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Seas of Death and Hope

Seas of Death and Hope
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STOCKHOLM / ROME, Feb 11 2019 (IPS) – The Mediterranean Sea is presently a sea of dying. On the 20th of June yearly, i.e. The World Refugee Day, a corporation referred to as UNITED for Intercultural Motion publishes a “List of Deaths”, summarising info on the place, when and beneath which circumstances a named individual has died because of the “fatal policies of fortress Europa”. The info are collected by way of info acquired from 550 community organisations in 48 nations and from native specialists, journalists and researchers within the subject of migration. The record issued in 2018 accounted for 27 000 deaths by drowning since 1993, typically a whole lot at a time when giant embarkations capsize. These deaths account for 80 per cent of all the entries,1 there are in all probability hundreds more lifeless, corpses that have been by no means discovered and/or not accounted for.

Whereas considering seas as a place of dying and limitations to human interplay it is perhaps opportune to be reminded of their position as means of communication and commerce, as well as transfer of tradition and innovation. For hundreds of years, people have used the ocean to complement themselves and their communities by interacting with individuals from different cultures.

The Mediterranean – Sea of seas, hope and doom, Venus cradle and Sappho´s tomb. Over its waters Greeks, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Romans, Berbers, Italians, French, Normans, Turks, Slavs, Jews, Christians and Muslims have carried their goods, music, inventions, food and concepts, creating a mighty cultural combine reaching right down to the southern shores of Maghreb and Egypt, and beyond, as well as all the best way as much as the coasts of the North – and Baltic Seas, spreading Greek philosophy, Roman regulation, Arabic science, poetry, artwork and culture and far more which have benefitted humankind. Virtually every sea on the planet has been serving humankind in an analogous manner, as a strong blender of cultures, proving that human mobility benefits us all.

A rosy image? Let us not overlook the shadows. Seas have all the time been scenes of bloody battles, ruthless piracy and slave commerce, the final exercise is probably one of humanity´s worst crimes. Between 1650 and 1900, more than 10 million enslaved Africans arrived within the Americas, whereas many had died through the passage across the Atlantic Ocean. Throughout the identical period, eight million East Africans have been enslaved and despatched across the Indian Ocean to the Middle East and Asia. It was not only Africans who have been brought in chains across the seas. European nations like Great Britain, France and Spain sent political prisoners, “vagrants” and other “undesirables” to their colonies. Between 1788 and 1868 greater than 160 000 convicts have been transported from Britain to penal colonies in Australia. Barbary pirates operating from North African ports carried out razzias on European coastal cities, mainly to capture slaves for the Ottoman slave market. It has been calculated that between 1530 and 1780 the Barbary corsairs enslaved approximately 1 250 000 individuals.

After the British Empire ended slavery in 1833 indentured labour turned the most typical means to obtain low cost workforce for its colonies, a apply that quickly was employed by different nations as properly. This meant that immigrants would contract to work for an overseas employer, usually for seven years. The employer paid the ocean passage, the indentured labourer did not receive any wages, however was supplied with food and shelter. Hundreds of thousands of individuals have been brought across the seas beneath such circumstances, primarily Asians, but some Europeans as nicely.

Nationalist political events typically complain that the majority migrants do not present any advantages for the receiving nation, that the majority of them are poor and uneducated. Nevertheless, this is nothing new. American immigrants have typically been depicted as entrepreneurial, sturdy staff build up a rich nation. When the Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson in 1879, on his solution to California, in steering crossed the Atlantic he was amazed to seek out that the majority emigrants were not any robust, adventurous males wanting to make a dwelling and achieve success in America, however mainly determined and tired individuals making an attempt to flee European persecution, poverty and unemployment.

    The extra I noticed of my fellow passengers, the much less I used to be tempted to the lyric word. Comparatively few of the lads have been under thirty; many have been married and encumbered with families; not a number of have been already up in years. Now those round me have been for probably the most half quiet, orderly, obedient residents, family men damaged by adversity, elderly youths who had failed to put themselves in life, and people who had seen better days.2

In spite of the desperation and misery of their ancestors, descendants of slaves, criminals and desperate, poor migrants have contributed to the creation of rich nations and impressive cultures. Europeans complaining concerning the inflow of poor, uneducated individuals from distant cultures easily overlook that a number of of their own ancestors discovered themselves in an analogous state of poverty and desperation and that it was human mobility that in the long run offered an answer for them and their youngsters.

