Nomenclature

Image result for picture worth a thousand words quote

There’s an old nugget of wisdom that talks about a picture being worth a whole bunch o’ words. Its origins are disputed- claims of historical (that it originated with the likes of Napoleon Bonaparte, for example) and religious (Confucius) authority have been attempted to lend weight to its message- but it first showed up in the context of journalism and/or publicity (Frederick R. Barnard used it to convey the importance of graphics in advertising). Overall, that’s unsurprising.

I don’t know a whole lot about PR and/or marketing. Not my wheelhouse- and I find the concept behind such things uncomfortable, to say the least, what with their raisons d’être of manipulation and control.

A lot of us saw a picture last month. That picture rendered many of us speechless. With shock, with sorrow, with the reality of a tiny face given to millions of people who have been, for years now, fleeing chaos in their homeland.

I have my thoughts about how we, in the west, have been dealing with the issues that have created and exacerbated the strife in that area of the world. I’ve grieved for the people, as I’ve mourned the loss of their personal histories and the loss of the collective history of all of us humans as precious monuments are destroyed alongside lives yet uncounted.

Visuals are important- and it’s impossible to imagine our current (popular) culture without them. My generation was the first to see a war on the television- and the images of that war helped shape a response- from our parents and communities and governments- when the refugee crisis it prompted hit our shores, far away from South East Asia, in the form of people seeking asylum and relief from the chaos.

Pictures are invaluable- and can be, as we’ve seen this week, the tipping point toward enough awareness that change may actually be effected.

But me? I deal in words (I don’t even have a camera, tbh)- I find comfort and strength and expression through their effective use.

Something that has been bugging me for the past while has become uncomfortably blatant with all of the press coverage and political rhetoric that stemmed from the fallout after that picture appeared. Even weeks on, it’s framing our dialogue about what is happening overseas.

Since April or so the media has been talking about something called the ‘European Migrant Crisis’. Not that there was all that much real dialogue about it out there- but, when the news outlets chose to mention the influx of people into Europe everyone referred to them as migrants.

I have a problem with that. There are connotations associated with that particular term’s definition that belie the reality of what has been happening. In its common usage, there is an implied sense of choice associated with the word. Migrant workers, for example, have opted- for a variety of reasons- to work outside of their home region or country.

Here in Canada, we have temporary, seasonal agricultural workers who come from places like the Caribbean and Mexico to help farmers during periods of planting, cultivating and harvesting. And, once the harvest is in, they head back where they came from.

Migrant, as a categorizing term, implies an eventual return to the home country/region. A ‘temporary foreign worker‘ by another name.

Migration- in human terms- is simply defined as physical movement from one place to another with the intention of settling elsewhere- either temporarily or permanently. When they move, voluntarily, into a new area they are called immigrants. Sometimes they are called illegal immigrants (I’ll set aside the absurdity of applying a descriptor such as ‘illegal’ to human beings for another day. Acts are illegal. People should not be categorized as such)- when the country to which they migrate isn’t particularly open-arms-welcoming of them.

Involuntary human migration usually involves horrific things like human trafficking and slave trading: people who are taken, against their will, elsewhere for the economic benefit of other people.

It seems that, thankfully, I’m not completely alone in my distress about the irresponsible use of inflammatory language when we’re dealing with human beings in crisis. This morning I found this article, emphasizing the need for “accurate and well reported media coverage (that) will contribute to a balanced debate and will assist in fostering real respect and calmness in the face of deep human suffering. Refugees – all people actually – deserve to be treated with dignity and respect; in our public discourse as well as through our actions.”

There has been response from politicians and editorial writers (I found that opinion piece in the facebook feed of one of my childhood- and now, adulthood- heroes, Raffi), and, of course those journalists who have found evidence aplenty to lay the blame for our continued national inaction at the feet of our former federal government. Now the conversation is turning toward assessments of whether or not our new PM-elect can fulfill his promises to expedite the process of accepting refugees into the country.

They’re callin’ all the shots, they’ll call and say they phoned
They’ll call us lonely when we’re really just alone
Like a funny film, it’s kinda cute
They’ve bought the bullets and there’s no one left to shoot

Watching the local news channel this morning as I breakfasted, the anchor spoke repeatedly of the ‘refugee crisis’ and how awareness has increased since the photo appeared. At the same time, the teletype headline below her referred to violence between migrants and guards at railway and bus stations in various places in Eastern Europe.

