Tag Archives: immigration

Riz Ahmed, Immigration, Suketu Mehta and me, Identity Politics, and Varun and Sidharth’s “shining future”

21 Sep

riz-ahmedRiz Ahmed is the first man of Asian descent to win an acting Emmy Getty Images

Suketu Mehta’ conclusions in “This Land is Their Land” (see: Suketu Mehta in Foreign Policy addendum, whole text) echo some of my points on immigration in Greece, Britain, U.S. and everywhere (see: It’s immigration, “stupid”: the United States’ best-kept secret…streams of thought on a hot Sunday afternoon).

Me:

“It’s when immigrant/migrants/refugees are leaving that you should worry.

“My often-stated opinion that the West has both the resources and the historical obligation to take in every-body that needs and wants to come still holds.  That the European Union’s migration agreement with Turkey marked people fleeing a country in the condition of Afghanistan’s as “economic migrants” was a scandal.  But when you’ve got a problem with Poles — whit-er, better-educated, harder-working, more Christian, cuter, better-mannered and less binge-drinking than you — then you really do have a problem…

polish-scum

“America’s best-kept secret, despite what trailer trash Donald Trump and his crew tell you, is that immigrants are a self-selecting group of already highly motivated people who are connected and aware enough to have heard that things are better where you are.  And they’re not coming to take that from you; they’re coming to improve it.  They’re the A-list crew that crashes your party because they’ve heard your parties are the ones to crash and in the process makes them even more of the hottest ticket in town.  It’s a self-fufilling, auto-re-perpetuating process.

“New York, in other words.”

“Olympian Zeus, king of the gods, will tear your head off if you’re unwelcoming to the stranger — or worse, for a Greek, make you ugly — so you better watch out. He comes in disguise to test you. Like the angels to Abraham.”

“So…wooops…there they are. Here they come! They’ve arrived. And they’ve instantly made Greece a more interesting place. And interesting is strong. And strength is freedom.”

And Mehta:

“Countries that accept immigrants, like Canada, are doing better than countries that don’t, like Japan. But whether Trump or May or Orban likes it or not, immigrants will keep coming, to pursue happiness and a better life for their children. To the people who voted for them: Do not fear the newcomers. Many are young and will pay the pensions for the elderly, who are living longer than ever before. They will bring energy with them, for no one has more enterprise than someone who has left their distant home to make the difficult journey here, whether they’ve come legally or not. And given basic opportunities, they will be better behaved than the youth in the lands they move to, because immigrants in most countries have lower crime rates than the native-born. They will create jobs. They will cook and dance and write in new and exciting ways. They will make their new countries richer, in all senses of the word. The immigrant armada that is coming to your shores is actually a rescue fleet.[My emphases]

Was that one of the subtexts or even the skeletal structure of “The Night of…”, the brilliant mini-series and incredible ethnographic essay on New York from HBO for which Ahmed won his Emmy: good, criminally uninclined, son of hard-working Pakistani immigrant parents from Jackson Heights, with …a shining shining future
Sadda bright si (see full video at bottom), gets led to his doom by decadent white girl? or is he a good Muslim boy led astray by Hindu seductress disguised as lawyer who then screws herself in the process?  (I have to admit that the sexual scratch-marks on the back of Ahmed’s character, Naz, that come to light in one courtroom scene put me in mind of the Gita Govinda.)  Or more misogynist than that even: that women — period. — are trouble?

‘The Lovers Radha and Krishna in a Palm Grove’; miniature painting from the ‘Tehri Garhwal’ <i>Gita ­Govinda</i> (Song of the Cowherds), Punjab Hills, kingdom of Kangra or Guler, circa 1775–1780

Some of the frustrating contradictions of identity politics in the Washington Post‘s Riz Ahmed makes history as the first South Asian man to win an Emmy acting award.  If Riz Ahmed wants to not be type-cast as a Muslim or South Asian man every time he gets a role, but to eventually just play a character called “Dave”, then he’s going to need his fans’ help and have them not get apoplectically happy because he’s the first “Asian” (whatever that means) to win an Emmy, but because he’s a great actor who won an Emmy.

In the meantime, tabrik.

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

 

#stopmindborders — the New Neo-Greek recovers his conscience

13 Aug

I hate to throw the term “New Neo-Greek” at you readers who have just started to grasp what “Neo-Greek” means.  I should have explained more explicitly earlier, but I think some of you sort of understand.

