If God or Secretary General of the United Nations asked for an agenda of an emergency meeting about state of the globe, most expert networks would come up with the usual suspects. Preserving an ecological balance, achieving energy sustainability, organizing inter(generational)/inter(gender) harmony, managing international transfers in order to reduce inequalities would be the most popular candidates for the title of the top priorities. Ecological balance would be measured with the levels of carbon dioxide blown into the air we breathe. Energy sustainability would be assessed with the reduced reliance on fossil fuels. Intergenerational harmony would be evaluated with meaningful employment of the young and creative aging of the old citizens. Intergender harmony would be measured by frequency of rape and salary levels. Egalitarian transfers of wealth would be calculated together with the head count of the middle classes in China, India, Nigeria and Brazil.
But then, somebody is bound to come up with the inconvenient question: what should we do with the rising tides of global migrations and sudden waves of refugees? After all, if all of those fellow humans, who are currently on the run created a single nation state, they would be in the top five of the most populous countries. Shouldn’t we do something more?
If God or the Secretary of the United Nations announced a competition for the short list of top problems, chances are that the winner would be a network of experts, which could come with an interactive and complex agenda, in which a synergy could be generated by bundling, repackaging, recycling some problems together, so that a solution of one would facilitate a solution of another one, not necessarily easily associated with the former in daily routines of our thinking about available social orgwares and media blindwares.
Who knows, this creative suggestion might even come from the academic world, in spite of its ranking armaments race, which closes millions of able minds in bureaucratic cells. It might come from researchers-teachers with a civic heart, who daydream about a more relaxed, more open academic environment. About an academic organizational ecology which facilitates a more spontaneous cooperation with the inhabitants of other - specialized and separately ranked – academic silos. And with other groups – not only those which have the money to buy academic expertise. Let us imagine this improbable event, taking part in the restaurant of Hotel New York, former headquarters of Holland-America Line of a century ago. A group conversation might produce the following letter.
To Whom It May Concern
The invention of a container changed the transport infrastructure of the entire planet. Containers move around the globe, cooling their contents and talking to satellite links, while container terminals disappear the longshoremen from the list of working professionals. At the same time the world’s top ports face serious crisis; too many container terminals had been created, while too few goods had been shipped after the 2008 financial meltdown. But even if these goods finally start coming, the container terminal offers only a fraction of the jobs, which had once been needed to run a port. How can ports create more meaningful jobs?
We think that underused container terminals all over the world should be upgraded to the passenger terminals and that a new international fleet of giant cruise ships should transport millions of migrants to those newly built terminals. Processing the distribution and accommodation of migrants in the passenger terminals would create thousands of jobs, while hinterlands of these ports would experience a significant investment in population capital. Moreover, older citizens around port cities could find a meaningful work in grooming and coaching the newcomers in individualized, tailor-made, creative care-giving and embedding services. Having so prompt, numerous and empathy-rich assistance, new arrivals would be discouraged from closing themselves off in ghetto-like enclaves.
It sounds like yet another utopia, but it is not. If our societies are capable of coming up with “creative aging toolkits for public libraries”, we should be perfectly capable of issuing “creative migration toolkits for passenger terminals and airports”. We could offer a very serious competition to human trafficking, smuggling and predatory employment of illegal labor.
Concerned Academic Citizens Whom It Does Concern
Rotterdam, June 14, 2016