Calais, a small town in northern France, has recently become the home of yet another mark made by Banksy — the unknown, English-born graffiti artist branded by his satirical street art and its supposed use for political activism.
For many years, Calais has been known to be a landing spot for migrants and refugees alike due to its close proximity to the United Kingdom and being a French port city.
In his latest work titled “The Jungle,” Banksy portrays a mural of Steve Jobs, the late co-founder and CEO of Apple, inc. as a refugee on a wall in Calais. In his attempt to symbolize the plight of Syrian refugees, Banksy draws Jobs holding a distressed gray bag over his shoulder and an old Apple computer in the other hand.
It’s evident as to why he chose Steve Jobs to convey this message:
“We’re often led to believe migration is a drain on the country’s resources but Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian migrant. Apple is the world’s most profitable company…and it only exists because they allowed in a young man from Homs, [Syria].” —Banksy
Two things — Steve Jobs was the son of a migrant, not a refugee. Those are two completely different scenarios and there are different circumstances that lead to each one.
Second, although his intentions are clear, it is very unfortunate that we must resort to imagining well-known figures in these tragic situations that are a reality to so many people.
When I first saw his mural and read about the message behind it, I couldn’t help but be reminded of this one commonly overused and problematic phrase, “you should respect women because that could be your mother and/or sister.” Obviously not because you should just respect women, period. But I’ll leave this conversation for another post.
You get the picture. They are completely different situations, however, it’s sending a similar message. “You should care about Syrian refugees, because — hey look, Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian and this is him as a refugee.”
Even though he was far from it.
Banksy’s street art is intended to reach beyond the borders of the place he chooses to imprint on. This was a deliberate message to the global community that has allowed months of back-to-back negative responses toward Syrian refugees occur.
However, the fact that Steve Jobs has to be used in an effort to turn heads toward this urgent, global crisis, speaks volumes of the capitalistic and individualistic world we live in.
Are we that damaged as a society that it’s not enough for us to learn about these heartbreaking stories from the people that have actually endured them? Do we really need to make these stories as relatable as possible by using public figures to care?
Think about that.
Image: AJ+ Twitter
sorry to say you expect too much from people. this is in fact a clever narrative that may take some hold, at least in the middle. the left will take in anyone, and the right won’t take in anyone.
“Are we that damaged as a society that it’s not enough for us to learn about these heartbreaking stories from the people that have actually endured them?” what society do you speak of? mexico? brazil? Russia? Saudi Arabia? the UAE? turkey? Indonesia? Nigeria? south Africa? Egypt?
I typically love Banksy’s work, but when I saw a picture of this newest piece, something about it didn’t feel right to me. Then I read your essay. And that’s it. Very well-written, spot on! Thank you!
Steve Jobs was not Syrian. A Syrian might have been a sperm donor but he never met the guy. Was not raised with any resemblance or connection to Syrian culture whatsoever; he probably couldn’t find it on a map. So to say he was Syrian is a slap in the face to his American mother and father who raised him as their own.
“Two things — Steve Jobs was the son of a migrant, not a refugee. Those are two completely different scenarios and there are different circumstances that lead to each one.”
The point is that people think Syrians are automatically horrible and a drain. Migrant/Refugee, son of one, or not…. these are all people being defined by make believe borders and making a distinction between people with terms like this is letting the wrong people categorize for us all. That’s more power than we should have already given them.
But yes, I think that is the state of our society, definitely. Better to make it known, to bring awareness, than do nothing because things “should” be another way. I frankly don’t see it changing that direction.
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