Monday, March 27, 2006

“Work that Americans will not do”

This phrase has become a mantra for those who want to keep a ready supply of illegal immigrants to fill certain slots in the labor market. Whatever you think of the laws governing immigration, as long as they exist, these people are not legally allowed to be here. Turning a blind eye, and coming up with euphemisms like “undocumented” does not change that reality. Are these laws realistic or enforceable? Not apparently, so the law needs to change.

What are these jobs that nobody wants? I’ve seen honest men work as garbage collectors, lower themselves into damp manholes and work with high voltage current. I’ve seen documentaries of US citizens risking their lives to plant dynamite in a flaming oil well. I’ve seen others go miles into the ground after coal and other minerals and still others trust their lives to small fishing boats in icy waters. I’ve seen footage of men jumping out of planes and into war zones and forest fires. So what are these jobs that no one wants? They are the jobs that do not offer a fair compensation for the work being done. They are the jobs that buy you misery, and only a part-time respite from hunger. They are jobs that afford you living conditions that are in some cases worse than a homeless shelter. And why do people come to take these jobs? Because their home countries are even more desolate. The power structure there is often more despicable than the people who exploit them when they come here. They have traded no opportunity for a lousy opportunity.

Who got paid for bringing them here? Who got bribed, and who got cash for the warm bodies? Welcome to the new slave trade, where people live in fear of deportation, so they won’t make trouble for their masters. Human trafficking has become one of the largest criminal activities in the world.

I want to see what happens to these jobs if the illegal workers are granted legal working status and need an immediate 15% raise to cover Income Tax Withholding.

The phrase “Work that Americans will not do” is a direct quote from the Secretary of State. She should be ashamed of herself. Every citizen of every country from Argentina to Venezuela, every Canadian, and every member of every tribal nation from Arapaho to Zuni (and no, I did not forget Apache, that’s not what they call themselves) are Americans. I bet they feel left out when blowhards from the United States refer to themselves in that way. Most of the non-Asian illegals are Central and South American. So where are these jobs that Americans won’t do?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Confusion of ideas: “Class”, part1.

Any time a word has multiple meanings, there is the opportunity for some kind of head game to be going on. I know of no better example than the word “class”. It can be used to describe a unit of education, as a substitute for style or grace, or as a ranking of social status. It is the last definition that attempts to influence the mind by stealing perceptions of the other two. The term “upper class” steals from the other two meanings to provide connotations of education and gentility, to use a politically incorrect word. There is not necessarily any correlation. The accidents of birth or the ownership of wealth can be a useful tool, if used wisely. They are one of many means to an end, not the end itself.

“Upper class” used to be a distinction of birth, and still is in some places. In other places in the world, it is just a substitute for “wealthy” or “powerful”. Being labeled “upper class” implies privilege, and there is some truth to this. In a society that makes strong class distinctions, opportunities exist in the form of exclusive clubs and schools. Networking opportunities also exist that help create continued success within the class echelon. In societies that equate wealth with class, similar opportunities exist. Before anyone accuses me of being a Bolshevik, let me say that I think one should be allowed to buy any luxury or quality item that one can afford. Someone has to provide these goods and services, and they are usually paid a premium for doing so. Having consumers for high-end goods and services raises the bar for all creative aspects of society. The problems I have with the system lie in the confusion of purchased or rented privileges for entitlement, and the implied social stigma that attaches to those not in the “upper class”.

The very concept of “upper/middle/lower class” is blurred. I have heard people describe themselves or others as “lower middle class”, “middle-middle class”, and “upper middle class”. You might also hear “working class” and leisure class” thrown into the mix. How the distinction is made depends largely on the prejudices one has acquired from one’s society. In many ways, the prejudices of one stratum of society toward another are not as dangerous or destructive as the prejudices of social distinction one has about one’s self. On three notable occasions I have had people go out of their way to tell me to tell me that they were middle-class. One was a woman from London, one a man from New Delhi, and one a woman from Lavonia, Georgia, USA. In all three cases, it was important to that person that I did not think of them as being from the “lower class”. I did not ask for this information, and it was apparent that they thought I would think less of them if I thought they were from more modest, and potentially ignorant and squalid conditions. I, on the other hand, was just as likely to be impressed. Social and familial dysfunction, and the traps of anger, despair, and frustration exist for everyone, but those of modest means often find them easier to fall into and harder to escape.

When someone says “lower class”, do you automatically equate that to “low class”? Does your mental image contain people living in urban ghettos, or rural poverty, or homeless beggars living on the charity of others? Or, do you think of those elements of society with a more feral nature? Do you equate “lower class” with those that lie and cheat and steal? If you see someone with shabby clothes, or worn-out shoes, or teeth untouched by orthodontia, do you pigeon-hole that person as somehow less important or useful? All of this is part of a social tradition of establishing a pecking order. It is the children of rich merchants picking on the kids of poor coal miners who go to the same High School. It is disgraceful, and largely irrelevant to individual human potential. Unfortunately, it is often a self-fulfilling stigma, and becomes personally relevant through the destruction of self-esteem. In other words, “humble beginnings” have a bad rap these days.

In part 2, I’ll describe some of my personal experiences with the concept of class. I dedicate this post to Peter O’Toole and the memory of Margaux Hemingway for widely divergent reasons.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Spring Break

It has been a while since my last post. I am still tied up with other pressing affairs, so it might be a while before my next one. A few comments before I submerge myself again:

It seems an insane shame to me that no Muhammad version of this can be made without some numbnuts believing that he must kill the maker for making it. My set will never be complete without one.

Beast, you are right, my last post was too long, but I didn't want to break it up.

This was not, strictly speaking, intended to be an atheist blog. As the name suggests, it was intended to expose the techniques used to dominate, hypnotize, persuade, and scam the trusting and gullible. Since I consider religion to be the world's oldest scam, I guess it's only natural that I go there so often. I also consider the distinction between a cult and an accepted denomination to be one of only minor differences. As for the ideological differences leading to conflict between faiths, I think they are neatly summed up by Carroll's imagery of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.

I'm going to try to get back to the roots of this blog, and I am also going to try to pick on Islam a little for balance. Islam seems to me to be an even bigger game of "Simon says", and an even bigger ignorance factory. I once had a devotee describe Saladin to me in terms that would make one think he walked about handing out posies. Right... and Hitler was nice to blond and blue-eyed children too. Two opposite distortions do not result in reality.