florian schneider on Fri, 17 Dec 1999 18:55:51 +0100

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Syndicate: [CROSS-L] forwarded flight forwards]

Flight forwards!

'Flight forwards' is an initiative of the Autonoom Centrum in Amsterdam.

We hope this pamphlet will be the start of a discussion. In the media,
in self organisations, churches, cultural circles and working groups.
And on our web-site:
Undermentioned persons took part on the conversations that formed the
base of the writing of this pamphlet:

Naima Azough, Rotterdam Culturele Hoofdstad 2001
Jeroen Doomernik, IMES
Rob Gonggrijp, media activist
Irene van der Linde, journalist
Camille Montagne, French teacher, Hogeschool van Amsterdam
Soheila Nayand, artist, Social Design
Shervin Nekuee, ERCOMER, Universiteit van Utrecht
Pieter Pekelharing, philosopher, Universiteit van Amsterdam
Dirk van Weelden, writer

and the authors of this pamphlet
Ed Hollants, Autonoom Centrum
Chris Keulemans, publicist

Autonoom Centrum, December 1999

ISBN 90-804556-2-8
NUGI 661

>From March 1999 onwards the undermentioned group met six times in
various compositions. A conscious choice was made to not only invite
professional experts in the field of migration, but also people whose
view on migration and the future comes from an entirely different angle.
>From these conversations this pamphlet arose. The starting point was to
think about the society of tomorrow, in which national borders no longer
exist and people develop into global citizens who initiate changes


A pamphlet about migration and future

Commuter or nomad, on the run or on holiday, digitally or on the back of
a cattle truck: these days more people are cros sing borders than ever
before. Many people travel in freedom. Others are obliged to.

        They move across the globe, because their existence is being
threatened or because of the lack of perspective in their situation.
They flee from hunger and persecution, and seek security, a future and
work. Many of them remain as close to home as possible but some, mostly
those that can afford it, flee to Europe. Immigration is usually
discussed as a problem for us. The key words are exclusion, stopping and
control. This is discussed mostly by policy makers and critics of these
policies. Flight forwards is an attempt to break open and broaden the
current debate on migration.

        The Netherlands are changing because of increased migra tion.
Everywhere people are working on the society created by the arrival of
the new migrants. These are people that love the future, not people that
close borders. They are curious about changes. These are the people we
are talking to in this pamphlet. Everyone is responsible for the future.
A different outlook on migration begins with us and we ourselves must
put this in practice.

        The starting point for Flight Forwards is the notion that the
community between people, that which connects them, is less and less the
nation state but more so for instance the culture, city, workplace or
internet. These then shape their identity. Borders between countries
will in future become less important. But the expansion of the free
market, the exhausti on of our natural resources and the creation of
living situa tions beneath any human dignity must be limited. How do we
create those limits on a world wide scale, who will guard them and how
do we guard the guards?

        Flight Forwards is an ambitious and searching text. It is not a
finished product; it comes up with ideas, without the pretense of fully
working them out. It tries to connect migra tion and human rights,
economy and solidarity, without offe ring made-to-measure answers.

Across the borders

The borders of the old world are changing. They are becoming porous
because of for instance the free market, organized crime, pop music and
the electronic super highway. Illnesses and pollution cannot be stopped
by closing the border. Tradi tional border crossings fall into decline.
Sometimes high walls take their place, sometimes they only live on in
peop le's memories.

        People and information will continue to spread. Any attempt to
prevent this is blocking society in a development which cannot be
stopped. Time is running out for prohibition. You cannot unplug the
internet. There is no more authority that can forbid you to spread
information. And people are no longer allowing themselves to be
excluded. People can compare their situation to that in other places and
decide to migrate or not. Voluntarily or forcibly, if they have the
right con tacts and means, they can enter the country they want to
immigrate to. For some people this means freedom, for others misery. In
any case the individual judgement of people repor ting at the national
border is about to collapse.

        It can go two ways. Peace and prosperity are concentrated inside
a limited geographic area, which only partly coincides with national
borders so a large part of the world's populati on migrates there,
voluntarily or forcibly. Here boundaries will be instituted physically
and economically, and confronta tions will take place. It could be a
neighbourhood in a big city, a region in a country or a new elite within
the society.
The other possibility is a spread of prosperity, social oppor tunities
and democracy, resulting in a more equal dispersal of people and a
voluntary choice of abode.

