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Thread: Lower than a snake's belly: Myths and realities of immigration

  1. #21
    Aexodus's Avatar Persuasion>Coercion
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    Default Re: Lower than a snake's belly: Myths and realities of immigration

    Ah I see. No.
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  2. #22
    Kritias's Avatar Petite bourgeois
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    Default Re: Lower than a snake's belly: Myths and realities of immigration

    I’m going to offer a few demographical stats on Greece, just for comparison. As of 2011, about 7% of the population living in the country are hailing from an immigrant background (non-Greeks), which translates to 9-11% of the workforce. The immigrants are also around 25% of the waged and salaried personnel. And where are these people working? Agriculture, construction, domestic work, care and other ‘personal services’. About 55 to 60% of these people are ethnic Albanians, and they have been in the country for around 40 years now. The important part is that before the Albanians supplanting these jobs, the only people who were pushed that way were the Greeks who didn’t have a political beliefs certification from the Police. That’s communists, socialists, leftists, anarchists and any other group deemed politically dangerous at times. With the arrival of (1) PASOK and their policy of political amnesty, and (2) the arrival of a reserve workforce in the face of the Albanians, the disenfranchised Greeks were uplifted in society.


    The Albanians, on the other hand, not only tried to integrate by speaking the language and adopting the customs, but some of them went the extra mile: giving in to the conspiracy theories of the nationalists, some people of Albanian origin posed as ethnic Greeks who were allegedly oppressed in Albania; those are the people who will give a perceived ethnic Greek person an ancient Greek name (Pyrrhus is by far the most common one), in an attempt to curb any sort of prejudice and bigotry coming their way. Only after hours of discussion, and multiple reassurances will these people give their real name, and under great personal duress. It speaks volumes that the Albanians would adopt such a survival strategy, both at the bigotry coming from the Greek society at the point, and at the difficulties faced by immigrant communities.


    And here I should probably give my own thoughts. My own approach on immigration echoes what Max Weber had dubbed as ‘social closure’, also brought up by Iskar earlier in the thread. Social closure can be explained as
    The process by which social collectives seek to maximize rewards by restricting access to resources and opportunities to a limited circle of eligibles. This entails the singling out of certain social or physical attributes as the justificatory basis of exclusion. Weber suggests that virtually any group attribute — race, language, social origin, religion — may be seized upon provided it can be used for "the monopolization of specific, usually economic opportunities". This monopolization is directed against competitors who share some positive or negative characteristic; its purpose is always the closure of social and economic opportunities to outsiders. The nature of these exclusionary practices, and the completeness of social closure, determine the general character of the distributive system.

    I can give a simple example of this social closure at work. As part of my duties in the past I had sought and read written recommendations for candidates. As such, I started to realize the various different ways where social closure could be coded in words fitting in a single sheet of paper. Taken as what it is, a letter of recommendation is used to show the candidate’s applicability for a position. So, when the recommendation overly stresses praise of abilities in the candidate that are considered commonplace for the position, the inescapable conclusion is that the real message should read “not one of us”. This aha moment came when I saw time and again the more plainly recommended individuals, accompanied by a simple history of their work and whom they worked for/with and entirely lacking of any adornments of praise, were those getting hired/promoted. No, I wasn’t responsible for hiring.


    Having said that, there’s also a deeper meaning into what Weber saw as social closure – there’s also ethnic hierarchies, as well as cultural hierarchies, making up the elligibles and non-eligibles for resources and opportunities. I said it earlier on the thread that more established migrant communities can, and often are vehemently against other immigrants arriving because it dislodges them from their mode of economy, pushing them upwards and more towards the so-called official economy. It’s interesting to note here that what we congenially call ‘The Economy’ is actually very fragmented into bits and pieces of economic activities where different groups operate. The economy, as in the official economy, is more the median of all these activities than a singular economic entity. That’s how in the example of Greece, we had both the Poles and the Albanians going into construction work, with the first channeled in road construction and the latter into stone-cutting, stoneworks etc. The ability, as some studies have shown in Greece, came secondary to the generic skills the Poles and the Albanians are attributed with, making them suitable for different work.