The “New Neo-Greek” is first and foremost the Greek of the Crisis.  That should explain most of it.  In an old post titled: “Un Verano en Nueva York”  I wrote, about a conversation between me and one of my favorite waiters on earth at Bar Jamón in New York:

“So a Greek and a Spaniard get together,” the joke goes — and of course these days they compare notes on how fucked up their respective countries have become.  I tell José that I think Spain is salvageable but that Greece seems in danger of just slipping off of the face of the earth at some point soon.  He’s not so confident.  He says people in Spain are “learning to be poor again,” getting used to a life with “un plato de alubias” — a plate of beans — a proverbial Spanish expression for just-bare-subsistence poverty.  He’s probably around thirty and he says bluntly that his generation in Spain is destroyed; that they’re going to hit their late thirties and early forties without any job experience and that unless you’ve got family money, your only option is emigration, like “old-time Gallegos” we both say in sync.  (Galicians in Spain are like Epirotes in Greece, the archetypically emigrating region, so much so that in much of Latin America all Spaniards used to be collectively referred to as “Gallegos.”)

My heart goes out to him and I respect his straight-eyed stoicism and I think he’ll be ok because he seems strong.  As hard as I try, though, my heart doesn’t go out to Greeks of his generation nor do I respect them.  I think they’re cry-babies who would be scared shitless – or worse, think it beneath them — to work in a bar in New York the way José does and that they deserve – richly — to relearn the cultural lessons of emigration and being poor again.  Three decades of illusory prosperity created an unbearable type of human being in Greece, a nouveau-riche culture of entitled provincials, cold, petty snobs who are snobs the way only the truly provincial can be – and I’m talking about Athens more than the provinces…

I’m pained by the genuinely poor and the old and the sick and the heroin addicts who are suffering and dying in Greece…

But that urban, middle-to-upper-middle-class, twenty-five to forty-five-year-old demographic in Greece…they can just go back to washing dishes in Chicago again like our grandfathers did as far as I care.  Let ‘em start from scratch; see what kind of culture they can come up with this time.

Well, I have to now admit that I was a little unfair.  The “nouveau-riche culture of entitled provincials, cold, petty snobs who are snobs the way only the truly provincial can be…” still exists, of course, but they have been completely marginalized by a new awareness: of tradition, of “politesse,” of civilized behavior, and of a humanism that I’ll accept the charge of cliché for, but which suddenly seems to have become Greeks’ instinctive birthright again.

As far back as 2015, Roger Cohen wrote in the Times:

Greece has made me think about everything statistics don’t tell you. No European country has been as battered in recent years. No European country has responded with as much consistent humanity to the refugee crisis…

More than 200,000 refugees, mainly from Syria, have arrived in a Greece on the brink this year, almost half of them coming ashore in the island of Lesbos, which lies just six miles from Turkey. They have entered a country with a quarter of its population unemployed. They have found themselves in a state whose per-capita income has fallen by nearly 23 percent since the crisis began, with a tenuous banking system and unstable politics. Greece could serve as a textbook example of a nation with potential for violence against a massive influx of outsiders.

In general, the refugees have been well received. There have been clashes, including on Lesbos, but almost none of the miserable bigotry, petty calculation, schoolyard petulance and amnesiac small-mindedness emanating from European Union countries further north, particularly Hungary.

I might have put off explaining what the “New” Greek is like all at once then, and just kind of refer to it here and there in different posts, because I didn’t feel like there was any one thing that I could hold up as evidence.  Then this #stopmindborders campaign appeared and I thought I had to jump at the opportunity.  I think maybe Greeks would have responded to the migration wave that came into the country in the last few years with decency even if the country weren’t in such a crisis, but it was the waking up from amnesia that Cohen refers too that played the greatest part; Greeks suddenly remembered that they were once one of the planet’s great emigrating peoples.

More at some other time.  Watch all the campaign’s videos though (mercifully subtitled); they’re really moving and worth the time.  Their motto is: “The greatest borders are the ones we build in our minds”

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Bulgaria: Why countries resist immigration…what are they afraid of? Well then, whither away in depopulated stagnation…

6 Oct

Despite Shrinking Populations, Eastern Europe Resists Accepting Migrants — The New York Times

Bulgarian kid zonar

Petrunka Yankova helping her grandson, Stoyan Dodrikov, into traditional Bulgarian dress.  (Dmitry Kostyukov for the New York Times)

“In the most recent World Population Prospects from the United Nations, the 10 countries in the world expected to lose the most population between now and 2050, per capita, are all in Central and Eastern Europe, with Bulgaria in first place.

