A Great Migration

I drove my son to his music class today. As we drove I decided to raise the topic of the little Syrian boy who had drowned on the beaches of Turkey. My son knew about the boy. He was angry. I had tears in my eyes. That is not fair. This should not be happening. We can do better. This is not our best moment.

These are faces of the people in the Syrian Refugee Crisis. (Source – http://www.wsj.com/articles/photos-faces-of-the-syrian-refugee-crisis-1415949742)

Out of respect for the tiny person that was, I want to stay clear of cynicism.

My son is angry now, about many things – “why do people do war?” he asked plaintively. I let the question hang in the air. This is one that we do – thats problematic at many levels. I was at this moment unable to be the dad who knew everything. I could not bring up Call of Duty that he plays on playstation – where he kills digital people – that would have been a cheap trick. One that I have used countless times. Aloud I said “Men”.

This much is true, its men. A lot else is not true. Why do men go to war? I am not focussing upon the information – the incidents and the narrative – about why of one or other raid, bombing, or last stand. I also do not want an answer to this question – I want this question to hang there, unanswered. This is a child’s question and it can never ever be answered. For all answers will be adult answers. Money, oil, power, greed, capitalism, territory, politics, strategy, votes. These are not answers. These are mere words. Why do men go to war?

I then began to point out the amazing outpouring of humanity we were all privileged to witness. Countries bordering Syria had many refugees – millions.

Syrian Refugee Children (Source: UNHCR)
Syrian Refugee Children (Source: UNHCR)

I spoke about Angela Merkel and how this was proving to be her finest moment. There were posters of her with captions in arabic saying ‘I love you Merkel’. I too had sent out a tweet last night saying just ‘I love Merkel’. If Germany reaches the target of 800,000 people given a new life in Germany I will be pleased that I have lived to see this day. We are still in the car – and my son asks, how will they communicate. I said they speak English. I was thinking of the beautiful boy who spoke – ‘we only want to go back’. He was beautiful.


Equally there were countries that were watching – not taking refugees, not required to take refugees. They stood accused – for their inaction. Or was it true – ‘who wanted to go there?’

I read why Germany has a unique attitude to the ‘refugee’ and how many alive in Germany have been a refugee too. This is a new way of looking at Germany, and I witness a huge softening in my attitude to Germany. I held forth yesterday in conversation with my daughter about Merkel. How she was a child of GDR, and would have grown up in an ideologically charged world. A world that believed and espoused the need for us to realise a world where everyone was equal. Maybe this generosity is something she has to carry. There are many such people in the world. Generous people. People who cannot contribute, even if they want to. In some places they can.

The Journey of Migration (Source – 6 charts and a map that show where Europe’s refugees are coming from – and the perilous journeys they are taking, The Independent, UK)

He then asked why people were walking through Hungary. I explained about how they were walking/ going from Turkey to Germany(map above).

Christmas Island, Australia (Source http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2013/10/16/strength-in-numbers-5-amazing-animal-swarms/)

I read of the “exodus of humanity”. Was this an exodus? Or do we want a new word, a new phrase? Something like “the big human migration”. Like the journey that herds in Africa take to seek out water and pasture. A journey that does not recognise national boundaries, ethnicities and political narratives.

For me this is that spark of utopia that emerges every so often – only to be extinguished. I hear that Hungary has closed its borders! I know that this mass migration – the long trek – was a once of. A mistake that reveals the true nature of our humanity. We are once again spin and narratives.

My son asks – “Why don’t they send planes to pick up the people. Just throw heaps of money at this problem – and fly people in troop carriers to where they want to go. Chuck going through Hungary.” I turned to look at this amazing creature – my tears resurface, I struggle to focus upon the road – and say to myself: I vote you as President of the world my little boy ( he is 4 inches taller than me). Thank you Call of Duty, thank you all the military conflict playstation games – you are producing a new version of humanity.

I have been pushing this issue in my head too: what can I do? I asked Google and it answered – ‘what you can do’. I am teacher and I know I can do something. I can push this out as a campaign. I can light a spark. I can ask – are you with me? Dont you think we can do something – such as?
1. We can change ourselves by letting this sliver of light into our lives.
2. We can dream of a new future.
3. We can send money to UN agencies, to the volunteers.
4. We can make an “I love you Angela” Poster.
5. We can set up a way for this to become much bigger – for people in far away places to say and do something

Yesterday there was a public transport strike in Melbourne. A spontaneous voice rose from the travellers – please donate your fare to the refugee support agencies! This produces goose bumps. Its all around us – this humanity.


  1. UNHCR Page on Syrian Refugees (http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/syria.php)
  2. Everything you need to know about the European refugee crisis, Sydeny Morning Herald, (http://www.smh.com.au/world/everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-european-refugee-crisis-20150904-gjfqs9.html)
  3. Worldvision on Syrian Refugee Children (http://www.worldvision.org/news-stories-videos/video-what-peace-means-syrian-refugee-children)
  4. Forgotten Syrian Children of War (http://www.nbcnews.com/watch/nbc-news-web-extra/forgotten-syrias-children-of-war-191708227894)
  5. UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie visited Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, to meet 11 year old Hala and her five siblings who arrived as orphans from Syria’s war. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QLpj9u_QXjk)
  6. I am one of the people you would prefer to see dead – (http://www.couriermail.com.au/rendezview/im-one-of-the-people-you-would-prefer-to-see-dead/story-fnpug1jd-1227512954400)

Published by Soumitri Varadarajan

Soumitri lives in Melbourne, Australia - #probonodesign #codesign #sustainability #patientexperience #quantifiedself #mdg

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: