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5 - Migrations

World population, soon reaching 10 billion, would face a reduction in the next decades. Coastal settlements will be relocated to higher lands. By 2040 about 3 billion people could be starving and unprotected. These projections are conservative and from reliable non-profit private organizations. This is the real world that you already watch on TV and the Internet. It seems that those initially not affected will not react. Our ingenuous believe that the Earth had endless resources -and ample capacity to compensate pollution- has destroyed the environment and its biodiversity to a non-returning point, breaking ecological and food chains. We became not just the dominant species, but the one that precipitate life extinction. Genetically, our conscience and sense of time give us the impression that things happen slowly, we tend to survive rather than admitting the damage we produce, therefore we do not alter direction in time. The classical civilisation we built and enjoyed is ending into cyber extensions, mere parasite systems of our body and mind and as such, they started to affect our humanistic perception and reaction, of biological nature. This includes our emotional response to life itself, based on education, reasoning and morality, which are of culural nature. What we understand as Western Civilization was defined and described by the great Aristotle 1.300 years ago in his amazing 'Politics'. Keeping his discernments alive will help us to establish a re-balanced reality. We cannot stop the effect of Habitat Change: Earth's inertia will extend it for thousands of years. We have to adapt to our new scenario, which happens to be an unimaginable one.

Massive migrations existed since ever; the current ones are related to overpopulation and wars, but the effect of Habitat and Climate Change is visible in the Middle East, North Africa, Central America and parts of Asia. In some places there is no enough food because of temperature anomalies and overpopulation. There is one aspect not frequently analysed, and has to do with our cultural prejudice in relation with our own collective reaction. As a species, in relation with our behaviour, we are animals. The way we destroyed forests and rich soils during twenty millennia, the particular frantic path of industrialisation, our irrational preference for fetish contaminant objects (cars, mobile phones, ego-type of steel-glass architecture, absurd and extreme air conditioning and heating, and a dozen more symptoms, not to mention the amount of rubbish produced every minute) probably indicates that we still live and move following libido and pleasure patterns. In this context, it is interesting to observe the growing population of different countries like China, India, Nigeria or Brazil; apart from China, where birth control was imposed decades ago but it did not work well, in some cases the population multiplied geometrically, even exponentially, and they have difficulties feeding their own population. In part, this has to do with a collective memory of agricultural societies that used to need as many hands as possible and at all cost; a couple of hundreds years ago amy woman used to loose six or seven children out of ten. Those cultures still associate many children with more labour and more capacity for surviving.

Parliament Square, 2009. Ideas competition organized by Pouchulu, with compliments to Elizabeth Ajith. Because of Habitat Change, South-Sudan refugees occupy parts of London. Photomontage, UN photo of Sudan over photo of Parliament Square, 2008.

