The Refugee Crisis: The Dark Grotesquerie of Parallax Media

Hungarian policemen stand by the family of migrants as they wanted to run away at the railway station in the town of Bicske, Hungary, September 3, 2015. A camp for refugees and asylum seekers is located in Bicske. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh - RTX1QVYM

We live in curious times and astonishing contrasts, reason on the one hand, the most absurd fanaticism on the other … a civil war in every soul.
………. – Voltaire

In Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection (1982), Julia Kristeva describes the process of abjection as a form of expulsion and rejection of the Other. Neither subject nor object, the abject, or the state of abjection, is articulated in, and through, grotesque language and imagery. The process of abjection is, then, associated with deformed bodies and oozing bodily fluids: blood, pus, bile, faeces, sweat and vomit break down the borders separating the inside from outside, the contained from the released. Abjection is a state of flux, where ‘meaning collapses’, and the body is open and irregular, sprouting or protruding internal and external forms to link abjection to grotesquerie (ibid.: 2).1

The body of Europe is porous and the boundaries between the inside and outside have collapsed, the ideological, cultural, and political realms have formed new and unstable zones of containment to expulse and contain the Other in their midst.  The refugees have become pawns in a deadly game of ideological and virtual/actual terror. The forces of the Left and Right use these human casualties of war to further their own grotesqueries. The Refugee has become the political “other” who is trapped in the blame game between a populist message that enforces messages of salvation or  hate and expulsion into the mix.

Inept leaders and psychopathic bureaucrats with cold reptilian gazes ponder the chaos and seek gated curtains to hide behind while their minions put up barbed wire fences, use tear gas and water cannons to repel the others they fear and stave off the grotesque horde of barbarian invaders in their midst just like their ancestors did before them. Reports of police brutality, tear-gas, water cannons, and barbed wire among other measures ensure a world of real terror not for the nations involved but for the refugees who thought they’d succor a safe and democratic haven from the civil strife of their dark imploding homelands.

The Leader of Syria now blames the West. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is blaming Western nations for fueling the refugee crisis by supporting opposition groups in his country’s bloody civil war. “If you are worried about them, stop supporting terrorists,” he said in an interview with Russian news organizations. “That’s what we think regarding the crisis. This is the core of the whole issue of refugees.” The stupidity of this statement belies the fact that Assad used chemical weapons to wipe out thousands of his own citizens. So now he wants to blame the West. His communist friend, Putin, gave him this message. Assad isn’t intelligent enough to ponder global politics.

The interior ministers of France, the UK, and Germany, stressed the need to set up “hot spots” in Greece and Italy by the year’s end to ensure refugees are fingerprinted and registered, allowing authorities to quickly identify those in need of protection. Let the Gulags enter a new age. Darkness returns and the human animal falls into old patterns of fear and hatred. Yet, its not all the EU’s fault. The refugee and earlier immigrants are demanding religious changes to the secular worlds they find themselves inside. This in itself has become an opening for the fascist New Right and other organizations to roused the masses with populist rhetoric and bring back a realm of hate and fear we’ve not seen since the early 20th Century.

DW provides current updates of refugee crisis. For now EU is stalemated and decaying into chaos. EU interior ministers have failed to reach a unanimous agreement to relocate 120,000 refugees across the bloc’s 28 nations and take the strain off Greece, Italy, and Hungary. Police in Hungary’s Roszke border crossing have fired tear gas and water cannons to scatter asylum seekers wanting to cross over from Serbia. Budapest has closed down its borders to keep new arrivals out.

As Hungary, Austria, Germany close their borders refugees are now heading toward Croatia where mine-fields that were left unattended from previous wars still exist. An official at the Croatian Demining Centre told Reuters that police asked the organisation to supply a team to the border area in eastern Croatia. Thousands of landmines are left over from Croatia’s independence war that followed the collapse of federal Yugoslavia in the early 1990s and have killed more than 500 people over the past 20 years, according to IRIN News.

