I can’t watch or listen to the liberal media without hearing reports of immigrants complaining about how badly they are treated by the wider American society. (Yes, I listen to National Public Radio nearly every afternoon. It’s my intellectual duty and also my secret vice.) Something does not add up in the oppressed immigrant narrative though. First, before I explain, forgive me in advance because I am about to transgress on good manners in two different ways.
First transgression first. I spent much of five years of my youth in graduate school learning not much more than the following: My own experience, basically a collection of anecdotes, proves nothing. Point well taken. But the anecdotes within my reach can sometimes pile up to the point that they make some questions unavoidable. Below is one such question.
I know many immigrants, and different kinds of immigrants. First, like everyone else who lives in California, I know many Mexican immigrants. I understand Spanish perfectly. (I mean, as well as English; you be the judge.) I speak it well because, like French, my native language, it’s just a dialect of Latin. I hang around the abundant Spanish language media often. If Mexican immigrants complained, it would have come to my attention. I only remember one such case, a young woman who had come to this country as a child. She confided that she thought my colleagues, her professors, favored “Caucasians” in grading. She was actually failing because her English was poor. I made her do an assignment in Spanish and I understood why she was frustrated. My colleagues were not unfair to her. Her English language self’s IQ was stuck at room temperature (in F degrees) while her Spanish self must have been jumping around the 120 mark. No one had bothered to tell her the obvious: “You need to learn English better.” Not American society’s fault, except for having tolerated her without adequate language training, and for the university that had admitted her, ditto. (Incidentally that school’s affirmative action program was a success overall, I thought.)
The foreign-born Hispanics I know and meet are all in a wonderful mood in public. Of course earning in one hour what would take you a day in Mexico and two days in El Salvador would put anyone in a good mood. There are three or four bastards of them, Hispanics, who force me to wake at 6 every morning because they walk under my window guffawing and laughing loudly. As I have written elsewhere, on this blog, the evidence for Hispanics’ satisfaction is easy to find.
I also know Asian and European immigrants, who are mostly middle-class, and a handful of Middle Easterners. The latter, mostly Muslims, feel under siege, of course; it would be a miracle if they did not. It’s not really American society’s fault that nearly all the mass murderers of civilians in recent years insisted on shouting “Allahu Akbar.” Yet, even those immigrants sure as hell are not packing their bags, or, if they do, it’s in minute numbers. I would bet there is no exodus out of the country.
The Asian and Europeans I know tend to exult in their American residence; they often act smugly about it although all of them miss something from their country of origin, at least their relatives. (For me, it’s not so much relatives as blanquette de veau; look it up.) Nevertheless, many of those middle-class immigrants find a political home on the left of the American spectrum because they have never been exposed to the ideal of small government. Even the smart ones usually don’t realize that government is a predator. More anecdotic transgression: If I ask myself who seems to be happier, on the average of those I meet more or less daily, immigrants or native born Americans, the answer comes loud and clear: the immigrants.
So, I am seriously beginning to consider if the reporting of widespread complaints by immigrants is not fabricated, with the help of a handful of fairly sophisticated minority members of the media. I mean, for example, the blond, lying CNN Mexican-born anchor who can’t open his mouth without proffering a vicious untruth.
Here is my second violation of convention. I am only doing it because being an immigrant gives me special privileges (and being old also does). If there are really, really many immigrants with serious grievances I don’t worry much because they are all citizens, citizens of some other country, that is. It seems to me, most of them could pack up and leave and go home to where they are citizens. That’s except for the refugees from war. The latter don’t have much of a leg to stand on however. Whatever shortcomings American society has, at least, here, we don’t kill you on purpose unless we know you personally.
That’s a real advantage.
I wish we had a national program to pay for one-way tickets for disgruntled immigrants. It might not even require taxpayer money. There must be tens of thousands like me. I give money voluntarily to save tigers in the wild. Sending back bad immigrants into the wilderness is a good cause too. So, it could be done by free public subscription. Or this country could institute a small tax on in-coming immigrants to constitute a fund that finances one-way tickets on demand. It would be fair, like an assigned risk insurance pool is fair. My guess is that it would be one of the few government programs that does not overspend its budget. It would have, at least ,the merit of putting an end to the BS* in the liberal media.
