Monday 19 October 2009

Refugees - a mini course in basics

Watching the refugee issue - the influx, the debates, the violence - it becomes obvious some lesson in basics is needed. Here it is.

1. Have ten dollars in your pocket. Now take out twenty. Can't do it? Correct.

No howling, no weeping, no fierce statement of goodwill can change that.

2. Have ten people in a house and supply them with a hundred kilowatt hours per day in energy. Put in machinery requiring two hundred kilowatt hours per day and tell them to run it. They can't.

No howling, no weeping, no fierce statement of goodwill can change that.

3. Take a hundred people and evaluate their skills in carpentry. On a scale of 1 to 10 they achieve a 5. Now tell them to make furniture equivalent to a level of 10. They won't.

No howling, no weeping, no fierce statement of goodwill can change that.

4. Measure the accomplishments of a thousand people in some district and compare their standards with the outside. Whatever the result, it will reflect the combined ability of those people.

No howling, no weeping, no fierce statement of goodwill can change that.

5. Ask a million people comprising a society what they know about themselves compared to societies beyond their borders. They will be more familiar with their own and know less, if anything, about the others.

No howling, no weeping, no fierce statement of goodwill can change that.

Human migration has existed on this planet for as long as there were humans. Apart from the last five decades or so two major factors governed their performance: the availability of space and the competition between locals and newcomers unregulated by an outside authority.

Now, this is no longer the case. Space is running out or has disappeared already, and governing entities have acquired an influence over local legislations. In addition we have developed a mindset - confined to the West - which has become obsessed with the plight of others somewhere in the world.

Not only is that mindset driven by emotion in the face of reality, it is highly selective and refuses to accept the fundamental laws which apply to any eco-system. When transposed into the human realm they are reflected in the five points above.

Energy in a closed system is finite. Use part of it for one thing and it becomes unavailable for something else.

Resources are no longer abundant as they once were. As environmentalists never tire of telling us, it has become unsustainable to neglect the balance between generation and use.

Competition between individuals, demographics and nations still exists as it always has. It matters whether any such unit foregoes its desire to keep up and is falling behind.

In the end no outside force can alter the general ability of a people to shape their destiny. However good or bad the conditions in a certain country are, the ultimate determinant of those conditions is the capacity and will of its inhabitants.

At any scale, one's home will always inform its residents first and foremost; knowledge about the lands beyond the border needs to be worked for and doesn't come readily. Even today's opportunities for travel do not teach the tourist what it really means having to deal with the daily travails in a Third World country. And remember, the problems exist because the inhabitants made them so.

When it comes to refugees therefore - or migrants in general - five questions suggest themselves.

1. If money needs to be spent on local issues, why is it used on others outside our control?

2. If resources are becoming sparse, why devote them to areas with the least promise?

3. If quality of output is a function of quality of input, why do we suddenly forget this relationship when it comes to dysfunctional societies?

4. If it requires a certain degree of skill to achieve higher standards, why dilute them with members of a region which demonstrably falls below our level?

5. Why do we harness ourselves to the whims of decision makers who have no idea what the notion of a dysfunctional society actually stands for, and who probably wouldn't survive more than a month under those conditions?

Why do we make it so easy for our competitors to win?