The forces of repression and reaction are coming to the fore as this crisis thickens. A world of hate, bigotry and fascist martialing seem inevitable in the madness of the moment. As rationality and the rule of law recedes the force of mysticism and fear, religion and political neoreactionaries everywhere are hell bent of bringing about total collapse of democracy. The folly of nations is a tissue of stupidity, inaction, and leaderless contamination and cowardice in the face of the inevitable truth of modern human institutions to surmount their own global terror. For that is the truth the West has itself brought on its dark and Hegelian night of the world, a world where reason falls into the grotesque and macabre and the demons of the underbelly of neo-reaction rises out of its ancient regime of death and chaos. In a world where leaders fail to act the voice and gambol of populism comes to the fore and topples the inanity of law. What we are seeing the failure of nerve of the EU to act, to do anything substantively to change things in the world. It will pay the price.

The people of Europe already beleaguered and bankrupt see this influx of refugees as a menace to their own survival. The populist right and demagogues who have probably been biding their time for such a moment, an opportunity to insert their reactionary message of violence and racism will now come to the fore. Dark times ahead. One ponders the Terror after the French Revolution.

After the French Revolution a new popular genre of the grotesque and macabre rose out of the auto-da-fé of political purges of the old regime. Dark visions where disgust mixes with laughter and humans begin to merge with the landscape as mutating into animalistic forms and alien monstrosities. The OED tells us, ‘the grotesque is incongruous or inappropriate to a shocking degree’; or, it can consist of ‘comically distorted figures, creatures or images’. The distortions of class in the fluid movements between master and slave offer elements of comic grotesquerie alongside themes that are deadly serious.1

In Hegel’s notion of the master/slave dialectic there was a unique and singular reciprocity or mutual dependence between master and slave rather than a blanket opposition of dominance to subordination. The slave ironically shares in the master’s power because the master defines himself only in opposition to the slave; that is, the master needs the slave in order to legitimate his power and privilege. Franz Fanon would alter this insight of Hegel’s and see it in other terms, in the terms of racial tensions. In Black Skin White Masks (1967), Fanon revises the dialectic to suggest that it underestimates the white master’s dominance over black slaves in Africa and Europe:

I hope I have shown that here the master differs basically from the master described by Hegel. For Hegel there is reciprocity; here the master laughs at the consciousness of the slave. What he wants from the slave is not recognition but work. (220)

As we gaze into the hypermedia circus we understand how much of this grotesquerie of the Real is producing a dark vision of horror, gothic mutation, and a world spinning out of the webs of deceit where the only benefit of the Master is “work” not recognition. In the case of Germany the spigot in the flows of refugees has suddenly stopped. No work here the sign reads. And like a series of Flemish paintings from another era the human factor receded while the monstrous images of the grotesque and macabre enactments rise to take their place. Yet, we see the common people of Germany fearing not only the influx of refugees, but their demands for change, too.

One can only assume that some of these fears come from such religious intolerance as what is happening in Munich. The Muslim community in Munich wants Germans to ban its own Oktoberfest. “We understand that the Oktoberfest is a yearly German tradition, but we, Muslims, can not tolerate this Un-Islamic event, because it offends us and all Muslims on the earth. We are requesting the immediate cancellation of the upcoming Oktoberfest event.” Problem with this is that not everyone is Muslim, and the Germans are still a democracy not a theocracy so the notion that a minority religion should control political and cultural do’s and dont’s – the norms and relations of a majority of the population goes against the grain of two hundred years of democratic rule. It’s one thing to practice your faith, quite another to impose it on others who do not share your faith.

