And if there was one bitter lesson the times had taught all those “hunted down and forced into exile at a time hostile to all art and all collections, then it is the art of saying goodbye to everything that was once our pride and joy.” – Stefan Zweig
The Need to Belong
An individual’s personality is shaped mostly by their memories of childhood. These memories become one’s ego, strength, and confidence, and further reflect in various aspects of their daily routines and functioning. The association of a man with places, people, relationships, activities and conflicts structures one’s memory and provides one with an identity.
This identity is crucial as it provides the groundwork on which one can learn to know and relate with oneself. It serves as a pivotal axis from where all peripheral operations are executed and monitored. The exodus from the realm of established identity strips off the orientation of an individual to world and to self. One can feel what it might be like to experience such a thing.
The forced exile offers the same experience. The experience where one gets detached from personal, occupational, social and moral links. It rips one’s individuality apart by alienating his or her from the memories, and from a part of the personality which is built on those memories.
The conflict is further compounded by the anticipation of cultural and existential crisis. The differences in language, understanding, behavior, fear of taboos and prejudices, distress regarding loss and uncertainty of a new role in a diverse culture offer a great challenge to the survivor.
The other side of being in a state of forced exile means knowing two separate cultures — a native one and a foreign one. A struggle to identify with each ensues. This dissonance can create passion and strength. It can also elicit pain and suffering, from which musicians, novelists and great intellectuals are born (i.e., Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Joseph Conrad and Theodore Adorno).
The Less-Privileged Side of an Exodus
It includes an unending apprehension regarding acceptability, which poses another threat to a refugee. Refugees spend much of their energy and resources to compensate for these feelings of unacceptability. The reluctant inhabitants find it hard to assimilate and endow due rights to the vulnerable mass, which precipitates a constant state of stress and confusion among the refugees. The state of low self-assurance, confidence and poor self-esteem further raises concerns for the future. In this state of disarray, when the wrenched soul is concerned about the tragedy of living, the reception of humiliation, disgrace and shame defy their resilience. Most of the time the responses to these stimuli appear in the form of maladaptive and rebellious behaviors.
The society posing extreme aggressive and non-approving gestures towards the mass influx can undergo various changes which may include a surge in drug use, increase in homicidal incidents, a rise in suicide rates, disintegrated social interaction, fragmented social identity and poor self-integrity. In the long run, its outcome manifests in a form of lower productivity and monetary inflation.
The outcome of an exile has always been catastrophic for the one bearing the change (the forced immigrant) and for one receiving the change (the native population). The adjustment is equally hard for the indigenous people. However, the former party is always the more vulnerable one. The psychological disaster for the forced émigré is enormous and re-adjustment needs emotional, physical and social-financial support, which is usually not offered by the new host country.
- P. George. A Touch of Eternity. The Lancet Psychiatry, Volume 2 , Issue 11 , 968 – 970
- Henke, C. (2015). The Jealousy of Displacement: James Joyce’s Exiles and Edward Said’s “Reflections on Exile”. Censorship and Exile, 1, 37.
- Carter, R. J., & VANG, P. (2015). Making Connections. NEW RESOURCES 2014/2015, 7.