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...a sweatshop of moxie

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Abhoring The Vacuum

Back in the 19th century, there were many New World countries which used to set up clapboard booths in quaint villages, and towns, advertising endless new opportunities and exotic foreign environs for millions of fed up Europeans, most of whom were dying for a fresh start anyway and didn't need much motivation to emigrate.





The country which led the way was that of Emperor Dom Pedro II of Brazil, whose emigration booths, as they were called, happily signed up thousands of Germans, Italians, Balkanites and even Confederate Americans, who promptly took the next ship.

(These latter, called Confederados in Portuguese, mostly settled in the imperial mountain retreat of Petropolis and were instrumental in starting Brazil's cotton industry which Dom Pedro wanted his country to lead the world in)

But what of today?

In the day and age of social democracy, where Europe leads the world in terms of socialised medicine, education, and extensive government programmes for the needy and comfortable alike, would you imagine that there are those in the old continent, who would chuck it all away to become that most desperate of individual: a recently-arrived immigrant to a totally foreign land?

Well, there most certainly are, and what's more, those humble booths have now become mega-organised conventions.

Enter the Emigration Fair 2007, just held in March 10-11 this year in The Netherlands.

"Exhibitions and free presentations from experts in a variety of related fields provide visitors and fellow exhibitors with a copious amount of resources - plus a wealth of free materials - about all aspects of emigrant life worldwide. Every year thousands of people are leaving the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany in search of a new life abroad.

If you are considering starting a new future in another country, in Europe, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, the United States, Scandinavia or Asia you need all the information you can get! For a complete overview of the Emigration process don't miss the Emigration Fair on March 10 and 11, in the Home Boxx Exhibition Centre Nieuwegein/Utrecht, in the heart of the Netherlands just 100km away from Belgium and Germany."

Ahh, convenient. Belgium, The Netherlands, and Germany. I daresay even the French could make a day trip over to Utrecht for the day, and a good many others beside.

This startling fair was brought to my attention by my blogger colleague, Pieter Dorsman of Peaktalk, who has led the way in Dutch blogging about the topic, going on many years now.

In fact, he just wrote a blogpiece called "Time To Leave" for Pajamas Media, regarding this fair, and moreover, the reasons which made this emigration fair such a hit, drawing "record crowds".

Pieter conjectures that the "market" has sensed a growing disatisfaction from many Dutchmen and women, and is simply filling a much-needed void.

And this brings me to their one-time countryman, Amsterdam favourite son, Baruch Spinoza, who has sadly been forgotten by too many.

He of course once wrote this famous line, "Nature abhors a vacuum"...

...and oh how that is true in almost every facet of human life.

Back in the days of the modest emigration booths, I am sure many Europeans who didn't make the journey over, were frankly happy and relieved, as assuredly as they were a touch envious of those who sought to change their fortunes, in another clime.

Nature abhors a vacuum, but human beings know an opportunity when they see one.

Less people makes for more land, more jobs to be had, and more opportunities that might have been filled had those emigrants decided to stay.

Today, the situation is a little different, because as we all know, it's a small world, and it is due to technology.

No more will we see cargoes of tear-stained immigrants waving hankies to their families at the docks, who they leave behind in the Old World, for many, never to see kith and kin ever again in their lifetimes.

With the merest touch of a button today, you can call or communicate with anyone and anywhere in this world, and oftentimes, you don't even have to pay for it.

Just use your computer, and hey presto! you're talking to nonna or Oma back home.

You can watch your favourite television shows via satellite, you can read online gossip from the rags you used to read on the train, and if you feel homesick for your native food, you can pop down to the supermarket, and pick up Thai noodles, or pasta, or feijão, or anything you want, all because this world is not the world of Ellis Island immigrants anymore.

So obviously immigration wouldn't feel as painful to Europeans now, as it certainly did then, right?

Wrong.

Here's a secret which you may not know, especially if you're a North American reading this.

