Posts Tagged ‘Haiti’

Immigration Deception?

September 5, 2011

 Curious, but revealing incident in a park, somewhere in the USA. I was walking with my daughter, when I came across a group of very black children, accompanied by an older white woman. Usually American “blacks” are not that black, and to see a whole group of charcoal like children was exceptional. All the more since they spoke French, not English. Actually, they did not understand English.

 Having spent most of my childhood in French speaking West (really black) Africa, my interest was raised. My toddler, from her towering 23 months of ancient wisdom, was delighted to meet French speakers, and show them around the playground. Her antics made her instantaneously popular: she was using with proficiency a playground made for children at least 5 year old. Extremely charming: she conducted her business with great seriousness, beaming with pride. 

 I asked the teenagers what they were doing in the USA. I had expected them to be visiting for summer. I was surprised when they demurred. They said I should ask the American lady, who loomed in the distance. I found that weird. I asked the lady. She told me she was an immigration lawyer, and these children were “political refugees”. She had requested the U.S. Immigration to offer them political asylum. 

 PA: “Political asylum? Which dictatorship are they from? They cannot be from Zimbabwe, they speak French!” 

 Lady Lawyer: “They are from Haiti.”

 PA:“Haiti? But Haiti is a democracy! They just had a presidential election! With international observers, and the UN all over! There was no violence, whatsoever.” 

 LL:“You think so, but it’s not like here, it’s very poor there!”

 PA:“So you are saying that the poor ought to get political asylum, just because their country is poor?” 

 LL:“Yes, of course!” 

 PA:“Don’t you think that is abusing the concept? Besides, as a Socialist French Prime Minister, Michel Rocard, once said:”La France ne peut pas receuillir toute la misere du monde!” (“France cannot welcome all the world’s misery!”, meaning that just because people live in misery, they should not be welcome in France.) I don’t see why the USA ought to accept all the world’s misery, either.”

 LL:“The USA is not France. This is the New World! The more immigration, the better the American economy gets!” 

 PA: “Well, after World War Two and the Algerian civil war, the French economy was destroyed, but recently, in spite of little immigration, the French economy has clearly been doing better than the USA: free healthcare, free infant and toddler care, free schooling, much better life spans, less poverty, etc.”

 LL:“Americans are very generous people. They want to help Haiti.” 

 PA:“Well, so are the French: not only do they help Haiti too, but they are sending 15 billion euros to Greece, while paying for it with a 12 billion euros austerity plan. That help for Greece was just last week. Moreover, overall, France is a country where the poor get much more help, and the hyper rich pay, like in Great Britain, 50% tax or more. In the USA, the richest 400 incomes pay only 17% tax, and the democratic president, in a flourish of hypocrisy, claims that this will revive the economy.” 

 Lady Lawyer: “Well, a rising tide lifts all boats, the more people come into this country, the better it is for everybody.” 

 PA:“Sure the corporations love to have more janitors and valet park attendants come in, and maybe the economy of the USA can survive all this generosity. But certainly not the ecology, and the quality of life. 30 years ago, there were 17 million people in California, now there are 38 million. This makes California into the fastest growing state in the world. The entire world. It is pretty clear that California has not withstood the shock. Now they are closing schools in some villages in the mountains. There are a lot of mountains in California. Children will have to drive 30 miles, over snowy roads, which may be closed at the first Pacific storm, to go to school, next winter. Other cities are closing their police departments, some cities are bankrupt. Even the ultra conservative U.S. Supreme Court has ordered California to release more than 50,000 prisoners held in inhuman conditions. And the Post Office of the USA may close within 6 months. From lack of money. Why not help Americans too?” 

 At this point the immigration lawyer just walked away. I wondered not why she did. Perhaps to exhibit her generosity, and reconstitute her dominance, like the head chimpanzee exhibits his strength by dragging a branch, she went to help my daughter down a slide. She had not noticed that my sweet angel is a slide master, and could do without someone waiting for her at the bottom. 

 The lady lawyer do-gooder, anxious as she was, to receive the little goddess in her arms, forgot she had a heavy reflex camera hanging around her neck. The representative of justice and love ended smacking generously the heavy black contraption in my toddler’s face. The innocent angel cried profusely, to everybody’s consternation, while her lip swelled. 

 I thought that was a telling moral to the story: to be good, it’s not enough to want to appear good, or even to mean to be good. One has to act well, too. Or one may end mean.

 So what do I think about all this? Should I go all the way to the bitter end of that lady’s reasoning, and proclaim impoverished Americans to be political refugees in their own country?

 First, to import Haitian children as if they were political refugees is a travesty of the status of political refugee.

