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Refugees waiting behind barbed wire fenc

Our Ideas

Refugees waiting behind barbed wire fenc

A Forum against health stereotypes


The are two main narratives about migration issues.
The first one, created by the progressive wing, portrays hospitality as a moral duty and promotes integration and cross-cultural communication. In some more extreme positions, this narrative depicts migrants through the myth of the “poor, saintly migrant.”

The second narrative, supported by conservative and populist wings, declares “No entry into my house”. This narrative, in some extreme configurations identifies migrant as “rapist and infectors”.
The two narratives constitute, as stated by Zizek , “ two versions of ideological blackmail which makes us irreparably guilty…Both solutions are bad, but which is worse? To paraphrase Stalin", says Zizek, "they are both worse”.

According to Cicero , the Latin word “hostis” or “foe, enemy” in primeval Latin, used to mean “pilgrim”, “foreigner”: the "migrant" from another country. This marks a semantic shift from “alien” to “enemy”. This must not sound strange: the same semantic shift happened many times in the history and we can still see it nowadays.

When the number of migrants grows, it begins a well-known cycle of rejection and opposition, and the consequential idea to create every type of hindrance, from “walls” to naval blocks. This is a movement from hospitality to deportation, from openness to the closure of borders.

In Exodus 1:10, we read about how much the Egyptians hated Israelites: "Come, let us deal wisely with them, or else they will multiply and in the event of war, they will also join themselves to those who hate us, and fight against us and depart from the land." In Exodus 1:12, this sentiment is seen again: “But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread out, so that they were in dread of the sons of Israel.” For “in dread”, the Greek uses the verb "", which means “to feel nausea” or “to feel loathing” with respect to something that stinks or is abominable.

Nowadays, Western countries are feeling nauseated due to their migrant populations even though they are needed for low-level jobs and even if, like in Europe, these countries need the migrants due to the decline of indigenous populations.

Marxists used to define migrants as the “reserve army of capitalism” . A working class, as Marx stated in his letter to Meyer and Vogts  in 1870, could be “divided into two hostile camps", namely, the native and migrant workers. Naturally, economic and sociological reasons for migration are still at the root of the problem. However, our opinion is that, beyond the economic, political, and ideological issues, there is a deep kernel of a delusional core. On the side of the migrants, it defines migration as a journey to the golden promised land. By contrast, the country that receives the migrants defines migration as an invasion, reverse genocide, or intra-colonization.

Naturally, we must remember that refugees fleeing wars belong to a different category than economic migrants who want to escape poverty. These are two extremes of the scale. Among these “pure” sociological categories there are several intermingled situations, with multiple strands. In every case you can find hope and a dream on the side of migrants and defense and fear on the side of the native population. Furthermore, we must underscore one of the patterns deeply rooted in western civilitazion. The tenet that progress means struggle. Like Heraclitus said, “Polemos (the war) is the father of everything”; the negative is the engine of future.

Immigration is complex and we must consider both sides - the differing perspectives of both the migrant and the native population.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, we believed, even in a naive way, that the “End of the History”, as Fukuyama  stated, had arrived, but other walls have not fallen down but, on the contrary, have been built up to divide countries.

"Limes", the old concept of the border, is stronger than ever. The decline of Western civilization both in its intellectual and economic values and the depletion of the middle class have produced an intense nostalgic desire to go back to the ancient age when the white men were the strongest and the purest, when worldwide human rights were the best fruit of humanity, and when the arts, Western culture, and science, together with the machine gun, had to steer the world to magnificent goals.
On the other side, hunger in poorer countries pushes people to leave their wars, their misery, and the difficulty of surviving in a violent environment to achieve the “American Dream”, a statement that means “occidental dreams” and that is commonly transformed by Latino migrants who live in New York into “American pesadilla”, which means “American nightmare”.

Migration has become the scapegoat of all the country's problems for the alt-right movement. With a “conversion of roles”, the victim becomes the invader. The persecutors become the defender of the motherland. Like the Goebbel's speech after Stalingrad, the persecutor becomes a defender and the victim, an aggressor.

The neoliberal idea that the Market Globalization should be capable of permitting the integration of countries without the clash of cultures (because “money” is cross-cultural) has failed. Fifty years ago, intelligent thinkers devised a global market with the movement of commodities and, at the same time, of people. Like the best ideas to arrive at a peaceful global world, finally, the cosmopolitan manhood was dreamt by the philosophers. Now, those intellectuals seem to be the builders of a dark global community that is it dividing more every day. Humanity is being divided into two groups: the first is a tiny herd of super wealthy people and the second is an enormous tribe of outcasts.

Our ideas proposing an International Global Forum on Health and Migration (PerForMHealth) is to create a platform that, on one side, give voice to the mental and physical health problems of migrants and, on the other, try to find the best practices to heal the poison of the phobic dread that hit the Egyptian 4000 years ago and still hits population on our side.

We believe that one of the problems is that the migrant, representing the “marginal man”, as stated by Park , is without political representation. It is sufficient to think that 12 million undocumented individuals in the US are deprived of their right to health. No national health institution takes care of them both in the country of origin and in the country of arrival, and no international institution has the power to deal with the issue. The migrants, as marginal people, can form a marginal country. The global forum can be their voice.

At the same time, as stated in its mission, the forum will work on the following objectives:
- Sharing experiences, best practices, and issues related to health and migration
- Advocating globally the right to health for migrants
- Fostering the creation of programs and seminars
- Supporting research on the field
- Promoting international cooperation

Even if it seems impossible to solve the conundrum proposed by Zizek, where the possible solutions are worse, we believe that the global forum can be useful to foster the integration of approaches to reduce social despair, which should be one of the topics in social psychiatry.


R.Colasanti, L. Casasus, A. Saccà

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