One of the great paradoxes of our time is global travel. For those of us in the wealthy world, hopping on a plane has become as easy as travelling by bus. In the Uk with companies such as Ryan Air, and Easy Jet pioneering low cost travel, our expectations have been raised considerably. I remember the first flight I had when I was about 10 – our whole family dressed up as though it was a special occasion. Now it is run of the mill. As globalisation shrinks the world, many are being left behind. So for those who can’t afford to be ‘hypermobile’ it seems as though the rich world are building bigger barriers to restrict their movement. I was in Istanbul airport a day before the terrorist attacks… an incredible modern hub, with Wifi everywhere, Starbucks, wealthy tourists, business travelers mingling in a bubble of luxury and affluence. But these Staging Posts for the hypermobile are becoming targets for rage and anger of the excluded (not that terrorism can be justified ) .
There was a brilliant film – released in 20013 called Elysium. It is from the incredibly rich vein of dystopian scifi. Imagining a future where Planet Earth has been plundered of resources by the wealthy Elite and left as an overpopulated desert for the poor majority. The elite have created a space station in orbit which they have escaped to – where everything is beautiful green, fertile, the Elysium of the films title. The Spaceships that shuttle between the two are looked at with envy and despair by the majority of humanity reduced to scrabbling around a parched earth like chickens. Interestingly the church is represented by this wonderful nun who we discover in a back-story has been the transformative teacher to our Hero (played by Matt Damon) – who is an orphan. So even though the rich have abandoned the earth – the church has not abandoned the poor. Perhaps Neil Blomkampf, the writer, has had some Catholic influence?
Sadly however our age of hypermobility sharply contrasts with the fear of immigration that Farage and his cronies whipped up in the poisonous discourse before Brexit. The rhetoric of ‘taking control’ of our borders seemed to be very effective, but perhaps implausible in a Globalising Economy. I thank God for my Irish grandparents so I can now apply for dual citizenship – again a luxury for the wealthy. Having crossed a few borders in the last months it was notable in East Africa that there was a tightening of checks on the borders… partly because of the yellow fever outbreak in Angola. We have to acknowledge our fears, but when it leads us to build barriers I think we are losing out. In a choice between Donald Trumps wall building and Pope Francis’ bridge building, I know what future I want.