From Algeria to the Promised Land

Article published on Aug. 22, 2005
community published
Article published on Aug. 22, 2005

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

Ten years in Spain already! It’s amazing how your view of Europe can change depending on where you stand.

All young people back home in North Africa dream of crossing ‘the Pond’ because life seems more fulfilled, prosperous and happy on the other side. The north shore of the Mediterranean calls out to us with songs like sirens’; songs that disturb us, get under our skin, causing us to obsess.

Feet on the ground

Once here, my view changed. Life in Europe wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, and the change wasn’t as drastic as I had hoped or feared. In essence, migration only meant a change of location in which I carried out my daily routine. Of course, some aspects of my life underwent a positive evolution, such as the fact that relaxation and peace became part of my normal life. But my goals and struggles remained unchanged: to study, secure a future, find a fulfilling job. In short, the goals I had already set for myself back home in Algeria stayed the same, except now I had to reach them in a consumer society concerned with its social model, spending and everything else that comes with it. What is different now are my daily needs. I now ‘need’ more things than I could possibly have imagined in Algeria.

Correcting Europe’s short-sightedness

So here I am in Europe; land of the Renaissance, land of knowledge. A Europe that broadcasts opinions and judgments on the region I come from every day, creating a false image of only part of what I am. Because of this, on a daily basis I feel the need to talk about, clarify and explain to those around me who I am and what my story is. I have to explain the history of my people, as well as what my situation is and the situation of those I left behind. I accept this task of integration with pleasure because I am, and must be, part of the construction of Europe. Its reality and difficulties are mine too. I find myself in a Europe that tries more and more to unite itself, without taking into account the diversity of its people. The creation and union of Europe is based primarily on economic interests and criteria. This means that the debate on what Europe could and should be is carried out in only some areas of interest, mainly to do with power, leaving its people to one side.

A numb continent

But native Europeans do wake up from their slumber from time to time. What can be appreciated about them on certain occasions is their spirit of insistence and their belief in fighting for what they want for the future. I suppose the most advisable thing to do is transform indifference into greater involvement and call for the leaders to play their part. As an ‘adopted’ European, I do not feel included in their debates. They talk of me, of my immigration, but in a problematic sense and as part of the workforce. Pursuit of a better life through immigration involves more than unqualified work, and it is this political aspect that some countries deny their immigrants.

Moreover, the separation of Church from state in Europe is often a myth; freedom of religion or atheism are questions that concern everyone, immigrant or not. Social relations are distorted by the increase of individualism, which can be applied to all scopes of life and through the use and abuse of new technologies. We have to involve ourselves in more than just our daily work and think about the long term, not endure Europe without contributing to its construction. Most importantly, we must take into account that the growth of an area cannot take place if its members try to develop independently.