 Second, that taking children away from Haiti does not help Haiti. An empire of 310 million ought not to steal its substance from a country ten millions.

 Third that the resources given by the government of the USA to help Haitian children should be sent to Haiti to help them in their own country, where they belong, and where it would help Haiti more, by a multiplier effect. 

 Fourth, I immediately perceived an enormous cultural gap: the Haitian children were delighted to play with my baby, in a way I have never seen American children do it. American children tend to be standoffish , and are conditioned to engage in much less physical interaction, to touch much less, preferably not to approach, to even avoid eye contact, let alone unguarded speech outside of automatic banalities. 

 The Haitian children were all over my blonde child, and delighted by her enthusiastic French babbling. I could not resist thinking that the USA was not their country, they were not made for it, they would have to lose a lot, to stay in the USA, and survive what would be, for all practical purpose,  a hostile culture. 

 I actually mentioned this to the lady lawyer, and she retorted that the children will have to stay with the Haitian community. 

 Which brought me back to what was this lawyer was trying to do? OK, maybe she was motivated by greed, sorry, her profession, being paid by some organization(s) to import Haitian children. Or maybe she was truly delusional, and she really thought she was doing good. Indeed, how does it help the USA to put more of a burden on its exhausted social services? How does it help ten million Haitians to have American ladies come, swoop, and steal their children? 

 So now the numbers. In 1940, the USA had 140 million people. In 2011, the white Americans are 196 million, the blacks are about 20 million (I am using rough numbers, from memory). At this point the white population is not growing anymore (maybe because it is not getting enough help from the shrinking social services!) But the total population is 310 million, including 50 million Hispanics (who basically did not exist in 1940, they have been imported since). 

 Why so many Hispanics suddenly? Cheap labor, that’s why. Massive immigration has filled up the coffers of the corporate USA. This strategy of importing quasi slaves has stooped all the way down to infamy: the USA has refused to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The USA is the only country to refuse the children rights, with… Somalia, another country involved in ever less government, and ever more military spending. 

 Of course, Somalia is famous for its sea born pirates, while the USA is famous for its financial pirates. So both countries have, indeed, something else in common, besides child labor. The USA closes its collective eyes as Hispanic immigrant children go work the fields, with, or without their parents, who are paid little more, and just as trapped.

 All this immigration, far from lifting the population which was already there, as it used to, seems to have made its life harder. Why? 

 Well, in the past, the distant past, the government of the USA, thanks to presidents such as Jefferson or Jackson, had seized from Native American Indians, and others, gigantic portions of North America. Then they distributed them for a song to whomever wanted to take possession of them. This instantaneously made citizens of the USA, the richest, and healthiest people, in the world. By far. As more came in, they filled up the extremely needed manpower. 

 Nowadays the situation has completely changed. First, there are robots, and the like. Secondly the government is not in the habit of making free gifts to the middle class, as it did with FDR (when the government employed millions, in a few weeks), or the GI Bill (sending GIs to college for free), or LBJ’s “Great Society”, or even various social programs of Nixon. 

 Ever since Reagan, the government’s ideology has changed. It has become anti-governmental, and more and more resources were devoted to the rich (reaching a paroxysm under Obama, who cancelled the inheritance tax on billionaires, and lowered taxes on the hypoer rich more than Bush did, in his anxiety to show them he is such a good boy!)   

  Thus the main stream population of the USA, the white middle class, was less needed, and actually feared as a potential source of demands, requests, revendications, not to say unions, uncool behavior, or even outright rebellion. So the middle class is being robbed of power, and progressively starved.

 That starvation is an ongoing process, thanks to Obama, and his bipartisan partner, the Tea Party, who have never seen a tax on the rich they did not want to cut, paid for by cutting public services… to the point the economy of the USA is now grossly misfiring. For example cutting public transportation makes it hard for low income American workers to go to work, or to have any money left once they have transported themselves (and thus are incapable to contribute to economic activity, beyond their own work). But the rich lawyers in their fancy cars (as the lady above in her white Mercedes), or the multimillionaire president aspiring to become a hyper millionaire, don’t care to understand any of this.

 To import Haitian children is more of the same importation of humans to serve the for profit machine of the last three decades. It does not differ fundamentally from importing slaves in centuries past. Just replace the whip by dissemblance. Some will say: Oh, but the slaves had it hard! Not necessarily so much that they would rebel. Indeed, rebellions of black slaves in the USA were very rare. 

 Remember Jefferson’s children-slaves, who followed him back to the USA, willingly from France? Although they hesitated? Why? Because he made them false promises about freeing them, once they would be back to America. He was a full grown man, with an abyssal bend, they were just children. They believed him, and he lied. Maybe that should be mentioned in his beautiful memorial in Washington? Why not? 