Europeans are highly sensitive when it comes to emigration.

When Americans laud their melting pot society, implicit in that equation is that they left for a better place, to make a better life for themselves.

So tell me, what does that make the place they left, and especially, the people who didn't leave?

Exactly -- by inference, it makes those people less intrepid, less courageous, and definitely, less lucky.

Now just imagine how those in Europe feel when they think of this.

Nothing is ever said out loud you understand, but for every American who visits his grandpapa's old city in Italy, who arrives thinking that he'll be greeted like a long lost cousin, and finds out there is oft suspicion, and resentment awaiting him, you'll understand that this syndrome is at work.

Sure, some may laugh at this contention, but what is emigration at the end of the day, but a EMPIRICAL rejection of the life, culture, and nation you left behind?

If you're an immigrant reading this, as assuredly as I am an immigrant writing this, you'll have in your mind many reasons why you emigrated, in the first place.

Some will say that there were no economic opportunities back home.

Some will say that they fell in love with a man or woman from another country, and decided to move to their country instead of bringing their loved one to theirs.

Some will say that their country is FANTASTIC...culturally. But that for reasons of freedom of expression, political realities, or openness of society, their hand was forced. It wasn't their choice to leave, but they had to.

Almost all will probably say that my words of "rejection" are overblown.

But it's not, and if those immigrants reading this are honest with themselves, even if they cannot admit it publicly in the comments section, their leaving their country is a rejection of their country, pure and simple.

By immigration you are in effect rejecting the country of your birth, and that of your ancestors' births, of possibly thousands of years.

For WHATEVER reason, you judged that your country was not able to sustain you or your family anymore, and you decided to forcibly remove yourself from it.

Your life trajectory is different from your fellow countrymen for all time afterwards, even if you return to your homeland at some point to live.

Why? Because by removing yourself physically, you didn't undergo the same day-to-day cultural upheavals, economic or political travails your country had, in the meantime.

For example, take those Italians or Germans who emigrated to Brazil.

They missed two World Wars, hyper-inflation, Fascism, Nazism, and the ignominous defeat in war of their countries with all that means to the national psyche.

And North Americans expect to come back to their ancestral homestead, and be greeted with open arms?

Come on. Who are you kidding?

Of course you will be thought of almost as a traitor, no matter what your leaving meant in terms of opportunities left behind for those who remained.

This brings us back to the Utrecht Emigration Fair, held just this March.

The Ellis Island European immigrant was usually illiterate, and doubtlessly poor back home. The new Dutch immigrant, as well as the Belgian, German ones, are anything but that.

They are finely educated, multilingual, well-travelled, and well-heeled.

Even pretending that they these Europeans are all working-class for a moment, it's a working-class unlike any of any previous generation before it.

So what gives? Why are these people leaving?

Pieter elucidates.

"Less reliable figures are being presented when it comes to determining why so many feel it is time to vote with their feet. A random survey of the recent news reports makes it clear that in terms of negatives the Dutch have basically got it all: high population density, an over-regulated society, a significant tax burden, soaring crime rates, a general sense of ‘dilapidation’ and a huge unintegrated pool of Muslim immigrants.

While they’ve had little influence over inheriting a relatively small plot of land, it is the vast expansion of a powerful and omnipresent public behemoth that appears to be at the root of most of the nation’s current problems. And for its origins we probably have to go back to the sixties and seventies."

(Ugh, I hate the 60s and 70s for precisely this reason -- its marauding lack of concern with a bureaucracy which gobbles up everything, and substitutes itself for "civilisation")

He continues with this startling information about immigration reform.

"Not only maximum security felons were able to get a great deal and the opportunity to re-offend. Earlier this month Dutch press reported that since 2005 some 3,400 immigrant youths - notably Moroccans and Cape Verdians - had been treated to vacations back to their home countries to ‘reconnect with their culture’ in the bizarre hope that such a trip to the sunny south would minimize their chances to re-offend. Of course, the Dutch taxpayer has kindly footed the bill leaving some commentators to note that in America the holidaying offenders would probably have ended up on a chain gang."

