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