When a Guatemalan family borrows money to pay a coyote to, hopefully safely, smuggle one of their children into the United States, we might yet hear the talking heads refer to it as the search for a better life. Perhaps. More likely it is done out of deep despair. Despair from seeing year after year of failed crops, of failed government, of their country being a failed nation, …. That’s despair, as in the lack of any hope; despair as in desperate.
Despair is not foreign to our shores. Across America, for almost two generations now, we’ve seen too many good paying jobs disappear from our towns and cities; our towns dry up and blow away, our intercities fall farther into disrepair and decay; too many of our own have fallen into despair. Here, in America, we are but yet in the early, hopefully reversible, stages of also becoming a failed government, a failed nation. Here, we see pockets of the escape to drugs, of the resorting to crime, that the citizens of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, have too long seen in abundance.
Most of us, it seems, would like to improve our lot. For the average American, this might mean working a little harder, taking a few night courses, taking the boss fishing, … These are really just trade offs. But, borrowing every cent you can possible borrow and selling your few possessions so that your child just might possibly get a shot at life, that’s a whole different level of like, of want; that’s despair.
What one is willing to do to improve their situation depends a lot on where they are on the ‘needs met’ spectrum. If theirs is a moderately comfortable lot, it’s unlikely that they will risk all or even much for a chance to improve on it. If theirs is one of abject poverty with every day a struggle just for survival for them and their family; what have they to lose? It is this level of despair that puts those poor souls in those overcrowded rafts and leaky boats to Europe, that sets those desperate families, those children of desperate families, on a two thousand mile trek to the Mexican/US Border. How do you deter someone with nothing to lose?
Somewhere between ‘it would be nice’ if things were a little better, and despair, while maybe yet to the left of covet, lies want, as in one’s wanting to have what others have, or, to just get their fair share. Turns out, the degree of one’s want is fungible by such as marketing. Folks outside first world capitalism, here and abroad, see the same barrage of ads we do, and ask, “Where’s mine?” In our own centers of poverty, even in that small village in the middle of a remote nowhere, people see those ads, look about themselves, and ask, “Why not me, Lord?” Why can’t I have one of those?” “Why Lord, do some get to have so much while I have so little?” This difference between so much and so little, between enough and nothing, is disparate, is a gross disparity of wealth. The difference between someone having $zero and someone else having $billions is quite analogous to the difference between the force of gravity on earth to that of outer space; to the force of millions of volts difference in potential between two electrodes. With such extremes in physics, we are taught that things are attracted to one extreme, maybe repulsed from the other. In the case of humanity, those things are humans. Around the world, the have-nots and the have-littles are more and more attracted to the lands of the have-lots. Have-less humans who would like to at least get a fair share. For them, those ads create want. Want, the creation of want, is at the very heart of American capitalism.
Gross economic disparity abounds and is growing in America and around the world. Even in the world’s lands with plenty, the richer are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. This economic disparity often coexists with a governmental disparity, a class/ethnicity disparity, and a disparity of opportunity.
Emigration is a most common reaction to both desperation and disparity. Immigration, both legal and illegal, is a most usual consequence of the both. When the situation is desperate, almost anywhere, even a squalid refugee camp, seems better. When disparity is the prime motivator, the search is for opportunity; for an opportunity to earn a better living so as to be better able to support one’s family.
Not all who come to America dream the same dream. During Trump’s first impeachment, with witnesses like Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, Marie Yovanovitch, and Fiona Hill, we saw first hand the contribution that immigrants can make. Many immigrants, and their second generation sons and daughters serve in our armed forces. Almost all are willing to work hard.
As we have seen throughout history, increased emigration and immigration are a consequence of despair. What of the consequences of immigration, itself? There are those who deeply believe that all immigration is good. Perhaps. Depends. No doubt, the immigrants and their second generation sons and daughters who spoke at Trump’s first impeachment, who became Doctors, professors, started the Googles, Modernas, … have benefited us all. Those who came to work as nannies, laborers, cooks, dishwashers, waiters, construction, … for low wages, benefited the wealthy and made economists happy but were a disaster for America’s working poor. They competed for the jobs normally held by those with no college, the blue collar workers; and, they were willing to the work for less. All this at time when millions of good paying blue collar jobs had recently been,were being, lost to offshoring.
The beneficiaries of immigration may have been able to control the narrative, but those who suffered from it were heard loud and clear in 2016 when Donald Trump, having read the tea leaves well, offered them Kool-Aid and lies in exchange for their vote and won.
It may be that America, and other wealthy nations should and must share the world’s burdens of despair and disparity; that nations and peoples who have more should share with those who less. That going forward with the certain major displacements of Climate Change and overpopulation, all nations must take in the displaced, the desperate, the disparate. No doubt, those with more have too often, for too long, misused and abused those with less. Has that note come due? In all probability, as with Bangladesh and the Rohingya, as with Lebanon and Syrian refugees, Europe and the North Africans, …, no nation will be immune.
What are the to be expected consequences of disparity? No doubt, unless gross economic disparity is quickly pared, we will see more of the disparate join the desperate and emigrate. What to do with this oncoming flood? Here in America, for some, it is time to build walls along our borders. When millions and millions of people have no other option, nothing to lose, walls will not stop them; not even bullets will stop them.
Here, in America, we have seen the consequences of creating want up close in our urban centers of poverty. While want can be a great motivator for people to buy a product, to work harder so as to able to buy/consume more; in our intercities, too many have been induced to want, to have wants, with no means of getting the wherewithal other crime. In our rural areas and small towns, want without means leads to the loss of hope, to despair. For the many in the world outside our borders, it means, fence or no fence, we are coming. The creation of want in potential buyers, a market for a product, is an important aspect of capitalism. While a little want might just be the thing to get you up and going in the morning; too much want may be harmful to your health and the health of those around you. Some economists think that a little disparity might be a good thing. Too much disparity might well prove fatal to the economy, the nation.