Slavoj Zizek once spoke of the “thing from the inner space” emerging out of the periphery. All the ingredients of a fantasy-staging staging are here – the noumenal “shines through” in what is “in fact” just an optical illusion. That is to say: far from being a simple descendant of the Kantian Thing-in-itself, the Freudian “Thing from the Inner Space” is its inherent opposite: what appears to be the excess of some transcendent force over “normal” external reality is the very place of the direct inscription of my subjectivity into this reality. In other words, what I get back in the guise of the horrifying – irrepresentable Thing is the objectivization, the objectal correlate, of my own gaze… (Parallax View)

Is the fantasy gaze of hypermedia itself promoting a grand distortion, a global narrative of ideological Left and Right programs of ideological infestations?  Political battles of subterfuge and outrage that are both contaminating and prompting the dark and sinister outcomes we are seeing? Watching the global news screams, the facebook vines, and twitter apocalypse of information and disinformation one wonders truly what is reality and what is myth without the truth. Underneath it all is a failure of real imagination and investment in the actual and physical pain and suffering going on beyond the images of the mediascape. People are dying and no seems to give a shit. Here and there you hear a few stories of actual people in the nations going against their governments and seeking ways to help, but as in anything people singularly and on their own lack the resources to do much and become themselves entangled and embroiled in events they soon discover is overwhelming. While the rich and powerful balk at doing anything the citizens of these various nations seem to be falling back on the oldest systems of belief and horror available. Where reason fails passion and the emotive worlds of fear, disgust, anger, and violence come to the fore…

As Vox reports the meaning of the phrase “refugee crisis” can be hard to grasp — until you see the photographs. A Syrian toddler, dead on a Turkish beach, after the boat in which his family was attempting to flee to Europe capsized at sea. Desperate families crowding a Hungarian train station, their children sleeping on floors and sidewalks, fearing Hungary will intern them in sinister-sounding “camps.” Greek tourism towns filling with tents and with humanitarian workers, to accommodate the rickety boats of refugees that arrive daily at the shores.

wwz-wall

It’s as if the nations of the EU were enacting the film World War Z as conservative press and the various police states in the EU now turn against the refugees as if they were hordes of mutated and mindless zombies invading the civilized enclaves of a dying empire. Conservative and Radical mediascapes are all full of the tragic and grotesque portrayal and images of this fall into human degradation and contamination. Are we enacting a filming of the hypercollapse of civilization? Is the flux of shifting bodies, flesh, and blood wandering the edge of humanity our own gaze into a past we’d rather not remember? Are we about to enter that dark realm of gothic relations from which all horror springs?

There is one scene in WW Z where a farmer is coerced into complying with the national emergency, and becoming a part of the securitization system: “As with everyone else, I gave him the choice. I reminded him that winter was coming and there were still a lot of very hungry people out there. I warned him that when the hordes of starving refugees showed up to finish what the living dead started, he’d have no government protection whatsoever.”2 Listening to one Greek report: “The conundrum facing the refugees is they have nowhere to go and nobody wants them. As they sit in queues in sweltering conditions, tension rises and violence breaks out as has been evidenced on the Greek island of Kos. This in turn creates anger and frustration among both the Greek authorities and the people watching the drama unfold. The violence becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and sows anger and ill intent among the local populace.”

The inaction of the EU and U.S.A. to do anything at all will more than likely lead to a reactionary disruption and fatal strategy of enormous proportions over the next year or years. Out of the leaderless vacuum strange voices are being heard on the peripheries of a once sane and reasonable world, new populist voices of reaction and neoreaction; dark hinterlands into former fascisms and communisms; voices of religious and social reaction spouting hate, bigotry, and fear. More and more as we see the ineptitude and leaderless forces of the world deny, dismiss, and even challenge the status quo with their inaction a shift in the active agents of refugees and citizens alike will begin to chaotically rise among the ashes of these dark times and bring with them a grotesque and macabre repetition of ancient and terrible religious, political, and cultural fanaticisms that mark our histories of our earth with pain and suffering beyond toll.

