Refugees and migrants versus xenophobic nationalists – who is on the right side of history?

Refugees and migrants versus xenophobic nationalists – who is on the right side of history?

Xenophobic nationalists like to encourage their followers to believe that refugees and migrants are dangerous, criminal, even, and should not be welcome in their country. I will explore examples of refugees and migrants and their xenophobic nationalist counterparts and leave it up to you, the reader, to decide which are on the right side of history.

The refugees and migrants and their descendants

MohGandhiandas Karamchand (“Mahatma”) Gandhi

Passive resistance in an oppressive empire

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born in Gujarat and is well known in the history books as the person who brought down British rule over India without firing a single shot. His first act of passive resistance wasn’t in India, however. It was in South Africa, where he worked as a lawyer. Although he had a first class ticket for a train ride, the train attendant forbade him to sit in first class and asked him to move to a different class. As Gandhi did not accept this, having a first class ticket, after all, he was thrown out of the train. Later he attracted attention through many other modes and methods of passive resistance until an entire people united behind his thoughts and ideas and eventually removed British rule in India.

John Fitzgerald KennedyThe Fitzgerald Family (as linked from the JFK Presidential Library)

The Irish Catholic

As all American families, there are immigrants in the line of their inheritance. John Fitzgerald Kennedy is no exception. Some of the Fitzgerald family moved between 1846 and 1855 to the United States to escape the potato famine in Ireland. (JFK Library)
The Fitzgerald and Kennedy families lived and worked in Boston for the economic opportunity. Later on, they became a political family with many members found in different layers of American politics, and JFK became 35th President of the United States.

Aznavour with his mother, Knar, in the 1920s. (Wikipedia)Charles Aznavour

France’s Frank Sinatra

Charles Aznavour is also known as Շահնուր Վարինագ Ազնավուրյան (“Shahnour Varinag Aznavouryan”). He was born to immigrants from Armenia who escaped Izmir. After his parents encouraged him to perform, he was discovered by Édith Piaf and his career took off.

With a long record of singing, writing, acting and diplomacy, he is well known in France and in the world, even dubbed as “France’s Frank Sinatra”.

CherCher (Wikipedia)

“Goddess of Pop”

Cher, or Cherilyn Sarkisian, was born to an Armenian-American truck driver and Jackie Jean Crouch, who claimed Irish, English, German, French, Dutch and Cherokee ancestry. (source) As her mother went into acting, she pulled Cher into acting as well.

Later on, she was inspired to start singing as well, and won many awards, including an Academy Award, a Grammy Award, an Emmy Award, a special CFDA Fashion Award, three Golden Globe Awards and a Cannes Film Festival award. She has sold countless records and has even been dubbed “Goddess of Pop”.

Marco Borsato (Wikipedia)Marco Borsato

The passion of an Italian, and the entrepreneurship of a Dutchman

Marco Roberto Borsato is the son of the Italian Roberto Borsato and the Dutch Mary de Graaf. He started in a restaurant, but after he had participated in a song contest Soundmixshow, where he performed Billy Vera’s “At This Moment”, he instantly became a star.

As his career took of, he sang Italian songs. His career skyrocketed when he started to sing Dutch songs and teamed up with colleagues who inspired him and themselves to create songs that became instant hits in the Netherlands. He collaborated with various other artists and became an embassador for War Child. This also inspired him to produce the film Wit Licht (English title: “The Silent Army”).

Arnold SchwarzeneggerArnold Schwarzenegger (Wikipedia)

I’ll be back

Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger was born in Austria. With a passion for weight training, he gained celebrity status with his role as Conan in the film Conan the Barbarian. After that, obviously, a new wave of success was established through his role in the Terminator.

In 2003, he was elected as governor of California. Since he is not born in the United States of America, he was not able to run for president. Nowadays, he has returned to cinema, among his many other activities.

