Personal reflection about migration.
A few years ago, ten to be exact (and what a coincidence that was just around this time too), I was staring perplexed at the roof of a house in Champigny Sur-Marne, a Paris suburb, asking myself over and over again: What the hell am I going to do?
I was an Au Pair and had just resigned. I had one more night's work before I grabbed my bags and left the house. Getting out of the house meant having nowhere to live and where to work. I was 18 years old and, truthfully, I think I was less terrified than I can remember.
Ten years later I sit in front of the screen to do my economic projections and see how much money I can spend per day, and how much I must keep intact to buy a flight home at any time if needed.
This time is different, I’m not just starting life as an adult, the years are well in. I am not in a country where the language is triply complicated, I have skills, and I have enough knowledge and experience. But I'm far away. I am far from my comfortable zone, I am 17 hours apart in time zones, I am in another hemisphere, I am in another latitude, in another accent of another language... But I have two privileges: that my family supports me, and that I have a visa to work legally.
Lately I've been thinking about migration, how for me this social phenomenon was approached by the articles I read, the news, the people I knew, the stories and the movies. But to be honest, I never thought of myself as a migrant. It's going to sound ugly, but it's true, my socioeconomic position has allowed me to travel the world and educate myself to such a degree that I have never had the need to cross a river or a sea in 'search for a better life'. And how fortunate I have been.
Every day in the news I read about forced migration, violence and discrimination. A phenomenon that has always been tangible on the borders of my own country, but which is also a reality of globalization and international politics around the world, so it is not difficult to understand migration as part of today's life. Unfortunately, the world is plagued by forced migration due to differences in beliefs, social and economic classes, identity and gender. And I, I have been very fortunate, because I have never had to live it. This text could be superficial and unhelpful, but because of all that is happening in Syria, Aleppo, for all and all people who have had to leave their homes in Central and South America, in Mexico, in a search for “A better life” or to save their life and that of their loved ones, I've been thinking about how I feel about migration. Migration is a reality and it is useless to think that someone who does not live directly does not affect him or her.
Of course, my position - already mentioned - is a very fortunate one, but I kept thinking, how those who prefer to turn their heads when news about migration, like what is happening in Aleppo (now that the topic is so hot) could relate to this issue, how could I contribute to aware my surrounding circle and make them sensible about the reality of humanity, leaving facebook activism for others. How can we, far from the disaster zones, help in the critical situation that thousands of families face today.
More than a year ago I took a course in creative writing and we had to write a novel about a topic that we were passionate about since we were going to be working on it for months. I titled my novel: Apathy. Emerging from an addiction to novels of apocalyptic fiction I devoted myself to writing about a world in which people fed on apathy, where structural violence was such that human beings had already completely lost the sense of solidarity and empathy. Not that I saw it as an unlikely futuristic scenario, but because of what I saw day by day I could imagine without difficulty a world like this. A world full of horror that was consumed by violence in all its senses.
Apathy (the book, which I hope to finish soon) is just a personal critique of the world in which we live, the world we can become if we continue to look sideways and act like butter towards what is happening on all borders of the world.
Today, I find myself here on the laptop looking at thousands of job pages, updating and rewriting my curriculum for every type of job I could find, I get anxiety when thinking: What if I do not find work? And if coming on this adventure as I did it was crazy? What if I cannot get enough shifts to wash cars to pay the weekly rent?...
All my questions are completely stupid when I read the news. Because I'm very lucky. Even so, not understanding a local phrase makes me suddenly feel like a stranger in these latitudes. Every time someone asks me where do I come from, I get a little confused to bring the Belgian passport in hand, but always honour me by saying that I am Mexican. I even feel a fear that I cannot underpin, for example what would happen if I did something wrong? How would things be? Would I be deported to Mexico or Belgium?
When I entered Australia they asked me a thousand things, including how I lived in Mexico (imagine the look of the customs lady). I told her that Mexico was super good, and he asked me about the cartels... Then he asked me if I had any drugs in the suitcase. In addition to feeling discriminated (because I should mention that I was traveling with the Belgian passport, but Belgium never came to the subject) I felt stereotyped by all the novels that the confused romanticism and fanaticism on the Narco culture and Netflix, have spread across the World.
Now that I am looking for work, I feel vulnerable when they ask me something very local, which I obviously do not understand with their Australian slang, and when they offer me a job I almost take it without considering it because of my economic urgency for stability in this country.
Vulnerability. Such a beautiful concept. I learned in my life that vulnerability was the reason for your strength, it is what pushes you to go further, well on your axis and firm before any rough airs that life throws at you. Vulnerability makes me feel a bit frightened, but at the same time I realize that you must keep fighting, that you are capable and that you have enough humility to go forward in gratitude to contain that firmness. And I suppose that's how a migrant feels, totally and irreversibly vulnerable.
I admire them, I admire the guts and the courage they have, to leave their homes and face life and social injustices. I admire and appreciate their detachment from superficial goods and consumer goods and comforts, for valuing above all the very essence of life. I admire even more those who put their beliefs on their lives and tell the world: at least we will die free.
I admire, I value, but above all I appreciate the vulnerability of all the migrants in the world, because they teach me that Apathy can be delayed in becoming a reality.
I cannot even imagine the impotence and vulnerability of an undocumented migrant, or a migrant who was forced to exile. I appreciate both my legal immigration status, and the opportunity to know my new home feeling safe and calm. I am grateful that it was my own choice not to return home, I am grateful that no one forced me, and that Mexico will always wait for me with open arms, and that when I return, Australia will do it too. I am grateful that I can cross borders in Europe without problems, that I can consider myself Belgian, that I am welcome in all the countries to which I would like to enter... but not by possessing that fortune I will leave aside my feelings and my solidarity with a companion with another migratory status.
Yesterday we were choosing a movie to watch in the night and I asked my flatmate not to choose a drama and asked me why, I do not like the dramas, I said, enough we have with the news. My stomach twists and my throat tightens when I look at the situation in international politics (and don’t get me started on national politics, that gets me even worse). I get Goosebumps when I read and watch the videos about what happens in Aleppo, just as I was filled with tears when I saw the relatives of the 43 students of Ayotzinapa, when my friend Anais told me about being a lifeguard In Greece rescuing refugees, or when they told me what happened in Acteal, or when I saw Rojo Amanecer, or when I passed through Bohaterow Square in Krakow, when I got to understand the history of Vietnam, or the feeling of understanding and appreciating the significance of the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin.
How could a human being disable all these feelings of anguish and anxiety, of solidarity and of empathy for other human beings, all the same to us?
They say that ignorance is a bliss, but I really question how one could be ignorant at all in these times where access to information is so easy and so accessible. I cannot understand people who do not stop a moment in their day to think even for seconds on how bad it makes them feel to witness an injustice, even seen through social networks. Maybe I still have faith in humanity, but I feel that little by little we are losing empathy, that little by little Apathy could be more an historical novel than a fiction.
Thank you, migrants, for making me see that there are still rebels out there, supportive and empathetic.
Byron Bay on December 16th, 2016.