After two years of Covid-19, is there no end in the sight?
After I processed some tasks in the office and outside at the end of the workday, I felt something weird was catching my throat; I ignored it, thinking it was ordinary and went ahead. The day after, I woke up with pains in my whole body and realized that I got infected with Covid-19 or something else. Whatever it was, the contagion was proved by the Antigen Test I bought from the pharmacy and then by a formal test at the clinic. The infection has assumedly resulted in constant movements of refugees in and out of the camp where I work. The ridiculous thing is that I didn't get infected earlier despite having been through all of the episodes of the Corona crisis; I mainly lived in Bangkok at the beginning of 2020, neighboring China, where the virus originated from at the time. Therefore, Thailand and adjacent areas or Southeast Asia were entirely conducive to the prevalence of the virus due to its proximity to China.
I'm currently under quarantine. The symptoms were not chronic, just in the first three days, pains in the entire body, anorexia, coughing, runny nose, the senses of smell, hearing, and taste have also been affected. However, there was no respiratory distress. But thank God the immune system is robust as I got the two doses of Pfizer-Biotech vaccine last year. In the quarantine, I spend my time following up on the developments in Germany and the international arena, reading the news and analyses like the current Ukraine-Russian crisis on different platforms. There is also ongoing preparation for learning the fourth and fifth languages, which will be the linguistic accomplishment I've dreamed of for a long time, the goal I set up last year, which will take place in 2022. Even though learning foreign languages is a daunting task, it's a sturdy intellectual method that helps overcome boredom and loneliness. It keeps our mind entangled with positive things often if we direct it in the right way. Correspondingly, the way to avoid depressive moments or emotional drain during the quarantine in case you're alone, speaking to a family member or a beloved one is an optimal tip.
The quarantine for me is like a reminiscence of the beginning of this crisis up till now. Through it, I could recall the occurrences that I have gone through thus far, regarding the restrictions, lockdowns, wearing masks, social distances, etc. It's been a realm full of fluctuating tides since the Covid-19 crisis broke out at the beginning of 2020; WHO declared it a global pandemic shortly afterward. This year, I was in Bangkok at Chulalongkorn University, studying an exchange semester, the third semester of the latest Master's program that I finished last year at the University of Albert-Ludwigs Freiburg in global studies. I remember how the entire situation turned upside down, thinking it was the end of the world, like apocalypse!
While seeing how panic was widespread among people, becoming nervous, anxious about potential infection, losing trust in physical human communication, the panic also outstretched to the surrounding space believing that the virus was floating over and sticky never dies out. The entire educational system turned into virtuality since the first episode of the crisis, remaining as such up to the present day to avoid social contact that exposes people to infection. I, therefore, used to work at home to manage my academic tasks for the university, including the online language tutorial sessions that I used to offer for international students on a global platform. The virtual platform has been a sort of solidarity and affection throughout the crisis; I sometimes felt alone, but I overcame this by speaking to my students sharing our experiences during the pandemic. Indeed, it was a source of strength, encouragement, and hope for them and me until I finished my second post-graduate degree. The program ended, but I still strictly hold on to the stunning memories I spent in that diverse international academic environment that began in Freiburg in 2019, passing through Cape Town -where I did the second semester at Uni UCT- to Bangkok and back to Freiburg. Memories are the source of impetus that pushes me forward.
The manifestations of the lockdown that paralyzed the cosmopolitan Bangkok were obvious; few commuters went down the almost empty streets. The entire transportation sector changed to fit into the new situation, including the domestic and international aviation movement, which was significantly hindered. For this reason, two flight tickets I had booked from Bangkok to Frankfurt were canceled, and then painstakingly managed to travel back to Germany as the third flight worked out. Thus, I wished to hear the usual honking, voices of engines, and callers in the streets; even the number of vendors significantly downsized, turning it into a city of ghosts, mixed with anxiety and distrust of the future. In addition, the stark confusion covered up the scene, too, as many people didn't have enough awareness of how to move on with the new reality—the unprecedented procedures imposed on people to restrain the prevalence of the fatal virus changed this reality. Yes, indeed, no blame at that phase of the pandemic as it was an unexpected dilemma on the way, and people had no willingness to go through such a sudden reality, not trained to deal with its outcomes, though.
