Portugal is not a shithole. I think I can say that impartially, since I’ve acculturated long ago, and wouldn’t go back there to live if you sent wild horses to drag me that way.
It feels profoundly uncomfortable to most Americans. I can say that too, because I am an American, because it was built not with the dictates of the free market — I’ll sell you anything so long as you buy it — in mind, but with other dictates, including pride, appearance and a lot of other stuff.
This is why the faucets run like diuretic gerbils, the electrical boards in houses suck (and no the excuse of global warming wouldn’t wash for a minute in the US) gas and energy in general are prohibitive, and service… isn’t what you’d call wonderful. All of which add up to profoundly uncomfortable for Americans — and yes, I know my Portuguese readers are going to say we’re spoiled, and darn tooting we are. You ain’t whistling Dixie. And we mean to continue being spoiled — but still not a shit hole.
Not that I’m going to punch out anyone who calls it such. I’m just going to assume they have no experience of real shitholes.
You see, you can judge a country’s status as an … ah…. excrement sinkhole by figuring out “Migration out or in?”
In Portugal this picture is complicated. They are suffering “brain drain” as their youngest, brightest and most educated decamp for Germany, England, or even Brazil (where the picture is also complicated) but at the same time they receive immigrants from Africa, Brazil, South America, China and, weirdly, Russia (I’ve never figured out if these are descendants from people who took their crappy cars when the wall came down, and drove until they hit the ocean (or drove/walked till they hit the ocean) or whether they’re a fresh migration. I know the first existed, but I haven’t sussed out the other particulars.)
So, Portugal is not a shithole. What it is is a country so tied down by regulations, rules, and the ever present weight of tradition (Portugal, like many Baltic countries produces way more history than it can consume locally) that it works at cross purposes to itself.
Looking at what Portuguese (at least some) can do abroad, in terms of insane amounts of work and sometimes success, one assumes that if Portugal could eschew its perennial fascination with socialism, it would … well…. I don’t know, but it would be scary for good or ill.
I mean for a country tied up with socialism (first national, then international) for the best part of a century, it’s not doing badly at all. Look at it this way: it hasn’t gone Venezuela. And the gentleman in the back who just said that’s because they can’t do anything efficiently, not even socialism, is just being mean. Yes, the Portuguese have been locked in a tragic fight throughout history with their traditional enemies, the Portuguese, but that’s no reason to look down on them.
On the serious side, and what this is leading to, what would I do if Trump said “We don’t need more immigrants from that shithole, Portugal?”
Gulp. Then get on the phone and calm dad down, because he’s 86 — and even if he’s freezing through one of the coldest winters in their history, because their electrical boards suck, being now designed to prevent global warming, and therefore unable to accommodate say a hair dryer and a washing machine running at once, much less a heater in every room — he’s very proud of his country and very patriotic and we wouldn’t want him to do himself harm by being so mad.
And then I’d shrug. Portugal is not a shithole, true. But there is also no reason to seek out immigrants from Portugal IN PARTICULAR.
Mind you, the US doesn’t. The “diversity visa lottery” LOOKS FOR immigrants from failed states. For those purposes, Portugal is lumped in with Europe, and therefore it’s almost impossible to immigrate from there, which is why the Portuguese brain drain is going to places like Germany and Great Britain.
In fact, one of my teachers who spoke five languages, and whose husband was a fully trained electrical engineer, had been on the waiting list for 10 years when I was 18, and I bet you they haven’t made it here, yet.
But you know, that’s the whole point. I don’t think Visas should be handed out to Portuguese particularly because Portuguese are cute and colorful and produce great wine, or whatever the reasoning.
I think, if we’re going to take in immigrants, we should take them in according to their usefulness to the US.
I happen to know we have a massive shortage of engineers, for instance. So, say, if it’s determined that Portuguese engineering schools/engineers pass muster and the US decides to import a few? That’s fair. Same with engineers from all other countries. Of course, it will depress younger son’s future wages, but you know, fair is fair and engineering graduates are too few by far to replace retiring engineers.
So what is my justification? What do I do for the nation?
Ah. I came in a different way (though at the same time I had an offer for teaching at an East Coast college while finishing my doctorate, and if I hadn’t fallen in love with Dan, I’d have come in that way for a while at least.)
But I am very conscious of gratitude to you for taking me in and letting me be one of you. Portugal is not a shithole. It just never fit me right, like a prickly garment that does its job, but is not quite comfortable.
I feel much better in America. And I’m very grateful. And I try to do what I can to justify taking me in.
So far? I’m probably still at a deficit. Sure, we pay taxes, and we haven’t taken public assistance, but that’s the bare minimum. And I raised two boys who will probably be productive citizens. And of course I write books which make at least some money/create some wealth. And I try to fight the good fight in the culture war.
Are these remarkable achievements? No. They’re the bare minimum to pay my way. I want to do more, and now that we’re dealing with some long-standing physical issues, I just might manage it.
The point of it though, is that I’m conscious of which way this relationship runs. I owe the nation a debt, and I’ll do my best to pay it back.
It might never happen, but I will try my damnedest.
For I was a stranger, and you took me in. And I owe you.