Pulling Up the Ladder Behind Us

September 15, 2013

Everyone thinks that the way things are now is the way they have always been.  You hear it in dismay about the horrors of global climate change to the changes in language, technology, business, or society.

While we can intellectually understand that the world is a place in transition, we have a lot of emotional problems coming to grips with it.

One area that is almost amusingly contradictory is the issue of immigration.  In the Americas and Europe, people are feeling that they are being overwhelmed by immigrants and they feel that is wrong.

History tells us that immigrants were constantly swarming into new areas – since we came out of Africa. We kicked out, killed or interbred with the Neanderthals, Denisovans, and any others we found.

More recent history tells us of Roman immigrants as they built their empire, then hordes of Goths, Magyars, Slavs and others from the East swept into Europe.  Again there was much kicking out, killing and intermingling.

Imagine the immigration man at the border asking the Golden Horde for their Passports and Visas.

But despite the resistance, change keeps happening.  People move.

Languages are like that too.  English is a melange of languages with words from a hundred or more languages.  Unlike some languages, English is willing to incorporate new ones at the drop of a hat, or sombrero or toque.

Other languages can be like that too, incorporating and adapting new words and adapting them to their sound palette or palate.  If there is no room to change, what would you call a computer, or a smartphone.

The change is uncontrollable even though it seems to be a human trait to try to control it.  You might hate OMG or LOL… but too late, they are here. Get over it and enjoy using them because there are more new words coming down the pipe and YOLO.

Now let’s get back to immigration.  We tout the developed world as a land of opportunity and at the same time we try to pull the ladder up behind us so no one else can access that opportunity.

Particularly in North America where the European, African and Asian immigrants have only arrived last few hundreds of years to push aside the Native Americans.  It seems selfish to say we are the only ones allowed here.

That wasn’t the case for many of our parents and grandparents.  They came.  They climbed the ladders.

In fact, many of those who have made the greatest contributions to our societies are first or second generation immigrants.

The rhetoric now is that the folks here are the only ones who have a right to be here and they need to defend their turf. The US, for example, is building huge fences around itself.

The ones that yell the loudest may be the ones who fear they have the most to loose — that if there is immigration they will slide down the social ladder because they can’t or don’t want to compete.

Fear of change just boils down to plain old fear.  Humanity needs more climbers and fewer sliders.

Humanity survives by improving our long term living conditions. That is always an ongoing struggle in a changing world.  Let’s make the ladder as easy to access as possible.

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