One of the most basic human needs we have is a sense of physical safety and comfort. It is instinctive and established before birth. Somewhere we know we can return to in danger, and somewhere we can protect. Somewhere we call ‘home’.
We can use no end of catchphrases to justify it: “home is where the heart is”; “there’s no place like home”; “home, sweet home” are but a few. It also doesn’t matter what form that home takes, whether it is a small studio flat, or even a caravan, up to a stately mansion.
Anyone who moved house when they were a child can probably remember the emotional upheaval of leaving friends and family; a school; a community. We remember the tangible – and we adjust and replace them – but what we often fail to understand that what really stabbed us at the time was the disruption to the status quo that is “home.” The place we can feel safe.
A man’s home is his…Cave
From way back in the caveman days Homosapiens would have had their own caves. Father Ug, the hunter-gatherer, would guard Mother Ug and the little Ugs, and protect their “home” as much as he would hunt for food and water. Father UG would know
Even when individuals or families live nomadic lifestyles there is still the ritual of “setting up” camp or temporary homes with the focus on providing shelter from weather, protection from attack, and so on. When homes connect and villages, towns and entire civilisations develop, they are based on the notion of having a home where we belong. Identifying with this extended “home” is also a part of that feeling of belonging and communal safety – the idea that we look out for each other. However, this idea is somewhat romantic and less the case the days (but that’s a different blog for another day…)
Looking back to ancient “civilisations” we can see how these began to add more advanced concepts of trade, industry, infrastructure, and increasingly advanced social structures. Ancient China (2100 – 221 BC), Egypt (3150 – 31 BC), Greece (800 BC – 146 BC) and Rama (10,000 – 2,500 BC)* are amongst the best known. When societies began to be entirely defined by hierarchy and wealth started to command or indicate status each civilisation could usually see that reflected in the buildings and their homes. However, as religious beliefs often commanded much of the financial power in communities, the largest “houses” were those of the “Gods.”
One of the recurring themes of history has always been the act of conquering. A “man’s home is his castle” is a well-known phrase in the UK. It’s figurative more than it is literal and so it harks back to the most basic instinct to protect one’s home from prey or attack. So when someone starts banging on that door, it makes us jump. The fight or flight instinct kicks in. We either stand up to our attackers and defend our homes, or we run away because it is no longer safe.
Nigel Farage and the Brexit team tapped into that fear in order to scaremonger enough people to jump on board the Brexit with the campaign, solely on the argument that “too many” immigrants – a “swarm”, to use David Cameron’s word – were trying to get into the country. It was as if they were invading in their mass numbers and our cities and homes were becoming overrun with street-filling crowds of people from all directions. Brexit was sold as the UK’s chance to build a big wall around the UK and save our homes and villages from an invasion.
Our over-worked NHS, overcrowded schools, and dwindling public funds were all under threat (The fact that immigration provided a positive net rise to GDP was ignored). It was not even considered for a moment that since immigration didn’t cause those problems, stopping or curbing immigration is not necessarily the solution. Immigration is not the source of housing, health care or education shortages.
Refugees – where has all the compassion gone?
Refugees suffer greater prejudice when the “anti-immigration” xenophobes comes out. Readers of the tabloids get swept up in the negativity towards refugees when the writers deliberately blur the lines. The irony is that the lack of understanding, and lack of empathy, is totally unjustified. The education system in the UK has included teaching and learning about immigration, refugees and asylum, so anyone who claims not to know, or claims that the differentiation doesn’t matter is, by definition, ignorant.
So let’s be clear – a refugee is someone who has been forced to leave their home because it can no longer provide that safety they need. It is too easy to get swept away by political narratives and forget the refugees are terrified people force to flee their homes. It is too easy to bemoan why they run to the UK for help and claim that all the want is handouts. All they want is “help.” Yes, of course there are those who come to the country dishonestly under the cover of the refugees. But do we not also have criminals bulging at the seams of our own prisons? Do we not have home-grown fraudsters who cheat and steal from us, too?
Should a hand of charity not be held out to a lone child forced to wander randomly alone on a temporary campsite in Calais? He didn’t cause the fighting and war in his own country. It wasn’t a choice for him to run away from his dangerous home, especially during a violent civil war? Do we not have a responsibility, as a humane society, to protect people who need a safe place to stay: who need a home? Do conflicts like the most recent battles in Syria not call upon us to do our bit? And I don’t mean by providing scraps of materials or “refugee camps:” I mean “safety.” It could be suggested that especially since countries like the UK have had a hand in the conflicts in Syria which should be compelled to act. Surely we should take it as our moral and ethical humanitarian duty?
It seems as if the most recent attitudes towards immigration come from a very dark place indeed, where countries in the EU have even being arguing over whose “problem” all those refugees really should be going. It says a lot when a six year old boy shows more compassion than our own leaders.
When a home is not a home
The story of Seretse Khama is a prime example of how the rules of countries contradict the notions of having a home. After having fallen in love with a woman whilst he was studying in the UK, Khama faced a threat to his sense of home. Exiled from one home, challenge over his leadership of another, all because he fell in love with a woman of different race to him.
To threaten someone’s sense of home merely because it goes against political beliefs, strikes at the heart of inhumanity in the world.