NOTE: BagNewsNotes is now located at http://www.bagnewsnotes.com/. Please update your bookmarks.

You will be automatically redirected in a few seconds...

« Playing With The Code | Main | Your Turn: Turning A Phrase »

Oct 28, 2006

Potemkin Village

25966430

by Chris Maynard

On Thursday, as he signed a bill authorizing the Mexican/U.S. border fence (but not the funds to build it), President Bush sounded like a progressive, noting that “Ours is a nation of immigrants" -- just before jumping the political fence, adding "We’re also a nation of law."

Off camera, I'm sure President Bush would admit that a giant fence along the Mexican/U.S. border is not the ideal way to solve immigration problems. But it's election time, and politicians prefer to see how high they can fan the flames to protect America along its newest "front line."

You can't have legislative gestures, however, without real motions to demonstrate teeth.  That's where the Border Patrol comes in.  These photographs recently ran in the Los Angeles Times with an article on the department's training academy in New Mexico. Enrollment this year has climbed to 3600. Seen from a distance, they offer a small Potemkin village. Up close, it looks like an attempt to convince every concerned American that yes, the doors did indeed close after his or her family crossed the border, no matter how long ago they made the trip.

An instructor demonstrates boxcar navigation as recruits watch below. In the background, the railroad tracks come to an abrupt halt in the New Mexican desert. Is this a one-way street or a journey to nowhere? Bear in mind that much of the American railroad was produced by immigrants.

Borderpatrol3

As a recruit knees an imaginary groin during a defensive tactics drill, a couple of torsos with heads wait against a back wall, ready to be pummeled as stand-ins for "illegals." The floor is clean and shiny, and the light is more than adequate. (Does training for night duty call for switching off the overheads?) 

Borderpatrol2

In a first-aid course, matching white plastic dummies get CPR. Again, it's a picture of practically faceless objects compressed by a sea of uniforms, like a disaster aftermath in which the victims all managed to line up in neat rows.

Borderpatrol4

Finally, a stand-in gets seized in a field in broad daylight as a cadet brandishes handcuffs. Physical domination is the rule, backed up by the red-handled stand-in gun. The faux perp?  He's an Hispanic local (presumably, an American citizen) doing his patriotic duty for $20 an hour.

Politically, the best part is that it takes place mostly out of sight.

It's like the old farm rule of not giving names to the animals you're going to eat later on. Train on dummies, and pretend to arrest the same employee day in and day out. Keep everything at arm's length on back roads, or on railroad sidings that dead end.

Candidates in states with no Mexican border (that would be 46 of them) get to pump their rhetorical muscles and, just like the training exercises, it all occurs in the ether. The rest of the U.S. eats its vegetables and admires its freshly mowed lawns. (Decorative) stone walls go up, new homes get roofed and sheet-rocked, and, once Election Day passes, it's all good.

(images: Don Bartletti / LAT. Artesia, New Mexico. October 19, 2006. losangelestimes.com)

Comments

Too bad Indians did not have the "fence!"

Looking at these pictures one is not sure what they are about.
Is this a preparation for national disaster?
Is this a preparation for invasion of an army?
Is this a preparation for fencing in the "ghetto" from where the trains do not leave?
Or
Is this a nice play manipulation on people's emotions to show something is being done by the government?

The last picture brings in feeling of empathy, even for a stand-in.
It also shows the absurdity of the whole plan.

Because America is a nation of immigrants, we have a lot of ambivalence about what is happening now--our porous border. I have grown annoyed by the standard liberal snark about immigration. Next time a liberal--I'm staring at you lytom--makes the CW comment about the native Americans, I'm going to SCREAM*. Instead of playing the old tapes over and over, we need to consider the possibility that this situation is different, that something fundamental has changed. Perhaps our paradigms need to accommodate a new reality? How is this situation different/same from our previous experiences of immigration?

The larger picture is that across the globe, rich nations with lower birthrates are struggling with migrants from poor nations with high birthrates.

In the US, some residents of states that border Mexico are feeling overwhelmed. One interesting question has to do with why now--10 years ago we didn't have this problem. What has changed that Mexico can no longer provide for its own citizens? This same question can be asked about the people who are sneaking from Africa into Spain, France and Italy. What has changed?