    Having said that, I’d argue that some of the sentiments expressed here, though earnest to be sure, are driven in part at least by xenophobia. To begin with I need to define xenophobia as the fear of the ‘other’, the ‘foreign’, the ones we juxtapose to ourselves as Iskar correctly (at least to me) has already pointed out – the others are always playing a loosing game, so that we better define ourselves. They are in a sense a mirror that allow us to see ourselves better; there’s an argument to be made whether the traits attributed on the ‘others’ are real or imagined, and to what degree. A native person can grunt at us because they’re having a bad day, or they’re just unpleasant characters; but the foreign grunt doesn’t allow for any positive interpretation, or even consideration – it’s almost always a cause for offence. Then, there’s the civilizing theorem, according to which we tend to place the ‘uncivilized’ traits present in all of us on the others; the others are usually dirty, uncouth, cunning, thieving, treacherous, ungrateful, violent. In a sentence, they are not civilized like us. They are also everything we ought not to be, and a warning to what can happen to us if our civilization falters. This process might explain why initial sentiments of pity and sympathy are always recorded – we tend to feel sad for those who suffered what we fear might happen to us. But then we tend to see the ‘effects’ of the fall, and we are horrified.


    Abdulmecid also points out some very important points in the story of Asia Minor refugees, albeit not entirely correctly. It is true that the refugees gradually became more conservative as the archives of the Prosfigikos Kyrix (Refugee Herald) shows. The refugees by far and large were also monarchists, a paradox if you consider that the monarchy was a factor for their deportation to begin with; the return of the germanophile king, Konstantine, was the reason the English and the French withdrew their support, with the latter switching sides which caused the panic of the retreat (in combination to the defeat at Sangarios river). And it’s also true that the Albanians were participating in the ‘angry citizen watches’, as is the fact that many of immigrant backgrounds turned to support the Golden Dawn during its race for the parliament.


    But the Jews in Salonica are a different can of worms. Firstly, I need to briefly explain the relationship between Greeks and Jews. According to most historical sources I’ve read on the subject, the Jewish populations were not in the immediate vicinity of the Greek kingdom until 1863 and the incorporation of the Ionian Commonwealth (ie the Ionian Islands under the British Crown at the time) were given to the Kingdom. In these islands, the Jews were primarily settled around Corfu in a ghetto named the Judecca; Corfu is an interesting study by itself, mainly because it was an Orthodox Island with a Catholic presence in the established Venetian families and because there was a tradition of pawning and loan sharks on the island, predominately Greeks and Italians. In fact the Catholic orders, like the Franciscans, were welcomed in the island because they set up Christian pawnshops, the so called Monti de pieta. They were also welcomed to further oppress the Jewish populations, who were seen by the natives as competing to the Greek and Venetian loan sharks. Chios is another example of predominately Greek loan sharks, as can be seen from the popular saying that ‘Where’s a Chian, there’s no need for a Jew’.

    Salonica, though, was different in the sense that while pawnbrokers and loan sharks were predominately Greek, the bankers of the city were split almost equally between members of the Greek and the Jewish populations. In 1917 the city was besieged by the Greek army, and the approaching Bulgarian army; causing from what historians tells us, a paradise for pawn-broking that was later blamed entirely on the, mostly unrelated to pawn broking, Jews. The Bank of the Orient had also already established itself in 1905, and the Bank of Athens in 1906, both prohibiting non-Greek investors in an attempt to “break” the Jewish bankers of the city. As Abdulmecid has also said, papers set up by the state in Athens like Macedonia, but also newspapers like the Truth and Lighthouse of Salonica unleashed anti-Semitic campaigns signifying to the Greek loan sharks, pawn brokers and bankers that there was about to be a change in the city’s economy. As a result, there were attacks on Jewish stores and their banks and homes during the capture of the city as early as 1912, and general agitation against them culminating to the fire that burned 3/5ths of Salonica in 1917. Of course the catastrophe was further utilized by the authorities to push the Jews even further, denying to resettle them in their original places as they were doing for other communities. However, all these happened way earlier than the Asia Minor catastrophe, and even earlier than the first settling of the immigrants from Asia Minor in 1927 in the wider area of Macedonia and so those particular migrants cannot be blamed for any of it. This is all on the natives.
    Last edited by Kritias; August 06, 2019 at 04:26 PM.
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  3. #23
    Iskar's Avatar Insanity with Dignity
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    Default Re: Lower than a snake's belly: Myths and realities of immigration

    Quote Originally Posted by Iskar View Post
    Sorry, I meant those people that grew up elsewhere but with parents from NI, and only moved to NI much later in their lives. Would they count as local?
    Quote Originally Posted by Aexodus View Post
    Ah I see. No.
    That is at the very least a consistent view then, fair point. I would still hold against the original sentiment ("local jobs for local people") that being born somewhere or moved there as a young child is not something within the disposal of the individual. Hence it should not have bearing on a political question (and who may live and work somewhere is a political question). I'd put forward that the only thing that should matter to determine whether someone "belongs" at a given place and is "entitled" to make their livelihood there should only depend on their individual will to be part of the local community and polity and the will of the other members of said polity to accept them as such. After all the only thing giving birth to the phenomena of organised groups (communities, polities, societies) or, speaking with Weber (see Kritias' excellent post above) "social collectives" is the continued (even if just tacitly so) political will of their constituent individuals.