How many times do people need to repeat the old Marxian cliché of history repeating itself “first as tragedy, then as farce”? Problem is the farce is turning to death as the Grotesque brutality of nations parades itself in a Danse Macabre at the end of time, historical time. While the beleaguered children of men cry in the shadows, the machines are rising around us in the cold brutal world of indifference gazing out of the landlocked faces of bureaucrats who speak of rules and regulations while the world burns… the insanity of the Enlightenment has come home to roost and bray in the ruins of capitalism where the dark lords of finance and their minions live and squander what remains of human dignity.

a short history of global ineptitude

The ICRtoP provides a detailed analysis of this sordid history from its beginning. The crisis in Syria was prompted by protests in mid-March 2011 calling for the release of political prisoners. National security forces responded to widespread, initially peaceful demonstrations with brutal violence. From summer 2011 onwards, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad refused to halt attacks and implement the meaningful reforms demanded by protestors. As the crisis continued to escalate, opponents of the Assad regime began to loosely organize, creating several opposition organizations such as the Syrian National Council (SNC), an umbrella organization of exiled Syrians, and the Free Syrian Army (FSA), a militarized element largely composed of Syrian military defectors and armed rebels.

Then the International Commission of Inquiry in September 2011 to investigate the alleged human rights violations. The Commission has since produced seven reports and concluded that the Syrian government and Shabiha committed crimes against humanity and war crimes, as well as that anti-government groups have been responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity. 

The world looks on but does nothing. As early as 27 April 2011, then UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe, informed the UN Security Council that sources in Syria had reported “the use of artillery fire against unarmed civilians; door-to-door arrest campaigns; the shooting of medical personnel who attempt to aid the wounded; raids against hospitals, clinics and mosques and the purposeful destruction of medical supplies and arrest of medical personnel”. The Syrian government also allegedly denied access to international monitors, humanitarian groups and human rights organizations while simultaneously shutting off local social media communications. Based on interviews, the Commission of Inquiry on Syria presented its initial findings to the Council in Geneva on 28 November 2011, reporting evidence that crimes against humanity had been committed by military and security forces including: sexual violence, torture, arbitrary detention and murder. 

The crisis brewed on, chemical atrocities escalated, world governments did nothing. Under UNSC Resolution 2118, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was tasked with implementing a program of destroying chemical weapons sites inside Syria and transporting materials to be shipped abroad for destruction. Despite the deal on chemical weapons, the regime has escalated its conventional weapon offensives, and Human Rights Watch has reported the use of indiscriminate weapons such as barrel bombs and other cluster munitions. The Syrian government has reportedly dropped between 5000 and 6000 barrel bombs since the crisis began, killing 20,000 people, 1,600 of which died in Aleppo in March 2014 alone. Amnesty International has also reported that starvation is being used as a deliberate tactic of war by the regime.

Then the world looked on again as the common people of Syria fled for their lives. As of March 2014, Syria has topped the list of forcibly displaced people. The UNHCR now reports that 9 million Syrians are displaced, amounting to half the population. This included 6.5 million uprooted from their homes within Syria and another 2.5 million who have fled to neighboring countries. The refugee crisis has taken its toll on bordering countries. According to the UNHCR, as of January 2015, almost 1,623,000 people have sought refuge in Turkey, over 622,000 in Jordan,133,000 in Egypt, 235,000 in Iraq and almost 1,168,000 in Lebanon.  The primary reasons for fleeing appear to be atrocities committed against civilians, reported  the International Rescue Committee in January 2013, with journeys to safety made more treacherous by winter conditions. On 24 May 2013, Foreign Affairs noted that refugee populations faced dire conditions in the refugee camps.

Again the world does nothing:

The League of Arab States (LAS) initially stressed that it would not take unilateral action in response to the crisis.

The European Union (EU) imposed economic sanctions, including an arms embargovisa ban and asset freeze, against the Syrian regime in May 2011, and has heightened the sanctions periodically since then.

The Special Advisers of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide and on the Responsibility to Protect voiced their concern over the Syrian government’s systematic widespread attacks targeting civilians and reminded the government of its responsibility to protect its population in a series of public statements.

As discussed above, the Human Rights Council and Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights were seized of the crisis early on and in August 2011 mandated an independent Commission of Inquiry to investigate human rights violations in Syria.

