Saturday, July 13, 2013

Government and Immigration - Live and Let Live?

Immigration by 'outsiders' can raise for those who are already settled in a homeland,  very difficult moral and practical issues.

On the one hand living a comparatively  civilised way of  life in an apparently reasonably well governed country  where citizens can more or less get on with leading their lives as they can, is aspired to by most ordinary people yet on the other hand, selfish dictatorships or oligarchies can oppress citizens so much that they feel compelled to try to leave  and live more freely elsewhere.

 Of course oppressive or dangerous weather conditions or other natural events can also affect people's views as to where to live but generally  reasonably fairly governed countries  can and do work at overcoming such natural problems.

Taking the UK, people can and do complain about taxation and the priorities  of the government of the day. Nonetheless in general even  government by political party or parties whose politics are at the opposite end of one's personal spectrum  is in the UK  not overly restrictive on one's personal way of life. Coalition government here at present, of the kind which has not previously existed in  the peacetime since WWII, is  not doing too badly though it is far from perfect.

 Still the  right wing is being kept in check by the direct involvement of the Liberals  some of whose own more extreme political flavours are kept in check by those on the right of the coalition. Many are probably surprised and maybe even a little pleased that the UK coalition has continued for as long as it has and that the possibility  that it will last a full 5 year term in government, is increasingly looking like a probability.

But how should citizens of the UK be reacting to the large number of people apparently desperate to immigrate and settle here? Very hard to call in my humble opinion. The UK's population has increased enormously in the last 30 years or so and it is said that the country is already too crowded. On the other hand when a child at school a few years back  it was astonishing to learn  that the whole human  population of the world could actually stand together on the Isle of Wight. The number of men women and children has substantially increased since then so maybe the area needed for all  mankind to stand up and be counted would now be the whole of say Hampshire.

The reality though is that mankind needs space to live, farm,  work and recreate  which space  in the UK at least, is or seems increasingly scarce. Morally if  one state has  despotic rulers is another supposedly more 'civilised' state  obliged to take in the citizens of the former who try to flee and if so how many? Then how does the civilised state  try to discern  those who are really fleeing from others? How many immigrants  does the civilised state take or should there be no limit?

 I have no practical  idea as to how these questions should be answered.  The academic/moral answer might even be  that real refugees or  even those in respect of whose standing there is real doubt,  should be admitted without limit.

 The hypothetical  does seem  however to have to be tempered by practicalities. I suspect that there is no right answer  but what I feel should be occurring is that reasoned moral guidance should be being given by religious leaders about this kind of  fundamental  question. Currently there are few profound utterances that I can discern - my apologies if I have nor read widely enough to have picked up the learned views of our religious leaders on this fundamental issue - but although there are huge utterances about such matters as gay marriage, the gender of clergy and    general human behaviour -  profound teachings about immigration morality  are  noticeable by their absence.  True some bishops may make some utterances but what is really required from them (with respect) is real moral guidance if not teaching on this subject. It is easy to say let everyone immigrate if they wish but is that really sufficient  for our bishops  in C.21?

 Pope Francis has recently focused some attention on attempts by some  North Africans to emigrate to Southern Europe. I hope that  that good man will catalyse further wider reflection and discussion on this very difficult but increasingly these days, apparently fundamental, topic.

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