That said, Potemkin is exactly right. How blatant and obvious is Bush's act? The political situation in the US is nutty right now--the Republicans aren't even trying to make sense. Everything they do is a blatant attempt to hold on to power. Governance has nothing to do with it. I'm expecting the latest video from OBL to be aired on Friday.

One response to the border problems is paranoia: The experience of some set of residents of AZ, NM, CA, TX is that the old order is breaking down. That is what I see in this set of pictures: Each picture has many people in it, suggesting that the problem is vast and urgent, involving hordes attacking right now. The people in uniform frames the problem as a military invasion requiring a military response. The palette of red (suggesting violence, blood), black, gray white--is very basic, primary. It suggests the problem is also simple, black & white, uncomplicated. Finally, the white dummies...what does one make of the metaphor of white dummies who need resuscitating? This invasion is stopping the hearts of native born?

The liberal response of denying the problem or of accusing the fearful of being motivated simply by racism, doesn't help. The lack of a liberal policy just leaves the field open for grandstanding by authoritarians like GWB.

*not that any of you will hear me. This seems to raise a variation of the old philsophical question of "if a tree falls in the forest, is there a sound?"

"The larger picture is that across the globe, rich nations with lower birthrates are struggling with migrants from poor nations with high birthrates.

In the US, some residents of states that border Mexico are feeling overwhelmed. One interesting question has to do with why now--10 years ago we didn't have this problem. What has changed that Mexico can no longer provide for its own citizens?"

Well, let's see...why would people from Central and South America be going north? Could it be that Neo Liberal economic policies including NAFTA, etc. have helped to destroy the economies of the countries that are being fled?
I can support a fence to stop people from coming to our country as long as it also stops money and resources from flowing North and pollution from going South.
10 years ago we didn't have "this" problem? That's not true. Plenty of illegal immigrants 10 years ago. Many fled repressive regimes that we were propping up with money, arms and death squad training. It's a cumulative problem. It gets worse with time when destructive policies remain in place.
No one 'here' seems interested in what goes on 'there'.
Barely a peep from major media outlets about the assault on teachers and their supporters at the barricades in Oaxaca. Only now that a White American Male has been murdered by plainclothes police and paramilitaries we're getting a little of the story, albeit spun like an Iranian centrifuge in an attempt to blame the victims.
The fact that you've asked the question at all gives me hope that others may follow suit. I can only hope they overcome prejudice and shortsightedness and discover the true roots of the desperation that drives people to leave their homes and families to come to the U.S.

Here is part of what people near the border are feeling, and why. From the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) website:
In 2004, 14 new K-12 schools were opened. Doesn't sound like much, does it? The recent passing of a bond issue means that "[t]he District can now build approximately 185 new schools by 2012 to relieve over-crowding and return schools to the traditional two-semester calendar. To date, 68 new schools have already been opened." That's 68 NEW schools. No, there has not been a tripling of the birth rate in LA. Every bit of this increase in the need for schools (mostly K-6) is from immigration, and almost all of that is 'illegal' immigration. Guess who pays for all these schools? Homeowners. When one is forced to sell their home because they can no longer afford the taxes, even liberals tend to become angry.

As for why this is happening all over the world? Some countries brought in migrant workers who then brought in families and none of them wanted to leave. The availability of TV, even in the smallest village in Africa, shows the world how the west lives. It sure looks better than a grass hut with dirt floor. Is it any wonder they want to leave? To say nothing of the genocides happening all over Africa and Asia and So. America (to name a few). The homeless and the poor of western nations don't get on TV so supposedly we all live in large houses with many appliances and several cars. That even looks good to me and if I weren't already here, I'd pack up and go.

Chris, this topic (illegal immigration and what's being done about it) is too enormous to discuss as presented. But more important, Americans refuse to acknowledge how illegal immigration *sustains* our way of life in the first place. Americans are INCAPABLE of self-examination, so a conversation is not going to happen here. We're *totally fine* with leaving it to the Minutemen or these paramilitary recruits. OF COURSE this pro-fence article appears in the LA Times! California: A red state dressed in blue camouflage.