Marie Skłodowska CurieMarie Curie

First woman to win a Nobel Prize

Marie Skłodowska Curie, born as Maria Salomea Skłodowska in Warsaw, the Kingdom of Poland, studied at Uniwersytet Latający (“the Floating University”, an underground educational enterprise) and moved to Paris when she was 24. This is were she proceeded to pursue her goals and made many achievements in science.

Eventually, with the discovery of radioactivity and many other subsequent discoveries she earned two Nobel Peace Prizes and many other rewards.

Albert EinsteinAlbert Einstein (Wikipedia)


Albert Einstein was born in the German Empire. He started working at a patent office when he did not find a job as a teacher. In 1901 he acquired Swiss citizenship. For his work, he had visited the United States of America several times. In 1933, he finally decided to move to the United States of America, and not a moment too soon, as the nazis were gaining momentum in Germany.

His most famous work is the Theory of Relativity, but he has worked on many other discoveries in science.

Anne FrankAnne Frank (Wikipedia)

Dear Kitty

Annelies Marie “Anne” Frank was born in Germany. She moved with her family to the Netherlands in 1933 when Jewish prosecution was looming. When the Germans occupied the Netherlands, she went into hiding in Amsterdam.

While she was in hiding, she wrote a detailed account of her experiences. Her diary is translated in many different languages and publicized in many parts of the world.

Garry KasparovGarry Kasparov (Wikipedia)

The Grandmaster

Garry Kasparov (born Garik Kimovich Weinstein) was born in Baku, Azerbaijan to a Russian and an Armenian. After his father died, he adopted the surname of his mother, Gasparian and modified it to a Russian version, Kasparov. His passion for chess began when his parents offered him a chess problem where he would find a solution to. He quickly rose to the rank of chess champion. When he began to oppose FIDE, he was ejected and started his own organisation GMA.
In his political life, he was forced to leave Azerbaijan when the pogroms against Armenians occurred and at the same time he left the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. He took part in the creation of the Democratic Party of Russia and took part in the election campaign of Boris Yeltsin. Despite his consecutive successes, the Other Russia he and others envisioned is still to become. He is still a political activist and occasionally writes about politics.

Christiane AmanpourChristiane Amanpour (Wikipedia)

Anchor and Chief International Correspondent

Born in London, Christiane Amanpour attended primary school in Tehran, were she was raised until she was sent to a boarding school in England. She and her family settled in England indefinitely when the Iran-Iraq war broke out, not long after the Islamic Revolution.

After she graduated from New Hall, she continued her studies in the United States. After having worked for several local broadcasting network she was eventually hired by CNN. Currently, she is anchor and chief international and global affairs correspondent for CNN.

The xenophobic nationalists

Adolf Hitler as a child (Wikipedia)Adolf Hitler

Der Führer

Adolf Hitler was born in Austria and lived a tumultuous childhood. In his life between Germany and Austria, he became familiar with German nationalism. He was rejected by the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts and in World War 1, he was temporarily blinded by mustard gas.

After World War 1, he did not have a formal education and no other career prospects, so he remained in the army. This is where he met Anton Drexler and pursued a career in politics. The consequences need not be mentioned.

Joseph StalinJoseph Stalin (Wikipedia)

The General Secretary

Unlike under his predecessor Vladimir Lenin’s rule, Joseph Stalin “Socialism in One Country” instead of continuous international revolutions became the leading concept of the Soviet Union.

Besides being responsible for both an alliance with the nazis as well as defeating them from the east, he was also responsible for various political repressions, oppression and deportations of ethnic groups like the Crimean Tatars, as he saw fit. The consequences of his time may match those of Hitler, if they do not exceed them.

Viktor Orbán (Wikipedia)Viktor Orbán

Any way the wind blows

It seems an unfair representation to indefinitely put Viktor Orbán in this list. Viktor Orbán seems to be a political chameleon, changing his colour any way the wind blows. His political career started off in the Communist Youth Organisation, before he became a founding member of Fidesz. Being a member organisation of Liberal International, he became a vice president of LI. In 2000, Fidesz left LI for the European People’s Party.

