, , , , , ,

‘Doctor, doctor! I have a headache.’
‘Here’s a prescription for aspirin. Take one every six hours until the headache has gone away.’
One week later …
‘Doctor, doctor! I have a headache.’
‘Here’s another prescription for aspirin. Take one every six hours until the headache has gone away.’
One week later …
‘Doctor, doctor! I have a headache.’
‘Jeez, I’m getting fed up with this. Tell me: why do you keep getting these headaches?’
‘Every morning when I wake up, I bang my head against the wall and it gives me a headache.’
‘Stop banging your head against the wall you stupid person!’

When I was presenting Design-For-Test classes to electronic designers and test engineers in industry, I used to tell this story to illustrate the difference between treating the symptom of a problem, a silicon defect, and removing the cause of the problem, an integrated-circuit manufacturing issue. Watching the news last week, and this, showing thousands of asylum seekers, migrants, immigrants – call them what you will – pouring into Europe, I was reminded of the story. Forget the images of small children with upturned grubby but smiling faces; of cheering welcoming crowds of do-gooders at Munich hauptbahnhof; of earnest young people in jeans and sweaters bagging up clothing and food; of long lines of weary-looking people trudging head down alongside railway tracks and motorways; of exasperated policemen trying to control an unruly mob with batons and water cannon; of people desperately scrambling to board trains, pushing small children through half-open carriage windows. Forget these images. Concentrate instead on the root of the problem. Why are the Syrians, Afghans, Iraqis, Somalians, … migrating to Europe in such vast numbers? Because conditions in their own countries are intolerable and because they have been led to believe that Europe will welcome them. And we have, but for how much longer?

The opinion writers and social commentators are all over the map.

Let’s bomb Islamic State out of existence in Syria and Iraq, they say. No, don’t do that; it’s not our problem/it’ll help Assad and we don’t want to do that/it’ll anger Putin who is supporting Assad/it’ll kill lots of innocent women and children/it’ll encourage more home-grown jihadists/ …

Keep ‘em out by building a 4-metre-high 177-kilometre-long chain-link-and-razor-wire fence along the border between Hungary and Serbia, an Iron Curtain number 2, they also say. It didn’t work back in the ‘80s and it won’t work now.

Over the next five years, move 20,000 Syrian refugees out of the one million plus (the UN estimated 1.14 million Syrian refugees in 2014)  currently languishing (look up the meaning of this word) in the refugee camps in Lebanon (population 4.5 million indigenous) and relocate them in the UK, they propose. Anger is already growing over this ‘take one aspirin’ solution.

The world’s leaders have singularly failed to address the root cause of the problem – the intolerable conditions in the countries sourcing this mass migration. I’ve heard and read nothing but platitudes and homilies from archbishops, the pope, ayatollahs, political and military leaders, and captains of industry. Nothing of substance. I’ve seen no gathering of intellects to identify, isolate and remove the root cause. Welby says offer them sanctuary, as does the pope, with no thought of what happens next week, next month, next year. Politicians offer to increase the amount of money available to local councils to house, feed, educate and cure the incoming masses while at the same time killing British jihadists operating in Iraq ‘because they are a threat to our national security’: ‘an act of self defence’ says Cameron. Iran continues to finance and develop advanced weapons in support of terror networks such as Hezbollah and for Assad’s regime whereas the wealthy Gulf states have been singularly united in closing their borders to those pouring out of Syria and Iraq: ‘Gulf states are expensive (to live in) and aside from being labourers, these people are not suitable for life here. At the end of the day, people from a different environment who suffer from emotional problems cannot be received in your society.’ So said Kuwaiti politician Fahed al-Shelaimi, who heads the Gulf Forum on Peace and Security.  (http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/How-is-the-Arab-world-responding-to-the-refugee-crisis-415319)

Two months ago, I posted a blog titled ‘Is Europe facing a perfect storm?’ In it, I wrote:

In general, we have no idea about what to do to stop the tide of asylum seekers streaming across the Mediterranean. We treat the problem symptomatically rather than by removal of the source of the problem. The only way to stop the flow is to make the countries of origin pleasurable to live in – no internal civil or religious conflicts, no persecution, an improved standard of living, and so on. In a word: utopias, but this is a pipedream.

It’s still a pipedream but we have to concentrate all our resources, intellectual and physical, into turning the pipedream into reality. Otherwise, all we can do is keep on taking the aspirins until they run out. Then what?