What I am slowly realizing, a bit more than two years after having moved to Mexico, is that the place I come from is much more abnormal, globally speaking, than the place I am currently living in.
I am German, I have been born and raised in Germany, and until I was 24, I have nearly exclusively lived in Germany, besides a year as an AFS exchange student in Japan. Then I went to the US and the UK to study and work. It was not until 2002, that I started living, for the first time, in a developing country – in Mexico.
Europe – or should I better say Western Europe – has always been my point of reference. I see the negative aspects of daily life in Mexico – impunity, corruption, underperforming government, traffic, contamination, the non-existent service mentality when it comes to monopolies or oligopolies such as Telmex, Telcel, banks, the state electricity company, internet service providers, you name it – and I compare them to how life in Western Europe is. And I see two very different realities.
But, globally speaking, actually billions more people live in conditions similar to the ones in Mexico, or far worse, than to the super high standards of Germany, The Netherlands, Austria, or the likes – legal certainty and transparency, in general good governance, excellent public services such as education, health, transportation, etc. Western Europe is actually a tiny island in the huge sea of countries struggling for a better life. With hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants coming into Western Europe, people there get a glimpse of life beyond their borders – a world, a lot of Germans, Dutch and Austrians have been busy for years, if not decades, to forget and not be bothered with too much.
The current crisis should remind Europe why it is so important to take on global responsibility. Every human being has the right to try to achieve a better future for themselves and for their children – if this right is denied for too long in their country of origin, some will take the chance and search for it somewhere else. Migration might not be a human right, but it for sure is a reality. Mexicans search for better lives mainly in the US – about 12 million of them live there, that is more than 10 percent of their total population. They risk their lives trying to make their way across the desert. Africans, Central Asians and people from the Middle East might opt for Europe, basically because it is closer. They risk their lives, and lots of them loose it, trying to make their way across the Mediterranean.
After having lived for some time outside my Western European comfort zone, I can understand why some Mexicans, Nigerians, Pakistani or Afghans get on the migration trail.
The case of Syrians is even much more dire. They flee from war in their country – something most of us, fortunately, have never faced and never wish to face. I cannot imagine how frightened and vulnerable you must feel in a place like Syria right now. And I can empathize with any Syrian, particularly fathers and mothers, leaving their home, starting a journey to someplace safe.
I do not have a plan for peace in Syria, unfortunately. But it is imperative that the international community takes responsibility to protect the people of Syria. How come that humans can fly to the moon, split atoms, and cure cancer, but have come across so many situations of war that we have not satisfyingly ended. We should put our smartest minds to trying to address these conflicts and bring more and lasting peace to the people. 25 years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, we have to invest in finding solutions to the new threats we face.