iOS app Android app More

Marcelo M. Suarez-Orozco and Carola Suarez-Orozco

GET UPDATES FROM Marcelo M. Suarez-Orozco and Carola Suarez-Orozco
 

We Are all Norwegians Now

Posted: 07/28/11 12:47 PM ET

Anders Behring Breivik, in the name of ending cannibalism, ate the cannibals.

The butcher of Norway acted with volcanic rage flowing from a world-view that the catastrophic destruction of Europe was imminent. The devil in the details, his extensive Internet postings, weld pre-modern millenarian Christian beliefs -- brilliantly identified in Norman Cohn's magnum opus The Pursuit of the Millennium, to post-modern anxieties over global immigration. The "Muslim colonization" of Europe, led by a fifth column of immigrants and asylum seekers -- aided and abetted by multiculturalist-fellow-travelers and colluding weak-kneed politicians, was poised to destroy pristine Norway unless he acted. Breivik's European Declaration of Independence lists a series of demands; above all, that "immigration in whatever form should be immediately and completely halted, and that our authorities take a long break from mass immigration in general until such a time when law and order has been reestablished in our major cities." The manifesto and the monstrous agency it spawned will be read and re-read for clues as to how one of the brightest jewels in Europe's crown, Norway, also gave the world the Breivikfication of immigration.

The irrational fear of immigration does not align with the facts. Immigration has remained remarkably stable over the last fifty years -- with approximately 3.0 to 3.2 percent of the world's population as international migrants. Norway, which sent to America some 522,000 immigrants over a century ago, is paradigmatic of the status quo. Over the course of 150 years it has experienced a tiny net migration gain. Today it has approximately 550,000 immigrants -- half of them originating in Europe, with Poles and Swedes leading the way. Norway has a small Muslim population (roughly a quarter of its immigrants). Immigration's stability is remarkable. It trumps the dire predictions forecasting the uncontainable movement of people emanating from the so-called "population explosion" in the global South, climatic catastrophes and deepening environmental degradation, and growing global income differentials. While the potential for immigration continues to grow, the reality of international immigration remains quite stable with over 96 percent of all human beings living in the countries where they were born.

If immigration has been stable, it has also been terribly mismanaged. In this, Europe is not alone. The United States, the iconic country of immigration, now has the largest number of illegal immigrants in the world -- the equivalent of entire populations of Denmark and Switzerland combined. In Europe, at best, in the unanimous chorus of Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Nicolas Sarkozy, and Prime Minister David Cameron, there is "failed multiculturalism." At worst, there is Breivik's European Declaration of Independence.

Over the last three generations, Europe and America have entered into a bad faith agreement: mass migration with eyes wide shut. Most claims in the public sphere for or against immigration have been formulaic, underwhelming, and lack the seriousness the magnitude this human dilemma demands. There has been no serious public debate on the purposes of immigration on either side of the Atlantic. Our research shows that public focus on immigration is episodic, crisis driven, and person-centered. There is no sense of history or of the structures in place that both stimulate and thwart migration. Europeans sleep-walked into what most now see as a immigration nightmare without even the most banal sense of what, exactly, mass migration would entail. The guest worker programs of the 1950's and 60's were the lowest of the 'low hanging fruit' policy-wise entered for superficial reasons as short-term temporary fixes. It turns out that there is nothing is more permanent than temporary guest workers. For over 25 years now it has been obvious to researchers, if not to the political class, that integration not immigration had become the elephant in the room. But integration, beyond "multi-culti" platitudes, was never really given a chance. Beyond demanding the Muslims give up the veil and stop arranged marriages, nobody seemed to grasp that integration is a two way street bringing immigrants and native citizens alike into a cleared-eyed view that theirs is a shared fate in a changing world. At the First International Conference on Globalization and integration I hosted in Scandinavia with the support of the Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, the most unsettling paper was by Norway's leading anthropologist of immigration, Unni Wikan. She concluded, grimly, "Western European governments in general, the Scandinavian ones in particular have failed dismally regarding integration." See here.

The Breivikfication of immigration, not immigration per se, is the aberration -- anthropologically immigration is constitutive of the human condition. The human journey began 70,000 years ago when our ancestors first walked out the African savanna. Migration is written in our genetic code and is encoded in our bodies: in our bipedalism, in our stereoscopic vision, in our neocortex. Migration maketh man, and today when half of all global migrants are women, migration maketh woman. Modern humans are the children of immigration, and migrations today are once again transforming humanity. Migration is what makes us what we are: it is our history and destiny. Now, let's make it work.

Marcelo M. Suárez-Orozco is co-director of Immigration Studies at NYU and co-author of Writing Immigration to be published next month by the University of California Press.