Saturday, January 28, 2017

Dear Ndugu....

Whenever problems seem overwhelming, think about how you would describe them to a child in sub-Saharan Africa.

People in Western countries have no idea how cush they have it.  We complain about things that most people in the rest of the world cannot even fathom.   About half the population of the world struggles to get sufficient calories every day.  They have no shelter, maybe one set of clothes - a pair of shoes if they are really lucky.  They also live in fear all day long - fear of criminals, fear of theft or violence, fear of even their own government and police force.

We don't even realize how hard most of the world has it.  We just want to make sure they don't come to our country.

We bitch and whine and complain about how bad things are in this country.   We fail to put our problems in perspective.   Whenever I feel some problem is overwhelming, I try to think of how I would explain my personal problems to someone in sub-Saharan Africa, much as Warren R. Schmidt did in his letter to Ndugu Umbo.   And then I realize how silly and superficial my problems are compared to theirs.  I have "three hots, a squat, and a cot" and beyond that, life is merely style points.  If you are fed, have a roof over your head and clothes on your back, accept that and stop whining.

Sometimes, I think about the conversation a "typical American" would have with someone like Ndugu Umbo.  I think it might go something like this:
American:  "Man, I can't believe all the problems I have, you wouldn't believe it!"

Ndugu Umbo: "Tell me about your problems, maybe I can help"

American:  "Well, to begin with, I have been trying to lose weight, but it is so hard to do.  You know, with all the cheap inexpensive food we have in this county, the temptation to over-eat is so hard to resist!"

Ndugu Umbo: "Tell me more about this cheap inexpensive food!  And what is 'overeating'?"

American:  "Well, you know, all the junk food we have, and the fast food.   And overeating, well, you know, when you eat more than you should!"

Ndugu Umbo: "Such a thing is possible?  To eat too much?   Food can be junk?  And what is 'fast food'?  A gazelle?"

American:  "I guess you wouldn't understand."
Ndugu Umbo: "No, I don't think I do."

American:  "But that's not the least of my problems.  My car broke down on the way to work today."

Ndugu Umbo: "You have a car?  You must be fabulously rich!"

American:  "Not really.  Anyway, I had to take my wife's car - what a pain in the ass!"

Ndugu Umbo: "You have two cars!  Surely you must be the King of France!"

American:  "Everyone here has at least two cars."

Ndugu Umbo: "Now I know you are pulling my leg.   Only our President has a car - it is so big that it takes four strong men to push it!   I dream of having a car someday, but I know it will never happen."

American:  "Well, think of all the hassles you are saving.  Believe me, those mechanics and car dealers will rip you off!  You don't know how lucky you have it!

Ndugu Umbo: "I will have to take your word for this"
You see how it goes.  What we consider onerous burdens, the rest of the world would gladly shoulder.   And that is why native-born Americans want to keep out the rest of the world - they know deep down in their hearts how lucky they are, and how easily immigrants will show them up, by making-do with less and working harder.

And I don't know what the answer is on that, either.   There are logical arguments for both sides.   The most impoverished parts of the world are also the most religious, and all of these religions tell people to have as many children as possible and that birth control is a sin.   As a result, they reproduce until they starve.  We send food aid and medical care and it doesn't solve the problem for long, but merely allows people to reproduce to a new level of starvation and disease.    Infant mortality is Religion's birth control - that and war.

If we open our borders to all the world's huddled masses, the logical result will be twofold.  First, our country will expand in population until we too, are like a third-world country.   Second, depopulating the starving nations will only make room for more starving people and the process will continue.

That is the logical result if unlimited immigration were allowed.   I am not sure that 60,000 refugees from Syria is going to produce the same result.

But that is not the point.   The point is, we have it pretty good here, compared to most of the globe.  So kwitcherbitchin, as Dear Abby used to say.