“In 1990, just after the fall of Communism, Bulgaria had about nine million citizens, making it slightly bigger than Sweden and Austria. Today, the official population is 7.2 million, much smaller than Sweden or Austria, and projections are that it will lose 12 percent of its population by 2030 and 28 percent by 2050.

“Romania is not far behind, expected to lose 22 percent of its population by 2050, followed by Ukraine (down 22 percent), Moldova (20 percent), Bosnia and Herzegovina (19 percent), Latvia (19 percent), Lithuania (17 percent), Serbia (17 percent), Croatia (16 percent) and Hungary (16 percent).”

And yet people are against immigration.  What can I say.  You hear this less in Greece, but still.  It’s beyond my comprehension what people are afraid of.  “Losing their country” says the Prophet (formerly the Messenger).  Your country already belongs to Europe, America and, actually, international financial institutions.  Losing your culture?  Your culture is already long gone, a victim of modernity, globalization, vapid consumerism and the indifference of several generations of your own people, including your own, sacrificed on the altar of your own insecurity and internalized snobbery.  It’s a museum piece, like you sense in the picture above (click) without there being any real telling signals — except the suspicion that the a real Bulgarian pallikari, like the guys in the picture below, would never have traditionally put on such an ugly, cheap satin sash for anything in the world (just compare the obvious difference in material quality between the two, that comes through even the black and white of the bottom photo); he’s obviously dressing for some folklore ensemble performance or to receive a minister come visitting to their town.  Your Bulgarianness, your Polishness, your friggin’ fascist Hungarianness — were it still a dynamic living organism — would not be threatened by your country becoming 5 or 10 or 20% or even majority Syrian or Muslim.  It would survive as a thriving, blossoming minority — if it still had any life left in it.  But it doesn’t.

At no point in history did in-migration represent anything but a more dynamic, hard-working, creative population moving into a different region where there was an already pre-existing energy and dynamism gap — and no, not just in America Mr. Prophet: but Mexicans moving into the depressed American South and Southwest, where the native population, Black and White, has been dumbed to the point of idiocy and uselessness by its own government…or just the inevitable historical trajectory of things…is a great example  And you can stop that if you want by a sudden burst of spiritual fortitude (forgive me, for example, for my obvious affective bias, but I refuse to believe that Serbs will just shrink away into moronized proles), but not by building walls or hating.  That’ll only make you smaller.

And it’s only in Greece where I’ve heard from the most surprising quarters — not intellectuals, of course — but housewives and cab-drivers, that: “What the hell?  Let some of them stay.  It might do us good.”  Maybe they’re remembering what the infusion of Albanian blood into the country did in the 90s — nothing except what it’s always done through the centuries, but imbue us with greater energy and working and fighting spirit.  Or maybe they’re just smarter than their intellectuals and politicians.

Bulgarians

(click)

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Life as an Illegal Immigrant in Greece — from VICE

16 Sep

Or what the Messenger would call my “aiding and abetting the enemies of our Fatherland.”

A great video piece done this past spring by that increasingly brilliant outlet, Vice.

Felt proud, though, at the number of intelligent, articulate, compassionate Greeks who appear in the video taking a stand against this deplorable situation and not indulging in the usual apologetics that have unfortunately become the Neo-Greek man-on-the-street’s default discourse: “We can’t afford to have these people here …Golden Dawn helps the people, etc.”  Or this one from the Messenger: “If that percentage of immigrants had descended on the United States all of a sudden, wouldn’t the Ku Klux Klan be voted into office the next day?”  Errr…no.  It wouldn’t.  A classic piece of simplistic knee-jerk anti-Americanism touched with his own brand of fascism-lite.

 “Greece has always been a gateway for immigrants searching for what they assumed would be a better life in Europe. But many of those who have crossed illegally into Greece have found that they have traded one bad situation for another. Refugees from war-torn countries like Syria and Afghanistan are finding themselves stuck in a country that is not only battling an economic crisis but is witnessing a rise in anti-immigrant violence—exemplified by the a nationalist political party known as the Golden Dawn.

VICE News’ Alex Miller travelled from Athens to the western port of Patras to find out what it is like to be trapped in a country you never wanted to be in in the first place.”

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

A Reader Writes: “Athens = homogenity? = racist? = just boring?” — “…this is the state of Neo-Greek cultural awareness…”

23 May

Philopomeon writes: in response to Athens = homogenity? = racist? = just boring?

