welcome 100,000 in NYC. We give visas to other educated non-Christian people with skills and money, why not these people?

(Nor do I concede that pathologies one finds in the ghetto (and elsewhere) are mostly the result of the war on poverty and government's good intentions, but let's leave that for another time.)

john mosby said...

The people on Lesvos got there courtesy of the combined EU naval task force for rescuing refugees. If the task force didn't exist and these people were just at the mercy of whatever trawler happened to pass by, there would be fewer emigrants on Lesvos. Partially, yes, because some would have died in the Aegean, but mostly because not nearly as many would dare the trip if they knew they'd be on their own.

Land borders are a stickier wicket (literally in the case of Hungary's multiple-strand concertina!). Probably not a good idea to shoot into Turkey or Serbia, even if the people you're shooting aren't Turks or Serbs.

Maybe we guilt the Ottomans into making partial indirect restitution for the Armenian genocide by admitting people from another one of their former territories. (Makes as much sense as using Holocaust guilt to strong-arm the Germans into taking in people who are probably even more anti-Semitic.) Maybe even some understandings that we'll stop saying the G-word at the UN. Then sweeten the pot for the Turks by giving them some of the money that would have been spent on the Syrians in Western Europe - it will go farther in the local economy. Hey, if the Brits and French had to let in people from their empires, the Turk shouldn't be off the hook just because their empire ended a few years earlier.

My main point remains that saying "gee, these people are here, we have to help them" really reverses the causal arrow - they're here because they know we'll help them. Remove that expectation and they don't show up in the first place.


Moskos said...

John, You slipping off the deep end of fact-based opinions here. The people on Lesvos got there by paying Turkish smugglers $1,200 a person to get a boat and steer it themselves to Greece. They have been on the own. The land their little boats every day near Molymvos (and other places) and shifty Greeks come to steal the outboards and salvage whatever else they can.

The Greek Coast Guard has "rescued" a few people. (They've also sunken a few boats.) They deal in the hundreds. The number of refugees is in the hundreds of thousands! It's only a few miles across. You can see one country from the other. One person has even swum to Greece!

As always, I'm a big believe in fact-based opinion. Faced with different facts, I don't know if your opinion will change.

The other ideas I kind of like, especially the indirect restitution concept! That fact that it can't happen doesn't lesson it's brilliance.

As to your last point. Again, they didn't leave Syria by choice. They did leave Turkey by choice. So yes, if life were great in Turkey, they wouldn't leave. So the west could focus on that. Beyond that, these people were not expecting anything in Greece. They're not even penniless. But they are human beings. Compassion is a good trait.

Moskos said...

This is worth watching: