Cold Salad 12 June 2012
(Compendium of leaks from the Department of specious allegations, lies, ambiguities and denials)
[As most readers know, Luddites’ Gazette is published on the nights of full moon and new moon, with selected cuttings available a couple of days later. However, so great was the number of economists (who did not, however, include Professor Krugman, to our dismay) seeking to publish their widely varying views on the effects of the recent transit of Venus on the world’s economy that a special supplement was brought out. Two items from that supplement herewith]
Among the qualities proudly claimed by many Australians for their compatriots are courage, determination, toughness, and optimism. They point to plentiful evidence of these in the pioneers who settled the land in the past two centuries. This makes it rather strange that there is such widespread support for the idea of firmly excluding from Australian waters those who arrive, desperate, in small leaky overcrowded boats from further north (though it is understood these might be allowed to pass if secure assurances could be given that they were actually heading for somewhere else; Nauru perhaps, just a couple of thousand tricky seamiles further.) After all, the newcomers conspicuously share the prized qualities seen in the earlier settlers, who also arrived in small leaky overcrowded vessels from further north. Idle cynics may see here more evidence of the great steamroller of globalisation, and conclude that Australia is starting to drift along with many other nations towards tacit acceptance of a chauvinistic (not to say racialist) tinge to the national palette. (Those who take their cynicism more seriously may question the elements ‘start’, ‘tacit’ and ‘not’ in that sentence.) It seems, simply, ‘we don’t want them to come in, because they are different from us’. This only makes matters all the stranger, since those brave, optimistic, tough settlers who did take over the land two hundred years ago were very markedly different from those who already lived there and at the time owned it by prior unchallenged occupation, a principle accepted by nearly all decent human beings.
However, politicians feel it is not quite nice to put a policy of not-too-much-help for those in desperate need quite so bluntly. A preferred expression is to say that those trying to enter a country in this way ‘lack the necessary papers’. This is a loose phrase which carefully avoids hitting the centre of the target (like the dentists’ claim that people don’t like visiting them because the dental surgery is ‘strange’. Bunkum. There are a good many restaurants stranger than the average dentist’s lair, but head waiters rarely include pain as a standard part of their offering.) The papers that would-be arrivals to any country really need to have these days are not the visa and the passport but the certificated evidence of personal attainment in some area currently popular with the putative host government, nuclear weapons production, rugby league, fishfarm management, or whatever it may be, all preferably at degree level (but – best of all – at any senior level, wealth possession). Such an approach goes back a fairly long way, but measured nevertheless in decades rather than centuries. The Romans of the western empire may have shaken in their caligae as they saw the Völkerwanderungen rolling towards them (social steamrollers shatter before they flatten) but there is little evidence that they tried to establish rules about qualifications that would allow only approved Teutons to cross the frontier (apart from those arriving for a short holiday with adequate funds and a return horse already booked). Throughout history until recently people trying to cross frontiers often met objections on grounds of ethnic origin (cf remarks in first paragraph) or publicly declared plans for massacre and mayhem, but rarely because they could not personally show evidence of talents currently in demand. The change of approach may have started with health checks, or perhaps it was an inevitable result once bureaucracy had begun in earnest its largely successful and continuing attempt to undermine human civilisation. At all events it is now standard procedure in most of the world to demand such qualifications from would-be immigrants. In 1982 when unfortunates – I think they were Asians from East Africa – were being driven out of their property and livelihoods, and asking permission to join relatives already established in Canada, the minister responsible was criticised for delay and found it natural to respond that critics should understand it took time to check whether applicants really had the qualifications and educational background they claimed. As far as I recall checks to see if they were in prison, or currently weighing less than 60 lbs or under ten years of age, did not feature. In Britain, one minister, personally a most civilised fellow, who recently held the immigration portfolio, stated that his country needs immigrants but must look to the ‘brightest and best’. Part of the fault of the Bulgarians and Romanians non-ethnically expelled from France (as noted in an earlier edition of the Gazette) was explained as lack of those vital skills and certificates. It is reported that Germany will now admit, for a limited number of years, non-Europeans – on condition they are qualified engineers or specialists in information technology.
Passing over the fact that usually the qualification which can trump all others is being-rich, we can deduce two conclusions. The first is that there is clearly an aim to have a population with the highest possible average of skill and productivity. In that case, the immediate next step, logically, is to let all, without exception, be tested for their skills and competence, and if they fail let them be refused residence, even if they were born and brought up in the country. But it will clearly take some time for this promising but possibly controversial path to be taken. So let us turn to the second conclusion, that when overdeveloped countries do absorb migrant engineers and doctors and nurses and writers and artists and fishfarm managers it amounts to robbery of the already poor nations which they, understandably, want to leave. Just one example: between 2000 and 2003 the whole of the north and centre of Malawi, containing seven million people, was served by exactly one orthopaedic surgeon (Steve Mannion in fact). These factors can produce a bizarre coalition in recipient countries between left-wing activists for human rights and racist xenophobes. When governments find hemselves under fire from both right and left they may well give ground (although many primitive or talent-free ones simply fire back), and as both xenophobia and real or imagined fellow-feeling for the third world are at present thriving, the future looks dark for would-be migrants, with ever tighter and more curiously shaped hoops through which to wriggle in order to be allowed to sit at the rich world’s table.
Very well then, let us accept that frontiers are largely closed to any free movement of humans, except of course to those of really significant wealth, even while we marvel at the contrast with the free flow allowed to capital and financial assets. Walls constructed with high technology and high indifference to local populations – even in some cases, to legal obligations, are back in fashion these days. But it cannot be denied that a world of locked frontiers has its disadvantages for both sides. We need a genuinely radical policy change to disentangle this knot, so at the same time as working to make immigration impossible (except for the wealthy, and a handful of others) let rich governments make emigration compulsory. The potential rewards are stupendous – in political terms of course. It needs to be made clear at once that the proposal is not explicitly for permanent emigration, but for a period, perhaps two years, of compulsory exclusion from the home country, perhaps at some age between 18 and 24, which might very soothingly be designated as ‘the ‘Double Gap Year’. Most of the ‘emigrants’ will be delighted to start with, because the right presentation will have convinced them it is a two-year holiday largely subsidised by others. Governments concerned will issue round-the-world tickets valid for two years to the lucky teenagers who will then be conducted to a suitable airport for their departure (a process in which most governments are by now expert) where they will be reminded in a jolly ceremony that any premature return will be a disgrace forfeiting all their civic rights for the rest of their life (as already stated in 6 point type in the agreement they signed to get the tickets). The political left will be delighted because the third world now retains the skilled people it needs and may even find useful hands in those who arrive. The right, because all those foreigners are being kept out, but ‘our’ values will be spread abroad to show less privileged countries how things are really done. The government itself, because it will save enormous amounts of money. In return for the air tickets (obtained cut-price from co-operating airlines) they will no longer have to pay tens of thousands of civil servants who currently check qualifications, control arrivals, pursue overstayers, confine adults and children in detention centres, and arrange removals. That loss of employment will easily be hidden by the departure of hundreds of thousands of emigrants who would otherwise appear on the unemployed roster. A bonus is that exactly at the age when the young become so troublesome they will be out of the way abroad, and what is more if any are particularly inclined to violence or crime, they may well remain imprisoned there for many years. Those who do return will perhaps be a little wiser, and have some of the skills which are precisely not taught in retraining courses. The older unemployed still in the country will have less competition in the hunt for jobs. And above all, parents of the rich world will be pleased to think of their grown-up offspring learning about life abroad, instead of having to support them, possibly with additional long-term guests uninvited (by the parents), in their pleasant suburban villas. There is only one drawback, the collapse at some future point of the societies of the developed world confronted with a hitherto unknown deadly plague, for, statistics being what they are, in the end one or other ‘gapper’ will carry it back from some incalculably remote jungle
From Great military communiqués of history (series sponsored by HepiNes Press Agency)
No 119 (Translated from the French)
HQ, Grande Armee: 12 September 1812
Although resistance continues on a small scale, the army continues to make excellent progress and casualties have been light. Order and security is now restored to the numerous towns and villages under our control, and we are confident that we are winning the hearts and minds of the Russian people. Napoléon
honesti honorque floreant