I live in New York City — home of MILLIONS of illegal immigrants — where we at least acknowledge they exist. That California *waits* to deal with the situation until a crisis point is TYPICAL of the rest of the country. You must hunt to *find* articles about how illegal immigration benefits California's economy and its legal citizens (because such analysis wanders into the murky waters of the "illegal" part), only alarmist articles about what it *costs* California taxpayers (based on studies funded by anti-immigration groups — DUH!). Illegal immigration is debated in this country only as a "supply" problem, not as a "demand" problem (see article below about the California strawberry industry, from which I borrowed this language).

Randolph, immigrants to the U.S. don't leave their country of origin just because it sucks. You make it sound like they get here and promptly buy a TV. Lovely. They come here because *WE* need them to keep our labor costs down. Our precious way of life must not be compromised, and we're not going to let the environment, any other country, or anyone else's quality of life get in our way of buying discount toys for our kids at Wal-Mart.

PTate in MN: What does "CW" mean? And why are *you* freaking out? The first article below talks about illegal immigrants in Minneapolis, btw.

Here Illegally, Working Hard and Paying Taxes:
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/19/business/19illegals.html?ex=1308369600&en=9d7f7d2165ea3d14&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

Illegal Immigrations Costs vs. Benefits
http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB115100948305787940-tA5PP0Ya_9U0AlXBQQhnaDyMIYc_20060725.html?mod=tff_main_tff_top

Illegal Immigrants Frequently Denied Compensation:
http://www.realcities.com/mld/krwashington/15527454.htm

Illegal Immigration in the California Strawberry Industry:
http://www.eriposte.com/civil_rights/non-citizens/ca_strawberry_industry.htm

Urban Legends: Where Your Taxes Go - Illegal Aliens:
http://www.snopes.com/politics/immigration/taxes.asp

Liberals are no better than *Republicans* when it comes to discussing illegal immigration. Because, when push comes to shove, liberals won't look at themselves honestly or change their way of life either. Pisses me off.

Haunted land, motherfuckers. You can try and "forget about the Indians" and "move on to a new jazzy paradigm" all you want. Have fun there. Meanwhile, the land will brown....

I agree with rtbag on this. It seems to me as though Ptate's need for a paradigm shift is just to accomodate another postcolonial/neocolonial way of dealing with this situation.

The biggest problem with this whole debate is the means of language employed. Illegal alien. God, it sounds as though not only is an alien living among us but that he/she is a criminal too! When it comes to labels, none gets worse than this. Both words negatively denote a human being.

I've said this before, but if you look at Foucault the language is extremely important. Before that we can't even have a real debate about this issue (which is exactly what the powers that be want).

With all due respect, I believe that rtbag, nezua, and lightkeeper illustrate my point about the need for a liberal paradigm shift.

CW stands for "Conventional Wisdom", btw. (And btw stands for "by the way.")

The liberal response illustrated here runs from the snarky "the land will brown, heh" to the intellectualized "postcolonial/neocolonial way of dealing with this situation" to the self-loathing "Americans refuse to acknowledge how illegal immigration *sustains* our way of life. Americans are INCAPABLE of self-examination".

Do you notice how these responses avoid dealing with root causes and fail to propose any new policies or approaches? This is why liberals need new paradigms. Celebrating brown over white, referencing foucault and neocolonialism, and dumping on the American character are typical of the existing liberal paradigm (or CW).

I agree with rtbag that Americans are refusing to acknowlege how they benefit from cheap labor. I also think that the majority of Americans are comfortable letting a few Americans bear the costs of this cheap labor (and when those few complain, we'll call them racist!) I also agree with Chris that American policies are wrecking the economies of the countries that are being fled: Our involvement in Central America during the 1980s was profoundly destructive. I also believe that some of those countries are corruptly run. Would it be neo-colonial to pressure them to clean up their acts?

Randolph points out that 68 NEW schools have been built in LA to accommodate population growth. Meanwhile, we are building a wall, a wall!, to hold back the hordes of invading aliens. (!) Citizens are forming militias to deal with the threat. This is crazy stuff and, I believe, symptoms of a failure of leadership.