Chain gang -- perhaps not, but certainly the American taxpayer wouldn't be footing a bill so that young violent Mexican youths (as one example) could go back to Mexico, to 'reacquaint' themselves with their culture, in the hopes that...well, who knows.

Maybe in the hopes that they will integrate themselves at long last and become productive members of society, something which takes time (and will to do so). How exactly, I'm not sure, but perhaps they are implying that to know the culture from whence you sprang, means you'll take more pride in yourself, and transfer that confidence into your new homeland.

Little does this Euro-bureaucracy understand, or wills itself to understand, that this is precisely the kind of 'fed-up-to-here' attitude your average Dutchman would have, in what they might think is trying to mollycoddle a segment of their society, and on their dime no less.

Immigration is a devilish thing, and it's down to each person and their personality to make it work, but ultimately, it's an individual reaction entirely.

That's why you have success stories of immigrants, alongside horror stories of alienation.

But take away all the reasons he provides in these two paragraphs, and you are still left with many of the same reasons as the ones present in 19th century Europe.

At the end of the day, people will leave everything they know and love, even their families, because they are dissatisfied with their country, plain and simple.

Of course, immigration is not static.

The Dutch, for example, emigrated in record numbers proportionally, to Australia, back in the 1960s. That's also true of all the other European nationalities, such as the ever-travelling Italians, who left for Canada at exactly the same time.

The time of the guestworker then was nigh, and the collapse of the old empires also left their old colonisers with a debt of conscience which many immigrants exploited for their own ends.

Today, therefore, the New World is much the same (chock-a-block with teeming international masses still yearning to be free), but the Old World is completely different.

So the sounds of the newest vacuum you hear in Europe, are being made not by the newest arrivals, but by those whose ancestors have a blood claim to their homeland going on thousands of years.

It is they who look around, see a changed nation, with a cowering YET overarching bureaucracy, a deflated economy, violence, grime, and hatred no matter how many social welfare programmes are available, who decide to finally, at long last, join those other Europeans who made the trek out so many years ago.

Inside themselves, they know they are rejecting their homeland. They are less embarrassed to admit it.

Because in their case, they feel those who stay are the ones who are betraying their way of life by tolerating from many of their immigrant populations, what would be intolerable to anyone else had the rot of political correctness not set in.

In short, instead of betraying their country, in some way, those who leave feel that their country has let THEM down, by compromising on things which simply cannot be compromised.

Unlike Pieter though, who I have noticed tends towards the downhearted in his predictions about the Old World, I think Europe will be fine in the long run.

Something will happen, as yet unforseen, to make people understand that a nation which gives up on its native people, is giving up more than just their authenticity.

They are literally ceding way to another culture not in the hopes of integration, but of eradication, and losing their own in the process, thus allowing more than a vacuum to form, but a yawning chasm.

But at the end of the day, Europeans know that deep inside, where the heart of political correct darkness dares not to raise its ugly head, and they will do something about it.

They must.

Lands must continue have to have ancestors, not just descendants.


RELATED

Multi-Culturalism

My Immigration Experience

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11 Comments:

  • Very interesting post Victoria. I read the following recently regarding teachers in the UK:

    Schools are dropping the Holocaust from history lessons to avoid offending Muslim pupils, a Government-backed study has revealed.

    It found some teachers are reluctant to cover the atrocity for fear of upsetting students whose beliefs include Holocaust denial.

    There is also resistance to tackling the 11th century Crusades - where Christians fought Muslim armies for control of Jerusalem - because lessons often contradict what is taught in local mosques.

    The findings have prompted claims that some schools are using history ‘as a vehicle for promoting political correctness’.