With Hungarian nationalists breathing in his neck and keen on winning elections, in recent developments like his treatment of refugees in Hungary, his rhetoric on immigration in general and his relations with Vladimir Putin, it seems like he is using his chameleon skills once again.

Vladimir PutinVladimir Putin (Wikipedia)

The eternal president

With a history in Soviet and Russian secret services, his allegiance to his country is perceived to be undoubted. He rose in the ranks under the Yeltsin administration and took over after Yeltsin resigned. United Russia became a party for Russian nationalism, to replace the Communists’ power, though still retaining the centrist character, because the ideology relies on strong rulers and national ideals.

Under his watch, Crimea was annexed by (or reunited with, according to some) the Russian Federation, national conservatism gained popularity in Europe and a passenger plane was shot from the air (although who exactly shot it is still under investigation and it remains to be seen whether he will allow a fair and legitimate trial, after the Russian Federation vetoed a resolution to install an International Tribunal to prosecute any suspect that may be involved in the crime).

Benito MussoliniBenito Mussolini (Wikipedia)

Il Duce

Benito Mussolini was born in Romagna. In his young years, he would help his father in his smithy, but his father also influenced his political leanings toward Italian nationalists. He would also combine authoritarian and anarchistic ideas. He became a political journalist and became active for the Socialist Party.

With the outbreak of World War 1, the Socialist Party was divided on its allegiance. As Mussolini promoted neutrality at first and gradually promoted intervention, and criticized those within the party who supported pacifism, he was expelled from the Socialist Party. During World War 1, this caused him to shift his ideas towards revolutionary nationalism and join the fascist cause. A course of events led him to power and brought a shaky alliance with Hitler. As they were losing the war, Mussolini’s Italy backed out.

Geert Wilders

Templar against Islam

Geert Wilders entered the political scene through his election as MP in the VVD. He left the VVD as they crossed opinions about Turkey’s prospect to EU membership and the VVD’s opinion towards muslims and the Islam.

He founded his own movement PVV as the sole member of the party. His party gained momentum as there was a rising discontent among the population of the Netherlands on how the EU influenced Dutch politics (or the other way around), how subsequent events had influenced public opinion about muslims and Islam and a discontent on politics in general.

Nowadays, it seems his only mission is to stop mosques from being built, tearing qurans and blaming everything on muslims and Islam, or left-wing politicians.

Donald Trump

You’re fired

Donald Trump, as of this moment, seems to be a leading candidate for the GOP for the presidential election in 2016. His statements about immigrants have been all but ambigious.
He made his fortune in real estate and television. One of his most famous statements is “You’re Fired” in the NBC show “The Apprentice”. Will he stay in this row? History will tell.


Tolerance and understanding

Tolerance and understanding


A free person in a free society is able to tolerate other individuals’ behaviour. A society cannot be free if another individual is not allowed to be different, in any way. Moreover, if one does not tolerate the other, how could the other tolerate the one? It is a mutual responsibility.

Nevertheless, tolerance has been severely misunderstood from both moderate and extreme sides. To tolerate does not mean to accept, to tolerate does not mean to understand. A nuisance can be tolerated, but a person might as well ask the other to adapt her or his behaviour to make the nuisance more bearable, or not existent at all. Many heinous crimes are being tolerated today, but would they be accepted if they were in our back yard? And some things need to be tolerated, because they are simply not always understood by everyone.

Less Judgement, More Tolerance

Less Judgement, More Tolerance

It’s easy to judge a person carrying strange clothes and walking in a strange way. It’s easy to judge a person who talks strange, speaks a different language or has different beliefs. But if we would judge each other so much, how could we live with each other? One person may be very quiet, the other may be very loud. So what? Perhaps that person likes to be quiet, perhaps that person does not choose to be quiet but has underlying reasons to be quiet. And the person that is loud, perhaps she or he needs attention, perhaps she or he is just used to being loud. That’s why we need tolerance, it should be tolerated, even if we wouldn’t understand where the behaviour is coming from.


