By Jackson Lied
The rising nationalism in Europe is being caused by a refugee crisis more extreme and permanent than ever seen before. According to the United Nations there are currently more than 65.6 million forcibly displaced people. This crisis and our reaction to it is changing the way the European world conducts its international affairs, and how it deals with domestic policy. This shift in policy and extenuation of the issue is based on moral and economic reasons. This is a crisis that is more dire than the world, particularly America, knows or is willing to admit. We know facts, but we so often gloss over the reality of what it is like to live as a person fleeing from unknowable strife. With only a bit more understanding, facilitated by fair and equal communication, we may finally be able to ensure the situation they arrive in is free from the pain they knew before.
The moral side to the issue lies in how refugees are being interpreted to Europeans as foreigners and invaders. People have grown too numb to the constant headlines reporting refugee deaths, which according to the U.N. reached upwards of 5,000 people last year. They are viewed as less, as simple numbers, on account of them not being of the right nation. The world may have, at least on the surface, cured itself of racism. But the stigma surrounding “outsiders” remain. Nationalism may be the new ‘ism’ to replace racism. In fact, two roughly successful nationalist campaigns were just run in Germany and Austria; In Germany by the AfD and in Austria by the incoming Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. However, if we heard the stories of refugees and other negatively viewed immigrants, if only we knew that mothers and children are people despite their government given title and society given stigma, we could eradicate the issue of harmful nationalism and isolationism as it stands now.
Economically, Europeans are under the impression that as their respective nations’ economies stand, they cannot accommodate a new and large burden on welfare programs, and the inherent benefits of citizenship. They are also afraid that a labor surplus will cause a deficit of jobs on hard-working, longtime citizens of their respective nation. Europeans are experiencing small, none, or negative GDP growth. Italy, a country very much affected by this crisis in the Mediterranean, had only experienced a GDP growth of .9% last year, according to the World Bank. This is making them want to look inward and not out, closing off their borders and being unwilling to allow outsiders in. The issue and the solution here yet again lies in communication and interconnection. If one side understood and accepted the true aspirations of the other side, all would come to understand that no one wants to steal jobs from one another, but only to make a fair and equal living, to provide for their family, and to live with as little trouble as possible.
In the end, lack of communication about morals and economics cannot be allowed to turn into nationalism, and nationalism cannot be allowed to fall into isolation. If it does, nationalism itself must not be allowed to stand. For miscommunication, lack of intelligence, nationalism, and isolationism; can, have, and will lead to economic crisis and war. Whereas proper communication, however, will lead to successful and mutually beneficial policy. To ensure this proper communication the world must be willing to face the issue, understanding it in a common way. People are dying, and the world, as it is controlled by the nationalist and the wealthy, is too concerned with relative gain to be concerned over the deaths of stranger’s relatives. This toxic point of view must be solved by increased communication from smaller powers. It may also mean further investigation into the states that people are fleeing. Or simpler, it may just mean the telling of stories, by authors, poets, and journalists from one side to the other. No matter, communication is key.