The scene outside of Bangkok was like a physically isolated space from all angles, narrowing around me and shackling me up tightly to the degree that I felt suffocated due to the restrictions mentioned above; it was not different in other countries worldwide that have followed suit. At the time, the future of the crisis seemed unpredictable; people never knew what would occur, what the next stride would look like, how to resolve this crisis and tackle its implications that threatened all sectors of life, including fundamentally human lives, in general. Since the death toll skyrocketed, many businesses lost their value and went bankrupt, resulting in crumbling economies.
Different aspects in the international arena, mainly pharmaceutical companies, from Moscow to Washington and their allies, headed on to think of a radical solution, the vaccine. But, the vaccine turned into a political competition among those great powers. Of course, the German contribution has remarkably competed to produce the most reliable and effective vaccine. It had been a long fierce competition until some ground-breaking pharmaceutical companies, especially the German ones, managed to manufacture the first-hand vaccine Pfizer-Biotech. Then the conflict of vaccines continued due to the producers' promises to end the pandemic by the promised vaccine from whatever side until the beginning of 2021. Different vaccines found their way to the consumers as millions of doses were handed out. Still, as people collided with the governments or pharmaceutical companies' promises to end the crisis on many occasions but without avail, skepticism towards the reliability of the vaccine emerged. Furthermore, this skepticism was enhanced when some people were said to have been found dead after taking the vaccine. In the meantime, campaigns urging people to get the vaccine carried on, presenting scientific shreds of evidence that the vaccine is the only scientific way to fight Covid-19. Whereas, many people continued to accuse these procedures of a mere attempt to mitigate their resentment and frustration to the lockdown and other strict rules, especially the increasing death toll has reached 5.86 million worldwide thus far. Another critical point, many countries have declared emergencies during the crisis that the health system was at the brink of deterioration or mostly deteriorated. We still remember the catastrophic implications in Italy, Spain, and many other developing countries, especially India, that were declared a red area.
Governments worldwide decided to build an invincible fortress of the health system by following scientists' recommendations. However, some aspects showed an intransigence policy and rejected any arguments from the scientists. Consequently, the battle against Covid-19 agitated and hasn't just ended at this point. Later on, the world woke up to suddenly encounter a new setback, the so-called new mutants "Alpha, Beta, and Delta" that the biologists described as fatal and with more severe effects than Covid-19. Frustration resurged, and the hope of the prospective defeat in the battle against Covid-19 somewhat faded away despite the claim that the strenuous efforts of finding an end to the crisis were still viable. People got used to the reality that the pandemic cycle isn't going to end shortly and left the matter interwoven with predictions shaped by either the pharmaceutical companies or the governments on the one hand and the specific media sources on the other hand. As a consequence of the prolonged restrictions and uncertainty, tens of thousands of people have gone to the streets protesting against Corona measures in many countries around the world. Hence, forecasts on the crisis scenarios either going to more aggravation or alleviation with the mandatory procedures of wearing masks, and social distance, including the cinemas, concert houses, theatre, night clubs, and festivals shut down remain undecided in many countries. However, like Denmark, some countries have wholly declared the coexistence policy with Covid-19, releasing their people from the restrictions.
Afterward, the vaccine campaigns have been a big booster, as the statistics elaborated on the immense numbers of people who have been vaccinated, to the degree local campaigns put up signs at the public places inviting people to come over to get the required doses without a prior appointment. The slogan of these massive campaigns is that the vaccine is the only scientific way to build an insurmountable immune system. Meanwhile, it didn't condone the fact that doesn't mean that the vaccinated people aren't prone to the infection by any sorts of virus Covid-19 or the variants, and; later on, the world woke up again to shockingly hear the news that scientists discovered a new variant called "Omicron." As a result, the belief that a sustainable solution for the current crisis won't be within reach in the foreseeable future. Frustration dominated the scene again, and people kept wondering about the end and whether the vaccine and the scientists were reliable saviors for people. And of course, I can't condone the psychological effects of the stressful circumstances, like anxiety, depression, and distrust in the surrounding reality, resulting from the clashing opinions revolving around the end of the crisis, etc. To put it differently, the still widespread belief in the potentiality of reproducing a new variant somewhere in the world is substantial!
