Telling the Hard Truth – by Dave Freer
Hello. My name is Dave and I came from a shit-hole.
My friend Sarah Hoyt pointed me to a self-righteous fury spewing from the South African ANC (the political party which has governed South Africa since the end of apartheid) about the idea of South Africa being a shit-hole and bad America was. I was born there, and eventually migrated to Australia, of which I am now a proud citizen, and which I love, and try my best to pay back for its enormous generosity in taking us in. Now, South Africa is a beautiful country, with some fine people… but the ANC have presided over it now having one of the highest murder and rape stats of any country in the world not at war. Corruption is endemic, and racial hatred – both white on black and black on white – if anything is worse than at the end of apartheid. Public Health is in a sad state, and education isn’t much to write home to mother about, principally because ‘writing’ might be challenge, and mother (adult education is a neglected disgrace) still can’t read. There are squatter camps, squalor, mud huts without toilets in the bush. Electrical grids are failing, potable water is a major problem. There are good patches of course. There are things which have improved. But it’s only not a shit-hole when compared to places like Zimbabwe. Any criticism from it is like a serial child rapist and murderer complaining about you saying ‘shut up’ to your kid.
Whether President Trump really said ‘Why are we having these people from a shit-hole come here’ or not… I would like say that I think it the most valuable statement about migration made in the last fifty years, and one that cried out to be said. What’s more I think saying it is not only refreshingly honest (because it is a common thought, but one no-one dared say it, and people need to hear it), but actually exceptionally good for both migrants and shit-hole countries. It’s a coarse, blunt statement, but it’s probably the only possible way to make the point effectively.
As I said, I am a migrant myself, and no, I don’t hate migrants.
But I do realize there is a problem that needs dealing with, if this is not to all end in tears. It is in fact VERY like alcoholism (which is why I used the opening line I did): you’re never going to solve the problem while you pretend it isn’t there. Getting it out in the open, acknowledging the realities, both of how the people in the country migrants are wanting to go to feel about it, and of WHY the migrants move, is vital to the longer term happiness and well-being of migrants and the countries they move to. It also is the only real chance that shit-hole countries will improve. It’s like ignoring a toddler’s tantrum in the toy aisle. It’s not easy for a loving parent: but you’re no loving parent if you let the child have what they want. You’re just avoiding embarrassment and lots of noise – and possibly for that screwing your kid over for life.
Let us stop worrying about upsetting tender liccle feewings – which allow the situation to fester under a covering of ‘sensitivity’. Fifty years of trying that… have made matters a lot worse.
Reality: Almost no one migrates from a place to an unknown country if the place they’re in is not comparatively (at least in their minds) a shit-hole compared to the country they’re moving to. Anything else is like people pretending the alcoholic with the shakes and horrors doesn’t drink. That doesn’t help the alcoholic or them.
The other vital point of ‘Why are we having these people from a shit-hole come here?’ that so many people getting affronted by the accurate ‘shit-hole’ part miss… is that this is first and foremost a question. WHY are we having them come here?
Let’s start with a basic premise. Your country and government’s first duty is to its own people. They, and their ancestors, for their descendants, paid – as the saying goes – in blood and treasure, for the shape the country is in now. It’s due to the people who live and lived there. I’ve heard various ridiculous arguments about wealth, security and comfort being due to almost anything else (from geography to mineral wealth to the legacy of colonial exploitation, etc.) None hold water, because there is a counter example for every one of them. It comes down to the people and the culture of those people, which shapes that state. Sometimes it is put into form by a constitution, but that too derives from its people. The first duty any government owes – is to its own people.
So that ‘WHY’ is exactly what any country, what any citizen ought to ask. And a good reason is not ‘because the migrant needs or wants it.’ If you’re going to include that reason at all, it has to come a long way down the list, well after ‘it will have no negative effects on my people’.
I’m going to stick my neck out here (for good reason, as I will explain) there are very few migrants from anywhere (particularly shit-holes, and remember I am speaking of myself) that are just a straight good bargain for any first world country to take, as is. There are no jobs that Americans/Australians/Japanese just won’t do. They might not do them for the price you’re willing to pay, but that is a different matter. Working out if suppressing labor costs (and earnings) is a net good for a country as whole after the costs (in welfare, health, education and social cohesion just to name obvious ones, leaving out less obvious like ‘exporting money from the country to be spent elsewhere’) is a huge task, which depends mostly on the caliber of the migrants you let in. Here’s a clue: taking them from shit-holes has some big costs.
Taking skilled migrants… has some short term advantages. Your country gets years of training and experience for free. Whether it is really good for the doctors and nurses and the training of doctors and nurses born and bred there, is another argument, entirely. Every country gets caught in short squeezes: but giving an easy out may be bad long term for its people.
That leaves a handful of those special, truly rare talents. Great sportsmen, mathematical geniuses… yep. They’re a win, no matter where they come from. But these are one in a million migrants. If they were all of the migrants… nobody would care or not welcome them.
Which brings me back to my statement that few migrants are just welcome, and why it is so vitally important for the migrants to hear the hard question: ‘Why are we having these people from a shit-hole come here?’ Because that does what we should always do: puts responsibility on the party who benefits. Being a migrant never can be ‘as is’ – because ‘as is’ migrants suck.
If – like me – you’re a migrant, then: ‘Why are we having these people from a shit-hole come here?’ asserts the most valuable lesson any migrant could possibly get to make that migration a happy, successful experience both for them and the country they move to. Migrants are migrating because their birth-country is, for some reason, a shit-hole to them. They need the new country to accept them. And that needs a two pronged approach that everyone has been too ‘sensitive’ and ‘kind’ to bluntly tell them. It’s like the alcoholic again. You’re not actually doing them any favors pretending they don’t stink and they haven’t fallen asleep in their own vomit. You can certainly help them by telling them if they give up the booze they can be a decent bloke. BUT they have to leave the booze behind and accept it was a problem. The alcoholic that can’t do that, and the migrant that can’t do that… are never going to get any better. And just as not even the best effort in the world can do anything for an alcoholic who hasn’t decided themselves to give it up and change, not all the ‘kindness’ in the world will help a migrant who brings the shit-hole with themselves, telling themselves it is not a problem. All they’re doing is making a new shit-hole.
I still hold that migrants can add value and be welcome, no matter where they come from. But it’s a huge hill for them (not others, not their host country) to climb, a lot of blood and treasure to catch up on – and a shit-hole, and all that goes with it, to leave behind. Anything else will end in tears. Working hard on it, leaving your past –culture, country, language – behind, and embracing the new, will have the citizens meet you half way, help you along, and welcome you. Migrants need to know this, accept this.
Not saying this openly is not doing anyone a favor.
Dave Freer’s Amazon page is here.