Thursday, July 3, 2008

"Bare Life"

"Behind every death there was a dream, and then a tragedy. More than 9,000 illegal immigrants have died since 1993 in the attempt to seek a better life in Europe, according to the European organization United.

“They drown in Gibraltar are blown up in mine fields on the Turkish-Greek border, die in asylum custody, commit suicide and get killed when they are sent out of Europe. We don't think about it much. It is unwanted and dispensable life.

“The European Parliament* has backed a much criticised new return directive which, when implemented by 2010, will allow governments to keep illegal immigrants, and those who have overstayed their visa period, in detention for up to 12 months, ban re-entry into Europe for five years, and make it easier to deport vulnerable people.

“Maybe it seems like a simple and rational piece of legislation, but it is more than that. The Italian Philosopher Giorgio Agamben talks about "bare life"; life which has been reduced to biology whilst the person's political existence has been withdrawn by those who have the power to define who is included and who is excluded as worthy, sovereign human beings. Power through, for example, law can legitimately be exercised over them whilst their own voice is negated.

“The thousands of nameless, faceless and unwanted people who risk their lives trying to cross our borders, desperate to make a better life for themselves, constitute such 'bare life'. Their aspirations and legitimacy can be effectively negated by the power of a bureaucratic vote in Brussels. Meanwhile, goods, capital, and western citizens are flowing freely around the globe in the name of globalization. The irony, tragedy and hypocrisy is obvious for those who want to see it.

“. . . for every harsh immigration law passed, for every statement made about the need to keep 'them' out, for every immigrant imprisoned, we make 'the others' a little less human and a little more 'bare life'.” Iselin Asedotter Stronen, “The Bare Life of Immigrants,” The New Statesman
But it's even worse than that, isn't it?

We also make ourselves a little less human and a little more "bare life." In our own eyes. In others' eyes. And hideously, dangerously, ironically enough, in the eyes of the overlords, too.


phred said...

Wow, did you find a nuance I hadn't thought of!!! Not the dehumanization of the migrants, I see it every day, almost all day. But OUR dehumanization AND that the overlords are monitoring just how far removed we get inch by inch from our humanity. That is freakin scary...