Going through these episodes over the past two years made me eager and passionate to keep up with the local campaigns around, sincerely hoping that the crisis will come to an end because there is always hope to hang in for us there. So, I finally call on you to follow the scientists' tips and get the vaccine as soon as possible. My recent experience with the Coronavirus is self-evident that the vaccine is the right thing to do because it effectively protects our immune system.
2021 has reached the end
2021 has finally come to an end, putting us in front of an archive of 12 months we have spent full of dramas, actions, and black, white, and sometimes gray days, eventful days too.
This archive shows us the moments we have spent roaming this earth to achieve the goals we came to this life. The wheel of life is running, and within it, there is a lot to keep it running as optimally as we wish or the best way that satisfies us. The nature of human beings is always looking for perfection as God -the almighty- entirely created us until we became with a perfect face, mind, and capacities to contribute to developing all walks of life. Meanwhile, God created human beings at various levels of mental and corporal capabilities. But it's our responsibility to invest them in the right way. The field fits into his capacities driven by the interests, inclinations, and propensities to achieve whatever goals we have studied, learned, or received training to perform satisfyingly. It explains the clear rule to all of us is a human being without goals is a heavy burden with meaningless life and won't receive people's respect in the long run. As such, we should always learn how to fill in whichever gaps exist around us and exert efforts for that.
In the light of that, every year passes by compiling various episodes, reflecting our aspirations and whatever we need in this life. Sometimes we are confused about which direction to follow, but there is a pearl of wisdom derived from past experiences that guide us through. Let's look for it, although there is still more to add to this wisdom from our own experiences. There is no prosperous future without suitable lessons learned from the past. That's why we have to look back at history to reconsider our calculations for the present and pursue a better off future—looking back at 2021, changes sought by people towards better-off life enjoying welfare and other fundamental rights minimally. Still, people are grappling worldwide with many issues; sky-rocketing living costs, increasing the gap among the social classes, the middle class is being vanished, the current pandemic Covid-19, etc.
Regarding ownership of properties, we have observed that the high class or wealthy groups are now controlling entire sectors, leading to middle-class groups giving up on their properties, seeking out a more affordable economic life. It's a crystal clear fact can be observed in metropolitan areas; the middle classes in the upcoming years will no longer be able to cope with the ramifications of the explosion of the prices, waiving their properties to the wealthy groups. I have observed this phenomenon in different places where I traveled this year. The underprivileged groups, it's statistically apparent, and even the manifestations indicate that no chance for many needy people to enjoy minimally what the rich people have. There is still no chance for them to move to the cosmopolitan areas and work or even enjoy some rights there.
It's a depressing reality that never ends. The global policies still have a daunting way to overcome those international obstacles, including the ultimate goal of climate change policies that have changed lifelines in entire communities. For instance, Madagascar occupied the headlines this year, claimed to have been the world's first climate change-induced disaster, showing a severe drought source of threat, especially for farmers grappling with famine in many places. In many other areas still, people lack suitable infrastructure and barely find potable water. Natural drained resources that the campaigns that became dominant on media outlets warned of the consequences of natural drainage of these resources, even air, and water pollution. In Africa, generally, the scene despite serenity dominates some regions, still civil war in Ethiopia running, leaving tens of thousands of innocent people homeless and excruciatingly seeking out safety in the steep terrains and plateau, resulting in humanitarian crisis. So reportedly, flagrant human rights violations are claimed to have been practiced by the regime's forces against civilians.
The situation isn't that different in this continent in other regions; if there is no conflict, there is the plague of poverty and infectious diseases. The oil-rich country Nigeria is a clear example of gross poverty and corruption, misuse of wealth, leading people of the land not to take advantage of their wealth, but left to be preyed on by the transnational oil extraction corporations. The officials enjoy the profits while local people are immensely struggling in the slums. Even the heartbreaking scenes there show entire communities living over ponds and wastewater streams, lacking in health infrastructure. Nigeria is one of many examples of how African nations are still the victims of colonial and imperial rules and their policies after that. Thus, the corrupt leaders drain their wealth that either the black gold or the other natural resources after colonization transitioned from direct military presence to indirect policies left behind by leaders.
