Migrants suffer from the Ulysses syndrome, societies from the Cyclopse syndrome

by , under Enrique Tessieri

I wrote a story in Migrant Tales nine years ago about the Ulysses syndrome, an illness that affects migrants, which speaks volumes about the lives of asylum seekers in Finland and how officials and the government contribute to their misery. If the Ulysses syndrome explains the suffering of migrants what would we call a society that is indifferent to their suffering?

Psychiatrist Joseba Achotegui of the Universitat de Barcelona describes the illness in the following words: “It comprises loneliness, as family and friends were left behind; a sense of personal failure, and a survival struggle that takes over all other priorities. The syndrome is characterized by physical symptoms like headaches, and psychological symptoms like depression.”

Here’s an example of what an undocumented migrant, of which we have many in Finland these days, suffers:

Norma lived in terror and in hiding. This 45-year-old single mother left her 11-year-old son in 1999 when she migrated to Madrid. When she moved to Spain, she didn’t know anyone never mind have a place to sleep. She was an illegal alien.

The woman was afraid that the police would find and deport her. “It was that way nine years ago,” she admits. I would never go out for a stroll. I’d forget to board a metro at stops because I was in another world thinking of my child.

While the Ulysses syndrome abounds, what could we call a society that is incapable, or anesthetized by politicians’ indifference and hate speech, to their suffering?

Would the proper name be the Cyclopse syndrome?

In Greek mythology, Cyclopses lived in caves, did not share their sheep with humans and were slow and stupid.

The Cyclopse syndrome could be described in the following terms: It comprises of spiritual anesthesia. One example of the Cyclopse syndrome is the Nazi regime that was able to commit acts of genocide like the Holocaust because its citizens suffered from the total lack of empathy. Other example are the atrocities committed by colonial powers like Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Holland, Belgium, and others.

Our Cyclopse syndrome permits us today to deport a blind 106-year-old woman back to Afghanistan from Sweden.

In other words, we’re in such deep shit about our complicity that we have no other choice but to anesthetize ourselves with denial.

Social critic James Baldwin (1924-87) revealed the problem in the following quote: “I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”