A story that shouldn’t slip off the front page

After titanic struggles over years between shadowy armies of lawyers, from many different countries, obedient (when they considered it appropriate) to many different interests, I have been restored to the editorial chair of this journal. Not merely did I not initiate the process which has led to this result, I was not even aware that it had been under way. All usurpations have been declared invalid and copyright in all the alien productions was at first revoked, but has since been transferred to my name.  With the assistance of Manos, now released from gaol, and possibly Isabelita who may be about to return to Guernsey, since anonymous messages have warned her that her social media activities in Egypt are considered dangerously close to free speech, we shall see what we can do.

Incidentally, ‘ammophila’ has absolutely nothing to do with filling anything, except some space with words, and even less to do with ammunition.  For those who didn’t have the benefit of a classical education, ammophila (derived from Greek) is the species designation for the solitary sandwasp (available in all good treatises on insects).  And also, to my two minders in Thailand, if you’re still there, you’re not going to find anything on this site except pessimistic observation of the world we’re in plus a few diversions into whimsicality.  (It wasn’t that hard to spot you, but why don’t you come round some time; I could do with some intelligent conversation.)

Thilo Sarrazin was once a banker of distinction in Germany. It is no small thing to be a distinguished banker in Germany, where standards are noticeably higher than in many similar institutions further to the left on the world map. However, not very long ago he became an ex-banker of distinction, having allowed his private hobby, examining the effects of immigration on Europe, to become too public. Side by side with some extraordinarily ill-judged remarks, highly questionable in any case, about genes, he expressed the view that Germany was becoming too full of unqualifizierte Migranten. This certainly suggests a little more discernment than we have seen recently in many European politicians, for example Victor Orbàn who, speaking in English insisted that his country could not tolerate a large alien minority (a remark that seems to come with sinister echoes, in a different accent) and did not even raise the topic of qualification. For these politicians, the adjective is unnecessary; a migrant is a migrant and as such an abomination. And their view is one held by many Europeans, no matter how oddly their patronym clashes with the language of the country where they reside. Throughout history until recent times there has been much crossing of frontiers, with incomers often meeting objections on grounds of ethnic origin or projects based on massacre and mayhem, but rarely because they could not show references, degree certificates, or other evidence of the personal talents required. The Romans of the western empire may have seen the Völkerwanderungen rolling towards them with dismay but there is no evidence that they hastened to establish sets of qualifications allowing only approved Teutons to cross the frontier (apart from those arriving for a verifiable short holiday).

The change of approach may have started with health checks, or perhaps it was an inevitable result once bureaucracy had begun in earnest its attempt (still continuing) to undermine civilisation. At all events it is now standard procedure in most of the world to demand qualifications from would-be immigrants. Already in 1982 when unfortunates – Asians from East Africa, I think – were asking permission to join relatives already established in Canada on the grounds of family reunion, 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. Now qualifications are often a sine qua non. In Britain, a government minister, personally a most civilised fellow, with responsibility for immigration, said explicitly that his country needs immigrants but must look to the ‘brightest and best’. Part of the fault of the Rom expelled from France, pays des droits de l’homme, was probably to lack those vital skills and certificates. Germany had for some time before their recent wonderful enlightenment admitted, for a limited number of years, non-Europeans on condition they were qualified engineers or specialists in information technology. Passing over the familiar fact that in many cases the talent which trumps all others is being-rich, we can deduce two conclusions. The first is that the aim is really to have a population with the highest possible average of skill and productivity. In that case, 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.

The second conclusion is that when overdeveloped countries do absorb ‘alien’ engineers and doctors and nurses and writers and artists and specialists it amounts to robbery of the already poor nations which they, understandably, leave, with deplorable consequences for individuals in those nations. 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). This can produce a bizarre coalition in developed countries (‘developed’ is of course judged economically, not morally) between left-wing activists for human rights and racist xenophobes. When a government finds itself under fire from both right and left it is likely to give ground, and as both sympathy for the poor and oppressed of the third world and xenophobia are at present thriving, the future looks dark with ever stricter rules on who is and who is not allowed to sit at the rich world’s table.

Very well then, let us assume that frontiers will be more or less shut, except of course to those of really significant wealth, and governments will build walls (walls are back in fashion these days – invest now!) or have the frontier machine guns manned, according to the dispositions of their national character. But it cannot be denied that a world of locked frontiers has its disadvantages. What is needed is a genuinely radical policy change. Instead of aiming to make immigration impossible, 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 this proposal is not for permanent emigration, but a period, perhaps two years, of exclusion from the home country, perhaps at some age between 18 and 24, which might very usefully be designated something like ‘the ‘Double Gap Year’. Most of the emigrants will be delighted, to start with, because the right presentation will convince 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 many governments are now expert) where they will be reminded in jocular terms that any premature return will be a disgrace and forfeit all their civic rights for the rest of their lives. The political left will be delighted because the third world now retains the skilled people it needs. 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 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 the tens of thousands of civil servants who currently check qualifications, control arrivals, pursue overstayers, and arrange removals. At the same time, however, hundreds of thousands – the emigrants – will disappear from the unemployment figures. A further bonus is that exactly at the age when the young, especially the males, become so troublesome, they will be out of the way abroad, and 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 with some of the skills which are precisely not taught in lecture halls. The older unemployed still in the country will have less competition in the hunt for jobs. And above all, parents will be pleased to think of their grown-up offspring learning about life abroad, instead of having to support him or her, possibly with an uncouth long-term guest, uninvited (by the parents) in their pleasant suburban villas. There is only one drawback. Nihilists will be pleased, for in the end one or other gapper will return incubating some  apocalyptic plague till now confined in a remote jungle