The conservative paradigm--exploitation, isolationism, pro-growth, paranoia, anti-science--that has been running this country since the Reagan years has been a disaster for the US and for the world. Americans are as addicted to cheap labor as we are to Arab oil. Both addictions are destroying America, and both addictions are encouraged by conservatives.

Liberals need to comprehend why conservatives were able to consolidate such power while doing such damage. I would propose that liberal approaches that are self-loathing, over-intellectualized and anti-white majority might have something to do with it. I also believe that the liberal approach to illegal immigration should not begin and end with passive/ aggressive acceptance of the decline of the USA. A robust internationalism would be one place to start.

If you have 50 minutes, I strongly encourage you to listen to this lecture by Prof Al Bartlett and then think about worldwide human migration, resource depletion and global warming.

If you want a simple explanation, here it is:

People go where the money is.

Or more to the point, you reap what you sow.

As for the situation in Mexico, this articel might shed some light on recent events:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061029/ap_on_re_la_am_ca/mexico_oaxaca_unrest

I do not know you PTate in MN, and doubt you know me to call me "a liberal." I would have liked clear explanation what actually riled you to screams and to select me as your target.
Using "labels" seems a comforting tactic for some to feel they are right.

lytom,

You started the comment thread with this: "Too bad Indians did not have the "fence!""

I have observed that liberals often avoid meaningful discussion of the current immigration confusion by making snarky references to the effect that native Americans were here before white Americans. In this way they both avoid the discussion AND can present themselves as not-racist. I am frustrated by this lack of intellectual seriousness among liberals.

Your comment matched my template for such a snarky comment, and it would be an astonishing comment from a conservative. So I made the inference that you are liberal.

If I was wrong, if I misunderstood your reference, I apologise.

PTate in MN,

I enjoyed your link to Prof Al Bartletts lecture.

After 50 challenging minutes attempting to understand what Americans mean when they refer to liberals, I'm more confused than ever.

When you use the term are you able to narrow down your political preferenc or a specific form

from wiki two extracts for starters,

"Liberalism in America takes various forms, ranging from classical liberalism to social liberalism to neoliberalism".

"..the term "liberal" has become stigmatized and is now generally avoided by those running for office; "progressive" is now often used instead of "liberal". Although the two are related, they are really distinct political ideologies" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_liberalism

Would you consider neoliberalism as implemented internationally a progessive concept or policy which actually benefits so called 2 or 3 rd world countries ?

thanks, jt

jtfromBC....whew, big questions! That wiki article confuses more than it clarifies, imho. I don't know that I am the person to define what Americans mean when they refer to liberals. I would have to spend a good deal more time than I care to spend to come up with my answer to your question "Would you consider neoliberalism as implemented internationally a progessive concept or policy which actually benefits so called 2 or 3rd world countries?"

I consider myself a liberal, and I can only speak for myself. I consider America a liberal representative democracy. That is, America is a system of government of, by & for the people that operates by the rule of law. The size and scope of government, however, has restrained by a system of checks and balances. As a liberal, I believe that the government is necessary AND an important part of solutions to problems faced by people living in complex social arrangements. In this I differ from the current crop of conservatives who consider government the problem and the system of checks and balances a thing to destroy.

Also, as a liberal, I believe in the freedom of the press, in the equality of all humans, and in separation of church and state. These were mentioned in the wiki article. I believe that modern conservatism opposes all of these--freedom of the press, equality of all humans and separation of church and state. I also believe in diversity of opinion and transparency in government and business--both of which are opposed by modern American conservatism.

As a liberal, I also believe in cooperation rather than competition in most human affairs. I do not believe that the "free market" is the best solution to all problems. I also believe that exploitation of the weak and unchecked privilege are not just immoral but create big problems. I believe that modern conservatism, in contrast, thrives on exploitation of the weak and unchecked privilege and amassing economic power.

I think the gravest problems facing humankind, the globe, have to do with global warming, resource depletion and overpopulation and ignorance. I believe many of the issues we talk about--the worldwide migration of desperate people and the Muslim hatred of the West to name two--can be traced directly to conservative policies that have exploited other nations to enrich a few here in the US.