We seem to be in a period of extreme dissociative identity disorder. But with the voices that found government-sanctioned support of their racism and irrational prejudices tempered (for the moment, anyway) by the election of representatives that promise to end such detestable divisiveness, perhaps we can make the conversations- and actions- more in keeping with the human rights concerns of the majority of this county.

Hope for a new day.

(I actually kept this post to 1000 words!)

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21 comments on “Nomenclature

  1. Yes! A new day. We have lived in darkness (9 some years?) too long my friend!

  2. Oh, Cole, I’m afraid any and all “excuses” or “rationale” for the inaction of your country or mine, all boils down to “government-sanctioned support of their racism and irrational prejudices.”

    C’mon, do you think if there was a crisis in Britain or Ireland we’d refuse to take in the Brits or Irish? After all, they’re white.

    • colemining says:

      Oh, Susan. I do agree, of course. But I’m hopeful because already- less than three weeks in and before his ‘official’ institution as PM, Mr. Trudeau has already called your President and told him that we will be withdrawing from the bombing campaign against ISIL (which was ridiculous on its face for SO many reasons). Instead, those resources will be re-deployed to aid in refugee re-settlement and a return to the Peace Keeping roles that I, as a Canadian, have always supported.

      If he fulfills this aspect of his mandate, he’ll be well on the way to repairing some of his predecessor’s damage and the beginning of a new way of seeing Canada, and the rest of the world. Thank goodness.

      Hope you’re keeping well. Thanks for the visit! xo

    • joey says:

      I hate to agree with you because the idealist in me expects more from people, but Susan, I am mmhming and nodding at what you’ve written.

      • colemining says:

        Oh Joey- I get what you’re saying, truly I do. But we have a fairly positive record (albeit not recently) when it comes to things like multiculturalism (not perfect, but often-enviable) and the acceptance of refugees from war-torn places elsewhere on this globe of ours. So I honestly don’t feel like it beggars belief to expect that our newly elected leadership might take us places we should have going, with regards to these things, rather than keeping us on the paths that the defeated government was taking us down.

        Thanks for the visit, and the comment. Lovely to see you! xo

      • joey says:

        I hope your new leadership is as humanitarian as he appears to be.
        I’ve gotten behind online, but ahead on home improvement. I miss lazy mornings spent reading 😉
        xo

      • colemining says:

        We will see- but all signs point to a real change in the weather- providing the country permits him to take the necessary steps to get us back on track.

        I hear you- we’re painting, so the place is kind of upside down. But I took the weekend off- no chores, no painting- so I was able to a little catching up. Back to the grind tomorrow. Ugh. xo

  3. […] the politics of hatred, and embraced the message of hope (my friend Cole wrote eloquently about it here). Corny as it sounds, it is better than the […]

  4. This is never an easy subject. I, personally, have great sympathy for those who want to come to our country (and Canada and western Europe) to escape dismal economic conditions, political persecution, etc. I have never bought into the trope that “illegals” just want to get into the US to get on welfare. Anyone willing to risk their lives and that of their families by traveling hundreds or thousands of miles, often on foot, for a chance at a better life isn’t going immediately walk into a government office and try to sign up for benefits. The vast majority are extremely hard working, many of whom get by on a pittance because they send a portion of their money back to their country of origin to help their families who are still there.

    I also understand that were everyone who wanted to come to the US, Canada or a western European country allowed to do so, it could well swamp the social infrastructure. I don’t have an easy answer. The fact is, nations such as the US benefit from immigration. Nations which lose immigrants – who tend to be among the most ambitious of the populace – are ultimately poorer. Of course, it would be ideal if places such as Syria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo weren’t miserable hellholes that left citizens with few options besides leaving.

    I’m inclined toward letting those in need cross the borders, understanding that it will cost money, create animosity among some already here and cause at least some social upheaval.

    • colemining says:

      I agree, CBC- it isn’t cut-and-dried, to be sure. We do have a strong precedent in the Vietnamese refugees of the ’70s- so we know it CAN be done- with amazing results for both the country and the refugees.

      Certainly we need to weigh all the costs of in-taking people who are desperately fleeing life-threatening situations, but it is ridiculous to assert that we can’t afford to do so. As we are seeing here, our new PM is cancelling our involvement in the bombings of ISIL, and will hopefully redistribute those funds in aid of supporting more refugee claimants. We can do the same with money that had been earmarked for the institution and administration of such things as Bill C51- and the inane and racist ‘Barbaric Cultural Practices Act’.

