Monday, February 17, 2020

Why Migration Now?

Why is no one asking the question: Why are people migrating?

My last posting might come across is less than sympathetic to the plight of migrants. But such is not the case. I truly feel for these people, as if I was in their shoes, migrating to the United States would be top on my list of priorities. We're very lucky to live in this country and the number of people clamoring to get in is certainly proof of that. So many native-born Americans complain about how awful they have it here and don't realize how awful things really are in the rest of the world.  We should start an exchange program - one whiny American deported and replaced with one desperate migrant.   Of course, as Representative Omar illustrates, the first thing anyone does when becoming American, is to complain about how rotten things are.   It is a sure sign you are American!

The current migration crisis is not limited to the United States of America.  Nor are American policies about migration to blame for the problem.  It's not a matter of political will or who is President or the actions of the ICE or building the border wall.  We suddenly have this migration crisis upon us worldwide, and for some reason no one is asking the question, why?

That is the real issue. The reason why we are having such a problem with our immigration system is that it is being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of people trying to enter the United States legally and illegally. Our asylum system was set up in an era where few people were applying for asylum. Today, everybody comes in and claims to be a victim and in need of refugee status. The system is so overwhelmed that applicants could wait years just to get an initial hearing on the matter. And word has gotten out that you can reside the United States while waiting for this hearing and thus work and make money, which is all that some people wanted to do in the first place.    This, in turn, attracts more migrants.

But again, the problem isn't limited to the United States. We are seeing a huge mass migration of people across the Mediterranean to European countries, and migration of people to Australia as well. What the heck is going on? And more importantly, why is no one bothering to ask why? You hear all the time from politicians about their migration policies - for and against. People want to blame the ICE or President Trump, but they didn't cause this migration, but are merely reacting to it. People claim to have a new immigration policy that will fix everything. But nobody seems to ask annoying questions to why this sudden mass of people, often arriving in caravans, migrating to the  United States and and other Western countries, in a volume never seen ever before?

I think there are a number of reasons for this. You might argue its global warming, and indeed that might be part of the problem, as unique weather patterns cause crop failures and increase competition for scarce resources. Another problem is the rise of strongman governments, either fascist or communist throughout the world, who are persecuting their own citizens, forcing them to flee in order to save their own lives. It is also a matter of fundamentalist religions, particularly Islam, becoming more popular in the third world.  People whose religious beliefs don't toe this hard-line find themselves persecuted.

Those might be ancillary causes - or actually just symptoms of the underlying problem.  I think the fundamental issue is overpopulation.  Back when I was a kid in junior high school, we talked a lot about world population growth. There was actually a movement called the Zero Population Growth movement, which argued that we should reduce the number of births in the world so we don't outstrip the world's resources and make life miserable for everyone.  China actually tried this, for a couple of decades, before abandoning the policy.   Zero Population Growth sort of fell by the wayside as many religious fundamentalist groups opposed not only abortion, but even the idea of birth control. It's almost a central tenet to every religion to go forth and populate as many as possible - mostly so the religion in question can help out-populate its competitors and take over.

Whatever the reason, we've seen populations rise in Central and South America, Africa and in the Middle East. Our humanitarian inclinations to send doctors and medicines to these areas has resulted in a significant  decrease in infant and child mortality.  Not only are birth rates up, but more people are surviving childhood to live to reproduce.  And those who do live and reproduce are living longer lives as well, as a result of modern medicine.  We sit and wonder why populations are booming across the third world, even as we send more and more doctors, medicines, and bags of rice there.   We send everything except condoms, of course, because even in America, this sort of talk is taboo.

We see the result of this population growth on the African continent. Africa was once described as a vast and mighty wilderness punctuated by pockets of civilization. Today, some argue that Africa today is a vast areas of civilization punctuated with pockets of wilderness.  In Central and South America we see the same thing happening. More and more acres of rainforest are burned to the ground in order to make more room for agricultural production - necessary to support the burgeoning populations.   Decrying destruction of the rainforest is pointless, if you don't decry the population pressures causing it.

You can't have one without the other.  People in Brazil aren't going to simply stop eating because you want to preserve biodiversity.  We see species after species, worldwide, becoming extinct, as the planet moves more and more toward a mono-species petri dish.   It won't be long before we see only one species on the planet - mankind.   Eventually, I predict, even pets will become extinct.  But I digress.

Meanwhile, in Western countries, population growth has somewhat stagnated. Either the rate of increase is declined, or in some countries population has actually declined slightly.  Just as gas expands to fill a container, people from highly populated countries naturally flow into areas with lower populations. This, I think, is the fundamental problem we are having.