Combined with tolerance comes understanding. A behaviour that is understood is much easier to be tolerated. Why does a cat jump up a tree? Why does the dog bark at the mail deliverer? Why do religious people pray and non-religious people don’t? Find out, I’d say, and be a more knowledgeable person than you are now. Because it gives many insights into human behaviour, but not the least important: your own behaviour.

Understanding other behaviours means reflecting on your own behaviours. Why do I do this, and another person something different? Perhaps there is a reason why that other person responds to me in this way, and it could be changed by changing my own behaviour. This is what understanding does, and this is how understanding enhances tolerance.



People build virtual walls around themselves for a reason. Other people are often too judgemental. In order to protect her- or himself, a person never shows her or his true self at first sight. Therefore, to reach understanding, a person has to do more than only look at the first appearance. A person has to do more than judge within the usual framing. A quiet person is not necessarily shy. A shy person is not necessarily quiet. A shy person does not choose to be quiet and another person may just prefer to listen first, and talk later. Conversely, a loud person may be ready to listen, or she or he just likes to listen to her- or himself.

Each person is an island to discover, so don’t pass that island before exploring it first, or don’t judge at all. Tolerate what should be tolerated, but anything that could be tolerated should not necessarily be tolerated. I understand a thief stealing my phone completely, considering her or his troublesome personal situation, whatever that may be; no job, no family… but that does not make stealing right. Should stealing be accepted? No. But it should be understood.

Understand, understand what and how to tolerate, and don’t judge what or whom you don’t understand.

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The conservative trap

An interesting observation to me is that some confuse libertarian conservatism with (classical) liberalism. There are some profound differences that may be easily overlooked.

SLECO chart

SLECO chart

A classical liberal seeks individual liberty, economic freedom, a small government and rule of law. These components are shared with social liberalism and in some degree conservative liberalism. However, it does not mean implicitly demanding other individuals to be similar to oneself. A liberal loves differences. It is a privilege to be different from somebody else, not similar. Of course, similarities are welcome, but they are not a condition to live in the same society.

Whereas the libertarian conservative cares about individual liberty, it is a concept of individual liberty that conforms to her/his sense of reality. It is a sense of liberty that confines itself to the primary individual and is not concerned about other individuals. It does not mean social justice has to be included in every school of liberalism, but this does mean that it rejects value pluralism. A component that is significant to liberalism, but hardly accepted in schools of conservatism. This makes a libertarian conservative in core a conservative, and not a liberal.

Why is this so important to realize? Well, if libertarian conservatism is considered to be a subset of liberalism, it opens a window of opportunity to seek those who conform to the values of some branch of libertarian conservatism and does not promote the diversity of values. A Christian may be a Christian, a Jew may be a Jew, a Muslim may be a Muslim, and and Atheist may be an Atheist. A painter is a painter, a scientist a scientist and an economist an economist. There should only be an individual distinction with them, without projection of certain values or prejudices.

Liberalism is not solely about “live and let live”, it’s about “live without infringing on the lives of others”. Most schools of liberalism would not violate this, libertarian conservatism would. Even if the harm principle is respected to a certain degree, the implicit enforcement of monist values on other individuals reduces the pluralism of values and therefore is a restriction of liberty in society. This is why we should be wary about identifying anything or anybody who claims to be freedom-loving and advocating individual liberty with liberalism. This is not true until a truly free society is advocated too.

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Towards a world federation

Information technology has provided revolutions in the late 20th century and until today in the 21st century. Not only did it contribute (I won’t say it was actually the main means, but it was a significant component) to the Arab Spring of this year 2011, it has been largely responsible for the globalization of the world society. Sending a letter through the mail from one country to another may have taken weeks or even more than a month to arrive in the 19th century. Now, sending an e-mail message is just a click of a button and it arrives within seconds.

It’s dazzling to realize what this actually means. We take it for granted that we have these technologies that provide us (but also make us dependent on it) the means to communicate with somebody who is on the other side of the world as if that person would be sitting next to you.