I have seen the penetration of gigantic Chinese corporations. Even China has its arms there, manifestly applying some soft power through raising their hands to help the local populations overcome their poverty, supporting the health and education sectors. Still, it always turns out that these gigantic economies make out of it eventually. Their well-orchestrated propaganda isn't an unfathomable fact to hardly understand the reality in the entire African continent anymore. One statement clarifies transitional corporations preying on the left out or "unexploited" wealth optimally by its native people because they lack the capacities to run tremendous extraction and lucrative mining projects. Likewise, if you own a massive piece of land rich in certain substances, but you don't have the suitable tools to manufacture or recycle, or extract, or whatever project needed to turn this poor land into fertile land. A profitable project to be made out it isn't within reach; this land is useless! It's like a barren desert, nothing liveable.
Consequently, it might be better to sell it or rent it from a company or a tenant who can turn this land into a profitable project, which objectifies to the reality, poverty, shortage of qualified cadres, etc. In many African regions, people lack sophisticated tools to establish industrious projects, then the areas rich in natural resources are left poor. That's why officials in the many regions find themselves compelled to sign down long-term contracts with giant multi-transnational corporations.
Yes, indeed, the soft power that the media of significant economies show off their assistance for emerging countries isn't always beneficial. Still, propaganda doesn't portray the reality in Africa in-depth, attempting to fulfill local people's needs. However, it instills the thoughts in people's minds around the world that the soft power carried out by the significant economies plays significantly in alleviating poverty in the Third World by carrying out such power strategies and assisting those people build-up developmental projects. But, on the other hand, one documentary film on Al-Jazeera, or BBC, or DW explicitly showing the domestic circumstances in many African countries will contradict the whole propaganda.
In other places of the world, enormous distances of hinterland polluted by solid waste and chemicals, the same issue with polluting air with steam factories. Ethno-religious conflicts are still flaring up in many areas that have not reached final stability, even being complicated as chauvinism is rising. Moving to a South-East Asia, the situation isn't very different, the aforementioned global dilemmas, as globalization shackled people up, putting them under the same circumstances. However, the effects are multi-layered, as we find how certain societies react to globalization differ from other communities; some cultures are negatively affected. In contrast, others turned the compass of globalization in its favor.
In South-East Asia, what caught my attention is the increasing population rate accompanied by the migration dilemma. Migrants from the poorer Asian countries or the so-called ASEA organization zone, like Myanmar, Cambodia, Philippines, Indonesia to Thailand, and primarily illegal have no status in the host country. As I was in Bangkok attending an exchange semester at the beginning of 2020 at Chulalongkorn University, I attended courses that presented the main issues there. I also had the opportunity to conduct exploratory field trips in cooperation with an NGO that helps rehabilitate migrants in Thailand. The instructor showed the harsh circumstances those migrants are living under and how they help them seek integration or legal protection. He claimed the Thai legal system doesn't pay much attention to the illegal migrants who become prey for labor and sexual exploitation, which is rampant as they don't have financial sources in the host country. I observed heart-wrenching human rights abuses within the migrant community there. This example in Thailand is a complementary example to countless examples of the violation that migrants and refugees exposed to, Latino migrants, at the USA-Mexican borders are a clear example that occupied the journalistic headlines during 2021.
Therefore, my new professional journey with a German NGO working for refugees in Germany came to answer any inquiries I had directed, granting me the chance to directly face-to-face deal with refugees and listen to their stories. So global migration movement never ended as long as there are wars, conflicts, weapons merchants and manufacturers who sell into the inflicted areas, capitalist fierce devour on the environment that turns the green into stones. There will always be migrants, ex-pats, diaspora, and whatever relevant manifestations with high living costs.
It's a concise summary of 2021, in which I don't want to conceal the bright side despite the global community shackled up. There are always aspects that stand up for the truth fighting against the dilemmas mentioned earlier; I observed many outstanding initiatives for developments projects and took advantage of technology to facilitate the developmental process. This side revives the hope for a better future despite the insurmountable challenges.
