Breaking Down The Walls Of Pettiness

We should erect a wall.

The clock struck twelve, and she turned silent. After a long pause, she said that the new regulatory framework in the UK would make it almost impossible for her to stay there. I felt that this could be one of her usual pranks. I went to sleep while she said, “Shanu, Say something. Tell me that this is nothing—that there is nothing to worry. Please. Say something like that.” After turning in my bed for long, I woke up, wanting to know. What she said was true. A piece of legislation had made it very hard for her to realistically find a job in the UK after college. She did not know it for months.

We had studied in the same city once. Before going back to college she had worked with a reputed multinational corporation. The first time I had found her murderously angry was when she found that her dinner was stolen. When I told her that such things do not affect me much, she said, “Shanu, I am a student. I live on a limited budget. I will have to go to bed hungry tonight.” It happened often. After finishing college, she once told me that she wanted to work as a sales girl in a shop in London because she is keen on understanding many things. And I was silent. 

It took her courage to pay her own way through college. Narrow mindedness can be a powerful ally, but when you have it as your enemy, will you be willing to take that risk?

It is estimated that open borders would nearly double world GDP, making world poverty history. It is reasonable to expect that virtually every informed person would want these walls to be torn down. But, the reality is more like a Barry Deutsch cartoon in which someone reads enormous newspaper headlines on the immigrant menace and the danger posed by Arabs, murmuring that the whites are the only group that is not immune to criticism. Virtually no one in the developed world wants those restrictions to be repealed. Among economists or even the free-market economists, the immigration problem attracts virtually no attention.

The immigration problem is not just a grave moral issue in itself, it is also a solution to many seemingly unrelated social evils. Consider the problem of rape, an issue that has attracted the most attention in the recent past in the Indian media. Craig Murray, a British political activist and writer who thinks that the “problems of rape in India have been firmly on the western media agenda” recently pointed out that he did not find middle class women walking around in normal Delhi streets. There were very few female passengers in internal flights. Craig blames Indian men and the elite for their callousness towards women and the less fortunate.

But, Delhi is a large city. If you drive through a smaller Indian city for half an hour, you wouldn’t probably see middle class women at all, even in the major markets. But, to my knowledge, there is no law that prevents middle class women from walking through normal Indian streets. There is no law that prevents Indian women from traveling inside the country, or from living in any part of the country they prefer to live in.

What restricts their freedom is perhaps the Indian culture that is retrograde. But, what we call culture is a product of gene-environment interaction for thousands of years. It is unrealistic to expect Indian men or the Indian culture to change anytime soon. What is more realistic is to allow the sane to escape to fairer lands, where they will live longer,and healthier—where they have more mobility, and can easily find their own market niche.

But, there are laws that prevent Indian men and women from moving to the US or the UK. You cannot take a flight and move there. The gendarmes will catch you and put you in jail. It is at least possible for middle class men or women to migrate legally to the western world. For low IQ Indian men and women, it is almost impossible, and they are among the poorest people on the earth. They are permanently trapped in third-world poverty.

Much has been written about the hypocrisy of the western intellectuals who are hesitant to air unpleasant truths about the narrow, nationalist, repressive and bigoted country that India is. But, if a sizable part of the world population is trapped in third world countries, at least part of the blame should be placed on the callousness of immigration policies of western capitalistic democracies.

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