It isn't Trump, it isn't the wall, it isn't ICE.   These are just symptoms of the problem, not the problem itself.   Brexit is the same deal.   Not long ago, my European friends would chastise me for living in a "racist" country.   After all, the UK has absorbed people from all over its empire, and there is no discrimination against blacks there.   Many famous black American entertainers found refuge in France where skin color was not an issue (or, if you were Jerry Lewis, your lack of funniness).  Today?  Well, racism is out of the closet in Europe, as people decry the influx of immigrants, or even fellow EU members.

And it is going to get a lot, lot worse, before it gets better.   The migration issue will not be solved by border walls, improving ICE, abolishing ICE, open borders, closed borders, new asylum policies, Brexit, or whatever.  It doesn't matter who is in the White House or Downing Street, or what polices are enacted, the basic truth still exists - we have a worldwide migration problem, and no one seems curious as to why.

No one is curious, as these fundamental issues can't be addressed by local politics.   We can't go into Catholic-dominated Central and South American countries and tell them to stop reproducing so much.   We can't go to Africa and tell them to stop having so many babies, where there isn't enough food.   And we can't go to these countries and tell them their fundamentalist religious values are bullshit and part and parcel of the problem. 

It doesn't matter whether it is sharia law in sub-Saharan Africa, or fundamentalist Catholicism in Central America.   Bear in mind while we debate the legality of abortion in the United States, women are jailed for having a miscarriage in El Salvador.   This is the level of primitivism we are dealing with here.   And yes, a lot of people in the United States don't want that brought here.

The irony is, of course, that the loudest voices in America against immigration are the most primitive ones - the least educated and those with the most primitive beliefs.   The most educated and sophisticated among us (well, at least they think so) are often the ones crying for open borders and free migration.   This strikes me as ironic, as the sort of folks who want to migrate here are often the ones who would be the first to vote for no more voting and decry the liberal social values that brought them here in the first place.   People are interesting, to say the least.

So what is the solution?   Sorry, there ain't one - not a neat clean one you'd like to see, where better politicians are elected and better policies enacted and the whole problem solved and the world singing Kumbaya together.  It just isn't going to happen.  Hell, we can't even elect better politicians!  But even if we could, they aren't solving the underlying population problem.

My gut reaction is that things are going to get worse and worse in these migrant-home countries.  Wars will break out.  Famines will occur. Epidemics and plagues will occur.  Resources will be exhausted and people will become even more desperate in the coming decade.

Gee, Bob, you're in a swell mood this morning, eh?

Sorry, but I have to call it as I see it, and I think this trend is one reason why many people are retreating from the world stage.    Today, there are many more countries on the State Department's "Do Not Visit" list - and many more than I would be hesitant to see.   It is sad, because a lot of this has happened in my lifetime.   There was a time you could travel the world and see exotic locations.  Today, even formerly tourist-friendly destinations are dicey propositions, either because of rampant crime, terrorism, and violence, or because the local governments are quite likely to throw you in jail for insulting the king, spitting on the sidewalk, or just to use you as a pawn in some international game of intrigue.

In the paper today, a seemingly unrelated article about GM pulling out of Australia and Thailand.  Holden, of course, was dead years ago.  They finally stopped making their last product (ironically, one that was actually imported into the United States) in 2017.   Today, they gave up the pretense of being a car company and closed their doors.   GM also sold a Thai factory to China and last year sold its entire European operations to PSA.   GM is hunkering down to a mostly US market (where highly profitable pickup trucks account for about half its profit margin) and China, where sales of Buicks account for the other half - for the time being.   GM still has its troubled Korean operations, and still sells and manufactures in Latin America.  Well, not in Venezuela anymore.  I am pretty sure that GM has already considered that things in China might not go on forever - and probably has an exit strategy for there as well.

Going forward, in the next decade, I think you might see people hunker down more and turn inwardly.  This is, in part, the momentum behind the far-Left, who sees less and less reason to engage in conflicts overseas and wishes that sort of effort was put into making life more comfortable for Americans.  Ironically, this is the same motivation of the Trump supporters - the "America Firsters" who don't want America first in foreign policy, but no foreign policy whatsoever.   Those who wish to engage the world - the centrist Democrats and Republicans, are increasingly finding themselves in the minority in their own parties.

It is a shame, too. When I was a kid, we really thought we would solve the world's problems - population growth would be limited or zeroed-out, modern thinking would replace primitive religious views, Democracy would flourish, and the whole world would adopt the standard of living we have here in the United States.  Sadly, it seems, this was an infantile fantasy.  When given the chance to vote for the first time, many in the third world voted for religious fundamentalism and the right not to ever vote again.   "Take this democracy away from me!  It is too scary!" they seemed to say.

Human nature, it turns out, is a pretty stubborn thing.