In July of 2014, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2165, which not only re-iterated the need for ceasefire in heavily populated areas, but also affirmed that the Syrian government has the primary responsibility to protect the Syrian population.

The General Assembly adopted several resolutions calling for all parties to support efforts to peacefully resolve the crisis.

Russia and China attracted significant criticism from Arab and Western leaders for their economic, political and military ties to Syria, and because they vetoed three UN Security Council resolutions which had included language citing the responsibility of the Assad government.

Turkey’s border with Syria has seen skirmishes and shelling since July 2012, and in October, five Turkish civilians were killed by Syrian mortar fire, which Turkey responded to with proportional arms. 

Though Lebanon has long had an official policy of disassociation in the Syrian conflict, the influx of refugees and increased cross-border fire from Syria has threatened to embroil the country in its neighbor’s crisis.

As the conflict wears on, without distinctive action from international organizations, several national actors have also increased their support to the Syrian opposition politically, economically and militarily.

World ineptitude, leaderless stupidity, and inaction is the state of the day in global politics. All leads to this new world of refugees where the EU who would do nothing then must now be forced to act:

Austria’s interior minister, Johanna Mikl-Leitner, says the country will start selective controls on its border with Slovenia within the next few hours. She told the Austria Press Agency that anyone wishing to apply for asylum still could do so but at the same time, she said Austria was looking to send “a clear signal” that the country cannot handle an uncontrolled mass arrival of refugees.

Hungarian riot police have used teargas, water cannon and pepper spray against refugees at the border with Serbia. Refugees threw missiles during the clashes, which appeared to start after people forced open a border gate.

Slovenia announced that it was temporary introducing controls at its borders with Hungary. It follows in the footsteps of Austria which did so last night. more…

coda

As Clemens Wergin explicates Germany, which is absorbing by far the largest number of refugees, is reaping the results of its own reluctance to engage abroad and its failure, as the leading country in the European Union, to galvanize fellow member states against the mass atrocities of Syria’s dictator, Bashar al-Assad — crimes that fueled the refugee crisis and helped the rise of the Islamic State.

In recent years two successive German foreign ministers have warned against engagement in Syria and against arming moderate parts of the opposition. The results were predictable: While Mr. Assad has been propped up by Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, and while the Islamic State has seen radical Islamists from Europe and elsewhere rallying to its flag, the moderate forces, which should have been natural allies of the West, have been crushed.

Berlin has repeatedly argued that Western intervention of any kind would just make the situation worse. But Germany and the United States failed to understand that not acting was itself a form of action, and that it has led directly to the battlefield escalation and refugee outflows that the West tried to avoid. more…

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  1. Edwards, Justin; Graulund, Rune (2013-05-29). Grotesque (The New Critical Idiom) (p. 33). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.
  2. Edwards, Justin; Graulund, Rune (2013-05-29). Grotesque (The New Critical Idiom) (p. 2). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.
  3. Brooks, Max (2006-09-12). World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War (p. 140). Crown/Archetype. Kindle Edition.

3 thoughts on “The Refugee Crisis: The Dark Grotesquerie of Parallax Media

    • yea, as I grow older I grow more pessimistic and realize humans thrive on hatred, bigotry, and pure animal excess and sacrifice much as many anthropologists of the now rejected schools of 20th Century scholarship suggested over and over and over again… all these new fashionable materialisms, speculative realisms, that turn away from the human toward the whatever have left the animal called man to die in his own cesspool of stupidity… like cockroaches scampering among the dead we live out our lives like ghosts that have forgotten their habitations on earth and now roam the hells of inanity and corruption… we’re not even social darwinists anymore, instead we’ve become passive late romantics, decadents of aesthetic war and hatred, voyeurs of apocalypse who seek only to remember the emotions humans once had of love… yet, love is gone all that remains is pure and utter fear and dread, hate and death… may the end come quickly, fire and the storm of fierce judgement we place of ashes on our heads in remembrance of the tribe of dignity that once used the name “human”…

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