 After talking to these Haitian unfortunates in the only language they knew, my impression was that they were made false promises too. And they seemed to guess it, but it was too painful, and pointless, for them to contemplate. Nobody relishes exploring the potential betrayal of those who profess love, and in whom one has believed. And, of course, they were only children. Three of them could not have been more than 13. 

 When I think back on it, a few days later, my impression is that I witnessed a pretty serious crime. The crime of a would be do-gooder, but still a crime.

 As the white Mercedes left, Athena pointed towards it a sanctimonious finger, and with a steady gaze, tears drying on her pink cheeks, declared: “Lady nose hurt bad!” Truth comes from the mouth of children.

*** 

Patrice Ayme

Civilization: Don’t Live Home Without It.

January 18, 2010

 

I have been staying silent for a while, as I work on what I view as a major work on Anti-Ideas, a very practical concept which explains a lot of human thinking. Or lack thereof.

I have also been silent, a bit by deference for the tragedy in Haiti. And also to think carefully about it. There is a lot to be said. After all, it’s a man made tragedy: prehistoric men rarely died when their caves fell in an earthquake. Caves are better built.

In this day and age, buildings can be made, which could resist any earthquake (they would have to withstand an acceleration of one g horizontally in the zones where plates slip along each other, but it can be done: after all, building withstand one g vertically all the time!)

Moreover, it is known where, and roughly when (up to a few centuries, sometimes), earthquakes occur: some have actually been predicted and mitigated (this happened in Turkey, as it became fairly obvious a strike and slip fault was going to slip again, in a quake as violent as the one in Haiti, and the Turkish government listened to its geophysicists, and evacuated the all too fragile schools).

To be as prosaic as possible, equally as nasty quakes in Japan as the one in Haiti recently killed nearly no one, because of tough building codes. That happened because Japan is equipped with something called an appropriate civilization. Haiti has a civilization all right, but it is entirely inappropriate to the tectonic activity at hand. Among other things. (And this is no accident, a subject for some other day.)

Now no hubris is to be had in the West about this: outside of Japan, building codes seem entirely inappropriate. Building codes in the USA, and especially on the all too moving West Coast, are not tough enough.

The Obama administration could order to toughen building codes up, and that would act as a powerful stimulus for the economy in general. (By re-launching construction as a worthy activity.)

Now, of course, to have tough building codes, and act accordingly, one needs a tough civilization. Something which was deliberately not chosen as the best option by Dessalines, the main -and venerated- founder of Haiti in its present decomposed state.

CIVILIZATION: DON’T LIVE HOME WITHOUT IT. This is the lesson for Haiti, and the rest of the world. (Building codes are also insufficient in Europe, where vicious quakes, complete with giant tsunamis have struck, even in the recent past, namely the 20C, for example in France (Aix quake) and Italy.

On December 28, 1908, an earthquake of Richter magnitude 7.5 occurred centered on Messina, a city in Sicily. Reggio Calabria on the Italian mainland also suffered. The ground shook for some 40 seconds within a 300 km radius. Moments after the earthquake, a 13 meters tsunami struck the coasts causing more devastation. 91% of structures in Messina were destroyed and some 70,000 residents were killed. The total number of people killed was between 100,000 and 200,000.

Mappa terremoto 1908.

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Actually quakes and tsunamis are extremely frequent in that region.

So shall Obama order to beef up construction codes over the gigantic part of the USA threatened by earthquakes?

According to Paul Krugman, this sounds unlikely (NYT, January 17, 2010):

"President Obama’s troubles result from misjudgments: the stimulus was too small; banking policy wasn’t tough enough Mr. Obama’s top economic and political advisers concluded that a bigger stimulus was not economically necessary… Whatever led to this misjudgment, however, it wasn’t failure to focus on the issue: in late 2008 and early 2009 the Obama team was focused on little else. The administration wasn’t distracted; it was just wrong."

Right and wrong are important concepts allowing to survive, whereas the "politically correct"concept just amounts to propaganda, indeed.

Obama seems persuaded that cool is cool, and that it is all what a man has to do with his brain to excel: do what you are told, and look cool. Cool is the way. But Obama knows physics not. When you want to change things, you don’t wait, cool as a glacier, for the great melting of the minds. Heat is motion. If you want to move, you have to get hot.

Obama came in, he admired Reagan (an actor who got the plutocratic demolition of the USA on the way), and hired Larry Summers (Reagan’s internal affairs economic adviser, and the main DESTROYER OF ROOSEVELT’s financial SAFEGARDS, as Treasury Secretary under Clinton).

