When the choices get bigger – for all of us

Sometimes, when you are busy in your own little world, happily spinning in your comfy cocoon, something happens in the world that wakes you up, pulls you out, gets you to start thinking again.

While I spent a carefree summer in Austria, watching the boys play in grandma’s garden, a lot of other people where on the journey of their lives. A journey that might end their lives or maybe give them a chance for a new one.

While I was lying in the hammock under the trees, a few white clouds sailing a happy blue summer sky, people sailed and drove and walked towards Europe. Some of them died, and we heard about it on the news, shook our heads and went on with our daily doings. It seemed far away, sad as it was.

But it got closer. Now there are thousands arriving every day at our borders, my borders. I see pictures of overflowing camps in Austria – my country. I see borders opened and closed again, trains and busses arriving, people camping on train stations because there are not enough means of transportation. I hear what the politicians say, the Hungarians, the Austrians, the Germans.

And I also see and hear about people helping – bringing food, clothes, toys, opening their houses. I see sign “refugees welcome”.

And the other ones, who think “the boat is full”, which is a especially ironic comment considering all those people on the little boats that sometimes  sink.

These are the big choices we are facing now:

What will we do? What will Europe do, its politicians, its people?

Will we face this together – that was the whole point of the EU right? – or will we revert to guarding our own little countries again, shutting the doors to the problems of the world and our neighbours?

Will we find a way of helping these people without tearing ourselves apart, without deepening the crevice that already runs through our society?

Back in the Netherlands, I am sitting at my desk, wondering. This might be the biggest challenge Europe has been facing since it managed to rise again after the horrors of World War II.

Let’s hope we are up to it.






11 thoughts on “When the choices get bigger – for all of us

    • It feels like a sort of crossroad to me … how will we decide to handle this. When we will lock back in maybe ten year, what will we say? “This was the beginning… ” of what?

      • Yes it really feels like a decisive moment in our history, the choices and efforts we make today..as people, as politicians will have a long lastig effect…but also..expressing what we stand for, what’s important and daring to act accordingly…

  1. Thank you for sharing your perspective. To me, this is just another news story from a faraway place, and you helped make it more real.

    • Yes, it is strange: things that feel really urgent and close here, they are probably just a news snippet somewhere else. And vice versa, I guess. Although in this global society things far away can have quite an effect close home in longer terms.

  2. Appreciate the thoughtful post. The thing is, this has been going on for years and years all over the world. People fleeing, needing refuge. People needing others (outside their home) to care. Hopefully we are a little less blind today.

    • Sadly we only get emotionally involved if these things happen at our doorstep. So much for globalisation… But I guess that is how we are: we react to things we can relate to. If I read that people are camping on Salzburg Central Station in Austria I can see it in my mind, because I know the place, boarded trains there loads of time. And I feel a connection. If it says they are sleeping at a harbour in Greece, it is not the same. It still is terrible, and I know it, but the urge to help is much stronger when they are “at my place”.

      • Mmm. You put it well. I don’t think you can incriminate yourself. The brain searches for connections to our own story. Makes sense that the heart would follow with more empathy in such cases.

  3. I totally relate to your perceptions and feelings. Like anyone else I have been following the news and got accustomed to it, being shaken sometimes with the news of yet another sinking boat in the Mediterranean sea. Perhaps because my husband is a TV journalist, the theme has never been away from our minds, but the latest weeks have been overwhelming and heartbreaking, whilst also scary and puzzling.
    The contrasting reactions of European politicians and citizens, has served to remove the mask of the so-called European Union. Reactions have been slow and divided, whereas the massive flow of unstoppable refugees marches through European borders or keep crossing the seas risking their lives. What is ahead of us is unknown. That is the part that makes me ponder. Like you, I hope that we are up to this challenge.

    • When I read the news about the politicians quarrelling like school boys, I do not feel very optimistic. On the other hand, it must be clear even to them that failure is not an option here. We just have to find a way.

      • Exactly, it looks like school boys. But I am not sure if they realize that failure is not an option.
        There are so different lines of thoughts and solutions, that make me wonder if they will ever get to any agreement.
        I will just mention these:
        Fear of Islam or pure racism (Hungary, Czeck, etc) = blocking the borders.
        Fear of voters’ sentiment and of not being reelected (D Cameron) = taking no refugees and talking war in Syria.
        Supplying weapons to Assad in Syria (Putin) = not losing his military base (against the US) and support in the area.
        Playing catch 22 (European Union operation Mare Nostrum) = Trying to block smugglers in the Mediterranean sea.
        Anyways, the more I read the less I am convinced of a short/mid term solution, and I am a pretty positive thinker.
        Somehow, I am hoping that Putin is for the first time right (by saying that deposing Assad will be like creating a new Iraqi and Libya) and that his negotiations next week with Obama lead to the start of a resolution, because most of the European leaders are too busy caring for their own short term interests, and have shown so far too little foresight, strategic thinking and humanity.

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