A few weeks ago I went to see a play my sister (an imminently graduating drama student) was in. I could quite happily wax lyrical about the phenomenal quality of the play but I’m pretty sure the previous sentence has revealed a bias that probably precludes me from giving a particularly useful review of the production. The play was all about migration, focusing, as is often the case, on illegal immigration. Immigration (the “damn immigrants” causing all manner of problems) is one of the buzz words the Daily Mail likes to use which should immediately flag it as an area that is misunderstood and sensationalised. As another Dan so eloquently put it: the previous sentence “won’t mean an awful lot if you’ve never heard of The Daily Mail, but on the plus side, you’ve never heard of The Daily Mail”. Incidentally the video I just linked to is well worth a watch!
The crux of the objections surrounding immigration is the pervasive assumption that the location of one’s birth (or even the location of one’s ancestors’ birth) somehow entitles that person to things someone else is not entitled to. The idea that being born on one side of an imaginary line drawn across the land should make someone fundamentally different to someone born 1m away is, in my opinion, absurd. Of course in the UK this argument is slightly weakened by the fact we have a stonking great stretch of water between us and our nearest neighbours (which opponents of immigration no doubt see as a good thing). The principal however is the same; why should I, by coincidence of my birth, be entitled to more than someone else born elsewhere?
There isn’t really a coherent argument against this. The only real way to argue against migration is to ask what the alternative is. Indeed, if migration laws were abandoned the situation wouldn’t exactly be pretty. There would be a mass movement of people (more so than currently) from less economically development countries into countries such as the UK and the economies of those countries would be unlikely to cope. Of course, as soon as the wealthy countries started to suffer, due to the mass immigration, the rate of immigration would slow and possibly reverse (imagine Brits being the ones needing to flee poverty…). If left long enough it is conceivable that a world without border control would be equalised economically such that people were distributed in a way that correlated with the distribution of global wealth.
Gosh. We have the solution then. Amazingly, in the ten minutes or so I’ve spent writing this blog I’ve solved the migration problem! We just need to decide as a planet (maybe some sort of big ad campaign is needed?) to remove all border controls and then we wait for everyone to shuffle around to find the point of equilibrium. Perhaps we could set up some sort of website where people can find where in the world they should head for a better life? I’m thinking Facebook style ‘liking’ would be good perhaps?
Of course, this isn’t really as feasible as it might seem I’m making out (no doubt Facebook has some pretty strict trademarking of its ‘like’ system for starters). In all seriousness though, this flippant suggestion is actually quite akin to the way the current UK government is trying to ‘marketise’ the higher education system in Britain. The idea that we should use market forces to try and equalise things such as education or, as in the case of migration, peoples entire quality of life, is deeply wrong. The underlying theory might suggest that marketisation leads to equality but as we can see from simply looking at the financial word; marketisation leads to the best off getting better off and the worst off getting even worse.
What needs to happen, in terms of disparities of equality, be it education, quality of life (one of the most prevalent causes of migration) or any form of inequity, is for the people in the most privileged positions to recognise their privilege, accept that in the vast majority of cases their privilege is due to the circumstances of their birth and nothing more, and then to take this sense of privilege and use it to help shape the world. Once the privileged start rejecting the comfort of thinking they somehow earned their privilege (although of course, if they actually did earn it then this doesn’t really apply!) then they can start to feel compelled to actually make a difference in the world and start to even out the stark divides in equality we see almost everywhere we look.
Although, of course, this would be much easier to achieve if it wasn’t for those damn immigrants!