I also emphasize that the population of the current generation should invest much effort in educating their children, and the professionals in different fields should drive their trainees towards maintaining the environment. Because it's an invaluable asset we own on this planet; if lost, restoring it might be impossible as there is no way to retrieve endangered species if the last one is lost! Education and knowledge are power, so let's shape them in the right way and use it on the right path for a better and prosperous future away from the destructive arms race. Let's hope that 2022 will be the year of radical change in all walks of life. Because our planet is a fascinating planet worth struggling for, our next generations also deserve to have a dignified life and enjoy its graces and benefits as we have enjoyed and the same as the last generation.
Let's build a prosperous future for the next generations!
Happy New Year 2022!
The claim of cultural Threat to native culture
Concepts like Threat to the survival of Western Civilization referring to the cultural Threat of the new migrant community still deliberated by some published texts on the media outlets in Europe. These concepts push me to give insight into them and the factors beyond shaping them. They purposefully used to show the new socio-cultural reality of refugees hosted by some EU countries, especially Germany.
The phenomenon of migratory movement, whether forced or voluntarily, isn't a new phenomenon in the global arena, where different fluctuations of all socio-political, cultural, demographic, and economic spheres occurred due to the mixture of the population of the native people and the newcomers from different backgrounds. Migration movements created diverse societies and brought new thoughts and ideologies to the host societies, contributing to developing the wheel of the economy and in many other fields. To explain more, many migrants or refugees from the Third World or, in other words, "Global South" to the developed countries or "Global North," came with innovative ideas and solutions to many dilemmas in different fields, which the host countries needed. On the positive side, we have witnessed how many host societies experienced paradigm shifts in many areas over the past decades by investing the enormous human energy that the migration movements brought, paving the way towards sophistication with their creative ideas. Germany is an illuminating example of this experience, depicting the magnificent development process, which resulted from the investment in the new population of refugees.
"Merkel's decision to admit one million refugees in 2015 has had immense economic and social benefits for Germany," said Helen Dempster.
At the scientific institutions, it's pretty observable how migrants or refugees occupy prestigious positions and how those migrants invest in their qualifications. Notably, we have seen myriad successful examples, mapping out a reality proving that many qualified migrants are highly needed to fill in existing gaps. But, this can't keep us away from the truth that still many refugees lack qualifications or are eligible for taking up a position in the host country. It's a matter to consider for building strategies to unleash their capabilities. The road is supposed to be open to them to build their skills on a new professional and academic journey. Therefore, humanitarian laws in the EU countries have agreements regarding providing migrants with protection, especially to the asylum seekers fleeing wars and dictatorships. These agreements are indiscriminately applied irrespective of race, color, religion, and sexual orientation. When these countries host migrants, don't distinguish between them based on qualified and who isn't.
The consequence of multicultural reality in the host country is conducive to conflict between the adherents of the new culture (the migrants) and the native culture. Those migrants came to the contemporary societies holding their socio-cultural values, stripping themselves off them and adopting the new socio-cultural values of the host society is most often far-fetched. Thus, we can observe a significant percentage of the migrant communities socially isolated from the surrounding host society, attempting to strengthen their existence from being faded away. This existence for them is the identity with its components. Those groups try to accentuate their identity in all contexts because belonging and loyalty are the essence of strengthening the group.
As an illustration, I would capture one socio-cultural aspect of the eastern Asian and North-African societies based on research, especially my latest dissertation that captures a social issue within the Syrian refugee community in Germany. I found out consecutively that the peoples of those regions are community and family-clan-oriented; this is what describes them in general, the individual is supposed to be a loyal part of the group. Therefore, the collectivist approach manages their affairs, based on which individual behaviors should follow the group orientations. In addition, loyalty to the group or the higher social authority guarantee that the group or the clan is strengthened inwardly and can defend itself outwardly—defending itself in terms of fending off any attempt of penetrating and affecting it by other foreign cultures per se.
The point here is that the group that belongs to particular culture and identity inherently shows inclinations to maintain their identity and whatever is relevant to it, willing to struggle and sacrifice for maintaining it. Throughout history, identity conflicts appeared worldwide, where ethnic groups slipped into a confrontation with each other in a struggle over existentialism. In other places, the world has witnessed bloody battles aimed to wipe out the other and eradicate its existence, catching ethnic-cleansing operations like in Bosnia and Herzegovina and what was going on under colonial rules in Africa and other places as well. It turned out that identity, religion, and color are the main motives to eradicate the other for dominance over the other.
