Refugees, Pity, and Moral Superiority: The German Case

In this article, Damani Partridge describes her experience in directing a film school in Berlin in 2015. One of her film students is a recent immigrant to Berlin and decides to create a film critiquing “German pity”. The author then delves into her own analysis of pity in regards to refugees.

In the article, the author and the film student whom she studies state that Pity creates a hierarchal system in which there is a poor group that is looked down upon by a higher group. Pity is not a helpful emotion and instead retains class structures.

However, In another part of the article she sites an interview that occurred between Angela Merkel and a Palestinian woman living in Germany. In this interview, Merkel explains that she can not take in every refugee that exists in justification for why this woman was nearly deported. The woman begins to cry and Angela Merkel lamely attempts to comfort the woman. It was then later reported that the woman was soon after granted temporary citizenship. the author questions whether pity can be all bad because this woman was able to use it to her advantage. She also hypothesizes that Germany leads the world in refugee acceptance because of the atrocities that the country committed in the Holocaust. In a sense, Germany is trying to repent.

Whatever the motives behind it are, I am glad that Germany is taking refugees. I believe that it really doesn’t matter your intentions or thoughts as long as a good action is being done in the world. Pity is a complex topic however. I agree with the filmmaker in that pity is not productive for helping people. It is just reinforcing a hierarchy of class. I also don’t think that one should have to see images of dead children in order to finally decide that refugees should be welcomed in their country. I would prefer if people immediately took in refugees before their children began dying. I also wonder, if Aylan(the shipwrecked boy) had been darker complected, would the image have created such an impact? After all, his picture was not the first one that I had seen of dead, or hopeless refugee children from Syria.

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