I believe how you define the problem determines the solution. My comments above are triggered by my frustration that many of my fellow liberal travellers--and me too, on other occasions and different threads--dwell on the real problems of racism, injustice and American imperialism without actually articulating our vision of how we, all of us, and the world, could be safer, happier, more comfortable, richer, by being liberal.

I like this Jefferson quote from the wiki article: "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.

From the NYT article:

"Unfortunately, the United States has not been in complete control of its borders for decades, and therefore illegal immigration has been on the rise."

12 million illegals in the U.S. That's some "rise." When your census numbers don't match reality, then surprise!, new schools, new services are "suddenly" needed in the states with the massive discrepancies. Because ultimately it's impossible to hide 12 million people.

Really thinking long and hard about that number — 12 million human beings who are already here — is the first paradigm shift that's needed.

The second paradigm shift that's needed is to realize there is no liberal paradigm in this country. We've been governed for the last 26 years by conservatives, albeit along a spectrum. Bill Clinton was not a liberal, he was a "centrist." He seems wildly liberal in comparison to those who came before and those who followed. But if there were a liberal paradigm in this country, then there would be liberal leaders. And there aren't any.

The third paradigm shift that's needed is to acknowledge that America is fundamentally racist. Racism in America never went away, it just went underground. Katrina revealed that nasty reality (and still is revealing it). Creating legislation to build a wall against another country is an act of institutionalizing our racism (it's now on the books). Someday, future generations will easily recognize this. Hopefully they will be aghast, remove the law from the books, and tear down the wall.

"The term racism is sometimes used to refer to preference for one's own ethnic group (ethnocentrism), fear of difference (xenophobia), views or preferences against interbreeding of the races (miscegenation), and nationalism, regardless of any explicit belief in superiority or inferiority imbedded within such views or preferences. Racism has been used to justify social discrimination, racial segregation, and violence, including genocide.

The term racist, when used to describe someone who supports racism, has been a pejorative term since at least the 1940s, and the identification of a group or person as racist is nearly always controversial. . . .

Organizations and institutions that put racism into action discriminate against, and marginalize, a class of people who share a common racial designation. The term racism is usually applied to the dominant group in a society, because it is that group that has the means to oppress others. The term can also applies to any individual or group, regardless of social status or dominance."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racism

"Some scholars have suggested that capitalism has played a large role in promoting racism especially socioeconomic racism."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racism#Economics_and_racism

I'm not calling Americans "racist" to be snarky, PTate; I'm thinking about 12 million people who happen to be of similar nonwhite "races" who get to furtively scrub our toilets yet don't get the same rights as others who live here. Racism allows us to accept employing human beings at a discount simply because they come here illegally.

Progress won't be made on the illegal immigration "problem" until liberals are called on their own "aversive racism" about it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racism#Crypto-racism_and_aversive_racism

But that's not going to happen anytime soon. Not while the baby boomers are the majority of the population.

"Our precious way of life" is being compromised by the large employers who hire immigrants w/o checking their status because they work cheap and scare easily, so no union troubles. But are these businessmen fined per the law? NO. All the statistics I've seen tell us how much the immigrants contribute to our society (bean fields) and how their taxes (off the books) support our government. I never see any statistics about how much of that money is sent (via our very cooperative postal system) back home to their starving families. I never see statistics on how much their visits to emergency rooms (because they obviously have no insurance::no unions) have resulted in many hospital emergency rooms being shut down in Los Angeles. If I remember the number correctly, the County hospital in downtown LA must minister to the ill in 128 languages. This is not a problem of Mexican immigrants. Most of the immigrants I see (and I live very near downtown LA) are from South America, Asia and the Philippines. Reagan had a program that paid any Russian who defected....every month they get money to live here. Unless otherwise directed (by churches or families) immigrants go to cities where they have the best chance of finding work. I've watched the faces of the immigrants change with each additional country where we supported the dictators and the plundering of their resources. But I know of at least two immigrant communities in LA that do not want to mingle with the native population. They don't want to speak the language, they do not want to do business with us, and they make it perfectly clear that they do not want us in their area. The Koreans settled adjacent to the black areas of south LA and we have all seen the sparks between those communities. Maybe they all get along in NYC. Maybe we just have more room so they can have their own territory. I don't know what the answer is, but it is not a campaign issue that can be discussed in the heat of an election and then forgotten. Immigrants are pushing the boundaries of societies all over the world. BBC just yesterday was discussing the limitation of immigrants from Rumania and Bulgaria who are going for the jobs as those countries join the EU.

