There is probably nothing more boring or self-indulgent than quoting one’s own Twitter exchanges with people of opposing views, but sometimes it does bring out some interesting points. So bear (or bore?) with me and indulge me this one time as I self-indulge.
It all started with a recent spat of BBC journalists having sniggers at various British national symbols – patriotism, after all, is so passé, and the flag mostly just represents imperialism and xenophobia, right? – which prompted this exchange between a Conservative MP and a Marxist journo and personality:
Thinking that Lia made a good point, one that I make quite often myself (yes, more self-indulgence) and that can’t be simply dismissed with some rhetorical overkill, I piped in:
After all, no one is talking about deporting the un-patriotic, merely being concerned about their mental suffering and anguish resulting from living in a place that is so clearly misaligned with their personal values.
To that, I acquired an interlocutor, as it happens another Cracovian, albeit of a younger vintage – and of a far-left persuasion (the two no doubt going hand in hand, since he is not fortunate enough to remember life in Krakow under communism, even if I suspect he would claim that wasn’t real socialism). I wish I could present you with our full exchange but the individual in question has subsequently blocked me. This is, as far as I’m aware, my first Twitter block, and I could only have wished my first time was someone more famous. Alas. So my memory will have to suffice to paraphrase his concerns:
Cracovian socialist: So you shouldn’t be able to live in a country just because you don’t like some aspects of it? I’m sure you don’t like many things about Britain [Australia, actually – ed.] but you’re not planning to move to Tajikistan instead. Your solution sounds pretty totalitarian to me.
Me: A Marxist calling me totalitarian – oh the delicious irony! Actually, I’m pretty OK with Australia – which is precisely why I’m happy living here and not moving somewhere else – as I’m sure I would also be with life in Britain if I wanted to. Be that as it may, I chose to focus on other points:
Cracovian socialist: Can’t expect people to move just because they don’t like the place – they have roots in their communities. Besides pretty much everywhere around the world in miserable.
Well, I guess if you are a Marxist, pretty much everywhere around the world is miserable, countries being either capitalist nightmares, or the Third World victims of capitalism, or a handful practicing “not the real socialism”. For the rest of us, there is clearly a gradation of better and worse places to live, whether it’s our subjective mental lists or various United Nations and other international bodies’ quality of life rankings. Clearly too, most people around the world know the difference, because everyone who wants to migrate wants to migrate to North America, Europe or Australia and no one wants to go to Venezuela or Bukina Faso, no offence to the good people of these and many other countries.
But the more important point is this: the left seems to think that to tell someone in the West that perhaps they should move to some other place, which is more in accordance with their values and beliefs and where presumably they will be happier, rather than lingering very unhappily in the country they seem to despise, is quite outrageous, as well as possibly racist, sexist and xenophobic, depending on who that someone is. On the other hand, everyone else in the world is entirely justified – nay, expected – to seek a new home that is more compatible and desirable for any number of political, economic or social reasons. In fact, to tell everyone else in the world to stay where they are (where, after all, they have “roots in their communities”) and not migrate, would be quite outrageous, and definitely racist, sexist and xenophobic.
In summary then:
Western world: how dare you tell me to migrate somewhere else?
The rest of the world: how dare you tell me not to migrate somewhere else?
There is a simple explanation, of course, for this apparent inconsistency. The left thinks that people who are miserable in the liberal democratic capitalist West (i.e. themselves) should not be moving anywhere else because instead they need to work to radically change their countries to accord with their leftist vision. The left also thinks that people who are miserable throughout the rest of the world should absolutely be moving elsewhere – specifically to the liberal democratic capitalist West – because that will help them (the left) to radically change their countries to accord with their leftist vision. This is not at all fanciful since people in the rest of the world (with the exception of the numerically insignificant nationalities who have or are still living under “not the real socialism” and so know better) tend to be by and large more collectivist, communitarian and statist than people in the West, who occasionally espouse a preference for individualism, personal liberty, free market and a smaller and less intrusive government. Why try to bring the Western electorate to your progressive vision if you can import a new electorate which is far more receptive to your ideas?
As UK Labour speechwriter Andrew Neather wrote in a rare moment of indiscretion, immigration “didn’t just happen; the deliberate policy of Ministers from late 2000… was to open up the UK to mass immigration.” When this policy was being shaped and finalised in 2000-01, her recalled “coming away from some discussions with the clear sense that the policy was intended – even if this wasn’t its main purpose – to rub the Right’s nose in diversity and render their arguments out of date.” (Neather subsequently claimed what he wrote had been taken out of context.) Or as German Greens’ politician Stefanie von Berg rhapsodised a few years back, “Our society will change. Our city will change radically. I hold that in 20, 30 years there will no longer be (German) majorities in our city. We will live in a city that thrives on having many different ethnicities. We will have plenty of people and live in a supercultural society. This is what we will have in the future. And I want to make it very clear, especially towards those right wingers, this is a good thing!”
Most people try to avoid misery and dissatisfaction in their lives, but for the left these are good things, because they motivate change. So we should have more of it, and more people suffering, since that will speed up the crisis of capitalism. There is of course more to open borders, including economic arguments about benefits of immigration (though more on the libertarian side) and the post-colonialist guilt, but one of the key motivations remains selfish: bringing in foreigners to do the jobs that the locals won’t do – such as voting left.