I’m a pretty creative guy. My brothers are too. My wife and I have two highly creative kids. We all like to make things, to produce useful things, to make a contribution and a difference. I’m sure that’s true of many families.
In my working life, I’ve been involved in making creative tools that other creative people took and made highly entertaining and beloved works with. The point I am trying to make is that this particular creative tributary has its source in my mother, to whom we can all trace our ancestry. If she hadn’t existed, then none of the music, paintings, writings, technology or other creative artefacts that her descendants produced would have existed either. We don’t have any monopoly on creativity, but we’ve done our bit. Without us, there would have been slightly less.
Before she died, my mother revealed a secret about her childhood, but first some background. During the war, she was a refugee, separated from her father, who had been conscripted into the army. Her mother, my grandmother, had to cope with three small children in tow, eating hand to mouth, not knowing what their fate would be, as the war panned out. At times, they were wholly dependent on the kindness and care of strangers for their survival. Circumstances had thrown them out of their highly civilised, middle class comfort and into refugee status. It wasn’t their doing or their fault. Geopolitical changes, driven by profiteers, had torn up their daily lives and thrust them into want and uncertainty. It could have happened to anybody and frequently did.
At some point, this little fractured family, under extraordinary stress, came under the jurisdiction of highly efficient Nazis. To the fascists, my ancestors were a problem to be solved. Three small children and a mother that couldn’t support them. Scroungers. Untermenschen. Not worth the beans and gruel necessary to feed them and keep them alive. Much more tidy and efficient to simply eliminate them. It was for these reasons that some officious, obnoxious, facelsss, anonymous, Nazi bureaucrat, just carrying out the orders and wishes of the German people, placed their names on a list for transportation to one of their notorious concentration camps. A simple solution. Quick. Neat. Problem solved.
This was the secret my mother had kept from me and my brothers, until just shortly before her death. She didn’t want us to hate. She wanted us to cherish our lives, but not because some authoritarian bureaucrat begrudgingly spared hers, while the society she grew up in looked on in open contempt. Life is too precious to waste.
My wife came from clever, creative people too. She is outstandingly creative, musical, poetic and inventive. Her insights into data and her logical, deductive mind are rare characteristics indeed. It’s no wonder our children are creative.
Her father writes the most wonderful poetry and music. He has been a spiritual comfort to many, over the decades, in his work and through his sermons. My father in law’s mother had raised her own brothers and sister, after the death of their father and mother. One of her elder brothers, a highly intelligent, talented and creative man, had been a conscientious objector, during the first Great War. He had been white feathered and consequently found himself in a ditch in France, to uphold his dignity and honour. Even though the orphaned family relied on him as breadwinner, he died in agony in a French hospital, wounded and infected, screaming that he couldn’t die, because his younger brothers and sisters needed him to survive. We visited his grave recently. Nobody had, until we did.
The society he lived in considered him expendable. His creativity counted for little, compared to fighting a war for the vain glory of people who were far wealthier than he would ever be. The creativity of his descendants, who were never born, wasn’t considered at all. They never came to exist. Neither did the descendants of his two other brothers, who were also pointlessly killed in that same war.
When my own mother was placed on that list to transport her to a concentration camp, nobody considered what contributions her sons might make, or their children, her grandchildren. She was just a child. Children don’t have amazingly creative grandchildren. That’s as breathtakingly blinkered as bureaucratic thinking is.
Somehow, my wife’s grandmother survived and she did bring up her siblings, against all odds. Her descendants include my children. Had she perished, because her brother had been white feathered, my children wouldn’t be here now and neither would my wife and father in law. Nothing they created in their lives, no change that they made, would have ever happened. It would have been snuffed out quite literally at source.
My mother was taken off the concentration camp transportation list by a fluke event. My grandfather, while in the army against his will and better judgement, happened to notice a list of people for transportation posted on an obscure notice board, happened to read it and happened to spy the names of his wife and children on it. Imagine his horror! He then fought the bureaucrats and authorities to convince them that he had a job and that he could support them. They weren’t vermin and scroungers after all. It had all been a terrible and nearly fatally tragic cock up.
When we regard refugees as waste and trash, that we can exterminate quietly, through the infliction of intolerable suffering, what future creativity are we destroying? Is the saving made, by cutting short their particular branch of the human tree, really worth the cost of the creative contributions we will certainly lose from their unborn descendants? Treating refugees as disposable is indistinguishable from exterminating vital creative contributions from their future generations, of incalculable value and worth.
Today, when celebrities speak up in support of persecuted immigrants, who are only trying their best just to survive, they are pilloried. Their calls for decency fall on deaf ears. Mobs bay for their dismissal, dog-whistled into a shrill chorus by billionaire, tax-evading, non-resident media owners, drawn from the same elite classes that drum up and sustain wars, for personal profit and gain. These immigrants are worthless, they bark. Who cares if they perish? We should all care, because we have no idea of the value we’re destroying, maybe not from those refugees alive today, but from their subsequent generations. Caring for refugees is nothing more than enlightened self interest, if you can’t abide it on the grounds of compassion and wanting to be treated that way yourself, if you ever were in that circumstance.
Of course, nobody believes they could ever sink to the lowly status of a refugeee, In my experience and from family history, I can tell you that no refugee ever thought they would become one either. Yes, they were treated as second class citizens, as refugees in a strange land, but they were given the chance to survive, rebuild and make creative contributions, down the generations. Why wouldn’t any society welcome that?
If you are one of these nasty people that argues against immigration, don’t ask me to agree with you. Your views are ignorant and uninformed. You have no clue about what you are destroying. I have no time for your disgusting bigotry and specious arguments, driven by craven fear and propagandised, indoctrinated misidentification of your real enemies. In solidarity with all immigrants and refugees, I cannot agree with your rabid selfishness, because to do so would be to repudiate my entire family, its history and experience. Blood is thicker than water.
May you never find yourself in the circumstances of the people that are treated so callously and harshly by you, because they are in need, homeless, hungry, scared and stripped of their human dignity. Even if you have no heart, consider the wanton waste of the creative contributions their children’s children could one day make.
Please, don’t ever ask me to participate in or abide your narrow, vile, barbaric project. It’s indefensible.