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Karen L Bloomquist

Monday, June 27, 2016

Who is “the enemy”? Economic globalization or immigrants?


In the recent Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, many voting to leave the European Union apparently collapsed opposition to how they, their jobs and communities have been effected by economic globalization, with the targeting of immigrants. This resulted in an upsurge of what seems a confusing mixture of populist-based votes from both the Left and the Right. The tendency on the Left has been to oppose economic globalization, and on the Right, opposition to the increasing presence of immigrants.

For many years now, there has been growing opposition to how the neoliberal mandates driving economic globalization have resulted in the devastating of jobs and communities. Chief among these mandates is that greater market freedom (and less government regulation) will benefit all, and not only those few who are profiting already. Opposition to such mandates globally has especially been developed within the ecumenical movement, such as through statements and actions of the World Alliance [Communion] of Reformed Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, and the World Council of Churches –- as well a many faith-based organizations in the UK (e.g. Oxfam). Those wedded to these mandates, especially in the world of business and finance, have sometimes reacted: for example, the Wall Street Journal ridiculed Reformed churches who in 2004 proclaimed opposed these mandates to be a matter of faith. Finally in more recent years, those in the global North have caught and begun to oppose what is occurring under economic globalization, which was brought to awareness through the “99% - 1%” slogan of the Occupy movement, and also currently by some political candidates.

The irony is that with the free movement of finance across borders under economic globalization, workers generally have faced considerable hurdles in moving to where jobs are more plentiful or better paying. Some of these hurdles have lessened within the EU, and some workers have immigrated to countries such as the UK to take advantage of job opportunities. Whether this number will lessen with an exit from the EU remains to be seen. Yet fueling much of the popular desire for Brexit have been anti-immigrant feelings, which tend now to be pervasive throughout Europe and much of the U.S.

“Freedom” from domination typically is sought through the cycle of Individualism, Victimization, Privatization, which functions as a pseudo-trinity or idol, holding the reigning reality of domination in place. Individualism puts the burden on the individual to succeed. Yet the pervasive experience of working people is that despite their works and hopes they have not acquired the fruits of this individualism. Consequently, there is a shift from individualism to a sense of victimization: “it was done to me.” (Bloomquist, Seeing-Remembering-Connecting, Wipf and Stock, 2016, p. 31; in the 1980s the author developed this further in The Dream Betrayed, Fortress, 1990)

The visible target for “who is doing this to me” are “immigrants,” who may be even more victimized by economic globalization than are those who are native-born. Immigrants also are blamed for prevailing cultural practices and values that are far more diverse than when a country was presumed to be more homogeneous. Targetting them as “the enemy” is convenient, especially for rallying folks from the Right politically.

It is churches and other faith organization who have consistently led the way in reaching out to immigrants though words and actions of “welcoming the stranger and alien,” and thus breaking down boundaries between “us” and “them.” Such boundary-crossing and the mutual transformation that comes from this, which some of us would claim is the heart of what Jesus taught and lived, means that the targeting of some as if they were “the enemies” must consistently be denounced.