Saturday, 18 February 2017

finding a centred view of immigration

I don't usually choose to write directly about political issues of the day - I've other water-courses to watch -  but this passage from a blog I follow, written by a Buddhist teacher, made me stop and think. Ouch. 

It seems to me to find a balance that comes from someone who has meditated and contemplated long and productively.

 "On the immigration issue, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt reminds us that the way forward is not to determine who is right, but rather to appreciate the truth in both the conservative and the liberal approaches. The conservative approach honors the challenges of immigration while the liberal view appreciates the value and moral imperative of immigration.
 [nb he's talking about a conservative view, not an extremist, racist one.]
When people with different customs, languages and world-views come into our communities, it reduces our level of social capital. We no longer have the automatic bonds of trust that come from common assumptions and behaviors. We have to work harder to see how our new neighbors are like us. The unconscious signals and meanings, so important to our sense of being at home with each other, have to be consciously recreated."
                                                   David Rynick, at

Debates - arguments - on immigration, whether here or Rynick's USA, are often uncomfortably polarised and sometimes even a bit totalitarian, in a sense. And I'm not just referring to the extreme right.

Many of us are so horrified by the right's views on immigration that we recoil into something that seems to me too abolute. I think that perhaps both statements "I'm against immigration" and "I'm pro-immigration" are pretty useless. 

Rynick's second paragraph is rather more likely to be trashed by people who live in areas with few recent immigrants, than by people who live in areas with recent rapid rates of immigration, and who may not have the cultural and economic resources to be always and entirely welcoming to allcomers from anywhere. 

Research has shown that it is the speed of immigration that above all creates hostile reactions. Perhaps it's easier to feel liberal in a general way about immigration in Llandudno than it is in Boston, Lincs.

This is not to be critical of immigrants themselves. It's about resident populations' responses to their arrival. Surely the only sensible answer to the question "are you in favour of immigration," is - in the interests of immigrants as well as resident populations - "that depends. Sometimes...."

It is ignoring the truths in Rynick's passage that has fuelled the extreme views that are empowering dangerous demagogues.

 Rynick goes on:

"One of the shocks of this election [the US/Russian one...] was the vivid awareness of the many people in this country who clearly don’t feel at home in the same America as I do. The cultural conversations about the unconscious power of racism, classism, misogyny and hetero-normative gender oppression make sense to me and feel to be essentially American. For many others, these conversations are simply for the urban intellectuals who sip skinny soy lattes and profit through the exclusion of everyone who does not live on the coasts or in a city.

It is the sense of alienation, disenfranchisement and fear that we need to address, even as we fight our new President to retain the foundations of our democratic institutions and our common sense of the verifiable realities that we share."

In this instance, i can read UK for USA, substituting "this government" for their alleged president.

Rynick describes travelling widely in the world teaching and leading meditation groups, in which something deeper than cultural and linguistic differences comes into play to hold people together. It takes time and work to create that commonality.

It takes time and work, forethought and expenditure, to truly welcome immigrants so they can make their own way without setting off hostile reactions in the people they want to live among.

Knee-jerk politics and ideological absolutism won't do it, from right or left. 

But I note that Rynick writes of fighting the person who is currently impersonating a US president. He does it through his writings, no doubt through discussions and arguments, and no doubt through the large  numbers of people he has helped to be more calm and compassionate towards anyone and everyone. People like Rynick are anti-demagogues purely through what they are and what they do.

Being compassionate and objective does not mean passive acceptance of whatever happens.

Spiritual generosity* is the missing ingredient, of course, however well-planned and resourced immigration may be. It isn't either of those things at present, which just makes a generous spirit more important than ever.

*  I think I know what I mean, though "spiritual" is still a term which for me is often encumbered by largely irrelevant connotations.)

This satirical "news" article is neither compassionate nor calm, but I'm afraid it appeals to my juvenile sense of humour:

Well, namaste, even to the Tango monster I guess...

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