“I’ll never forget getting my cousin to concede trying a Syrian/Lebanese restaurant in Panourmou. His shock when he realized 75% of the menu was identical to taverna food. He had no idea– this is the state of Neo-Greek cultural awareness- to eat souvlaki and mezzes with tzaziki or yemista is somehow “Italian” (???).

The Chinese restaurants in Athens seem to do alright though. Everytime I go to a Bengali place in Omonia, I am definitely the only non-immigrant there.”

Yeah, if you can call that stuff Chinese food.

And WHERE is there a Bengali place in Omonoia???  Don’t think you’re keeping that a secret from me now!

 

Bengali foodoie_1321512gelpx9Z

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Athens = homogeneity? = racist? = just boring…?

19 May

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere she is, the gigantic poured-grey-cement Balkan village of five million people: who all think alike, look alike, act alike, talk alike and can’t agree on anything.  Απολαύστε την.  (Double-click to take in all the rich architectural detail.)

Sorry, I was just thinking to myself about what parts of my Balkan trip I needed to post next; people who kindly gave me interviews or let me photograph them and how I have to get on it…  And, how I’ve been wasting my time engaged in a running war with everyone in Athens to prove basic things like the fact that Albanians are a tall, extremely attractive people.  People in mono-cultural societies say the most deafeningly racist crap — you can’t imagine.  If one more person smirked at me when I said: “You know, Tirane is actually kind of a nice city…” things would’ve ended badly.  If it weren’t so offensive, it’d be fun to hear ignorance trumpetted with such certainty.  But it is.  Good timing to head to Istanbul.  Where I can’t understand the racist crap people are probably saying.

And I thought to myself, what? is it going on twenty-five years now that Athenians have been freaking out about immigration?  And it doesn’t seem to have crossed the brain of even the most intelligent or open-minded Athenian’s to make that an asset for the city and not a “scary” liability.  Where is this immigrant Athens?  In all these years, malaka, not one person has said to me: “Yo, Niko, there’s apparently this great Pakistani place in Patissia; you wanna go check it out?”  Everyone knows I’m into South Asia.  “Wanna go to the laike (market) on Saturday in Kypsele and see the stuff the Afghans sell?”

Or, all these tens of thousands of single, alone and lonely Albanian men…  There must me some woman somewhere they hire to make them börek or baklavadhes for bayramia and namedays and things.  Like the Mexican women who make tamales for parties in New York.  Where is she?  Where are they?  In New York she’d have a full front-page spread on the “Metro” or the “Food and Wine” sections of the Times and she’d be taking orders from Upper East Side ladies by now and have her own thriving business.

All the cement-cave-dwellers have had sushi though — without exception mediocre and psychotically over-priced…

Provincials, vlachadera, isolationists…μικροαστά, petit bourgeois συχαşιάρεδες…

Taco stand on Roosevelt Avenue in Corona, Queens, about five blocks from where I grew up, where for three to five dollars you can have a full meal of some of the freshest, most complex tastes of any of the world’s cuisines.  I know Athenians who have been coming to New York for years and who I haven’t been able to convince to try one of these places one even once.taco-cart-99th-and-roosevelt

Actually, what I’d really love to do is bring a Kurdish kid home to New York with me from Istanbul with a big tepsi of stuffed mussels and watch him become a millionaire.  I don’t know where I’d set him up first though: Astoria? Sunnyside? or straight to Manhattan? or Long Beach or somewhere?  Or get him a booth at the Italian summer festival circuit…

Midye1625x833xtlbsptyp.jpg.pagespeed.ic.sQpGbKsyQV

Midye2Smstuffedmussel0001

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Turkey gets a pass?

11 Jul

I was thinking it must be a relief for the Neo-Greek mind (because as for heart and soul, there’s not much to be said these days) to have someone other than Turkey to blame for their Statelet’s social chaos, political ridiculousness, economic void, failed cultural delusions and its people’s spiritual ugliness and childishness.

“They said, ‘You’re the cause of Greece’s problems. You have seven days to close or we’ll burn your shop — and we’ll burn you,’” said Mohammed Irfan, right, a legal Pakistani immigrant who owns a hair salon and two other stores. When Mr. Irfan called the police for help, he said, the officer who answered laughed and said they did not have time to come to the aid of immigrants like him.

(Eirini Vourloumis for the International Herald Tribune)

You can read the whole Times here.  Oh, but no…maybe it’s the Times — that New York Jewish rag, that has always tried to make the Statelet look bad.

“You’re the cause of Greece’s problems…,malaka…  Can they get any more delusional?

 

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