Industrialisation has reached and transformed the whole planet. Developed societies pollute more, because they produce and consume more. At some point, probably till 1800, European society had reached some sort of labour equilibrium where there was a massive working class, large enough and well complemented by a smaller body of qualified workers. This is gone. The new industrial paradigm transformed the migrations path in a radical way, from the the mid 19th century onwards. On one hand, Industrialised countries permanently gain both non-qualified and qualified jobs, in different proportions; there is a regular flux from undeveloped countries to developed ones. Even if some countries are behind the possibility of industrial development because of political, geographical, or economical reasons, the whole globe has been deeply transformed: it is a big factory where the division of work and jobs has to do with specialisation, and every single country gets industrialised products. In that context, the void left by the US (producing good quality products for middle-class) has been replaced by China, that exports good quality products for low, middle and high income population. In old times a maker of any product -the homo faber- used to select a piece of material and started to transform it, step by step, by imagining, inspecting, cutting, mounting, painting, polishing and even selling his product. From tools, clocks, clothing, carriages, books, weapons, pencils, paper, every single product before the machine age was done by artisans, from beginning to end. Today the objects manufactured are produced with the machine as a frame and the belt as a vector. We have created machines that systematised the process, where a worker collaborates in minor or even irrelevant steps, or just controlling the computerised machines, that tend to fo almost everything. As a consequence, neither artisans nor workers are master of their objects, but some kind of cog; we either imagine, inspect, cut, mount, paint, polish or sell, but only one activity per worker. Even more, we started an era where every single object, including software, are build by specialised machines and robots. This is of central importance when considering migrations. The world has been saturated with products, and we actually love it. Children cannot distinguish an orange tree from an apple one, but they are surrounded by all kind of virtual images that represent oranges and apples. The lack of balance between our needs and what we can obtain from the market, wherever we are, is diverse; it seems our immediate needs tend to be solved by industrialisation (in fact, we are forced to buy and use things we really do not need), our will is fragile and constantly tempted by objects more or less irrelevant, imposed by marketing. That's fine, industry gave jobs to millions. The problems is the antisustainable and polluting origin of the majority of those objects, entirely made of plastic. We end up buying more than what we really need. This is one of the key elements of capitalism -to create the need, then to produce, finally to create jobs, and it worked- but at the same time the system is so changing and dynamic that many people are discontent, both for not having the resources to get more goods and for being unable to update the "last" version of a particular item like phones, clothing or cars. Only a more solid culture based on learning how to reason and discern can correct this, and it seems it is not meant for all. 

The intrinsic nature of the machine era (fast tracks where industrialisation runs), the ultimate goal of capitalism (to employ those who can work) and the prerogative of the secondary systems (framing citizen's life under the State) are more or less independent from each other. Our habitat is made of traces of improvised social and economical relations and evolves in a randomly way, full of patches. We constantly modify the environment, but through unmethodical interventions, interrelated indeed, but far from desirable planned strategies. No one imagined the necessity and possibility of building monstrous highways till the moment cars -mostly Ford T- started to occupy and conquer our pedestrian streets, till that moment beautifully shared in peace by horses, carriages and pedestrians. That proved fatal to cities, that used to belong to people, and now belong to cars and transport. Any innovation in urban reality implies further, unstoppable changes  that are not normally considered before that innovation appears and is offered to people.

To suppose that migrations are only or mainly produced by wars or lack of jobs, is a simplification. When people migrate they also follow the perception of development and success, even the mere possibility of progressing projected from big industrialised centres, poured into developed and undeveloped societies as cool advertising images of an ideal and wealthy society. Industrialisation also means a non-rational lifestyle objective. This happens every day, every hour, every minute by frenetic and distress propaganda from a digitalised world, represented in information now literally at hand. We carry the news with us. Ironically, media devices (texts, images, moving images, sounds) are called mobile but are almost 'fixed' to our body. This has changed the behaviour of our species, pushing to unknown territories where we pay more attention to the representation of the world than to the world itself. Unlike decadess ago, when to go abroad meant to really abandon our home, current migrations are affected by virtual messages that hold migrants close to their homes and loved ones; our grandparents or fathers migrated with a few family pictures to a foreign country to start a new life and in most of the cases they were in contact by post once a year sending and receiving real handwriting letters. Today we migrate with virtual communication in our pocket, where we place our 'smart' phones. In many ways we never leave our mother culture and tend to keep a permanent contact with friends, which changes the way in which one acts or conducts oneself toward a new culture and Habitat. In the year 2000 the word that described better the life of a migrant was 'transculturalism'. We face a new situation, we could name it 'interculturalism', where the interaction and contact between host and guest cultures is different; both parts live a virtual reality, only at times framed in reality: the former understands that the other holds a different background, needs and dreams, which is also the attitude of the latter. Somehow both parts are mirrored in virtuality, they see themselves reflected in the other's screen, rather than in a real dialogue. By following the virtual digital world, it does not matter where we live or if we left, we all became migrants, we are leaving reality, moving towards uncertain virtual lands.

Go to the next chapter, here.

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Background photo: Parliament Square in the near future, South-Sudan Pouchulu Competition, London, photomontage © 2008 Pouchulu.

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