Impostors and refugees

I “hang out” on the internet quite a bit. I visit various forums and read blogs. I’m generally interested in history, science, technology, computers, software and video games. So a rather narrow view of the world.

But lately I’ve been heading up to reddit to check out world news and user comments about these news.

And there’s one thing worrying me. Reddit is split into subsections, called “subreddits”. One of the bigger ones is /r/europe, which as the name says, has news about Europe.

As you might guess, most of the news these days are about the refugee crisis in Europe. Hundreds of thousands of refugees from countries which are imploding due to civil strife or authoritation regimes are heading for Europe, hoping it would be a safe haven. And in Europe many want to go to Germany or Sweden, which have openly said that they will help refugees.

This huge flood of people is inflated by people from poor countries wanting a better life. So besides the actual refugees (according to the UN definition), there are people many have called “economic migrants”.

I’ll separate the two groups:

  • refugees: Afghans, Syrians, Iraqis, Lybians, Eritreans, Nigerians
  • economic migrants: Kosovars, Albanians, Serbis, Ghanaians, etc.

However, which way you split them, most of the people the people trekking their way through Europe right not are quite different from people in these European countries. This has caused a lot of negative reactions and even a slight increase in the popularity of the far-right.

Either way, people are definitely interested about this topic and maybe even concerned.

Europe subreddit, refugee topics

^(See those little red numbers from the picture? Those are topics about refugees.)

Now, I don’t know how this crisis can be solved, and I don’t pretend that I could solve it. But along the way I’ve noticed that many people have started to forget about the human side.

One particularly dangerous comment I saw:

And if I was I would not bring said pathologies to a safe country.

The point the author wanted to make is that because he was a civilized person from a civilized country, he would rise above his environment. He would be better than the dirty refugees from their dirty countries, who bring their demons with them once they’ve arrived in Europe.

And that’s when it hit me: we all feel entitled. We live in our societies and we tend to take for granted the things we have and especially the things we receive.

Personally, I’m deep down a rather insecure person, affected by the impostor syndrome. Whenever something goes wrong, deep down I try to think if it was my fault and if I could have avoided it. Sometimes you might not even realize this, because life has taught me that in many occasions you have to be loud and blame others, lest you always take the blame.

And when I read comments like those during this discussion about refugees, I can’t help but think of people that actually rose above their environment.

I’ll tell you the story of one of those people: Dumitru Tinu.

About 12 years ago, Dumitru Tinu, a famous Romanian journalist, passed away. His English Wikipedia page doesn’t really do him justice, so I’ll translate bits and pieces from the Romanian one, which has a part of his autobiography:

I was a barefoot child, born in a house without any books, with parent’s who couldn’t read.

My parents wanted me to learn and become the village teacher. Their sacrifice was the simple act of sending me to school, to the “big city”, Slatina [Oblio: 70000 inhabitants]. This was the most I could ask of them. It felt like a miracle every time we got near Slatina.

My first year [Oblio: at school in Slatina) I stayed at a gypsy family. I could not stay at the boardinghouse because my parents didn’t have the 240 lei [Oblio: less than $10] per month required. They knew a gypsy family that came through the village to collect plumes and gave us all sorts of household items in exchange. Everytime they came in the village they’d stay overnight at our house. We could give them produce. They were very kind people.

If I would have been unsure of myself [Oblio: while walking 19km every day to go to school], I wouldn’t have made it.

I couldn’t allow myself to fail, I had to keep going.

And he kept going as he promised he will.

He became a famous and respected journalist, managing to go through many years as a professional journalist in Communist Romania, under Ceausescu’s rule, without compromising himself. After the 1989 Revolution in Romania he started Adevarul, one of the few investigative journals in a time of major corruption scandals. He also became the president of the Romanian Press Club, the issuer of the code of ethical standards for Romanian journalists.

Now, when I think about people like him, I’m always reminded that I’m an imposter. Why? Because for all my current financial well being and for what I consider decent results in life, I’m pretty sure I could not go through what he went through and have the same success as he did.

So I have a question for everyone protesting the entry of refugees in Europe: it’s true that many of them are poor and uneducated, maybe even uncivilized and violent by Western standards. But do you think you would be any better if you lived your whole life in the kind of society they were brought up in?

And when you propose a solution for any kind of crisis of this sort, keep that at least in the back of your mind.


Personal opinions about history, news, computers and programming.