    By Blogger Jose Aguirre, at Wed Apr 04, 02:38:00 am GMT-4  

  • Very interesting post Victoria. I read the following recently regarding teachers in the UK:

    Drat, your responding this reminds me that I forgot to mention or to stress that immigration and EXILE are two very different states of leaving one's country.

    I will just trust people to understand that, as a matter of course.

    Schools are dropping the Holocaust from history lessons to avoid offending Muslim pupils, a Government-backed study has revealed.

    Sigh...

    It found some teachers are reluctant to cover the atrocity for fear of upsetting students whose beliefs include Holocaust denial.

    SIGH...

    There is also resistance to tackling the 11th century Crusades - where Christians fought Muslim armies for control of Jerusalem - because lessons often contradict what is taught in local mosques.

    Good Lord.

    This reminds me that one of the criteria for Turkey entering the EU, is that they have to categorically state their actions in 1915, in the first genocide of the century.

    They deny that it was that, to this day.

    The findings have prompted claims that some schools are using history ‘as a vehicle for promoting political correctness’.

    Disgusting. As a putative teacher of history, I find this offensive to the nth degree.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Wed Apr 04, 02:59:00 am GMT-4  

  • Plus, there's the Cyprus problem. Turkey conquered part of the island in 1974 and there's still an awful lot of people pissed about that.

    By Blogger Alcibiades, at Wed Apr 04, 03:58:00 am GMT-4  

  • Nature abhors a vacuum...
    I must protest that notion on behalf of my great compatriot and mayor and the fellow they named by university after (you know, him).

    And I am not sure, if emigrating is rejecting one's country either. I personally know a number of people who plan on emigrating for reasons that have their cause in things beyond their control. Among them are of course many with an academic background and excellent grades. Many even have tried changing things over here. But what is one to do when that proves pointless and impossible? Adapt to a system or go abroad where opportunities are better for you?
    However, I do concur that political correctness is one terrible invention. There are those who simply go to far in it. I also must point out that there has been a development towards a culture of name-calling based on this pc-ism. I dare any German politician or intellectual to say something critical about foreigners coming to Germany - they will promptly be branded fascists, neo-fascists or some other term meaning the same.
    Even I have come so far as to be put into that drawer. What did I do? I pointed out that it was shameless to hold a memorial for those victims of the bombing of Magdeburg in WWII that died while they were in KZ-Außenlager Magda. Shameless because none of the people at that memorial mentioned the victims among the German civilians in the same air raid.
    These civilian victims, it was explained, wee guilty by association. Insanely, the claim was, that even infants were guilty by that concept...at least I heard no one disputing my extrapolation of that theory.

    Don't you hate it when you make up an example so absurd that you do not believe anyone could accept the theory it is based on afterwards - and they accept it anyway?

    I think today's immigration has much to do with the political and social culture and I sincerely doubt there is much truth in the cause being the Eurobureaucracy.

    By Blogger madcynic, at Wed Apr 04, 04:07:00 am GMT-4  

  • PC-ness is a Gordian knot; it won't unravel, it will be severed rather dramatically, one way or the other!

    Right now, it acts like a fever-dream of reason, which is partially felt to be both wrong but inevitable...

    My father left Germany for the US when he was 17, and never said anything about Germany at all!

    My mothers mother thought anyone who stayed in Poland was either "evil or stupid" (her phrase) She would apply this schema to Poles she knew here; they were either scamming crooks or too simple-minded, so, in her mind, it was fine to fleece them so that they would learn! She had such a hard sense of cruelty that person...

    By Blogger Ron, at Wed Apr 04, 04:32:00 am GMT-4  

  • The worst is the unassimilated immigrant. I can grant that your home culture may well have produced fine cuisine, wonderful music, and so forth. But you left that country behind. If it was so wonderful, why did you leave it? At least have the internal honesty to admit that the negatives may have outweighed the positives.

