Diaspora du jour

The great migration and refugee resettlement underway in Europe, the Middle East and Africa has captured our global attention. This is not the first mass exodus in history, and likely not the last. Other great migrations have been well documented, but many happened before recorded history and are now being pieced together to build the narrative of how we’ve come to be where we are. Regardless of the quality of the data it seems Homo sapiens might just as easily have been christened Homo wanderensis.


As news washes up on American shores it appears there is a great deal of diversity in how various EU member countries are setting themselves up to handle refugees. As a land of immigrants the U.S. has been struggling with its own immigration policies of late. I only want to acknowledge that we are struggling with the issue, it is currently not with the same immediacy.

Destination Germany

My understanding, cobbled from media accounts, is that Hungary, Greece, and Italy sit at the front line of the march from ‘outside’ and the Hungarian people in particular are less than excited by the prospect. Germany and Sweden, however, are at an opposite pole – willing to accept refugees and resettle them. France and the UK appear to have a more middle position… less receptive, but not openly hostile. [if any of my European friends have a better fix on the situation I hope they’ll share in the comments]

This German attitude toward the refugees interests me on a personal level. There were three significant migrations from Germany to the U.S. and many of my own ancestors were among those headed here. I can count among my lineage family names such as Muller, Walz, Stenger, Uebelhor, Weidenbenner, and so on. My paternal grandfather grew up speaking German at home and learned English so he could go to school. The community I grew up in was largely of German ancestry. Some German immigrants came to the U.S. as refugees, but the larger fraction were headed here for opportunity. The Europe that many of these ancestors left is very different today. The twentieth century experience of two major World Wars and a Holocaust has seen to that. Now the winds have changed, and human migration heads back toward a north central European destination.

Ebb and Flow

Will future events reopen the lands embroiled in today’s conflicts? I expect so. Do I want to venture some sort of timeline? Absolutely not. But it seems likely the refugees now looking to resettle in Europe will be staying for the long haul and perhaps permanently (or as ‘permanent’ as human migration history will allow). Are there silver linings to be found among all the suffering and misery now being felt? I think so. The melting pot experience in the U.S. has not always been a joyful one. Racial tensions in particular are slow to subside here. But even racial discord is moderating here and the benefits of human biodiversity are accumulating.  Perhaps these are the rewards envisioned by Abraham Lincoln’s notion of the better angels of our nature.

Human soup

Population stirrings, resettlings, and migrations are more rapid in our world today, perhaps more rapid than human culture is ready to accept. Cultural diversity – if accepted and nurtured – may lead to the accumulation of the benefits suggested above. Just like the benefits of a diverse mix of ingredients to make a delicious pot of soup, a mix of human cultures could one day provide us with a most delicious Soup du jour. Bon appetite


Image from TNT Report:




  1. You are ever the optimist, Clem. I like that about you. But I do wonder if a planet of seven billion on the move for resource gain may be an unpalatable soup du jour.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A fair question. I suppose palatability is subjective to some extent (inedible is also unpalatable), but among the things we might eat, some are surely more desirable than others. In terms of desirability it is completely subjective – and likely context sensitive too. If I haven’t eaten in a couple days, that which passes for delicious is a fairly broad mix. So what I find most palatable may be quite different from someone else.

      But to the point of seven billion of us on the move – I will readily admit this much stirring is going to rankle lots of folks. Already there are many upset over the movings presently in play. And not to press too fine a point, but I see you suggested “resource gain” which is not always the base of the motivation. One might differentiate the migrant from the refugee on exactly the metric of resource change… a migrant is one on the move for resource gain, the refugee is on the move for survival.

      Either way one figures this though, moving just for survival might be perceived as asking for more resource from a resource starved planet. And I’m not trying to blue sky this aspect of the crisis. Until several changes are brought forward there will continue to be this sort of musical chairs where populations either run from tragedy or toward some perceived peace and prosperity. Joern Fischer talks about rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic – perhaps an apt metaphor for the time. But if I might expand the metaphor (ask Chris how I love to do that) I imagine we might be able to bring rescue ships along in time if a sufficient number of us take it in our heads that we should be doing this.

      So coming back to a point I was trying to make – even in the ugliness that is the present movement away from Syria, Eritrea, and Nigeria there are some silver linings. If we can grasp hold of some hope from the silver linings and muster the political will to find solutions we’ll have done a good thing. Meanwhile, the cultural medley resulting from the mass migration (or diaspora) could yield positive outcomes for both those resettled and their hosts.

      I seriously doubt most of the refugees moving through Hungary right now have had a chance to try pawpaw pudding. But maybe one day, no?

      And thanks for the optimist compliment. Being pessimistic sours the broth for me. Remember – if asked whether the glass is half full or half empty, the correct response is totally full. Half full of water and the other half full of air. The original choice was a false dichotomy. Don’t quit on an opportunity.


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