English Culture

Are we on the right side of history?

Josh Rose
Written by Josh Rose


When we study history in school we learn of the achievements mankind has made throughout time.  But we also learn of the atrocities that mankind is capable of.

In school I was always fascinated by the way in which the world acted upon living among such dire events. I was often just as angry at those who stood idly by watching events unfold, as I was at those committing the barbarism, though I never fully put myself into the mind-set of what it would have actually been like to live though times such as slavery, the holocaust and South African apartheid.

As we learn of these events, we see a complete beginning and end. As we study the beginning we wonder how people could not have known what was about to happen? As we study the duration we wonder how others continued with their daily lives as if nothing was happening. History is easy to criticise with the luxury of hindsight.

We applaud the few who stood up for black rights across America, the Poles who risked their lives to hide Jews from the Nazis. We question ourselves. Would we do the same?

Most of us would like to answer yes. But in reality the majority of us wouldn’t. I’m a person with morals. I objectively know that I strive to do the right thing. Whether the source is religious or simply innate, I have a personality that allows me to care for others.

Having asked myself that very question I used to answer: yes, I would hide a Jew from the Nazis. (As a Jew I’m emotionally biased with that particular example – not to mention the fact that I’d be the one pleading to be hidden).

And with the other examples I also used to say: yes of course I’d do the right thing. But ultimately when you’re the only one making a stand, when you making a stand puts not only yours but other lives in danger the reality is that you probably wouldn’t do the right thing.

Today we live in times when Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are at an all-time high. Racism is still alive and well.  Syrian migrants are the source of almost every political conversation. Should we ‘let them in’? Should we close our borders?

Both have their pros and cons. Both need debating.  Some say that migrants bring extremism and terrorism to our shores. Others argue that extremism and terrorism are precisely what they’re trying to escape.

I can’t help but draw comparisons to my ancestry. Over 70 years ago members of my family came to the UK to seek refuge from the Nazis. Had they been turned away they would’ve been sent back to Germany and been killed. Members of my family wouldn’t exist today. It’s that simple.

Unfortunately sometimes with such a human and personal situation you have to remove emotion from it and let logic lead your decision making.  Personally, I’m still unsure as to what the correct answer is when pondering the migrant crisis.

The only real solution will come from tackling the source of the problem but until then we have to face the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of migrants seeking refuge in our country and without our help they will die.