    Traditionally and as a sort of default case to ensure everyone is part of at least one social collective helping in their survival we use birth as the first indicator to which social collective we belong and in fact most people tend to stay with their initial social collective throughout their lives. In that case their not-moving-away does indeed constitute an expression of their political will to belong to that social collective.
    However, either by their own decision or by external factors people may have or want to leave their initial social collective and aim to join another. As long as their intention in doing so is genuine and their efforts to integrate are honest, the only thing they have to win over is the political will of the other members of their social collective-in-spe to accept them into it. (In our complex societies this task is usually delegated to the immigration legislation and procedures of our polities.) Especially in the case of people violently forced out of their previous social collective against their will and left without such social support (commonly known as refugees or people seeking asylum - "shelter") there are few rational reasons bar utter scarcity of resources to deny them such.
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  4. #24
    Abdülmecid I's Avatar ¡Ay Carmela!
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    Default Re: Lower than a snake's belly: Myths and realities of immigration

    It's very interesting to notice the efforts of the Albanian minority to use cases of the Greek minority in Albania and the ancient kingdom of Epirus to more successfully integrate itself to her new society. From a quick glance on Wikipedia, I noticed that the largest non-European and non-Christian (therefore slightly more difficult to assimilate) immigrant minority originates from Pakistan. I wonder whether, in the foreseeable future, the Greek-Pakistanis will try to highlight the link between their two "homelands" through the heritage of Alexander's campaigns and the establishment of the independent Bactrian monarchy. In neighboring Bulgaria, back when the studies on Thracian archeology were heavily subsidized by the state, a couple of ultra-nationalists claimed that the Bulgars of Khan Asparoukh were the descendants of the Macedonian army's Thracian mercenaries, who finally returned to their homeland, following a millenium of aimless wandering in the steppes and oases (had to check for the plural form of the word in the dictionary) of Central Asia.

    As for the rocky relationship between Jews and refugees, I was not referring to the events of WWI, which I was not even aware of (although I have been acquainted with the manner in which the Great Fire was exploited by the Venizelists to evict the Jews from the center and surrender their properties to wealthy businessmen). My point concerned the disproportionately cordial relationship between the Nazis of the National Union and the Venizelos-voting refugees. The online encyclopedia provides a brief summary of the affair, but you can find more information about these incidents, including the nasty role of the newspapers, if you check the cited bibliography or google "pogrom against the Cambell camp 1931".

  5. #25
    Kritias's Avatar Petite bourgeois
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    Default Re: Lower than a snake's belly: Myths and realities of immigration

    Quote Originally Posted by Abdülmecid I View Post
    It's very interesting to notice the efforts of the Albanian minority to use cases of the Greek minority in Albania and the ancient kingdom of Epirus to more successfully integrate itself to her new society. From a quick glance on Wikipedia, I noticed that the largest non-European and non-Christian (therefore slightly more difficult to assimilate) immigrant minority originates from Pakistan. I wonder whether, in the foreseeable future, the Greek-Pakistanis will try to highlight the link between their two "homelands" through the heritage of Alexander's campaigns and the establishment of the independent Bactrian monarchy. In neighboring Bulgaria, back when the studies on Thracian archeology were heavily subsidized by the state, a couple of ultra-nationalists claimed that the Bulgars of Khan Asparoukh were the descendants of the Macedonian army's Thracian mercenaries, who finally returned to their homeland, following a millenium of aimless wandering in the steppes and oases (had to check for the plural form of the word in the dictionary) of Central Asia.

    As for the rocky relationship between Jews and refugees, I was not referring to the events of WWI, which I was not even aware of (although I have been acquainted with the manner in which the Great Fire was exploited by the Venizelists to evict the Jews from the center and surrender their properties to wealthy businessmen). My point concerned the disproportionately cordial relationship between the Nazis of the National Union and the Venizelos-voting refugees. The online encyclopedia provides a brief summary of the affair, but you can find more information about these incidents, including the nasty role of the newspapers, if you check the cited bibliography or google "pogrom against the Cambell camp 1931".


