Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Conversations that Keep on Going: a Continuing Discussion with Galina Krasskova (Pt. 10)

KF:  Vigorous discussion on refugees continues on Facebook.  One interesting topic (one of the few interesting topics, really) concerns hospitality obligations and the obligations incurred by the recipients of hospitality.  There were definitely traditions throughout the pre-Christian world of extending a welcome hand to strangers and of helping those in need. But there were also codes of conduct which applied to those strangers and communal expectations which they were expected to meet.  And I wonder what we can learn from the Classical and Heathen worlds on how to approach this contemporary crisis.  

GK: well it worked out so well for them when they allowed Christians in. *sarcasm*. I think we can learn quite a lot right there. Seriously though, yes, hospitality was not just a virtue but an obligation in both the classical and Heathen worlds. That being said, there were obligations on both sides and one of those was that the guest was not expected to entrench themselves and remain.

We have a good example of this in the "Odyssey." With Odysseus off at war for ten years and then delayed for another ten in his return, his wife Penelope is left to handle affairs in Ithaka alone, save for her infant son. Suitors descend upon the palace after the first ten years, once Odysseus doesn't' immediately return home, to demand that she marry one of them. (They're not interested in her, mind you, but in her lands). At first, she is obliged to offer them hospitality, but then they don't leave and they start abusing that hospitality. With all able bodied men off at war, she doesn't have a force of retainers to expel them. She is forced to endure their attentions, their ravaging her lands, literally eating the people of Ithaka out of house and home. When Odysseus returns, he sees all that is going on and with his adult son eventually handles the situation: by slaughtering each and every one of the suitors and any of the maidservants who collaborated with them. That is what you do when hospitality is abused.

Violations of hospitality by a guest are as awful a crime as not extending hospitality in the first place and when your people are suffering, and your culture is being erased, I say hospitality is being violated. Now I'm not advocating genocide, but I am advocating finding a better solution. I am as concerned about the destruction of Syrian culture, which is resulting from all of the population fleeing the country as I am about various European cultures. They have a right to their own ancestral lands and their own culture. I think maybe the question should be, as we temporarily offer shelter, what can we do to help them reclaim and resettle their own lands. That's the part people aren't talking about: What's lost on their end. Are they to be perpetual exiles from their own lands? Are those lands to be sacrificed to Daesh or whatever power hungry tyrant can claim them? Why is that OK?

KF: One thing that's really been driven home to me in these discussions is the very important distinction between clementia and misericordia. I'm seeing lots of misericordia (tearful sympathy or "shared misery" for the plight of an afflicted individual) and very little clementia (clemency, mercy extended when it serves a higher cause). We're seeing pictures of wounded and dying children, cries for "unconditional love" and "mercy for these poor people" with the corollary that anyone who would not give them a home must be a heartless monster. But when you talk about the root causes of the crisis, when you ask about the limits of our moral responsibility and suggest solutions that don't involve rehoming these people -- when you try to frame the issue in practical terms and seek practical solutions rather than engaging in an orgy of teary whimpering -- there's no interest at all.

Clementia has quite a charge in Latin. I don't know that I"d use the Latin terms for an English analogy. *smiles*. However, to answer your question, of course there is. it's always easier to wallow in useless emotion and virtue signal than to actually roll up one's sleeves and get to work. It's also incredibly racist and infantilizing: oh the great white hope is going to come in and fix all the brown people's problems for them. You know what? maybe they're capable of fixing their own problems, especially because every thing that we're seeing today is a direct result of white people -- European Colonial Powers and after WWII America--interfering in native politics. I think they've had enough "Help" from us.

Of course what does one do then when seeing children washed up dead on a beach? It's horrifying and heart-rending. I say we save those children and help them go home. The way to stop this is to stop the cause of them fleeing. It's not doing any long-term good to destabilize Europe, which is what is happening. I'm terrified that a excessively right wing government is going to take power in some of these countries (Germany, Austria, France, Sweden, etc.)--we've seen how that goes. We could very well be headed there again, which should give us greater incentive to solve this problem before the right wing nationalists in Europe take advantage of it -- which, I might add, is already happening.

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