      And then there’s the equitable distribution of taxation (and ensuring that those who make the most are paying their fair share- rather than stashing it in offshore holding the Isle Of Man, and such). To claim ‘poverty’ in the national coffers as an excuse for not providing aid is disingenuous at best- outright insular and xenophobic at worst. And I have no time for either of those latter things. Not from willfully ignorant individuals, and most definitely not from the government we have democratically elected.

      I’m not suggesting it’s easy- but nothing worthwhile is, generally. Ignoring the plight of our fellow humans, displaced because of things for which we (in the west) are at least partially culpable, is not something that we can countenance, regardless of cost. Of course there will always be naysayers- who will stir the upheaval while attempting to maintain a false vision of ‘good old days’, but we need to to ensure that those are not the voices that ring loudest.

      Unfortunately the ignorant and the self-interested- along with being disproportionately vocal- have the support of too many of our ‘leaders’. That might have changed here (I’ll reserve judgement until things really start to change- but Mr. Trudeau is off to a good start, IMO), I just hope that the progressives south of our border will stand up and shout down the radical right and return the conversation to one that is based in an understanding of our shared humanity- regardless of race, religion, country of origin, or particular, created partisanship.

      Thank you, as always, for your insightful comment. Hope you had a Happy Hallowe’en!

      • Thank you, as well, Cole. You bring up important points. I don’t believe we can turn our backs on those who are fleeing for their lives. To claim that it “unaffordable” is putting a price on a human life, which is unacceptable. I believe that neither the hardcore right nor left do justice to political debate with their penchant for veering to the extreme. I appreciate you taking on this topic. I can only hope that those in power are willing to put aside what is politically expedient for what is right.

      • colemining says:

        You’ve hit it, as usual, exactly, CBC. Neither side has the appropriate approach- or is contributing anything of real value to discussions and policies about the preservation of human lives. Expediency- and playing to one side or the other- needs to be set aside so that we can really figure out how best we can help.

  5. bethbyrnes says:

    It is interesting that you pointed this out. I was saying to Geoffrey just this morning, look how they keep referring to Europe’s migrant crisis, when clearly these are people fleeing from the ravages of warring factions destroying their country. Here in the lower 50 I think using that term is a way of denying our responsibility to act as humanitarians. It covers over callousness and absolves people of guilt to characterise this as voluntary or even worse, opportunistic. The US seems to have held back more than we did in the past and I am not sure why. Perhaps all this hateful anti-immigrant rhetoric from the faction that fears anyone who comes here is going to eat their lunch has made it impossible now to have a fair, clear minded and empathic response.

    But then, I listen to our public figures, including ‘journalists’ and here every kind of linguistic fracture and don’t wonder that many people simply don’t know the difference in the terms themselves, or not well enough to select the correct name for the phenomenon. I am not sure which is worse, accidental or deliberate confusion.

    • bethbyrnes says:

      “hear” not “here” — lol, as I butcher the language myself!! 😉

      • colemining says:

        Lol. It happens. As my sister pointed out at dinner this evening, I had written ‘a’ in place of ‘an’ in the very first sentence of the post- and failed to catch it. Thank goodness the editorial gene runs deep in my family. I removed a word from the sentence- trying hard to come in at exactly 1000 words- and missed that little correction. Perfection is boring, right? xo

    • colemining says:

      I’m not sure that there is such a thing as ‘accidental’ confusion, Beth. We have the resources- and the responsibility- to educate ourselves about these things, rather than take the opinions of politicians and/or ‘journalists’ as fact. And that includes understanding the ways in which language can be manipulated in order to sway our perspective on things. It all comes back to my major beef- willful credulity/ignorance.

      We have been remiss- worldwide- in our response to this crisis- and suggesting (through the use of particular words) that these people have anything like a choice in their displacement is repugnant.

      We cannot allow ignorance- willful or otherwise- to interfere with our humanity, and our humanitarian efforts. As human beings we share a responsibility for one another. Sadly those who prefer to focus exclusively on self-interest have the ears and sympathies of too many of our elected leaders. It’s a travesty.

      Thanks for the visit and the comment. Hope you had a great weekend! xo

  6. […] leaders and the (in)actions that they’re taking, when we, here in Canada, have seen such a positive shift in attitudes in such a short period of […]

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