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by by Ran Prieur
Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2006 at 2:27 AM
An interesting take by a white guy who mostly gets it.
1. Immigrants are not people. Of course they never say this explicitly, but it saturates the subtext of anti-immigration arguments. I have yet to see an immigration critic show any evidence of compassion, of willingness or ability to see the other side. No one says, "Hey, if America were a desert and Mexico were a nation of showy wealth and higher wages, and I were desperately poor and had nothing to lose, I'd totally sneak in there -- and I'd bring my culture with me!"
The dehumanization of immigrants is done through words -- "hordes" "pouring" across the border, not people walking across -- and through disparaging references to their culture, language, or race. The statement that "white" people will one day be a minority in America, or that some percentage of Californians don't even speak English, or that immigrants are still dressing the way they did in Mexico, has no importance except to a racist.
2. White. "White" is not a race. It's an elite class and culture whose meaning has changed many times to accommodate the needs of elitism and domination. In America, Irish, Italians, Jews, and others were once considered non-white, and were later invited to join the club, in exchange for their willingness to identify with the divisive and oppressive system.
George Washington's name among the Indians was Town Destroyer. As a "white" person, I'm supposed to identify with him, to lamely defend or justify him or at least feel apologetic for what "my" people did to those other people. I refuse! I identify with the Indians, and we want the land back! After all, my ancestors in the region now called "Europe" once lived much like American Indians, before they were violently conquered by the hierarchical, forest-cutting Indo-Europeans and later the Romans -- who certainly believed themselves racially superior to the paler-skinned aliens, the impoverished barbarous northerners who flowed in and polluted the glorious city of Rome.
3. Immigration equals conquest. The idea here is that moving into a land occupied by others by means of military aggression, massacring noncombatants, destroying villages and food sources, forcing people off the land, keeping them as slaves, sending them to concentration camps, assassinating their leaders, stamping out their language and culture -- that this is morally and tactically equivalent to simply moving in next to them, keeping your own culture, and surviving.
This lie is carried by sloppy language, typically the word "invasion," an obscuring blur which makes the two things appear as one. Even Mexican immigrants are foolishly using the term "reconquista," as if their peaceful retaking of southwestern America (northern Mexico) is same as the military conquest of that region by the USA in 1846. If Canada had militarily invaded and conquered "southeastern Canada" (northeastern America) 150 years ago, wouldn't Americans still want to take it back? And wouldn't it be unusually nice of us to do it through immigration instead of conquest?
Immigration is not only morally better than conquest, but tactically better. If Jewish people had patiently immigrated to Palestine over the last 80 years, and settled in beside the folks who were already there, instead of ruthlessly forcing them out or killing them, they would now be peacefully tolerated, instead of sitting on the firing pin for Armageddon.
4. Land belongs to whoever's already there. This argument, predictably, is used only by people who are holding the land in question at the time, no matter how they took it or how long they've been there, and conveniently they apply it only to the present and future, never to the past. But this is hypocritical and illogical. If it's wrong for Mexicans to come peacefully to America and mooch off our luxuries, then it was far more wrong for Europeans to come here, kill almost all the humans and large mammals who were already here, and poison and deplete the land.
If we do not apply the "there first" rule to the past, the rule forgives and retroactively justifies conquest. And if we do apply it to the past, the results are absurd and impossible -- that ancestors of Europeans should go back to Europe and even Indians should go back to Asia and leave the Americas to native nonhumans. (Not that that wouldn't be a better world than this!)
The only thing to do is junk the whole rule. If humans are to live sustainably on the Earth, the rule must be: Whoever is willing and able to live symbiotically with the land, belongs to that land, no matter how long they've been there or who their ancestors are, and those who are unable or unwilling to live such that the species diversity and soil fertility increase with time, must learn, and until they learn they must be contained -- something no one has yet been able to do.
By this rule, middle class Americans are just as unfit for "their" land as Mexican immigrants -- or more...
5. Immigrants are unskilled. Sure, they don't know how to use spreadsheet software, or synthesize polychlorinated biphenyls, or build an atom bomb. But they are more skilled than most Americans at digging holes, at sleeping outside, at making palatable food from simple ingredients, and at getting along socially. These skills are more valuable, more enduring, and less harmful than the skills to manage the industrial megamachine.
6. Immigration harms nature. The foundation of this one is the half-lie that human population harms nature. The phrase "population problem" or "population explosion" is, in practice, racist, calling up images of masses of nameless darkies who are allegedly to blame for ecological destruction. They are responsible for a lot of it -- the forests of Africa have been destroyed by ignorant farmers and herders, for firewood, for crop land, for feeding their goats. But human population is only an indirect cause of the dying Earth. The direct cause is the exploitation of "resources," the taking of plants, animals, soil integrity, clean water and air, without giving back, the extraction, manufacture, and scattering of substances that belong deep underground or nonexistent. And the people most responsible for this are the people who consume the most resources: industrialized first-worlders, and Americans are the worst. Each one of us, on average, is killing the Earth as fast as 20-50 skinny brown people. So yes, we need fewer people, but the first thing we need is less of the irresponsible consumption we call "wealth."
The next idea, that immigrants are more destructive than natives, should be true. Our resistance to immigration is biological: For millions of years our ancestors have lived in a world where the natives of an area know the land and love it -- every rock, every plant, every animal -- and the people coming in from outside do not know it, and are likely to exploit and damage it. Our primal territoriality, necessary for the protection of nature, does not know that it's now in a world where the "natives" cannot identify a single wild plant except the ones they call "weeds" and kill, where they cover the land with parking lots and Wal-Marts, with factory farms and lawns and monoculture fields saturated with poisons, because what they know and love is their medical plan, their car, the characters on their favorite TV show.
Americans have accepted flashy technological toys and piles of fatty sugary food in exchange for willingness to administrate and ignore the exploitation of poorer countries and the extermination of life on Earth. Not only that, but we flaunt it and market it to the world (far more than Europeans, whose minimum wage is roughly twice ours, and who have more freedom too). So we shouldn't be surprised that the greediest, shallowest, and stupidest people in the world want to come here -- as well as some nice poor people who happen to live nearby.
For now, immigration is helpful. It's a safety valve that reduces the differences in wealth and power that drive the engines of destruction. When we lose our jobs to the people who have been kept poor so we could get rich, and the system is no longer buying us off, we can wake up and stop believing its lies, while the newly bought-off can learn that wealth doesn't make them happy, and everyone gets smarter. When the present first world countries are no longer glittering resource sinks, immigration will no longer be a problem. The problem then will be conquest and occupation by the next empire, and then I will fight to defend my land.
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|there aren't enough jobs for people with those skills?
||Thursday, Feb. 23, 2006 at 6:38 PM
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