Christopher Columbus dreamt he would discover an utopian India, however as an alternative he found a “New World”, which in reality was a really previous one and identical to the Mediterranean, on which shore he was born, this world was dependent on one other mighty, inner sea on which shores there lived individuals of totally different cultures – Arawaks, Tainos, Mayas, Aztecs and many extra whose cultures ultimately combined with these of European conquerors, Africans slaves and indentured labourers from Europe and Asia.

In spite of immense suffering, wars and plagues a multifaceted combine of cultures developed, evident by way of all kinds of meals, spiritual beliefs and particularly of music genres, like merengue, calypso, cumbia, rumba, reggae, son, salsa, gospel, jazz and blues. In trendy occasions authors like García Márquez, Juan Rulfo, Miguel Angel Asturias, Marie Vieux Chauvet, Alejo Carpentier, Derek Walcott, Vidhiar Naipul, Jaques Romain, Zora Neale Hurston, Aimé Césaire, William Faulkner and different virtually countless writers, story tellers, poets and singers bear witness about this unique blend of cultures created by Mexicans, Colombians, Haitians, Garifunas, West- and East Indians, Jamaicans, Pirates, Slaves, Maroons, Guanches, Turks, Andalusians, Jews, Gypsies, French, Dutch, Voodooists, Santeros, Muslims and Christians. What would the world have been with out this mix of cultures alongside the shores of the Mediterranean – and the Caribbean Seas?

The same is true concerning the maritime trade, cultural and business change alongside the coasts of the Indian Ocean, starting with the world´s earliest civilization in Mesopotamia, historic Egypt and the Indian subcontinent. There historic Romans, Arabs, Africans and individuals from Sri Lanka and India, and even Chinese, used the monsoon drifts and equatorial currents to attach with one another and spread their items and cultures, creating culturally combined, communicating societies along the coasts, like the African Bantu-Swahili culture, which spread its affect further inland.

South China Sea tells an analogous story about human interaction throughout the waters and even when the Champas of Vietnam, the Chinese language, the Japanese, the Malaysians, the Indonesians, the Dutch, the Portuguese and the Philippines have claimed superiority over that specific sea it has however carried items, ideas, religions and inspiration between the totally different populations who inhabited and nonetheless inhabit its shores.

Within the far north we find the North Sea, once dominated over by the Vikings with their superior longships; rading, trading and establishing colonies in Ireland, Iceland, England and on the northern coasts of France. Within the Center Ages and by means of the 15th century they have been displaced by traders from Northern European coastal ports, the Hansa group, delivery grain, fish, timber, dyes, linen, salt, metals, wine, culture and art, following the previous Viking, Finnish and Slav trade routes across the Baltic sea and down along the Russian rivers, even connecting with one of probably the most distant inland seas of all of them – the White Sea, which linked the distant cultures of Finns, Sami individuals, Samoyeds and Russians, amongst different treasures giving start to the beautiful Karelian epic Kalevala, which like Homer´s Odyssey, amongst different issues, is a tribute to the sea.

So, whereas we are probing the tragedy of the drowned refugees and migrants of the Mediterranean, let us not overlook that the open seas of the world have not only served as routes for desperate migrants, asylum seekers, slavers, pirates and warriors, they’ve additionally been channels for civilization and friendship, providing vitality, power and culture to the peoples of their shores. In spite of its shortcomings, mobility is a component of human nature and can’t be blocked. Human interplay and communication is a blessing and as an alternative of drowning individuals in their waves let us permit the seas to continue to convey cultures, inspiration and friendship between us all.

The record doesn’t solely account for deaths occurring at sea, but in addition in detention blocks, asylum models and city centres.
2 Robert Louis Stevenson, Travels with a Donkey within the Cévennes and The Novice Migrant. London: Penguin Classics 2004, p. 107.

Jan Lundius holds a PhD. on History of Faith from Lund University and has served as a improvement skilled, researcher and advisor at SIDA, UNESCO, FAO and other international organisations.


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