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Thursday, 3 September 2015

Migrants help to socialise the world

Briefly heard on the ABC while I was driving home from visiting my mother's nursing home on Monday, UK philosopher AC Grayling talked about migration and about the opportunities that it offers humanity. As he spoke, thousands more refugees from the Middle East and Africa were arriving by boat, on foot, on a train, on a bus, or in the back of a locked truck, on their way to seek a new home in Europe. In this picture, Syrian refugees board a train bound for Serbia.

On the one hand I feel lucky to have been born in a country where peace is the norm on the political level - even though rhetoric heard in the public sphere might rise in temperature from time to time to a level higher than some might wish - and so there is no need for me to go anywhere seeking it. On the other hand as an Australian I owe my very existence to people who made the choice at some point in their lives to relocate from one place to another, always over long distances. Most of my forbears came from the British Isles to the new, free colonies in the south of the continent after Transportation had ended, and then there's my father's father who came from the relative comfort of a privileged life in a Portuguese colony in Africa to live in the poorer parts of Melbourne for the rest of his life.

While I am a product of their legacy I am equally a product of the culture they built alongside their peers, a culture steeped in British customs and institutions developed over centuries in a Europe often riven by war. Like them, I seek peace and quiet on a daily basis.

Unlike so many refugees who feel compelled to make the move north to Europe from parts of the world that continue to be full of strife, slaughter, and other unsavoury conditions, I have a comfortable home to come home to at the end of every day. And when I see the homeless living in my city as they sleep gathered up against the hard foundations of buildings full of offices, I also think of the migrants sleeping wherever they can as they slowly move their lives from one uncertain stopover to the next in their determined search for the peace we all want at the end of the day.

So as Grayling recommends, we should welcome them, the migrants. Net positive migration in Australia is keeping the economy strong, as well. The stimulus they bring with them along with their languages and customs and religions and cuisine refreshes the economy more broadly, which is good for the entire nation. While they build their lives here they engage in thousands of financial activities as they find accommodation, work, long-term companionship, a school for their children, and as they spend their money on the necessities and luxuries we all desire.

Together we will build a more interesting, more diverse, and a stronger society, one able to better withstand the stresses that exist everywhere in an increasingly globalised world where peace is only guaranteed insofar as it is the aspiration of all of people living there.

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