17 SES 17, Paper Session
All across Europe in politics, campaigns and media the dominating topic seems to be the question how to deal with refugees, that have arrived and are still arriving. Aside from radical political parties calling for a complete rejection / exclusion of refugees, moderate radical political parties are calling for very strict rules for integration / inclusion. Refugees shall be granted their fundamental right, to which European Union committed itself, if they are fulfilling several demands. These demands are mostly about learning the language of the host country and acting accordingly to cultural norms. Thinking a bit further the root of such demands is the belief, that differences in language and culture (including religion and ethnic background) are considered as gaps between host country and refugees. Part of political demands is that the task to bridge these gaps shall be completely up to refugees. Putting it in more abstract words: The basis of decision-making for inclusion and exclusion is located in personal characteristics of people arriving in European countries. Focusing on personal characteristics instead of social environment characteristics is what Zimbardo (2007) calls the fundamental attribution error. Imagine refugees arriving speaking the same language, sharing the same ethnical background, religion and cultural norms as people in the host country. Would there really be less hostility towards these refugees? Would it really be easier for them to be included?
This is the core research question of this paper: Are language, ethnical background, religion and cultural norms crucial factors for the difference between inclusion and exclusion?
How to answer this question? All empirical research including laboratory research could not possibly create a scenario to control all these variables. There is no chance to conduct an experiment with entire countries. Not to mention the predictable reactions of ethical review committee dealing with such a proposal. Well, there is no need after all for such ideas or proposals. History provides us with an answer to this wide range question. The arrival of millions of German refugees in Germany after the end of World War II.
The theory on violence and nonviolence developed by the author (Fath 2011; 2018) is functioning as theoretical framework. This theory is constructed as overarching theory and holistic approach combining elements from system theory, actor-network-theory, the philosophical approach of Serres, social psychology (especially influences by Milgram and Zimbardo) and quantum theory. The major conclusion is, that violence is always linked to an ultimate reduction of complexity, which is called the one-and-only-principle. When the whole complexity of people is reduced to only one aspect (their nationality), the interpretation of this aspect is reduced to only one version (threat), motivation is reduced to only one aspect (protecting homeland from threat) then the chosen reaction will be violently (remove the threat by any means necessary). Transferred to the research question and furthermore the difference between inclusion and exclusion of refugees in general the chosen theoretical perspective reveals the degree of complexity as crucial factor. This means specific aspects, like language, religion, cultural norms etc. – no matter how strongly emphasized by politics and media – are of no importance in and of themselves. The crucial aspect is the degree of complexity of perception, interpretation, communication and action. The lower this degree becomes, the more likely are violent reactions (rejection, radical exclusion). The danger lies in reducing refugees to a sole one-and-only-aspect and it does not matter what aspect this is. The place of this one-and-only-aspect can be taken by anything (language, religion, nationality, ethnic background, cultural norms etc.).
The methodological approach chosen is a critical theoretical and historical analysis. Broad research on documents (e.g. Benz 2006; Hahn, Komlosy & Reiter 2006; Thorwald 2005; Völklein 2005) was conducted, including collections of reports of contemporary witnesses. During the process the focus was laid on the example of German refugees arriving in Germany after World War II. They spoke the same language, had the same religion and ethnical background, shared the same cultural norms etc. All usual suspects to emphasize alleged unbridgeable differences cannot be invoked considering this specific historical example. The crucial question for the analysis is whether these refugees were confronted with hostility and rejection as well and to what degree. To achieve this goal interviews were conducted in addition to document analysis. The interview partners were all contemporary witnesses who were small children (aged 4 to 10, today in their late 70's and early 80's) when they arrived as refugees in Germany. The combined analysis of all sources led to an overall impression of how these refugees were treated and whether they were included or excluded by people and society of host country.
The major conclusion is: language, ethnical background, religion and cultural norms cannot be considered as crucial factors for the difference between inclusion and exclusion. German refugees at the end of World War II were treated on their arrival and in the time after with a massive extend of hostility and rejection. The fact that they shared all the potential factors from the research question with the people of the host country was not helpful at all. These refugees were reduced to the difference they were still showing: being refugees. Starving children eating leftovers from the dumpsters were called "Kartoffelkäfer" (potato bugs), describing them as parasites. The findings undergird emphatically the thesis drawn from the theory. The crucial factor for exclusion is the reduction of the excluded people to a certain aspect that becomes a one-and-only-aspect. It does not matter, what that aspect is. Quite the contrary: absolutely anything can take the place of this one-and-only-aspect. An impressive historical counterexample can be found in sixteenth-century Poland. In that period Catholics, Orthodox Ruthenians, Armenians, Jews and Muslim Tartars lived peacefully together (Kras 2018). Not by coincidence it was acceptance of pluralism and waiver of exclusivity that fostered this peaceful period. Summing up credible evidence is found for inclusion and a road to a more peaceful society depending on pluralism and acceptance of complexity. Exclusion, including its most radical forms, is rooted in highly reduced complexity and claims of exclusivity. Most important: It does not matter what language, religion, cultural norms etc. are chosen. Whenever something becomes part of a one-and-only-truth it nurtures violence. There is a need for rethinking educational perspectives. It is not possible to teach right content or right values. It is far more important to ensure teaching multiple perspectives and pluralism of contents and values.
Benz, W. (2006). Ausgrenzung. Vertreibung. Völkermord. Genozid im 20. Jahrhundert. München: dtv. Fath, M. (2011). Gewalt und Gewaltlosigkeit. Entwicklung eines Theorie-Modells. Lit. Fath, M. (2018). Violence and nonviolence/peace: introduction to a holistic approach. In Y. Friedman (Ed.), Religion and Peace. Historical Aspects (pp. 7-24). Oxon / New York: Routledge. Hahn, S., Komlosy, A. & Reiter, I. (Hrsg.) (2006). Ausweisung - Abschiebung - Vertreibung in Europa. 16.-20. Jahrhundert. Wien: StudienVerlag. Kras, P. (2018). The development of religious tolerance in Poland: from the medieval period to the Reformation. In Y. Friedman (Ed.), Religion and Peace. Historical Aspects (pp. 159-183). Oxon / New York: Routledge. Thorwald, J. (2005). Die große Flucht. Niederlage, Flucht und Vertreibung. Münster: Droemer Knaur. Völklein, U. (2005). "Mitleid war von niemandem zu erwarten". Das Schicksal der deutschen Vertriebenen. München: Droemer. Zimbardo, P. (2007). The Lucifer effect. Understanding how good people turn evil. London: Rider.
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