We human beings are prone to feeling like we’re part of a herd, building an identity around the characteristics that resemble us to others: the family, the fans of a team, the clubs and even the homeland itself. Some consider it unhealthy to take these types of feelings to the extreme, while others defend it as the only way to maintain cultural identities on a different scale. In any case, humanity needs to give a new meaning to that which resembles or differs from others.
People usually don’t worry about leaving the house, because it doesn’t mean a lengthy or permanent absence. But every time they go out they don’t know for sure that they will return. Leaving home for a moment is not something that worries us too much. To be aware that a family is waiting for us to return fills us with peace of mind, but what happens when we do not go out on our own accord, or when the distance from home is prolonging in time?
Those who have had the experience of emigrating, know the answer to these questions better than anyone else. But those who have never done so, have no idea that they are often mistaken or misrepresented. According to UNHCR’s annual report – Global Trends – 68.5 million people were expelled worldwide by the end of 2017, and one-third of them had left their country. The same report calculates that every two seconds a person is displaced in this world.
The above figures are worrying, because they reveal a gray horizon upon humanity, since their origin is violence, although people leave their homeland for many other reasons for which there are no official statistics. For example, from my home country of Colombia, many have come out to seek economic opportunities because of the exaggerated social inequality and the desire of its citizens to “get ahead” or, as it is better known, “achieve the American dream.” Statistics tell us that 10% of Colombia’s population is living in foreign Countries.
But leaving their “herd,” in this case their family and their homeland, is not painless. Leaving their country of origin often is a traumatic experience in principle, because uprooting has psychological consequences that transform the way one thinks and sees life, forcing them in some cases to make decisions that go against their beliefs, but that is essential for survival in the new environment.
Looking at the experience of many family members and friends, I understand that while most people wish to return to their country when conditions improve, only a few do so because of their new process of social, family or work-related roots in the host country. Therefore, the longer they spend outside their country of origin, the less likely they are to return permanently. So, while the homeland acquires a different connotation, it is given a new and at the same time real content. In the words of Euripides, the home is the place where we feel at ease.
Therefore, it is essential to bear in mind that the fact of accessing a new culture produces changes in the immigrant. That, depending on the environment, may mean for the host country the acquisition of a citizen, which contributes in different areas to the development of the state. Or, on the contrary, if no migration policy respects human rights and human dignity, it is more likely that it will tend to marginalize and ultimately become a social and cultural burden, with a negative impact on sectors such as the economy, social security, and citizenship.
Spain has been setting a valuable example, when they received immigrants from aboard the refugee ship Aquarius, for humanitarian reasons. Like many others today, they were fleeing from armed and symbolic violence in their territories. Leaving their homeland seeking the status of citizens with rights and freedoms, but also with obligations within a society that could be their “new herd.” Mankind as a social being can weave repeatedly, like Penelope waiting for Odysseus, the threads of what makes them feel part of a community; therefore, and despite the controversial nature of the issue, countries should accept that the new homeland is the world and it is necessary to transcend the limits and borders imposed by the states. It is more than required to build global citizenship in tune with the globalization of other sectors.
Luis Mendoza was born in Armenia / Quindío (Colombia) and studied Spanish and Literature. He studied law at the University of Quindío, too. Later he completed his studies in law and has worked for NGOs and social organizations. He currently lives in Spain where he has taken time to reflect on life and its purpose, understand different world views and learn from other cultures. Luis shares the Scouting idea of “leaving the world in better condition than we found it”.