SEARCH BLOG: IMMIGRATION and DIVERSITY
Apologies in advance for this long-winded and contentious post. Immigration and diversity are two really... really... volatile issues in American and European societies. Clyde Wilson, quoted below, is is a professor of history at the University of South Carolina. His views are toward one extreme... the opposite of those who see immigration as a process that strengthens America.
From Martin Kelly in Scotland quoting Clyde Wilson:
(Note: Martin left out the first two paragraphs which are shown here)
According to the census bureau a new “American” crossed the border to join us once every 27 seconds in 2006. The unpunished intention of our rulers to replace us with foreign coolie labour tells us that as a society we are completely lacking any sense of a past or a future. Nobody who has any conception of the work, wisdom, virtue, sacrifice, and heroism that went into the making of this country could possibly approve of the transformation that is taking place.
That is not too surprising, though. Since 1848 the descendants of the British colonists who created the U.S. have been a dwindling part of the population. How many Americans are there today with such an inheritance? One in twenty? One in fifty? In fact, those of us who fit that description are mostly despised “rednecks,” while late-comers glorify themselves as a “nation of immigrants.” Can there be any other example in history of a core population being replaced by newcomers while retaining its name? A country without cultural continuity can only be held together by abstractions—deceitful slogans without any human content—and by constant fear of enemies. Orwell had it right.
People who are ignorant of and indifferent to their background (and those who misrepresent it for present-time advantage) are barbarians—that is, people without a civilized culture. Our leaders view American society as a commercial enterprise in which profit and consumption are the only values. After all, a customer is a customer and yesterday is just a past opportunity for sales. Who worries about where the customer comes from? As a society we have lost sight of the truth that economic abundance is not a self-perpetuating technical trick but rests ultimately on mental and moral qualities. Mental and moral virtues are declining in power and the evidence is already there of the loss of prosperity that necessarily follows.
But a society without ancestors (bastards?) is not the worst of the American decline. The worst is a lost future. Our forebears felled forests, planted trees, built houses, fought wars in the consciousness that the benefits would accrue to their descendants more than to themselves.
A people who took any thought to the welfare of their grandchildren, much less future generations of their own blood, could not possibly tolerate the ongoing destruction of our human environment by politicians and plutocrats. Burke defined civilization as the awareness of the interconnection of past, present, and future. Conservatism was the preservation of the essence of civilization amidst the inevitable flux and chaos of existence.
But I can’t worry about that right now. I have to watch Oprah and then go to the mall. Only in America.
In an email exchange with Martin Kelly, here is some of what I wrote:
"Cultural values" are one of these somewhat ephemeral "riches" of a society that modern economics seems to conveniently ignore. What is the "profit" margin or a cooperative and friendly neighborhood? What is the cost of distrust. We know the former has value and the latter has cost, but cheap labor and cheap goods seem to be far more relevant to the economist's thought process (although I'm sure someone, somewhere has tried to quantify that). Nevertheless, we all sense when "cultural values" are strong and vibrant and when they are neglected and weak, whether or not we can place an economic value on them.Well, actually, I know I overstate the case on both sides. The "richness" of the change is superficial in many respects. The ethnic commercial districts are certainly positive factors in our cities. Last fall's trip to San Francisco demonstrated that magnificently. But the Mexican ghettos in the southwest and west attest to the destructive aspects of unmanaged immigration.
Perhaps the nature of what constitutes our "cultural values" is a little vague and that's why they are so difficult on which to find common perspective. The economist would look at U.S.A.'s overall Gross National Product or unemployment rate or stock market and say that things have never been so prosperous. Look how immigration has kept the price of products, despite such rare(?) abuses as meat from the Swift plants that used illegal aliens to contain costs, down to a level where even the poor can afford a good cut of beef. See how trade with China has freed people from the drudgery of those dingy factory jobs. Look how ethnic diversity has made our cities so vibrant with their Chinatowns and LIttle Vietnams and great Indian and Mexican restaurants and new mosques that nurture the spiritual side of our neighbors. See the richness of all of this change!
Yet so many feel an alienation with what they see around them. Will those new neighbors rally together for the common good if there is a threat, natural or political, to our nation? Will that vibrant economy provide social and emotional support to those who are weak and needy or simply focus on corporate profits and new casinos? I think that what may be slipping away is the Christian/Humanistic philosophy... the focus on others' welfare... that was brought to America by its UK ancestors. Sure, there are still neighborhood barbeques and there are still many who respond when a hurricane destroys a city. But, increasingly, there seems to be a cynicism and selfishness and "I got mine" attitude as commerce becomes the central, the core, value of our culture. Increasingly, "diversity" becomes "divergence."
Perhaps I overstate the issue.
The U.S. always had immigrant groups that clustered for awhile and then disbursed and became "assimilated" into the general population. It was really a matter of survival for most. There were no efforts by the existing community to offer information in German or Polish. Learn English and fit in was the strategy... but maybe not so much now.
America is changing and it is difficult to know whether, in the long run, if it is for the better or the worse. One thing is for sure, it won't be the "culture" of the 19th and 20th centuries with its predominantly Western/Central European heritage... but it doesn't have to be fragemented, though it very well may be.