Ah, but the Democratic Party won’t allow it! It would never permit such practical innovativeness because malcontents are its bread and butter.
Incidentally, the ambitious guy inside me wonders if we couldn’t have a second one-way ticket program, one for native-born Americans who hate America. Of course, I am thinking only about a voluntary program. It would have the merit of ranking all the dissatisfied who don’t avail themselves of the offer of a one-way ticket as at least moderately satisfied. It would stop some of the implicit blackmail of America. It’s not a cruel proposal, I think the Canadians would take them.
* Note for my overseas readers: B.S. are the discreet initials for “bullshit” a colloquial term for an argument without merit. It’s unfair to bulls that mostly mind their business and don’t argue much.
There is widespread confusion around between two ideas that should be easy to separate from each other. I keep bumping into it. I had several lengthy discussions of it with strangers on Facebook. Some were of the left, some of the right. I found it in my morning paper under the pen of no less than columnist David Brooks of the New York Times (“Midwest at Dusk”11/7/1)).
I refer to the confusion between the happiness of a country’s citizens and the country’s standing in the world. David Brooks wrote:
“If America can figure out how to build a decent future for the working-class people in this (mid-Atlantic) region, then the US will remain a predominant power. If it can’t, it won’t.”
President Obama’s post- “shellacking” visit to India is a good time to clear the confusion.
It may be that there is some sort of connection between the happiness of a country’s citizens (or some) and being a “predominant power.” It may be but it’s far from obvious. You would have to demonstrate it. It would be hard; casual evidence does not support the idea. Deeper research does not either. Continue reading
If a man tormented by starvation and civil war in South Sudan declares that he is “happy, no, very happy, a regular three, mind you,” we have learned something about the human spirit and its sometimes stirring, sometimes discouraging, oddity. But we inch toward madness if we go beyond people’s lips and claim to read objectively, or subjectively, their hearts in a 1-2-3 way that is comparable with their neighbors or comparable with the very same South Sudanese man when he wins an immigration lottery and gets to Albany.
From Deirdre McCloskey in the New Republic. It’s about the mismeasurement of happiness. Read the whole thing, but don’t you dare smile!
I have sorted thing out finally and I am old enough to have rid myself of nearly all social pressures on my preferences. I figure there are only four things I really like, four keys to my happiness. Here they are:
I like writing and I like re-writing. That’s any time of day or night that I am awake. I enjoy writing just about everything, including stories, essays, scholarly papers, but also advertising slogans, and even technical “how-to” notices. I write on my PC but also long-hand, even on the back of envelopes. Sometimes, people even read what I write. My friends think I have a self-esteem problem because I am pleased with just about everything I write. I have no clear idea of what they mean. I am mostly happy because I write nearly every day.
I like foods that taste like themselves, beef that tastes only like beef and fish that tastes like fish. There are a few exceptions though. It’s OK for tripe to carry other flavors. That would be cow stomach, served as menudo, in Spanish, for example. In season, I eat fresh cauliflower raw with a little vinegar. I can do that five meals in a row without tiring. As a rule, I will eat anything any other human being anywhere eats as long as it’s distinctive. I make only two exceptions: Ordinarily, I would not consume people, or even dogs whose name I know.
Nouvelle Cuisine is not for me. It’s just putting together foods that don’t belong on the same plate and sprinkling them with raspberry vinegar. California Cuisine just means eating fresh vegetables. My grandmother advised much the same and she was not from California. Almost any wine will do to accompany my food. I have no refinement in that respect (or in any other) and I don’t pretend to.
I am married to an intelligent, resourceful woman who would rather please me than not, at least much of the time. I am a decent cook myself. My tastes are not luxurious. Usually, my food is satisfying. So, I am happy most of the time.
A silvery, bounding fish hooked while trolling under sail on a sunny day at sea, I like desperately. Why “desperately”? Because it’s only happened four times. Each instance occupies an unseemly amount of space in my pleasure memory.
Making love ziplessly to a needy woman who is almost a stranger, I really, really like. It happened more than four times but it was a long time ago so, I am not even completely sure I was involved anymore.
© Jacques Delacroix 2008, 2009