“ I don’t think–”
“Then you shouldn’t talk,” said the Hatter. – Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Twenty kilometers south of Vienna is a 900-year-old town of about 18,000 residents named Traiskirchen. The name Traiskirchen, if you would translate it into English, would mean “Trais Church” and evokes images of a quaint lazy existence amongst the vineyards that have been cultivated there since the 12th Century.
There’s a town museum open on Sundays and holidays from 8:30 – 12:30, an observatory, a landmark castle that now houses a kindergarten and, of course, some churches. But it’s the old barracks that have been drawing the most attention in recent months. These serve as Austria’s initial entry point for the thousands of desperate but hopeful asylum seekers currently flooding into Austria and the rest of Europe from Northern Africa and Syria. The amount of migrants who have traveled to Italy and Greece by sea alone who be like the entire population of Madison, Wisconsin picking up their things and making their way, through the greed, grace or underhandedness of smugglers to get to Corpus Christi, Texas with only that which they can carry and their toddlers and babies in tow.
As someone who, for decades, has leaned positively towards the idea of a more united Europe, I have been sorely disappointed by the woefully ineffective response of countries touting their “unity” to this humanitarian crisis. Unfortunately, Austria’s politicians have also been caught with their incompetency showing. While talking heads on ORF concerned about upcoming national elections battle out ad nauseam who is responsible and what should have been and should be done, families that have journeyed thousands of miles to flee the worst atrocities of war and hunger, are left to sleep on the pavement in record-breaking heat and merciless rain.
Seriously? This is the best we can do?
Fortunately, the citizens of Austria think not and have started their own efforts to counter the failings of those they elected to deal with exactly such issues. One of these commendable initiatives is from the Austrian artist, Raoul Haspel, who has posted a 60-second “Minute of Silence” (Schweigeminute Traiskirchen) on iTunes and Amazon. Users who pay .99 cents are buying more than 60 seconds of silence, their expressing their dissatisfaction of the current handling of the crisis and donating to the initiative to help the asylum seekers. According to news reports, in addition, Haspel is donating out-of-pocket the part of the purchase price collected by Amazon and iTunes. One would hope that some clever Amazon and iTunes executive would recognize the PR opportunity to step up to plate and donate the fees back again.
Haspel’s desire to bring worldwide attention to this tragedy and show solidarity with those who have gone to such great lengths to safely exist is sure to be heard.
Cum tacent, clamant.
Europe’s politicians would be wise to follow Raoul Haspel’s lead and the not-so-Mad Hatter’s advice. If you don’t think, you shouldn’t talk. Listen to the silence and act.
Very good BBC report on the current crisis: Why is EU struggling with migrants and asylum? http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-24583286
Cum tacent, clamant. (Cicero: With their silence, they cry out).