Patrolling Freedom: Terrorism, Dictatorships, and Migrants

During the Libyan crisis, the former dictator of North Korea Kim Jong-il banned about 200 of his subjects from coming back to the country.

The interpretation given by the international community was of course that he was scared by the possibility of a diffusion of instructive details about the popular uprising that led to the overthrow and finally the death of his friend and “colleague” Gaddafi.

It is one of the most understandable and evident features of an authoritarian regime that it has to control strictly the entrances and the exits in order to defend its status: the Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuściński measured in his book Imperium the huge extension of barbed wire necessary to keep the old communist superpower together, to the point of being one of the most productive branch of Russian industry. And the crisis in Berlin immediately after Second World War was caused by Stalinists’ vital necessity of controlling the movements of Western and Eastern citizens.

No enslaved country can remain the same for long if involved in a flow of continuous movement.

It should be far less logical that a free country needed to obsessively control his doors, if not in a situation of declared war. And it is probably this presupposition that backs the claims for putting the the immigrants under more pressures as a consequence of Boston bombing.

The problem is that this decision could have terrible and unintended backlashes.

Politics of systematic exclusion of some nationalities could confirm the perception, unfortunately already present in some cases, that the United States see entire populations as enemies despite the lacking of formal declarations of war. And since in some of those country it is effectively possible that they are raised from children  within an atmosphere of hostility, if not of hatred, an objective convergence by their target could lead them to act against it even more staunchly.

One of the basic idea of liberalism is that the citizens should be loyal to the state out of a self-interest, because they feel grateful for the benefits they enjoy from the system, and not because of fear, constriction and external, paternalistic direction. It is only through the free and unpredictable connections established by the persons that a government derives its thriving, if it ensures them, or its risk of being betrayed, if it distorts them like Kim Jong-il’s North Korea. But the government cannot protect society from itself: the defence of liberty implies a noticeable deal of optimistic trust in human potential.

Salman Rushdie, one who has unwillingly become an expert of Muslim extremism, and not only because he was born in Pakistan, has questioned in Step Across This Line the possible responses to the tragedy of 9/11, that he reads not only as an attack to America but to the very core of his beloved liberal modernity. And his answer is that it is only increasing the quantity and quality of reasonable freedom that our society will triumph over the barbarians. This, though, will also require us to rethink and sometimes narrow the extension of outrages, inequalities, discriminations and prejudices, even within our supposedly fair and open communities.


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