    I can enjoy the cultural legacies of Ireland, England, and Germany without wanting to be a part of any of those countries. I am an American and the ethnic make-up of my family is but a tiny part of who I am. Adding a hyphen is distancing myself from my countrymen, not celebrating where I may have come from. I don't need to say I am a European-American - that is self-evident from my features. Calling yourself a racial category remains one of the divides of this nation, and the government endorses such lunacy as a way to keep the bureaucracy running along powerfully.

    Assimilate, learn the language the best you can, adapt to your new homeland, or go back where you came from.

    Sorry to rant like that, but your excellent post sparked me!

    By Blogger benning, at Wed Apr 04, 10:27:00 am GMT-4  

  • Plus, there's the Cyprus problem. Turkey conquered part of the island in 1974 and there's still an awful lot of people pissed about that.

    That's true, but I think less of an impediment than the Armenian genocide, since modern Europe was built around rejecting the mindset which led to a genocide -- that is, it's about an attitude.

    Merely taking over countries seems like a political problem, which can be solved by negotiation or similar.

    But it takes time and will to change mindsets.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Wed Apr 04, 01:32:00 pm GMT-4  

  • Nature abhors a vacuum...
    I must protest that notion on behalf of my great compatriot and mayor and the fellow they named by university after (you know, him).


    My God, of course! Von Guericke, another topical 'vacuum' reference for us, like finding Spinoza's quote just lying there for me to exploit.

    And clicking on his Wiki, I noticed he died in Hamburg. That fits as an allusion to our mututal friend too. ;)

    And I am not sure, if emigrating is rejecting one's country either. I personally know a number of people who plan on emigrating for reasons that have their cause in things beyond their control.

    But Malte, if we could time-travel to Ellis Island, circa 1901, and poll those European peasant immigrants to America, they would have said EXACTLY the same thing.

    Crops failed. Father got arrested for political/union agitation. Mother died in childbirth. The squire went bankrupt, taking away the villagers' livelihoods in the big house, etc. etc.

    It's always something.

    Among them are of course many with an academic background and excellent grades. Many even have tried changing things over here. But what is one to do when that proves pointless and impossible? Adapt to a system or go abroad where opportunities are better for you?

    Right, that's completely normal. But as I said:

    "For WHATEVER reason, you judged that your country was not able to sustain you or your family anymore, and you decided to forcibly remove yourself from it."

    That's rejection, pure and simple. It may be intellectual rejection, rather than an emotional one, but I put it to you that those early American immigrants from Europe were more successful in America, because their rejection was a little more clear-cut.

    Many times, more times than I can count, I've heard an American tell me that Grandpapa from Austria or Grandmama from Italy, refused to let their kids speak their language at home, and insisted on English.

    Furthermore, they wanted their kids to be Americans (not just first but) ONLY, so they made sure they stressed integration with the country culturally.

    Some may think this is draconian, and wrong, and perhaps in some way it is very absolute.

    But that's why America integrated itself so quickly in 200 years. If you think of it, it's a miracle.

    It won't happen in Europe, because the attitude is different.

    You guys want to be nice, and accept all cultures as comparable to yours in your own countries.

    That's why European integration will be long, difficult, and possibly always incomplete. In short, a disastrous state-of-affairs.

    However, I do concur that political correctness is one terrible invention.

    Yes. Like a violent revolution, it eats its own.

    There are those who simply go to far in it. I also must point out that there has been a development towards a culture of name-calling based on this pc-ism.

    Yes, because nothing is more intolerant, than forced tolerance.

    I dare any German politician or intellectual to say something critical about foreigners coming to Germany - they will promptly be branded fascists, neo-fascists or some other term meaning the same.

    Quite right.

    And those who will are usually right-wing, right?

    What happens is that eventually people will be fed up with political correctness, if only deep inside them where they do not dare share with others, their ideas.

    Along will come a extreme right-wing firebrand, and exploit those feelings, and hey presto...you understand where I am going.

    If political correctness is to stop, it must be stopped by those who use it as a tool of control.