    This is correct in the sense that the Fileleutheroi (Venizelists) were a bourgeois party that vehemently opposed socialism and promoted liberal (market) ideas. And as is to be expected, especially after the Great Depression of ‘29, collusion between the Venizelists and the National Union was the outcome of rising social tensions to retain political power on the liberal right. Nazi collaboration with the ruling classes on the right is no news.

    The immigrants themselves were mainly from middle-class backgrounds and many of them were market liberals – which is why they did support free market ideals and liberalism in the face of Venizelism. However, from what I’ve managed to find on the election results in Thessalonike from 1900-1940s, it seems that the areas where the refugees were primarily placed, namely the neighborhoods of Sykies, Euosmos, Neapolis, Peuka and Saint Paul’s seemed to still support the Fileleutheroi (Venizelists) as a whole by 1933 elections, but the opposition in Tsaldaris’ party, the Laikon Komma, was also very prominent in these neighborhoods. Also, the immigrant neighbourhoods in Kaisariani, Kokkinia and Nea Smyrna in Athens had long ago turned to support socialism, and many the KKE. It seemed that, six years of living as an underclass in Greece had begun to transform the identity of the mainly middle-class Asia Minor refugees to something more akin to the native working-class.


    Jewish populations suffered mainly due to a twenty-year long smear campaign, starting as I said in the previous post around 1905 and culminating to the collaboration of some Greeks with the German authorities and Max Merten who cleared Thessaloniki of its Jewish population. This smear campaign centered around conspiracy theories that painted the Jewish population of the city wanting to turn Thessaloniki over to the French, or the British and were based on some ridiculous instances like when the day of Liberation in 1919, the building housing the Intimes Organization didn’t fly the Greek flag; most papers like Makedonia and the Truth circulated these and other stories to show the Jews weren’t loyal subjects of the Greek kingdom. There was also the whipping issue of housing the 150,000 Asia Minor refugees who had come to settle near or around Thessaloniki as well as the efforts to rebuild and resettle the native communities after the Great Fire of 1917.


    The collusion between the Nazis of the EEE and the refugees though is a bit of a stretch; it does appear that the Unionists were trying to supplant the migrant cause for political gain at times, as you show, but at the same time assaulted and restricted the underclass culture that was going on in the Prosfygika (the refugee neighborhoods). Ironically, the Golden Dawn also tried to limit the rembetika during its rally to power, using the same argument that the Unionists had used back in 1923-1930s. Mainly that the context of the music was an affront of the religious and moral sensitivities of the proper Greeks. I quote from their questions to the PM

    – Εφόσον η κυβέρνηση δηλώνει ότι σέβεται τα ανθρώπινα δικαιώματα, θα ακυρωθεί η συγκεκριμένη συναυλία η οποία προσβάλλει το αίσθημα των θρησκευόμενων Ελλήνων;
    (Since the government declares its support on human rights, will they cancel this particular concert that offends the religious sentiment of the Greeks?)

    – Κατά πόσο ωφελείται το πολιτιστικό υπόβαθρο της χώρας με την σύνδεση του νέου ελληνικού πολιτισμού με την κατανάλωση κάνναβης;
    (How much does the cultural backgound of the country benefits by linking the modern Greek civilization to consuming hashish?)

    – Θα επιτρεπόταν μια παρόμοια εκδήλωση στην Χώρα κατά τις ιερές ημέρες των μουσουλμάνων που κατοικούν στην χώρα, με τίτλο που να παραπέμπει μάλιστα σε σχετικές με την θρησκεία τους τελετουργίες;
    (Would it be allowed to have a similar event in the country during the holy days of the muslims residing in the country, bearing a title that points to religious practices no less?)
    In fact, in some occasions like the elections of 1923 and 1928, the nationalists challenged the rights of the immigrants to vote (successfully in 1923), causing this answer from the Balkan Herald in 1928


    ” «Εφ' όσον αι Τουρκικαί ψήφοι επηρέαζον κατά το παρελθόν τας εκλογάς, ας τας επηρεάσουν τώρα και έλληνες, οι πρόσφυγες»

    Which means that “if Turkish votes once influenced the elections, let them be influenced now by greek votes, the immigrant votes.”


    I don’t know how much the refugees themselves can be blamed for the Unionists, but the definite truth of the matter is that the refugees gradually became more and more conservative, and even nationalistic at locations. I admit that I never heard, until now, the incident on the camp so I’ll have to go back to the library pronto and see what more I can unearth on the subject. In any case, Abdulmecid, you just gave me something very interesting to research for this summer!
    Under the valued patronage of Abdülmecid I

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