What’s the common factor between the tragic deaths of refugees in the Mediterranean and the Arab spring? Food shortages driven by global warming
I’ve been interested in the way the migrant crisis is being debated in politics and the media. It’s that word – crisis – that is particularly striking. It suggests that what we’re seeing in across Europe is an aberration, a temporary disaster to be “solved” by politicians. Even the sight of ramshackle tents in Calais suggests a phenomenon that could be cleared away at any given moment.
In The Concept of the Political, the philosopher Carl Schmitt argued that, when presented with crisis, liberal democracies will put aside constitutional niceties in order to survive. The public consents to its government violating liberal values because crisis is a state of exception, which requires desperate measures.
Perhaps that explains why there has been so little uproar over supposedly civilised societies using terminology like “marauding” and “swarms”, and making policy decisions that result in hundreds of people drowning in the Mediterranean or languishing in detention centres. These things, we think, don’t reflect who we are as people. They are just necessary responses to this current crisis.
There is only one problem with calling this phenomenon of migration a crisis, and that is that it’s not temporary: it’s permanent. Thanks to global climate change, mass migration could be the new normal.