Inability and unwillingness

We live in a world where transnational dependencies are gro wing
rapidly. The stock exchange doesn't bother with national borders.
Culture and consumption of the affluent follow the same patterns all
over the world. This exerts a substantial pull on the less privileged;
they want to partake however possible.

        The current immigration policy in the Netherlands turns its back
on this reality and denies its own responsibility for the many migrants
the new world brings.

        The thinking on migration exhibits impotence or unwil lingness
to realize that in a world without borders people are more dependent on
each other than ever. Especially in a socie ty that individualizes or
splits up into new units it is of vital importance to develop a sense of
responsibility for what goes on elsewhere. For the disappearing of
borders means problems no longer occur outside. Civil wars and conflicts
between neigbours are related. They can no longer be contained by
geographic boundaries. The North exports itself to the South, with the
result that many in the South decide to move to the world that culture
and prosperity came from, the North. Problems around the corner are
related to the entirety, and vice versa. It becomes less clear where one
society ends and the other begins. This asks for a new kind of global
citi zenship, for people concerned about one thing and therefore about
the other, about the neighbours fighting and therefore also about the
global questions on environment, human rights and migration.

        Thinking only in terms of the Netherlands or Europe is not very
relevant to the reality of this day and age. Street life in the major
cities shows this. Where politics remain aimed at exclusion, daily life
can no longer be pictured without refugees and migrants. The youngest
generations search each other out via the internet and don't bother with
national borders. Subcultures are spread all over the world. Their
horizon is already no longer limited by city or country. A rapidly
changing world, looking across the borders, being flexible in thought
and action, going to college in a diffe rent city or country from where
you were born, living where you like, they are symptoms of mobility.

        But many Dutch people, who themselves continually migrate inside
and outside the country's borders, are having difficul ties 'moving' to
a new world that is changing fast. Global practice is colliding with
nationalist thought.

        In a time of globalization building the Fortress of Europe is a
sad mistake. It is wrong and in the long term also unsustainable. The
solution does not lie in closing the bor ders, but in allowing access to
rights and prosperity all over the world.

Change of thought
A new way of thinking about migration starts by stating a number of
basic right that should apply to everyone. The fight against exclusion
is the fight for access. Access to a coun try, to a provision, to
knowledge or to the media.

        To dismantle the old, exclusive thinking the teamwork between
the dominant media and politics needs to be broken through. This can be
achieved making use of all the media that are now developing
decentrally. New media offer so many new means of speaking and thinking,
and show that every form of mind control becomes an illusion.

        Migration itself means something different when the importance
of national states declines, when someone no longer moves from one
country to another, but from one set of values to another, from one
culture to another. Most countries in the world are not populated by a
single culture or a single ethnic group.
In this day and age we should no longer be fixed on the mock fighting
regarding the national borders, about who can come in and who can't. The
artifical classification of people as 'us and them' based on the
national state needs to be overhauled. The boundaries that really
matter,the economic, ethnic and cultural ones, form the arena we should
enter. They are boundaries that are very near as well as far away.
Economic boundaries: where prosperity is concentrated not everyone is
welcome. Ethnic boundaries: within the new white spots on the map people
huddle together calling themselves pure peoples. And cultural
boundaries: where before people where categorized based on race now more
often it is based on culture, where differences in culture qualify as
excuses for isolation.

        Colour and origin of people determine their place in society.
Culture and ethnicity indicate the limits of the power. Without social
and cultural capital one cannot accumu late economic capital either.
Prosperity is more than ever tied to culture and less so to territory.

Not there own guilt

        A different way of thinking implies that we see injustice
firstly as a consequence of the way witch a society is organi zed. That
an alternative is conceivable and therefore choices can be made. The
unemployed, the refugee or the Third World, they do not owe their
situation to themselves. They are por trayed as victims of their own
making. But their situation is a result of far reaching, large scale
mostly economic proces ses which have only accelerated since the free
market's unli mited expansion.

        The poverty here on earth is the result of a shared history
which goes back generations. At present the poor are excluded from the
use of natural resources. The poverty is unjust. This injustice cannot
be undone by appealing to every one's pity, but by active citizenship,
both here and in other countries. With just demands citizens can take
actions to force the world wide web of institutions to reform.

