Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Seal the borders, seal our fate?

Seal the borders, seal our fate?

Or: The big picture on human migrations and immigration to the United States in particular - Part One of a three part series.

In mid-October, 2003, former Colorado governor Richard Lamm gave a hard, harsh and compelling speech about how rampant immigration could destroy America - or at least drastically alter the status quo of this or any country or culture. You can find many references to Lamm's speech googling Lamm "how to destroy America". In my local ideas and issues salon, the essence of Lamm's argument is being debated anew. For all it seems to be a contentious topic; for some racist, for some job-based or economic, for others anecdotal and sentimental, reaching back to colonial times. But the causes, the story and the consequences of human migrations go much farther back - to the very roots of human nature. The crux of the argument is that now, since Malthus and the invention of the environmental movement (which of course centers around human needs and capabilities), those roots of our natures must contend with globalization and a more sophisticated understanding of natural resources, ecology and the limits to growth.

I appreciate the feelings of those who remain sentimental about this "great nation of ours" being a beacon of hope and prosperity. It truly IS astonishing how much wealth this country has generated in just over a century, from its colonial economy in the wake of the Civil War to its rise to Superpower and empire status in the wake of World War I and ever since.

Yes, in our legions of gas guzzlers and few and far between leafy green hybrids, from our spread out suburbs and ranchettes to our offices and ball games and big box stores, we're on a roll. From our plush, lumbar-tweaked seats with six speaker stereo sound, it might seem like a smooth ride, but it's a rocky road. The headlights are flickering, the shocks are worn, and the gas tank has a mixture of American and foreign oil and blood in it. To boot, this Big Empire Mobile is one of those super pricey fancy models that costs a fortune to fix. And the occupants have got a bad case of affluenza - our garages are full, our cash is tight, and our credit cards for this bounteous road trip to god-blessed American Freedonia are melting....

It is human nature (has been throughout history) that people have migrated/flocked/stampeded toward wealth and "beacons of hope" by whatever means they can. It's also human nature that good and not so good people make the journey.

Some of us have personal stories to tell regarding foreign friends, colleagues and employees. But I think the story deserves a bigger picture perspective as well.

Diversity is good but not often at the cost of divisiveness. "The melting pot" might be good for a myth, but it's no way to run a country or a culture when internal factions battle against one another - and when regressive values overwhelm genuine progress. We're a bunch of back seat drivers while the constant crunches of capital investment, resource depletion, profit and population run us into the ground.

What is the big picture on human migration - and migrations to the United States in particular?

The big picture is that we are consuming as much or more than we are producing, and since Americans now consume 25% of the world's energy resources, I'd have to say there are far too many Americans already - far too many living and aspiring to such a selfish, consumptive lifestyle. (And as for our numbers, it already seems vastly overcrowded to me; there are just about twice as many American residents now as when I was born, and I am still in my 40s. You might say 'good thing I don't live in a
more crowded country - but crowding anywhere is a problem for the crowded, the dispossessed, the marginalized, the middle class, the rich - everyone.)

We need better educated more altruistic people. We need far fewer pregnancies. We need resources and economies and HEALTH sustainable for centuries to come. So what can we do to encourage people (men and women) to tread lightly, MUCH more lightly?

Reach out. Raise women's rights, their power and hopes to measure their lives by something besides or beyond motherhood (and the same goes for men and fatherhood). Educate people where they live so that there are more beacons of hope closer to home - in more poor and clamoring bergs far and wide. Otherwise, where does this cycle of migration end? When things crumble or crash, and we don't want that.

This "beacon of hope" called America is really just a house of cards as it is - leveraged on resources and rates of consumption we can't sustain or even unabashedly defend. There is no really genuine beacon of hope until the whole planet becomes a
beacon of hope. The human race has to be swayed to behaving more altruistically (not just in sentiment but in actions - environmentalists who commute in gas guzzlers aren't helping). And we all know how strong a force human nature is, which means
education is key, in that it is the only thing empowering enough to counteract the superstitions, selfishness and sentiment ingrained in human nature which have gotten us into this predicament up to now.

I am not sure that we can educate enough of the human race well enough to accomplish good things for all, but I do think that, besides the dark path of creating an Aryan race with fascist control, truly populist political empowerment for a more educated and altruistic (more socially cooperative, less competitive and selfish) populace
is the only hopeful path we have, and that is my beacon of hope - if I have a beacon of hope - above and beyond the short term attractions and economic lucre of any nation. We can't create new 'lands of opportunity' forever or even for much longer, it seems.

Seal the borders or not, but our fate - the fate of human health and happiness - won't be even close to sealed until we can sway or deflect human nature enough to get the whole planet on a much better track - new and improved. It's high time!

We need a healthy, restored and sustainable planet, and our hope for that needs to not be overly anecdotal or sentimental. Our hope needs to be rational and supportable. Sustenance is the key to a wise future.


At 4/27/2005 6:04 AM, Anonymous RQ said...

My eyes were opened recently to a new development in real estate. Young couple can only afford those new $300 K townhomes by having an "interest only" payment. There $1500 payment barely covers the interest. They are building up NO equity and gambling on the value of their property rising enough for them to make a profit when they sell. Foreclosures are at a record high. Talk about a "house of cards"! I like the term "affluenza". Keep up the good work.

At 4/27/2005 7:57 PM, Blogger Lawrence said...

RQ, I'll admit I lifted that catchy coined word "affluenza" from a book about over consumption by that title, so I hereby give credit where it's due.

Thanks for reading "A Better Nation."

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