Since identity and culture are indispensable motives to strengthen the group, the group can't maintain its existence. Thus, in general, it's still problematic when a group conceives others as a threat to its identity, culture, and ethnicity that affect the course of life in many societies. As nothing occurs in a vacuum, the past historical events still echoing playing crucially in shaping the current occurrences of the present century. We find a narrative here and there built on historical circumstances, and still, people base their attitudes towards the others stemming from these occurrences. For instance, the produced historical narrative of the Crusades in the Middle East and colonial convoys there and somewhere else still echoing that the crusaded and colonized nations faced that destiny to serve the western powers, postulating that the West values are to prevail and reign over. This narrative remained up-till-the present-day with various stereotypes deliberated by the national media and cinema in the West towards the other nations, and Eastern countries pose an enriching material for them to conceive them in ways that mislead the viewers and drive them to think stereotypically towards those nations. Correspondingly, the far-right groups always find such events a flaring factor in convincing the masses of their propaganda that the newcomers pose a particular socio-cultural threat due to the norms they abide by, which contradict Western standards.
The current diverse reality in Germany pushes us to think wisely about creating a living environment where all ethnic groups of migrants, including the native groups, can harmoniously live side-by-side without looking at the other as a threat to its identity. As aforementioned that it's not simply for a group to give up on its culture and even prefers to keep on its behaviors that reflect its cultural norms because deviating from them varies from the group's pillars. Once occurred, there are always implications on the deviation. Like in many Eastern cultures, intimacy before marriage is considered an action that violates religious rules.
Suppose the reality is such, and each group eventually has the right to follow whatever it believes in. Is socio-cultural integration still possible to fill socio-cultural gaps in the host society?
In this sense, we need to conduct more researches to stand on the indications and the factors beyond the whole issue of integration and disintegration. However, the modest studies in this field addressed an indication to rely on for more research efforts. It's an existing fact that, for example, a new Arab community tends to maintain its cultural values and isolate itself from the surrounding native culture. Thus, the Threat of the native culture, etc., is unsubstantiated. There hasn't been the trend that the newcomers show the attempt at dominance. The whole landscape offers integration in the labor market and segregation in the social sphere. This segregation is the inescapable outcome of the different socio-religious values that isn't possible to eliminate overnight!
Therefore, as propagated, the refugees constitute a threat to the native culture, civilization, identity, etc. is a figment of the imagination. It's a desperate attempt to fuel the phenomenon of xenophobia in the host society, conceiving the new community of the migrants as a unique culture different from the native culture in the host country. Not to generalize, many individuals who belong to the foreign culture still reject the native culture and the social behaviors that emanate from it because they don't fit into what they believe in, so on and so forth. That's why the xenophobia propagandists look at this phenomenon from the lens of the enlargement of such community constitutes a threat of demising the native culture and identity, believing that the increasing population of the new society would occupy colossal space in the socio-cultural landscape.
We need a constructive education to spread awareness within the diverse German society. Education can link all various groups and enhance peaceful coexistence to overcome all forms of hatred, incitement, and extremism.
Happened what happened? This deep-seated phenomenon bred out of this new reality of new migrants and natives living side-by-side. At the moment, I would argue that many liberties are present in a democratic country like Germany and even the freedom of belief. Therefore, it's OK to continue believing in whatever socio-religious dogma, as long as it doesn't harm others in any way or doesn't incite against the others. In the meantime, migrant communities should consider teaching their children to be tolerant with the others at their differentiation, how to accept the other as they are, and the undeniable fact that the German host society is diverse, consisting of many ethnicities. It contradicts what's propagated that the eastern migrants are a threat to the domestic culture and spreads out fears that in the foreseeable future, the number of migrants will transcend the expectations, which would play staunchly in shrinking the native culture.
Above all, we need a constructive education to spread awareness within the diverse German society. Education can link all various groups and enhance peaceful coexistence to overcome all forms of hatred, incitement, and extremism. Hence, the migrant groups should act to introduce themselves in a way that dispels the suspicion around them that they are a constant threat, which is a term propagated by the far-right extremist groups.
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