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Elysium and the EU Migrant Crisis

A post about the EU refugee crisis needs to appear on this blog given that it is associated with the Pluma Literary Migrant Writers Guild. We are migrants. We have moved from our home countries for a better life.

There has been a surge of refugees through the EU recently, one source says 400,000+ in the first half of 2015. Last week things got real for the powerful, white population there because they were exposed to images of a white, dead 3 year old Syrian boy who was dressed in clothes similar to what white, European 3 year old boys would be dressed in. His name was Aylan Kurdi:

From The Guardian (click image for article). A Turkish police officer stands next to the body of the young boy. Photograph: Reuters.

Apparently a lot of the refugees want to get to Germany because of its reputation for openness to them. This is a refreshing change from the usual OMG-the-Nazis tinged view that seems to lurk behind many discussions of Germany. All of this reminds me of a scene in Elysium where a woman manages to escape from Earth up to an exclusive orbiting habitat filled with the elite. Here are some of the actors and the director describing the premise:

One of the cool things in Elysium is a medical device which cures everything. A heart rending scene is the character Frey using it to cure her daughter Matilda of leukeumia:

(Bonus awesome sci-fi medical machine treatment scene from Prometheus)

The movie ends with Elysium automatically sending spacecraft to Earth on retrieval missions to give them medical treatment due to a computer hack registering everyone as its citizens.

The EU and other more technologically advanced places don’t have the magic treatment beds of Elysium. One can see the parallel that they’re trying to make in the movie though about the difference in medical care between where refugees come from and, for example, the EU. This point has also been made in a couple of maps. The first is ‘Walled World’:

“Walled World”, Vrij Nederland (47/2006),Catalogue Architecture Biennale Rotterdam 2007, domus 927 (07/08/2009) by Theo Deutinger.

The thing most similar to the premise of Elysium on this map is the figure in the centre showing the region where 73% of the world’s wealth is collected, possessed by only 14% of the world’s population. See the ‘border walls’ protecting this wealth. This is Deutinger’s description of his map:

Accelerated through the fear from the attacks of 9/11 and all what followed, the so called ‘Western Society’ is constructing the greatest wall ever build on this planet. On different building sites on all five inhabitable continents, walls, fences and high-tech border surveillance are under construction in order to secure the citizens and their high quality of life within this system. The fall of the Berlin Wall was described as the historical moment that marks the demolition of world’s last barrier between nation states. Yet it took the European Union only six years to create with the Schengen Agreement in 1995 a new division only 80km offset to the east of Berlin.

A similar map is The Forbidden World by Le Monde:

The Forbidden World (Le Monde).

This makes the similar point that there is an Elysium-like region of the world which is heavily protected and filled with elites. A final map on this topic illustrates how powerful your passport is in terms of countries you can visit without a visa or where one is granted on arrival (Finland, Sweden and the UK share top spot with 173 countries).

The 2014 Ebola crisis is an illustration of how the world’s Elysium region:

  1. Did not contain humans affected by it (although there were some pigs from a non-Elysium country The Philippines imported to the Elysium country USA which did have Ebola): Geographic distribution of Ebola virus disease outbreaks in humans and animals – 2014 by WHO. Here are some awesome cartograms to drive the point home. And,
  2. Lead the (needless to say largely successful) effort to stop Ebola through the World Health Organisation and funding by rich elites from the Elysium region:


I think the above illustrates how Elysium is real. The fact that it is not an orbiting habitat but happening right here on the earth as a walled garden of rich nations makes it even worse, and more tantalizing, for the have-nots. You may have seen the proposed Shengen area extension eastward in the Walled World map:

Future Shengen border in Walled World map by TD Architects.

Future Shengen border in Walled World map by TD Architects.

1. Expand Elysium

To me this is one way to fix the problem. Gradually, hopefully, the EU will expand, perhaps one day outside of Europe. Gradually new countries will sign up and make the basic governance changes necessary to participate. Their people will benefit as a result, and will not have to come to the EU as refugees to improve their lives.

2. Move into Elysium

The other way to fix the problem is already in action. People are escaping, and many are dying on the way across these borders. In Elysium their spacecraft are shot. At least in the Mediterranean the coastguard tries to rescue them and bring them to shore. It’s not so easy if you choose Australia though, you’re likely to be towed back or resettled in Cambodia, one of the most corrupt countries ‘outside Elysium’. This is satirized deliciously here.

In Elysium, because it was a Hollywood movie, of course there had to be an every-man struggling hero who saved the world through making the ultimate sacrifice. Aylan Kurdi was Matilda in this context, and he would have been saved instead of turning up lifeless on a beach where he should have spent his childhood playing. This act of heroism makes the solution to the problem seem out of reach of the average person watching though. None of us are capable of doing what Matt Damon did on the screen. There is a risk of making it look like none of us are capable of fixing the problem. This brings me to a radical idea.

3. Move Out of Elysium

Big problems can often be fixed by breaking them into small chunks of doable-sized things. Maybe those chunks can be lives of people from Elysium. Maybe we can, at the risk of sounding like this is White Man’s Burden, spend our lives outside Elysium but bring its values, education, technology and healthcare with us. I don’t want this to be missionary work. I don’t want this to be cringeworthy crap featured on Stuff Expat Aid Workers Like. But I think somewhere in there is an idea worth living, and a life of adventure and excitement missing in Elysium.

I’m an example, I guess, of someone involuntarily doing that since 2011 in Cambodia and Kuwait. You can read about it here. At the risk of becoming a preachy piece of shit, maybe I should start to do it more deliberately. Am I right in thinking that the flood of refugees to EUlysium is an invitation to do so?


5 comments on “Elysium and the EU Migrant Crisis

  1. Pingback: Elysium and the EU Migrant Crisis | ndthl

  2. Pingback: We Created Dictators | PLUMA BLOGS

  3. cartobscura
    September 13, 2015

    Reblogged this on Cartobscura.


  4. Pingback: The Western World is a Global Terrorist | PLUMA BLOGS

  5. Pingback: We Created Your Dictators | PLUMA BLOGS

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This entry was posted on September 5, 2015 by in Migration.

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