The Biking Migrant
Humanity is in crisis —- and there is no exit from that crisis other than the solidarity of humans.
The first obstacle on the road to the exit from mutual alienation is the refusal of dialogue: that silence that accompanies self-alienation, aloofness, inattention, disregard and indifference. Instead of the duo of love and hate, the dialectical process of border-drawing needs to be thought therefore in terms of the triad of love, hate and indifference or neglect that the refugee, in particular, continues to face.
Zygmunt Bauman, May 2, 2016
Here I am sitting down to write my first blog announcing my intention to gain further insight to how Europe is changing in face of refugees coming into borders, and how that translates to the policies that European governments currently being designed.
I am deeply moved by the number of refugees coming to the shores in Europe: their arrival inspires a turbulent mood there. Without a doubt, many Europeans welcome the migrants, and feel empathy. However, there a vocal minority, and a larger group express a range of opposition and hesitation: per consequence, right-wing movements form, calls for restrictions to the migrants’ movement dominate public debate, and governments pass policies that seem to play chess with the human lives of staggering numbers of displaced people.
To better understand the mood of the affected countries, the visual changes to border areas, and the journeys of the migrants, I am proposing a bike tour from Berlin to Budapest, traveling on to Greece, to write about what I see. Along the way, I want to meet with locals, with politicians, with organizers and advocates to tell a multi-faceted story. I will be blogging and posting short videos. My writing will be a mix of personal impressions, and policy.
I will bike from Berlin to Budapest and on to the Serb border. Along my route, I intent to locals, asylum centers and politicians grappling with the situation. But first….
Why the Biking Migrant?
As many people, I carry many identities: I am a professional focused on conflict and human rights; I am a PhD candidate in Law, Justice and Criminology; I am a European, an American, and humanist. I am also a migrant myself, and a passionate bicyclist.
I was born in West Berlin to Polish parents. My early childhood was influenced by the political context of the time: The Iron Curtain, which separated us from our Polish family. As a result, I straddled cultures, becoming both German, and a child of immigrants. Growing up as a first generation German in a context where many folks perceived Poles as migrant workers and treated them as the butt of jokes formed my own sensitivities for identity politics as societies change. Later, I moved a lot; living in France, Senegal, Denmark, Belgium, The Netherlands and the U.S. I learned from each culture and country. Today, I am a dual-national in Germany and the United States, and continue to straddle cultural divides, every day.
Long-distance biking, so-called touring, is my passion. It’s my favorite way to get to know a country and its people more intimately: people find cyclists more approachable, and are more open to talk and even open their homes to a passing cyclist. As a cyclist, one traverses through small villagesthat tourists avoid or simply don’t come in contact with, yet I find that these villages reflect the state of a country as much as its metropolis does.
Finally, it is an affordable way to travel.