As for this country, I really do believe that most people are welcoming of immigrants, it's sort of in our DNA as Americans. But when a country is swarmed by immigrants all apparently at one time, it is overwhelming and frustrating and confusing and threatening to what had been our way of life. Add to that the catastrophe that is our current government and one stressor feeds the other. Then the bigots start shouting and they can get an audience they would not get in less stressful times. We have NO leadership in this or any other area. This administration is looking for advantages, not solutions.

I think this tribal racism just might be a human condition. In a microcosmic way, suppose you are walking down a street when you meet a black friend and you greet and continue walking together. Then you meet a Latina that you both know and all three of you continue walking together. Fine and dandy. Now suppose you are walking the street alone and you become aware that there are 20 people behind you speaking, let's say Spanish, and they are animated and shouting. But in front of you, you see another large group speaking a language you cannot identify. Now what is your state of mind?

Sorry if this is so disorganized, but it is a complex and emotional situation that no one seems able to solve. Not to mention off topic. But I have observed that the only other topic on this forum that engenders so much passionate discussion was the Israeli/Hezbollah conflict.

PTate in MN,
Thanks for attempting to respond to my impossible "whew" question.
A better approach may have been to share some general observation or ask a few questions;

From Jimmy Carter to George H W Bush, or Teddy Roosevelt and John F Kennedy to name but four presidents its difficult when reviewing foreign policies to determine who was the Democrat or the Republican. (Liberal or Conservative) It seems to me that American Imperialism began in the mid 1850's in Latin and South America and with the devastation of Europe and Japan it consolidated itself as a super power in 1945.

With the implosion of the USSR in 1989 for a brief period there were whispers of a "peace dividend". Alas given the inherent rapacious and predatory nature of unbridled capitalism, corporations and empire with no formidable adversary its perfectly logical then that self serving elites and influential factions within the dominate society would capitalize on an extra ordinary criminal event like 911.

Imperial Hubris did not commence with George Walker Bush, he is unique in flaunting American Hegemony, in such a preemptive truthful and open manner. It would be comforting to consider him deranged or mad, other than being perhap overdosed on religion otherwise he appears an average sort of guy a bit looser than Ronnie.

Once the myth that, " 911 changed the world" became the coin of the realm, that he would become a menace internally, to allies and non aligned countries alike, a difficult leader to restrain or reign in is also not something unique in history. It happened in a country not so long ago which had been more integrated economically and culturally than the US.

So I would define the problem as economically based, originating from some of the conditions I have stated and suggest that neither present political party is capable of altering or restructuring the society to meet a modicum of the liberal values or standard of living which you espouse and in principle I share.

A third political party is imperative and a different manner of choosing representatives be considered rather than "the first past the post system"

Regarding immigration and Mexico I ask or suggest that the following things be considered first.

Eliminate the exorbitant subsidies to Agra Business(responsible for eliminating at least 500,000 subsistence farmers in Mexico alone).

Cancel NAFTA or rewrite Federal Laws so Nation State rights take priority over present corporate rights.

The USA adhere to rulings from the International Court of Justice.

Sign on to KYTO and demonstrate American "can do"

Eliminate foreign debts, the principle having been paid a dozen times already ( most of these debts incurred by dictatorships for military purposes in association with US self serving economic or cold war interests.)

Double the minimum wage, implement universal health care immediately.

With hold that percentage of income tax which supports the Department of War's a illegal invasions and occupation in foreign lands. Re declare war on poverty and illiteracy, fund adequately.

Decriminalize certain drugs and reduce the prison population by half as a first step.

Abandon cosmic dreams of controlling space and the catastrophic costs which are entailed

Corporate tax, off shore havens and hundreds of fraudulent ways for avoidance require immediate attention.

Gas at $10.00 a gallon will reflect social and environmental costs.

Automobile Manufacturers like their tobacco cousins should be sued for similar type deceptive practises.

An FDR type program to clean up thousands of toxic and polluted sites is long overdue.

