The Syrian Refugee Question

What are you afraid of?

If you are like me, there are some things.  The list changes from time to time as new things appear.  They all have similar characteristics:

  1. They will be harmful for me, or my family and friends, or maybe society.
  2. They are not certain.  If they were certain I would likely not fear them but be busy resolving them.
  3. I don’t know much about the specifics of the situation or the workings of the thing that causes harm.
  4. Worry is fear without passion.

Just now, everyone is a little fearful of Syrian refugees.  Does re-homing tens of thousands of people pose a problem?  Should I worry or be afraid?

I know little of the screening process, the nature of the refugees, their desire to be here, and their ability to assimilate while retaining the parts of their culture that will fit with ours.  This absent knowledge will disable my thinking.  My innate mistrust of bureaucracy assumes they will do a bad job of it.

Suppose instead I decide to be rational.  Not always easy.

Can I really assume that the vetting process is inept?  Probably not.  The people doing it will likely do their best to dial out radicals, disease and those with ideas antithetical to ours.  It will be imperfect but not ridiculously so.  While I am momentarily rational, I notice that perfection is an unattainable goal in any circumstance.

Could I rationally suppose that Syrian refugees are vastly different than we are?  On some things, I suppose they are, but on the fundamentals of life? 

Opportunity to be secure.  The ability to have our children do better than we do.  Reasonable equality of opportunity.  Freedom to choose a religion, a political view and a way of life. 

I doubt there  is much difference.

The implementation of these characteristics is likely different and we may find some of them odd or even threatening.  We must ask ourselves, what have we done to demonstrate that our ideas serve people better? 

It is a sales problem.

As with all sales problems, you begin with what does the person believe now.  Follow that with what alternative is there and how does that alternative connect to their present position.  Lastly the link that shows how the new position is a more advantageous method, and the advantage is visible in terms of the old way.

For example, we value any religion as an organizing principle for a working society.  From the organizing principle viewpoint, there is little difference among the world’s 4,200 religions.  (wikipedia.)  Problems are only in the expression of a particular religion.  Connecting up the principles instead of the expression can make for a reasoned discussion.

There may be fanatics.  We don’t understand them well and we can learn more.  I found this short piece instructive as a place to start.  The Psychology of Terrorism.  It is about expression.

Fear motivates and so should be taken as useful, but fear paralyzes too and that is unhelpful.  Knowledge, and the meaning of that knowledge are the antidote to fear.

Work at understanding and the wisdom that follows. Few people fear what they understand.

Danger can be real. Fear is a choice.

Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is now with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.


2 Comments on “The Syrian Refugee Question

  1. “Few people fear what they understand”. Brilliantly simple. This is applicable to my current situation, as I will be shuttling around a family of recently relocated refugees throughout Peterborough in an attempt to acquire more knowledge of their circumstances.
    My objective is to spread my knowledge to those that lack it in order to ease their fears.

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