The dismantling of the State

        It seems the most prominent function of today's western state is
to dismantle itself. Its influence is receding in traditional areas like
care, education, labour, housing and government. For many people the
breakdown of the welfare state in its current shape means a loss of
rights, securities and protection. Other forms of organization are
taking over the responsibilities. People must find other ways to care
for themselves and their loved ones, colleagues and fellow citi zens.
The large companies and financially strong citizens are taking the lead
by procuring their own care (and in future perhaps also their own
education) in the free market. The solidarity between the rich majority
and the poor minority is at stake.

        While the state is retreating on many fronts, at the same time
it is trying to strengthen its identity by increasing the control of
migrants and refugees at and within the national borders. Thus asylum
seekers and the asylum debate become the symbol which secures the
existence and legitimacy of the state. 'We decide who can come in and
who can't.' These limi ted concept of the nation state is catering more
and more to right wing extremist sentiments.

        Many of the new migrants do not get a place in this changing
society. More and more people find themselves in our society without
actually being part of it. The gap between rich and poor is becoming
clearly more visible. The streetsca pe is becoming harder and less
pleasant. With the government retreating social welfare provisions end
up in the free mar ket. More and more care is farmed out to
organizations that place the smallest burdens on the strongest

New solidarity

        The breakdown of the welfare state is at present widely
criticized. Fact is that welfare states had managed to offer provisions
and protection to the weaker. Partly through years of social struggle in
some European states forms of welfare have been developed that -not
through condescending charity- prevent systematic abuse of people in
weaker positions.

        The welfare state is based on the principle of 'cold', rather
than 'warm' solidarity. Warm solidarity is a form of compassion that
cannot be forced. Cold solidarity does not reside in individuals, but in
a system of institutions, that offers people a well-defined right to
provisions, protects them against the abuse of their weaker position and
prevents this system from shifting its responsibilities to others. This
form of solidarity is an enormous achievement.

        To work on a new world without borders a new ideal and a vision
are needed, based on the principle of cold solidarity. A prospect of
changes worth working toward, a perspective that makes people feel they
are not going it alone. The new ideal is not about money or god; it is
more about a contemporary definition of solidarity.

        What must be developed is 'cold' solidarity on an inter national
level: the realization that we are part of the same humanity, that we
share a history and a future and that it is in our interest to face the
consequences. Cold solidarity is based on the principles of respect and
human dignity. It is based on the wish to live in a society that
benefits all and guarantees a humane life for all involved. People
everywhere should be entitled to choose freely; at present two thirds of
the worlds population do not have that right.

        It is impossible to discuss forced migration and its
consequences for the receiving countries without also viewing the
situation in the countries of origin. If this era is the era of
globalization, not only the market but also the cold solidarity should
be organized on a level exceeding the state.

A new welfare model

New forms of solidarity are also needed in the changing Ne therlands.
Together with the developement of a global society, inhabited by global
citizens, we should be thinking about the new societies which are taking
shape here and now, whether they are families, companies, sections of
the population or cities. They can be communities connected through a
geographi cal area but they can also be based on other things. In future
it might well be these communities that offer their members the
provisions that used to come from the state.

        Different levels of citizenship can be envisioned. Those levels
will then be decided by the time during which one has taken part in the
community and by the contributions one has made. Besides an elementary
basic pay everyone can then accu mulate extra provisions, comparable to
pensions or unemploy ment benefits today. Everyone builds rights to
access to the available provisions in their own way. Besides labour,
child rearing and domestic chores should also give rights. Children will
automatically have access to provisions such as education and medical
A say in affairs concerning the community and her surroun dings, will be
allocated based on the time spent living there. All these rights are
accumulated according to international agreements.

        The implementation of the welfare system should be super vised
by a transparent authority and new forms of government, that change
their focus. No more controlling the borders, but what goes on inside
them instead. Not based on someone's nationality or origin, but on the
way he or she lives by the agreements within a society. The controls are
no longer based on exclusion, but on access.

        A market like today's, where 'illegal' employees without social
security in part keep the 'legal' economy going, will no longer be
possible. Noone should be excluded from work and provisions anymore. The
distinction between 'legal' and 'ille gal' no longer applies and is
replaces by a broad spectrum of levels of citizenship.

With open minds

This new society demands much of its citizens, but has much to offer as
well. We must adapt to a new reality and change our way of thought. And
that also means learning to deal with the fear of the other, the new,
the strange. Familiarity with one's own family, one's own culture or
one's own street need not imply a rejection of the other. The will to
learn and address potential conflict is more important than the tendency
to withdraw and to screen. Feelings of superiority must make way for an
approach of the differences in thinking, living and feeling. Tolerance
goes beyond the acceptance of the physical presence of the other. A
truly tolerant society will continu ally critique itself.