And so the list goes on like the rant.

Why are there so few caring, conservative, liberal, christian or atheists not in jail. Are we in denial, engaged in wishful thinking, or praying for miracles while tolerating such a morally bankrupt system.

I don't expect a response, I'm just saying I still don't know how to predict what Liberals do, and would order my priorites differently as a resident in the US.

Darn I nearly forgot this big one, oil companies definitely need to be removed from State and Federal Government breast feeding programs !!!

rtbag: "The third paradigm shift that's needed is to acknowledge that America is fundamentally racist"

cactus: "I think this tribal racism just might be a human condition."

jt from bc: "...neither present political party is capable of altering or restructuring the society to meet a modicum of the liberal values"

rtbag, I agree that racism is a profound problem in American society, and it certainly plays a role in the American willingness to accept the benefits of illegal migration while denying the costs. The more interesting question, for me, is what to do about racism. Along with Cactus, I have come to believe that humans are deeply tribal. Simply saying that Americans are racist or pointing out the damage done by racism is not going to eradicate racism. It isn't going to make Americans embrace those they regard as here without permission, imho.

For example, consider research on what social psychologists call minimal group effect. Show research participants two pictures--one by picasso and one by monet--and have them express a preference. Then, give them $50 and ask them to distribute it among four people. All the participate knows about these people is that two prefer Monet and two prefer Picasso. You would expect, rationally, that the participant would give each of the four $12.50, right? But, no, based on this simple expression of a preference for an artist, participants give significantly more money to those that share an artistic preference: $35 v $15, iirc.

In other words, this research suggests that we are strongly programmed to align ourselves--automatically, unintentionally, quickly--into groups and the slightest group identification can lead to discrimination against out-groups. An uncomfortable inference is that the more we emphasize race, in our attempts to eradicate racism, the more salient we make race as a determiner of group membership. And yet we can be confident that racism plays a role in America's willingness to exploit people who have come here without the proper paperwork. So what to do?

okay, so I don't have answers all lined up! I like a lot of what jt from bc proposes. My hunch is that the key to minimizing the damage of racism comes from addressing the relationship between racism and capitalism. I think America is dealing with intergroup conflict through a pyramid scheme--we are trying to avoid dealing with fundamental resource inequities in our society by exploiting the rest of the world.

So presumably, we might be able to effect change by emphasizing the local over the global, constraining capitalism and looking at ways in which the economic system is stacked against developing nations.

I also think that Americans have grown very comfortable with the idea that one group can benefit and another group can pay the price. This is an attitude underlying progressive taxation, (unfortunately because I support it). It also underlies the American effort in Iraq--American military families pay the price, other Americans reap the benefits (well, would have reaped the benefits...)and the American willingness to bitch at illegal immigrants while taking advantage of their services. This attitude, I think, is also something that we could address because Americans do respond to calls for personality responsibility tempered with compassion.

Leadership also matters. Bushco has been such a meltdown disaster that it is difficult to know how much of the pain that Americans and the world are now experiencing can be attributed directly to bushco's failed leadership. We have a president who thrives by exploiting others and rationalizing his privilege.

PTate in MN
Research may show that groups are tribal (I'm not sure whether you mean social class or ethnicity) but my experience suggests that individual fear and scarcity are the primary causes of racism, sexism, and a whole bunch of isms. I believe that behavior is learned. Psychological and social sanity necessitated my choosing a luxurious life style now known as 'Voluntary Simplicity', which also predates but includes the important concept you mentioned 'Act Locally Think Globally, to these I credit some of my unscientific opinions which I call existential facts.

A primary social work vocation exposed me to intensive interaction with multiple ethnicity's, age groups, class structures, educational and mental health institutions and confirmed my assumption about fear, which FDR so eloquently mentioned at another dangerous juncture in our history. "The we have..(one)...

This time I'm with Snoopy "I have seen the enemy and..

On a lighter note I invite you to enjoy:

'My Saudi Arabian Breakfast' http://www.tomdispatch.com/index.mhtml?pid=71299

Very interesting link, jt. Food for thought...

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

My Other Accounts

Twitter
Blog powered by TypePad
Member since 07/2003