Nobel Prize Nonsense
Statement of the local self-organized solidarity group Samos Refugees / Πρόσφυγες στη Σαμο
7 February 2016
There seems to be some enthusiasm for nominating the people of the Greek frontier islands for the Nobel Peace Prize. Maybe there are some on the islands who would be happy for their efforts to be recognized, but there are many others who want nothing to do with such an award.
For a start this is a prize from the ‘top’ and not from ‘below.’ It is awarded by the Norwegian parliament which is being increasingly dominated by the populist right Progress Party. The Norwegian government now proudly boasts that it has some of the toughest policies on refugees in the whole of Europe. It is threatening to send back thousands of refugees and cruelly demands that refugees have to spend four years in Norway before they can seek family re-unification. We know that the elites of Europe are experts on hypocrisy so we can always be surprised. But who would want an award from that lot ?
Our experience on Samos has been that those at the top have been and remain a huge problem. They have done so little to help and so much to make our efforts more difficult. For example, until the middle of the summer 2015 it was against the law of Greece to give a lift to a refugee in your own car. It is beyond counting how many times we were threatened with prosecution for carrying refugees in our vehicles or in our small boats. The authorities here actively tried to suppress our humanity; to make us frightened. It was outrageous.
Some of the most courageous activists included many visitors to Samos; people who were on the island as holiday makers and tourists. People who could not stand by in the face of such suffering and joined in with us to feed, clothe and care for the refugees at a time when the Greek state did nothing and when there were none of the big NGOs on the island. Their contribution was massive, not the least because they had more money than us. But they have been made invisible in this Nobel nonsense.
Many things have changed on Samos since the summer of 2015. Not only do we have the big NGOs on the island but we also have many ‘volunteers.’ The latter are a mixed group but it is amazing how quickly some of them become self-righteous and pompous in their ‘do-goodery.’ They never seem to realize that we are deeply offended when they thank us for our efforts. Who do they think they are to ‘thank’ us? We have done nothing for them. Their arrogance is sometimes breathtaking.
Thankfully not all the volunteers are like this but sadly too many are; they are the ones who enjoy being the story and getting their photos in the papers as they hand out a bottle of water. Facebook is full of their nauseating righteousness where they wallow in feedback which describes them as “awe inspiring” angels and so forth. It wouldn’t surprise us to see them wearing campaign medals, like “I was on Samos / Chios / Lesbos / Kos 2015!”
Even worse, so many of the volunteers are happy to comply with the current demands of the Greek authorities to be registered and regulated. They seem to actively seek the blessing of the authorities which for years have been and remain part of the problem and never part of the solution.
We do what we do because we are human. To stand and do nothing in the face of the suffering we see on the frontier islands is not an option unless you are prepared to be dehumanized. There is absolutely nothing special about us. But we see heroism constantly. We witness the most amazing solidarities, full of compassion and care and love. And it is most evident among the refugees. It is their qualities which enable so many to survive and overcome the traumas of both ‘the escape’ and the journey. Our contribution is nothing compared to this. If there are to be any prizes handed out, give them to the refugees.
For us, the idea of a Nobel Prize is disgusting, and a further sign of a screwed up world where to be a human being is now considered to be worthy of a prize.
Featured image source: Samos Refugees (Facebook)