I talked earlier this week about being an ex-pat rather than the emigrant/immigrant I’d always assumed myself to be.
The last day or so in Spain there has been a big news story about an eight year old boy, Abou, who was found in a suitcase crossing the border between Morocco and Spain.
He’d come all the way from the Ivory Coast. His father, legally residing in Spain had tried to get his family visas to join him. He was refused. Why? Because to do that he’d have to be making 1350 Euros a month. Now I know plenty of people here who don’t make that. The average wage is way lower. The father made 1300 euros a month. So for fifty quid a month, he was not allowed to have his family with him. I say made, because he’s in prison now: he could go down for human trafficking. The kid is in care, and the mother and his sister are alone waiting to see what the authorities will do.
Just one story of desperation. And the regulations seem stupid in their ability to take human needs into account.
But of course, that’s exactly how they are designed. Keep out the migrants, whatever their reason for trying to come.
I also learned a couple of weeks that reason people don’t take a plane to Europe to seek asylum, is because Europe doesn’t allow them. Not really. It makes the airlines refuse them because if they don’t, the company will have to pay for the flight back. It’s called EU directive 2001/51/EC. It’s there to stop illegal immigration of economic migrants. That’s “people looking to stay alive on more than a dollar a day in a drought-ridden country” to you and me.
It would actually be cheaper for an immigrant to buy a return ticket than pay the people smugglers, but I guess the airlines aren’t allowed do that.
So they have to sneak in, no matter where they are coming from or what they’re fleeing.
And we all know that’s some pretty bad shit there.
But they’re black, or mostly so. So they don’t matter. Their lives don’t matter, just like in the USA, but less, since they’re not even citizens. So the government of Spain can tell their police to shoot into the water to make some men drown rather than get shot instead of reaching dry land and have to be taken care of and processed, knowing few people will protest. They can take men down off the razor wire fence they’d been sitting on for hours and shove them through a gate back into Morocco without even bothering to tend their cuts, or see if they’ve stopped bleeding.
And they can wring their hands in worry at the plight of thousands drown after falling from boats designed to carry twenty weighted down with hundreds, but do nothing to make such voyages unnecessary.
The British government says they will help fish for survivors, but won’t let those they pick from the sea go anywhere near Britain.
And so we sail on.
We are currently debating marriage equality in Ireland, and in the USA. Meanwhile, inequality of application of Universal Human Rights is blatant in all our societies.
If there were true equality between people, the urge to migrate, or expatriate would vanish in 90% of the people who find themselves outside their own countries. Only those who want to live elsewhere for reasons such as my own (love!) would be bothered to move, to learn a new language, find friends and put down roots in a strange place.
But we don’t have anything near that.
Spaniards flock to Germany and England, or South America. The Irish hit the planes to America (illegally staying on past their tourist visa limits in some cases) or Australia.
And those destination countries do their best to discourage them. The only reason some can’t stop them is because of the “freedom of movement we supposedly have in Europe. If they don’t get a job, they want to send them back.
There are some countries, like Germany and England, who didn’t even allow the citizens of other European countries, like Romania and Bulgaria, to even try get a job until seven years after they’d joined our wonderful union.
All of the European Union is equal? Bollox.
The idea of a European Union is farcical until we have equality of citizens, and that means equality of employment rights and salaries. If the wages in Spain (or Bulgaria, where the minimum wage is six times lower) were the same as those in Germany – the minimum wage, if not the median – Germany would not need to worry about people going on the dole there – what they call benefits tourism and poverty migration (and when I came to Spain I had the right to the dole here). But people in rich countries like to have cheap holidays in Spain, or cheap products from counties where people have low wages. And the governments of poorer countries seem to think it’s good to have their citizens working for low wages to attract companies and tourists.
However, until we have a situation of true equality in this globalised world, there will be an unstoppable flow of lives across borders. Some to sink on the way, or die in the desert, or suffocate in the bottom of a truck or container.
But again, they’re only migrants.
Like around another billion people, Facebook is pissing me off…
I posted something on my author page, and I got a message from Facebook, informing me that my post “was served” to, I dunno, thirty people. What the fuck is that? “Served?” Thirty out of the one hundred and fifty or so who were following the page then? What’s the point of following someone if you can’t see what they say?
What does that say about their algorithm?
It says exactly what it seems. They have it rigged so that if you want to talk to your followers, you have to pay.
They ask straight away if you want to boost the post to reach more people: that means pay for Facebook to do what Facebook is supposed to do…
I say they, but I mean Mark Zuckerberg.
How much money does one man want? Can we make a plea to this man to do the right thing and hand over Facebook to the people for the good of mankind?
He was in the press not long ago, talking at the Mobile World Congress, “discussing Facebook’s Internet.org project, an attempt to spread affordable internet access across the globe.”
But that’s just minor shit. Window dressing. Garnish.
And I remember Ben Elton talking about garnish in the 90s…(look it up on Youtube. I’m sure it’s there, along with the after-dinner mint on your pillow…)
Facebook has the opportunity to become the platform for the democracy of the future. It can be the way people communicate. It has the potential to grow into a branch of the Internet and email revolution that ultimately becomes bigger than the trunk.
If Mark Zuckerberg just let it go now, he could end up like the great people we look up to in history – Jonas Salk (that’s the guy who invented the polio vaccine and decided not to patent it), the creators of wikipedia (admit it, you couldn’t have impressed anyone you fancied with your breadth of knowledge without it), Alexander Fleming (penicillin, dude) even guys like Bob Geldof (before he went a bit batshit, but life did kind of take a dump on him) or Keanu Reeves: people who put the world before themselves, or at least a few others before money.
Mark is famous now, he’s richer than fuck… but is he liked? Less than universally, let’s say. Yet he could get adulation, worship.
If he doesn’t give it away, the government could take it off him (Yeah, I know: I said could). It could decide that it’s more important to the greater good that it be taken off his hands. It would be like when the government makes you sell them your land for a railway line, or a country nationalises an oil company or a copper mine (yeah, I know that is frowned upon by some, but if you’re going to have to work in a copper mine, at least the profits should be going towards paying your future health needs…). “It’s for the people, Mark.”
They might not give him all the money it’s worth (that’s a certainty, actually, since no government has that cash lying around), and I know he’s in it for the money, and that’s all right… but right now he already has more money than many countries. Why does he need any more?
The man can never spend the money he has. Well, he can, but only by doing some extravagant shit like buying the Amazon rain forest (to save, Mark, not to make more profit) or employing the entire population of Rwanda to protect the mountain gorilla.
I’m not suggesting he needs to do either of those specifically, but he totally should give 95% of it to charity (keeping a few million for expenses like visiting the wildlife reserves he could create).
But first he should give Facebook to the people.