I’m not sure when exactly this information revolution really started, but I could safely say that when the telephone and the telegraph were invented, the shock wave started, and when the Internet was introduced, it was unstoppable. Autocratic governments are well aware of what this means to them. Formerly, it was easy to hide information that they did not want to share with the rest of the world, because the distribution of information was simply under their control. Now they’re taking all kinds of desperate measures to regain control of the distribution of information, because the world can see what it couldn’t see before.



The world can see it now. Why is that a problem for oppressive regimes and a fortune for humanity? The world as a whole cannot judge on the colour of a skin, the colour of the hair, the sound of a voice or a political affiliation. Citizens of planet Earth, when altogether combined, are indiscriminate to each other, except for their own individual differences, because they are all different and all unique. United differences. One of the best combinations of words that could describe this is the EU motto: “United in Diversity”. A high quality union of diverse nations, diverse regions, diverse people, does not facilitate extreme nationalism or national divides. Instead of war on the battlefield, at sea or in the air, wars are waged on the political stage.

I have no concerns for freedom to be in danger in the situation of a world government, at least, a federal one. One of the reasons is as described before: if the world is not governed by special interests of particular groups, brought down to a number of diplomats horse trading in closed rooms, but as a union of humanity, human values will be represented, human dignity will be defended and human rights will be enforced. The citizens of the world should have a voice in the world, as they do on a continental, national, regional and local level. Not having one is exactly what allows autocratic regimes to do what they want with few consequences, until the international community (as far as it can be united on anything) responds some time later with measures that work sometimes and don’t work at other times.

So what the world needs now is for the individual to be the highest decision-making body in the world, by bringing her/him to the global political stage. A single person representing a people will always represent him- or herself in some way. Citizens should represent themselves, in a way that can be held accountable.

This is my personal opinion and does not necessarily represent the views of any organization I am associated with.

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The Mind of a Dictator

The Mind of a Dictator

One Way

One Way

What do all dictators have in common? They lack empathy. Empathy is the one trait of a human being that assures that a person cares about the feelings of another. Dictators can be ruthless and merciless, because they don’t “feel”. Shutting down their empathic emotions makes it possible for them to ignore the consequences of their policies and acts.

It is also their weakness. A massive uprising is usually a surprise for them, because they have no clue about what’s going on among the citizens of the country they have hijacked. They are not prepared for a massive protest that takes over the streets and government institutions.

A large manifestation of discontent, guided by the empathy of hundreds of thousands of people for their shared beliefs and goals, then proves to be more powerful than the merciless emotional deafness of a dictator. He may not hear the shouts, but he will feel them, as soon as the crowds gather and know that when they are united, a dictator can’t stop them.

Nevertheless, there are different types of dictators. We know now that Al-Gaddafi is ruthless and keen on using extreme violence. His tactics of African mercenaries show that the military is his supposed solution to stem the unrest. Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi’s speech was a clear example of how selfish and egocentric arguments (oil, money, predicting so-called chaos) were used to try to persuade citizens to stop protesting. The Libyan people know better. Their empathic manifestation has grown to strong to ignore it any longer. The primary cause, apart from being fueled and activated by the events in Tunisia and Egypt, is indeed about the economy, jobs, corruption, but the underlying problem is the regime itself. The citizens know this.
Khamenei’s and Ahmadinejad’s modus operandi are using morale. By using protesters in favour of the government, they hope to create the impression on the opposition that their cause might not be as shared as they thought it would be. But the Iranian people are used to their lies and the Iranian people know very well that the government uses these tactics, among others security forces as civilians, to try to stop the threats.

Empathy, trust


This is why Libya is not Tunisia or Egypt, Iran is not Tunisia or Egypt, Bahrain is not Tunisia or Egypt, and so on. They need a different approach if the protesters hope to topple their government. Making good use of the common trait of lack of empathy, the road to a solution may be on the same crossroads: to surprise them. To show them what they have ignored for so long: the massive discontent and injustice they have caused for so long.

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Heroes for freedom, Iran

After Iran’s tenth Presidential Election, political and civil unrest have been around Iran. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has taken the role of the President of Iran ever since, with the support of Seyed Ali Khamenei.

