The news seems full of endless contradictions, the results of unresolved tensions that have within them the seeds of future conflicts.
To name but a few:
- Russia faces sanctions for its actions in Crimea whilst uncommented on Israel continues to develop new settlements in its occupied territories.
- The beheadings committed by Daesh are highlighted as a sign of their brutality but those committed by Saudi Arabia go largely uncommented upon
- A committee sits to decide which medical treatments can and cannot be afforded but no committee sits to judge whether or not we can actually afford the particular types of bombs we are currently using in Syria.
- Schools and hospitals now regularly rely on groups of Friends to fund-raise for the purchase of essential equipment, but the armed forces never have to hold jumble sales before they can go off to war.
- The government legalises equal marriage whilst legislating to prevent the established Church from conducting such marriages.
In each of these cases policy advances by contradiction, setting up a compromise that at some point in the future will come back to haunt decision makers but they hope sufficiently in the future not to be their concern.
But of all areas it is in the discussion of national borders that the most contradictions happen. We want to be able to control the numbers coming into our country but there is little discussion about limiting our own freedom of movement when we travel for work or leisure across Europe. We want to restrict the access of migrants to our benefit system but do not want to restrict the money flowing into the city of London, regardless of where it has come from or what it is being spent on.
We want stronger borders around our nation and around our continent to restrict the flow of refugees but retain the right to bomb, send in special forces, invade or flex our economic muscle in other countries ignoring their national sovereignty. If we feel free to ignore national boundaries when it suits us how can we complain when others feel they have a right to do the same – and those who do so are often those in the greatest humanitarian need.
Nomads have always travelled in search of water and fresh grazing. Why should not those living in lands of war travel to places where they may find peace or the poor travel to a place where they will find a better economic future? Many of those on the move are having to do so because of our past and present direct or indirect interventions – moments when we have chosen to ignore the sanctity of national borders.
Either national borders matter and all citizens and governments should respect them or perhaps they belong to a past world order. But if borders are important, we cannot pick and choose when we do and do not respect them.
There is too much double talk, our actions and our words are too full of contradictions. These breed confusion and lay the seeds for future conflicts. And in each case the one word that is missing is “integrity”.