19

Sep

Migrant identities

It is frightening to see the number of communication campaigns around "migrants". It is more than just the latest fad: associations and communication managers compete to find the most hard-hitting words

Transforming the news item into a media phenomenon has become a societal standard, + 73% in the television news from 2002 to 2012 in France (INA [National Audio-visual Institute], 2013[i]). Sales turn out even better when it is an Iraqi who saves people in a fire. It is about communication, management and thinking models that were designed to have a product accepted in its entirety without questioning its meaning and foundations. These methods transform words into weapons of mass destruction. The war against humanity has been launched under the cover of humanitarianism, or even humanism. The irony of it all is that those trends boast of distancing themselves from "good old charity".

Using a story, a testimonial, a face, a picture to give "migrants" a human outlook sends a truncated message. Just apply the following test: replace "migrant" and "refugee" with other categories used during mankind’s violent periods. The hidden meaning is quite obvious. Trying to define a person as a human being means accepting that common sense and words have already given over that person to a second-rate constitution. It is an operating mode, albeit not necessarily a conscious one, that hides humanity away. If we try to be part of a group of people, by boasting that we are "migrants, all of us", then we have already created the category–or rather, the categories, those compartments in the minds and in the gazes that nobody can escape from, which deprive of identity and freedom, which atrophy the deepest humanity. In the same way that interpersonal violence destroys relationships, the violence of words and images can destroy one's own humanity even though it was meant to be beautiful, sensitive and vibrant.

The point I want to make is that we should question words and ideas. When I share something, what objective am I pursuing? Apart from criticising the system, am I consistent? In this regard, the experience with Josefa has allowed me to lift a corner of the veil on migrations, using a strong approach: constant questioning. What is the meaning of a word, glance, experience?

Upon hearing about the commitment I made, many people asked me, "So, you want to change the world?" And I would reply, "I do not want to change the world, I want to change my world and I cannot do it for anyone else." During my journey, I came across an interesting rewording of that idea, namely, creating a space made up of life, where the conventional operation of space and time can be transformed by each person and for oneself. Other people have to decide whether they want to visit it, respect it, make it their own and transform it. It is not an objective, but a purpose.

Deep down, are we willing to revisit our migrant identity? Could it be that this balancing act over our contradictions will help us avoid categorising, rampant heroism or this "I feel sorry for them" kind of charity?

Guillaume



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