The international community has enough reasons to claim the elections were rigged, and the results of the elections are false. Nevertheless, the current government of Iran has a brutal policy towards its own citizens when it concerns the freedom of assembly and the freedom of speech. Iranian citizens have used their human right to voice their opinion on the elections by protesting on the streets and telling the world that Iran is not free, and that Iran is oppressed by its rulers, despite being ruthlessly beaten, being shot by (military) police or even run over by cars.

Even now, there are political prisoners, uncertain about their lives, whether they can see their family and friends, or whether they can see another day. As of now, Iranian student Habibollah Latifi‘s life is in danger, because his execution is set tomorrow. He has been charged for being member of an armed separatist group, but his family ascertains that he is being punished for being politically active.

Imprisoned student activists have begun a hunger strike because they can not see their family and friends. What is more, student activist Bahareh Hedayat is in need of surgery in prison because she is reportedly suffering from gall bladder stones.

Any person with a heart and conscience knows that this is unacceptable. Whether you are conservative or progressive, socialist or libertarian, the right to believe what you want, the right to say and even think what you want is the same right as opposing it. People may agree or may not agree, but what does not show greatness in leadership is the show of force; it is governing with the absence of force.

2010 February 11: Demonstration on Dam Square in Amsterdam

Demonstration on Dam Square in Amsterdam
(11 February 2010)

The Green Movement has shown unfaltering strength and conviction in overthrowing oppression and bringing justice for the people of Iran. With the honour of witnessing and speaking before a demonstration on 11 February 2010 in Amsterdam, it has become clear that the free people of Iran are done with the oppression. So should the international community.

Everything should be done, even before tomorrow to stop the execution of Habibollah Latifi and all others who share his situation, including Bahareh Hedayat, to help the citizens of Iran to retain their rights as human beings to live their lives as they see fit, to believe what they want to believe and to think and say what they want to think and say. This is our duty as fellow human beings, not Dutchmen, not Germans, British, Americans, Norwegians or even Europeans, but as human beings. We would not want our own country to be left alone in oppression, not being able to be who and what we are and want to be. To work for our dreams and rejoice on what we have and what we could be.

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Connecting with people

It should not be underestimated how important it really is to connect with people. People can talk all they want, be listened to if they have a good listener, but is there a real connection?

Connections of persons are two-way. If you are communicating one-way by talking and, perhaps, having somebody that listens, you are having a monologue. This is not a connection, because you are pushing information towards one or more other persons and are not receiving any feedback.

A real connection is when two or more persons interact with each other, try to understand each other, show interest in the message they exchange with each other and actually develop their relations as they go.

For example, a talk about the weather is nice. We all do sometimes; either we complain about rain or enjoy the sunshine, are happy or unhappy about snow or just like to see the hail while being comfortably inside a building. However, a talk about the weather does not develop relations between persons.

What I mean is when two or more persons try to understand each other, the communication is on a whole different level. It starts off by adapting a message to the person that receives it and if the other does not fully understand it, he or she will ask to clarify it and may or may not communicate back.

Depending on the level of communication, an interpersonal connection adds value to the relations between persons. People who do not connect never really commit to others. I will not say they never keep their promises, but they definitely occasionally have trouble taking the feelings and thoughts of others into account. On the other hand, people who are, as it is said, ‘well-connected’ are those who show sincere interest in others. Who communicate both ways, talk, listen, clarify, empathise, sympathise and don’t forget that they are a partner in a process and are not in it alone.

A trained person will really notice the difference between people who, perhaps even the most popular people, don’t really connect, and those who connect well. I’m not sure about how many people I would say are ‘well-connected’ and how many are not, though I meet people from both sides.

On a personal note, I like to connect with people myself. As soon as there is a good conversation, the conversation starts to become really engaging. It doesn’t matter how much one or the other speaks, as long as they listen to each other and try to understand each other. This is also when I really start to see what kind of person I am dealing with. A person who connects well usually isn’t afraid to show his or her genuine personality and that makes it a lot more convenient to get to know the person as the person really is.

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