Obama was elected, it turned out, to pursue Larry Summers’ America: for thirty years going, and still collapsing. Then Obama talked as if all he had to do was to persuade the elders of the republican party: still dreaming of his father, apparently. How touching.

But one does not become the president of the USA because one needs public psychotherapy. Quite the opposite: the president is in charge of therapy. The presidents’ job is not to follow, but to lead in the forging of a new mentality, and that mentality better be right.

So, Godspeed America (as the actor Reagan would say). Even the pro-plutocratic magazine "The Economist" wants Obama to put on fighting gloves on (Jan 14, cover):

But, before putting the gloves on, maybe Obama should warm his brain enough to find who to beat up, and that his first enemies are in his own cabinet. As it is, Obama is surrounded by cool plutocrats whose only real ambition is to fill up their pockets some more, in tomorrow’s even cooler plutocracy, so they make US plutocracy the best it can be.

Obama should take heed from his tough predecessor FDR, instead of standing between Clinton and Bush, who are just studies in degeneracy.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was not a perfect president. Why? He was too cool by half, when he confronted Hitler. Instead of arguing with Hitler, and thus helping the dictator by considering him, de facto, a worthy interlocutor, a fact that Hitler famously played like a violin, Roosevelt should have used executive privilege, and forced the USA to declare war, right away. As did Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and many others which joined Britain and France, within days, in their war on the Nazis. Instead, an all too weak Roosevelt did nothing much, and outrageously let American plutocrats keep on helping Hitler some more (instead of trying them for high treason). This made the difference between a little war, and a major holocaust. (The German generals would have made a coup against Hitler, if the USA had fought him, instead of helping him, as was the case in 1933-1942 (!))

Nevertheless, Roosevelt, after he got slapped in the face hard ("a day that would live in infamy") could be courageous, especially after Adolf Hitler also slapped him hard in the face, a few days later.

To be courageous means that Roosevelt could act decisively. After both militarized Japan and Nazi Germany declared war to the USA, Roosevelt went all out for total war, and transformed overnight the economy of the USA into a command economy. The military fascists in control of Japan had vaguely hoped that Roosevelt would keep on being cool, as he had been with Hitler, negotiate some more, and turn to business only, following what the plutocrats of the USA were doing with the Nazis.

But Roosevelt had seen enough: he knew all about Wall Street, and greed. After all, he had worked there as a corporate lawyer, and his family background in high finance extended for generations (including a grandfather who made a fortune with drug trafficking in China with the infamous opium trade). When faced with luminescent evil, Roosevelt knew how to get hot, and not just under the collar.

Roosevelt had taken tough, even violent decisions in 1933: the day he became president, he closed all the banks. Next, he domesticated the bankers, with the Banking Act ("Glass-Steagall"). The Great Depression had the same causes as the crash of 2008: banks had invested the public’s money in Wall Street, and lost it all. So Roosevelt ordered who he called the "banksters" to submit to new laws which prevented the banks to do this again. That was tough. Compare with now. Obama has turned into Roosevelt, in reverse.

Indeed, Obama named, and put in charge of the economy, the man who greatly destroyed Roosevelt’s oeuvre as his main adviser. Obama was probably told by the world’s richest men to do so, so he got really cool, and did as he was told. After all, "look where I am", as he always say. But, as the proverb has it: "The higher the monkey climbs, the worst the fall".

Roosevelt was not an arriviste. His was well beyond the greed of the small and ravenous: been there, done that. He lived at Harvard in luxurious quarters. Roosevelt’s family had long arrived, he was from luxury and privilege. A bold, very close relative had been US president, cracking successfully against an arrogant plutocracy that threatened to swallow the USA in its all consuming embrace. To boot, FDR was Assistant Secretary Of The Navy in World War One, pushing controversially for the submarine as a weapon. So Roosevelt knew how to make war, and had a taste for it. His four sons were decorated for bravery in WWII.

After Roosevelt cracked down on the thuggish bankers in 1933, he gave a speech shortly before the 1936 election. Here’s what he said:

"We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace — business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob. Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me — and I welcome their hatred."

Roosevelt was not cool, he was hot. He was a man who came back after being paralyzed from the waist down. A warrior, a doer. Not a carpet for bankers, and not someone who could not have drawn a lesson from the Haiti quake; don’t ask for whom the earth rolls, it rolls for thee.

Civilization is to fight for. Anything else short of this is just not cool.

***

Patrice Ayme

***

P/S: So far, Obama acted well, and decisively, for a change, about Haiti. Thus showing Americans that the most important things, only the government can do. But troops from the USA and others (France, etc.) should slap United Nations flags on their helmets. Give the hoodlums no pretext.