Diversity is coveted from a distance. That those most exposed to its benefits are consistently the least appreciative is a matter of public record. Conversely, its most impassioned advocates typically blossom from homogenous soil. Living among aliens tends to hold the same appeal as watching horror movies: both thrilling only as a voyeur. Much less so as a participant.
Despite media suggestions of a white southern monopoly, disdain for diversity is a universal trait. All people yearn for a place of safety, continuity, and familiarity. Even more importantly, they yearn for a place to belong. Those who profess to the contrary do so with the tacit understanding that their experiences with the phenomenon will be strictly vicarious. It is the frisson of watching an ax murderer from safety. Unfortunately, they badly overestimate the capacity of civilization to maintain that safety as it is being disassembled. They want their liberalism without being eaten by it too. Other peoples can less afford the film’s ticket price.
Those were my thoughts on reading this article on Muslim migration to Brazil. It is, in the obligatory manner of its pedigree, a puff piece on woe-is-us Muslims fouling their nests and subsequently alighting upon others to do the same. And while it is obviously written as an emotional appeal on behalf of the just trying to make a better lifers, the lesson lying just under the gauze is something different entirely.
The article traces the arc of a cadre of Syrians who were somehow denied entry into Europe’s open cavity and diverted instead to where none wanted to be: São Paulo, Brazil. What follows are heartwarming tales of efforts to establish a Muslim colony in that fractured–and consequently fractious–society. Note their fundamental first query:
“Where are the Arabs?”
This was the first Portuguese phrase Muna Darweesh learned by heart.
This is a woman without the luxury of liberal pretense. Shorn of which, she does not ask:
“How’s your constitution?”
“What’s the capital gains tax rate?”
“Does Brazil support marriage equality?”
“Do you have a holistic program for combating climate change?”
No, she doesn’t give the beginnings of a shit for our effete pieties. Instead she seeks succor in the only place nature instructs it will be found: among her own. Of course another lesson is found in the necessity of borders and boundaries. The absence of which is a certain prelude to misery.
They live in a run-down apartment complex with their four children, on a street where they know not to go outside after dark. Darweesh was once mugged at knifepoint walking home from the mosque. Everybody seems to have such a story, or knows someone who does. Lawlessness is the biggest shock, for Syrians accustomed to the order of a police state.
Another newly arrived Syrian of their acquaintance says robbers forced their way into his apartment and pistol-whipped his wife. Because no one was killed, police suggested, it was a small matter, best forgotten.
Do you know what is even worse than the inability to circumscribe your habitat? Not having white racists within it.
Nor can the government be depended on for other types of help. It is not like socialist Sweden, where Darweesh’s brothers lives.
“Here, nobody gives you anything,” she says.
That is unfortunate, one must concede. Whatever tax the Brazilian army is able to extract from its squalid favelas must surely find its way into the pockets of peripatetic foreigners. By Western behavior alone, this appears to be the core function of government. Though the point is these people just want to be as Brazilian as any other racially-indeterminate petty criminal.
In their living room, they keep the television tuned to a Syrian channel they get on cable. They watch it for the dramas, they say.
There is significant unintended irony in liberals lamenting the pain and tribulations of sainted migrants in a country that is the model for the entire West. It dawns on neither writer nor subjects to contemplate what makes Brazil a less desirable destination than Europe or North America. We are told only about crime and a lean public fisc. These being natural consequences of relative proximity to Antarctica, presumably.
And note their exclusively Syrian teevee watching. These new Brazilians bleed green and yellow, I thought. Well I thought wrong, as that’s just fodder for goober consumption.
Whether colonial Europeans in Africa, Chinese in California, or Muslims in Malmö, humans do not move to integrate, they move to supplant. They come here to make a better there. And if our here becomes their there, where do you imagine our children will have to go before receiving a positive response to mankind’s most visceral question:
“Where are my people?”