September 8, 2015

Climb Every Mountain, Ford Every Stream: Beyond the Humanitarian Response to the Great Migration












Climb every mountain,
Search high and low,
Follow every byway,
Every path you know.

Climb every mountain,
Ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow,
‘Till you find your dream.

— from: Climb Ev’ry Mountain (Rodgers And Hammerstein)

As a human interest photo and on amusement value alone, this shot certainly earned a place as one of fifty-eight pictures in MSNBC’s photos of the week gallery last week. The title reads:

Participants of the traditional shepherd’s run 2015 run across a stubble field in Markgroningen, Germany, 29 August 2015. It’s the oldest shepherd’s run of this type in Baden-Wuerttemberg.

What makes it far from random and more more resonant, however, is its subtle inclusion in the edit the same week that thousands of migrants from the Middle East, Africa and Asia converged on Europe. The photo appears coincident with migrants, their numbers so large and their situation so dire, gaining the invitation for aid and re-settlement from Austria and Germany. The photo appears, too, coincident with the social and media phenomenon of migrants, blocked from entering Hungary, setting out on foot along country paths, roads and even expressways, for the hundred-mile trek to those more prosperous countries. (Setting this dramatic political act in motion after months of European vacillation, in should be added, was the world-wide impact of still another photo early last week, the shocking picture of a Syrian boy, fleeing that country by flimsy boat, after his body washed up on the shores of Turkey.)

If humanitarian fervor and photos of the migrant crisis dominated last week dominated the news photo sphere, this largely invisible image served cleverly, if silently, as pushback. With its racial pedigree (and filigree), the photo, on one level, is a reminder of the kind of rituals and practices that are coming at the migrants, so many of them Muslims, even faster. On another level, of course, the photo serves as mockery of their trek, and competition.

The threat being that real, I’d like to take this photo less as a warning than a cue that, despite the inevitable impact, the deeper instinct expressed last week will not be overrun.

(photo: Wolfram Kastl/EPA. Music lyrics: ©Rodgers And Hammerstein from The Sound of Music. linked photo : Aris Messinis / AFP – Getty Images caption: Migrants walk through a field to cross the border from Greece to Macedonia near the Greek village of Idomeni on Aug. 29. The EU is grappling with an unprecedented influx of people fleeing war, repression and poverty in what the bloc has described as its worst refugee crisis in 50 years.)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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