        For us also, there is much to be learned. Already we are
learning about music, dancing and remedies from other cultu res. In
other cultures also many means, unrelated to the authorities, can be
found that offer care to members of the community or that abide by
democratic principles that don't depend on the state.

        The basis for an 'open' world is an international norm of rights
and obligations. But how do you develop these? To begin with by doing
away with anonimity and ignorance of the other. By knowing who lives on
the other side of the world and is asking for help or cooperation.
Migration plays a large part in this. People that migrate bring new
information, also at the same time to those who stay behind. They raise
conscious ness about the situation both here and there, about the rela
tionship between them, thus increasing the realization that solidarity
is in everyone's interest. The crisis in Asia has an impact on the
western economy, environmental disasters cannot be contained by national
borders, war and hunger cause new migrants. Changes over there influence
our own future. It is therefore in everyone's interest to interfere with
problems elsewhere.

Global citizens: what people can do

The solution, both for people being forced to leave elsewhere and for
their arrival here, lies in changing the international pattern of
dependencies. This sounds ambitious, but such changes are thinkable and
possible. They exist on various levels, from the global to the strictly
personal. Everyone can attribute within their own opportunities.

        Important are transnational institutions. They offer space for
consultation with all parties, they oversee whether justice is done and
agreements are implemented. Well known among these is the United
Nations, an institution which is ever more clearly rooted in an old
world order. Instead of the old UN, often lacking power or credibility,
a new institution should be charged with surveillance of infringements
on human rights or the abuse of power by individual governments. If we
really want to change the patterns we will also have to think about the
conditions new and existing institutions must ful fil.

        Inequality can be limited by the redistribution of we alth: not
just material wealth but also knowledge, access to networks and cultural
capital. Small institutional reforms in the rich countries can already
strongly improve the fate of the poor in the rest of the world:
promoting other forms of global government besides the IMF or the World
Bank. This development also can partly be instigated by individuals and
smaller NGO's.

        A nice solution to limit poverty is to implement a global
dividend on raw materials. This would consist of taxes on our natural
resources, like fossil fuels, or on the use of land and water. A
dividend on raw materials would compensate that and at the same time
offer some protection for the environ ment.

        In the light of current developments, the execution of existing
aid and cooperation projects should be transfered ever more from states
to NGO's. These often work more directly and more efficiently. The
danger looms of course for them to become autonomous, inwardly focused
bureaucracies. Their members and financial backers, on whom they after
all depend, should prevent this. Also the NGO's should have a
transparent and democratic structure and decision making process.

        But individuals and smaller NGO's have the opportunity to
develop transnational activities with the aid of modern media and the
many fast means of travel. Grass-roots and self-orga nizations on one
end of the world can cooperate with similar organizations at the other
end of the world. It is a form of action vastly on the increase, which
offers many opportuni ties. For instance concerning consumer actions
starting in several countries at once.

        Companies too acquire ever more responsibility to not only
increase their profit, but also supervise the working conditions and
human rights in the environment in which they are producing their
products. Forced by ever more aware and critical consumers and
shareholders it is in their own inte rest to pay more attention to this.
Unions from the Nether lands can devote more and more to unions in other
parts of the world. Combined with aware consumers who for instance don't
want products made by child labour, this can lead to results.

        The problem is that the star players in the world -multi
nationals, the IMF, the World Bank, the big NGO's, the civil servants
shaping European immigration policy- are working in an area with barely,
if any, democratic control. There is no transnational public space where
they can be held accountable. Perhaps that is the biggest intellectual
and political chal lenge of the coming years: the development of a
public space across national borders and judicial systems where
openness, input and democracy can do their bit.

We are not there yet. But now already individual citizens in our society
have ever more opportunities to take their respon sibilities and exert
their influence, not only in their own street or neighbourhood, but also
in parts of the world which they realize are directly connected to their
own daily lives. With the new neighbours arises the realization that
citizens themselves can instigate changes, there as well as here. Their
influence from below strengthens the international structures that must
counteract violence, inequality and forced migrati on. There are many
opportunities to exert that influence every day. Not because of a sense
of guilt but because of curiosity about the future and the will to shape
it. A combination of practical measures, conscious choices and new
solidarity can together bring the global citizenship of the future

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