    And by and large, that isn't the right-wing.

    Even I have come so far as to be put into that drawer. What did I do?

    Whoa! Why? You? Never.

    I pointed out that it was shameless to hold a memorial for those victims of the bombing of Magdeburg in WWII that died while they were in KZ-Außenlager Magda. Shameless because none of the people at that memorial mentioned the victims among the German civilians in the same air raid.
    These civilian victims, it was explained, wee guilty by association. Insanely, the claim was, that even infants were guilty by that concept...at least I heard no one disputing my extrapolation of that theory.


    Oh I see...

    Don't you hate it when you make up an example so absurd that you do not believe anyone could accept the theory it is based on afterwards - and they accept it anyway?

    Because they have been conditioned to accept it...

    I think today's immigration has much to do with the political and social culture and I sincerely doubt there is much truth in the cause being the Eurobureaucracy.

    You're right, but my point is that a bureaucracy shouldn't be there to encourage, and reward people who do not integrate themselves into a society -- it looks exploitative to separate yourself from the society which putatively you have come to embrace.

    Because then the majority will feel that they have been duped because they are being made fools of in their own country, and SOME will feel angry enough to leave.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Wed Apr 04, 01:52:00 pm GMT-4  

  • Apropos Jose's point:

    "One wag said that he deeply resents the Norman invasion of 1066 and doesn’t want his children to hear about it in school."

    ;)

    By Blogger JSU, at Wed Apr 04, 01:59:00 pm GMT-4  

  • PC-ness is a Gordian knot; it won't unravel, it will be severed rather dramatically, one way or the other!

    Yes! Excellent visuals, Ron.

    Right now, it acts like a fever-dream of reason, which is partially felt to be both wrong but inevitable...

    Fever-dream of reason! I must use this one day -- may I have your permission? Even for a book??

    I will cite you, if so, of course. :)

    My father left Germany for the US when he was 17, and never said anything about Germany at all!

    Heh. I didn't know you were half-German, too. ;)

    My mothers mother thought anyone who stayed in Poland was either "evil or stupid" (her phrase) She would apply this schema to Poles she knew here; they were either scamming crooks or too simple-minded, so, in her mind, it was fine to fleece them so that they would learn! She had such a hard sense of cruelty that person...

    What a pill. ;)

    But old Europe was very much like that -- I think in some cultures there is a cultural high distrust of your fellow man which breeds contempt.

    Why? Well, if things around you are corrupt, don't work, and there is no accountability, that's what happens.

    I happen to like the fact that Americans don't get angry with their fellow man. Instead they fix their system, even if it's not quick...but they do.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Wed Apr 04, 02:01:00 pm GMT-4  

  • That excerpt was funny, JSU.

    But I read this, and almost felt like weeping:

    "Britain usually outpaces the U.S. in the politically correct sweepstakes. Out of deference to Muslim pupils, the “Three Little Pigs” children’s story has become the “Three Little Puppies.” In many English schools, “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” is now “Baa, Baa, Rainbow Sheep,” which makes no sense, but supposedly spares the feelings of sensitive black pupils. In some of the same schools, Snow White and the seven dwarfs have morphed into Snow White and the seven gnomes. The advantage here: gnomes aren’t really known for shortness, and, as fictional creatures, they’re in a poor position to complain that the story exploits them."

    Oh God...I think I left just in time.

    P.S.: No, I won't pretend that this one example is true of all comprehensive schools in Britain. I'm sure for every such example, there is a counterexample of racial intolerance in schools, which goes unchecked.

    But just the mere fact that this is occuring, UNCHALLENGED, is abhorent to me, I repeat.

    In the 1900s, the immigrant was forced to adapt himself to his new country, or be condemned.

    In the 2000s, the country has to adapt itself to the new immigrants, or be condemned.

    Which is correct? We'll see, but I know which I think is the more correct.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Wed Apr 04, 02:08:00 pm GMT-4  

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