vrijdag 13 november 2015


For me the most appealing passage of the article The  Exodus and  our Conscience by Paul Scheffer was this one, about Germany, and actually about the whole of Europe: “Why would a highly developed country, which eavesdrops its citizens day and night, no longer be able to guard its boundaries? Open borders, that’s something you may opt for, but if you don’t want to monitor national or European borders any longer, please don’t put this political unwillingness in the guise of police impotence”. Especially when the huge social experiment of integration of perhaps a million refugees is answered with “We make it”.

The passage even had some extra weight because a few days earlier Angela Merkel had visited Erdogan to ask him to better control his borders and to let pass fewer refugees through to the West. In exchange for money and other things.

That did not feel good. Erdogan was just trying, through some of his dirtiest tricks, to manipulate the elections and to bomb the Kurds, and precisely then Merkel will come and beg for his help. Actually I’m not against Realpolitik, and sooner or later you will have to deal with dictators. But you do not have to do so too early, and certainly not because of the strange consideration that self-guarding your borders would be indecent or Europe unworthy. Indeed, with her visit Merkel jeopardized European dignity.

Apparently the concept of dignity no longer suffices. In terms of dignity everything scores badly: it is unworthy to possibly accept Assad as a negotiating partner, and it is unworthy of refugees to let them be dunked in the heat, the rain and the cold of Central Europe. But it is also unworthy to beg Erdogan, who is just doing his dirtiest tricks, to stop the stream. Perhaps the only worthy thing is to let everybody in, but that’s impossible.

In this swamp where Europe lets its policy be defined by everyone and everything from outside, the sheer possibility of dignity threatens to evaporate. At such a moment you have only your own worthiness to hold on to, so that’s what Europe will have to do. If Europe wants to save its own dignity than for a while it must let itself be goverend less by external impulses then is the case now. Whether that be refugees or Erdogan or Putin.

And if there are borders required – I mean very physical barriers such as pontoons on the Aegean Sea or fences on the land – so be it. That’s not too unworthy, is it? Our entire physical and perhaps spiritual existence depends on borders.

Or, as Scheffer puts it in another powerful passage: “If people with liberal attitudes do not want to think about borders, then eventually people with an authoritarian slant draw boundaries. That is at stake and therefore a morality that takes its own crisis of conscience as a starting point, is not a sustainable morality.”