Almost every day of the year is dedicated to a subject of universal interest, such as the fight against racial discrimination or the protection of the environment. Certain criteria need to be respected so that this abundance of dedications acquire a deeper meaning and do not degenerate into tired routine. Most importantly, we must maintain the integrity of honest self-criticism and, secondly, use measured and well-founded arguments. To do this, though, we need to challenge two deeply ingrained habits: that of excessive haste, meaning that we take no pause for more mature reflection on specific issues, and the tendency for Manicheist frivolity that ignores all things essential in favor of prefabricated interpretations.
Monday’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which was established by the United Nations exactly half a century ago, found humanity a few steps ahead of where it was in 1966, when South African police murdered 70 students who were protesting against the Apartheid regime. Yet we are still a long way off from what we would want or what is needed. This is evidenced, among others, by the rising popularity of Republican front-runner Donald Trump in the US, despite his rhetoric of escalating intolerance and by the not-at-all fleeting rise of xenophobic or openly racist and pro-Nazi forces in many European countries.
In these two parts of the planet, which we define with such pride as the Western world – also responsible for the propagation of wars that shattered entire nations, if not continents, and resulted in the mass immigration of desperate populations – we are in the age of wall-builders: The wall-builders of Trump, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and all those other European politicians who are no longer satisfied by symbolic walls they deem inadequate, and would rather see them take on physical form, made of rock, cement and barbed wire. The excuse is that they are safeguarding their national sovereignty, their racial purity and the Christian faith.
We can imagine how hard it is for the European Union to force totalitarian-ruled Turkey to implement the terms of the deal it signed – after much bargaining in which the refugees were treated like an annoying horde without too many human traits or rights – when it cannot impose respect for its founding principles on its member-states.
As far as Greece is concerned, the tone in the refugee crisis has so far been set by the prolific altruism of anonymous benefactors, despite the better efforts of certain media to stoke xenophobia. Yet even here, the walls of intolerance are being erected on a foundation of hate and even blatant lies.