“What does not kill us, makes us stronger.” could have once been the slogan of the western world. It has been used often in relation to the British stiff upper lip, the proactive German zeitgeist and the American entrepreneurial spirit. Many movers and shakers in these countries would have you believe it is a contender for the definitive phrase of the modern developed world, especially in Germany where Friedrich Nietzsche is assumed to have originated it, but our response to the recent refugee crisis makes me believe we are undeserving.
Another frequent use of the phrase, meaning that strife will only make us tougher and more able to cope, is by parents as an encouragement to children facing tough times. I need not tell the media savvy world that there are a huge of children facing tough times at the moment, more than ever before in fact. With more than 60 million refugees in the world today facing the toughest of burdens, around one in a hundred living humans is undergoing forced displacement. These are the children who most need some form of encouragement and their families are least able to give it. Surely these people who have faced the horrors of war and the struggles of hunger before making their way across continents are the strongest among us according to Dr. Nietzsche’s phrase at least?
Why is it then that the western world, sees these people as a burden and not as a source of potential strength? It seems only too eager to see the strength of adversity in its own people after its own wars, horrors and human tragedies, so why is there none to be seen in these resourceful people who had well developed skills even before they were forced to make the journey of a lifetime. There are jobs here for people with such resourcefulness. Maybe someone who got their family from Syria to London on foot could achieve the seemingly impossible and get the 08.30 into King’s Cross on time? Perhaps a mother who kept a child alive through pneumonia could train to help fill the gaping hole in NHS nursing?
The developed world needs to stop seeing these people as a burden or a tide to be fought against Canute style and start seeing them as a human resource to be worked with for everyone’s benefit. At best our governments see them as a charity case, giving paltry donations to ease the collective conscience. Instead we can work together with these former engineers, business owners, shop assistants, students and children to realise their potential again, making them a part of our proud, forward looking communities.
Of course there is an alternative, one which seems more realistic with every horrific prison-like refugee camp. We could look back to another famous European quoteand hang “ARBEIT MACHT FREI” over the whole developed world.