The Cost of Isolationism

I recently watched Alt-Right: Age of Rage on Netflix. If you’re not really familiar with the alt-right and their connections with white supremacists (and holy shit, it’s 2019, you should be) then it’s a good primer. There’s a segment near the end though that has really gotten me thinking since I watched the documentary. During a montage there is a voice-over which goes on a conspiracy rant about how the alt-right is preparing society to accept mass genocides which are going to happen as a result of ecological and economic disasters. While I feel like the idea that this is the true intent of the alt-right, as if they’re being controlled by some shadowy puppet master, is a bit much, there are elements of this notion that ring true.

With the rise in nationalist movements, xenophobia has become a serious wedge issue which politicians are keen to latch onto. Governments which try to take a stand in favour of immigration seem to be on the brink of political collapse as populist movements push back, surged by xenophobic fervour. While there are certainly reasonable levels immigration restrictions (no one wants dangerous criminals in their country after all), the degree of xenophobia and straight-up racism which dominates this conversation now is deplorable. Syrian refugees are fleeing war? They must be hiding terrorists amongst them, or they’re going to become the majority and institute sharia law, so we can’t afford to let any in. We need merit-based immigration, the kind which most of our existing citizens couldn’t even qualify for! And hey, why can’t we get more immigrants from white countries instead of shit-holes? Ugh… Don’t even get me started on America’s disgusting campaign against illegal immigration, Dreamers and asylum seekers. It’s clear that the aim is to circle the wagons: keep the “right” people in the country and not let any more “others” in.

So what are these people so afraid of? How does it affect the average citizen at all for immigrants and refugees to get a slice of the American pie? Putting aside racism (which is a major factor), it comes down to the old parlance, “they’re stealing our jobs!” There’s this idea that if you let immigrants in, then they’re going to vacuum up money which could have gone to “real” citizens (you always get some idiot chiming in with something along the lines of “why aren’t you giving money to veterans instead of immigrants?”). Naturally, this ignores that immigrants are essential to a healthy economy, especially considering that our workforce is ageing and that the birth rate is declining. Regardless, there’s a notion that immigrants are a drain on our resources, one which is fuelled by disingenuous anti-immigration propaganda farms on social media. I’ve talked about it many times in the past, but this is a perfect example of the dangers of voter ignorance, where political activists are manipulating people into a frenzy in order to get them to vote the way that they want.

Like this bullshit right here.

As bad as the xenophobic trend is now, you also have to factor in the effects that climate change is going to have in the coming years. Climate change will affect everyone, but it’s going to be felt most keenly by poor people, especially in impoverished regions. This, in turn, is going to lead to even more refugees as time goes on and as people become displaced by rising sea levels and severe weather events. Make no mistake – this creates an environment in which people are going to be displaced and die en masse. Considering that industrialized nations have contributed to this environmental crisis and refuse to do anything serious to combat it, the notion that we can just wash our hands of the human impact of climate change is unacceptable. People will certainly die, but we can mitigate the death toll if we’re willing to allow refugees into our countries. If we refuse to act due to racial prejudice, this will be essentially genocide against anyone who isn’t one of “us”.

Perhaps the most depressing aspect of this to me is that evangelical Christians, the self-described “pro-life” types and the ones who believe that they are the moral bastion of society, are also the ones most likely to deny climate change and oppose immigration. This isolationist bent is, of course, in blatant opposition to The Bible that they claim to follow. Christians should be leading the charge to welcome refugees, to shelter Dreamers from ICE agents and denounce the disturbing trend towards fascism across the globe. Instead, I question whether they’ll even have the self-awareness to say “I didn’t know” when their apathy towards climate change and refusal to welcome immigrants leads to deaths across the globe.

Like I said at the start, I don’t believe that white supremacy is being trotted out once again in order to prepare us for this depressing future. I do, however, believe that if racism and anti-immigration sentiment continues, we’re not going to be able to do anything when there are people literally dying to find safety within our borders. Call me a bleeding-heart liberal, but we can’t call ourselves moral people if we’re going to stand by and allow people to suffer so that we can live just a little more comfortably.

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IC2S Playlist Update 30/03/2016

So, we’re going totally random this week. I have often wondered if rates of university education are going to nosedive in the next generation. The reasons I wonder this are many:

  1. Between my parents’ generation and my own, universities (and, in a related fashion, governments) have become increasingly more and more structurally-neoliberal. This has resulted in more business-like universities, which have had their tuition shoot up at a rate higher than that of inflation and has resulted in various cost-cutting measures. For example, most of the “professors” who I was taught by were actually “contract instructors” and doctorate students, which are obviously significantly cheaper to employ. The main thing to take away here though is that university is more expensive now than it was even 20 years ago, even when compensating for inflation. Unless there’s some sort of government action, it is likely that profit-minded universities will be even more comparatively-expensive by the next generation. Which brings me to my next point…
  2. There is a constantly expanding wage gap and shrinking middle-class in Canada and the US. When taking into account the expectation that tuition costs will likely be even more expensive for the next generation, and the likelihood that there will be a smaller portion of the population capable of paying their way into higher education, it would seem likely to me that university enrolment is likely to become more of an “elite” status thing. Of course, the remaining middle-class and even some hard-working lower-class individuals could try to afford it and even take out loans, but that brings me to arguably my most important thought…
  3. For my parents’ generation, you could conceivably go to university, take whatever the hell you want and then have a job waiting for you when you were done. However, the reality these days is that you’re probably not going to find any sort of job opportunity as soon as you’re done school. Naively, I just kind of thought that if I got a degree, it’d give me a good edge in the job market. However, as I got into my 4th year, I realized that there are a lot of people out there in the job market with degrees, and if you really want to stand out then you’re going to need a college diploma as well, and at least a few years of experience in your field. I feel that our parents and our generation are slowly building up the realization that university is no longer the safe bet that it once was in terms of landing work, and worse, it could land you in crippling debt for years afterwards. Naturally, school is not just about what sort of work you get out of it (I for one know that my university experience helped me mature significantly and made me into a much better person than I was going in), but I think that our generation is likely going to have a much more sour tone towards post-secondary education, which could result in advising our children away from it unless they really need it.

On a related subject, I also wonder if the rising prices of tuition, and inflation rates in general, might have something to do with the ease at which one can acquire credit these days. Now I’m not an economist by any means, so take this with a grain of salt, but these things I have been wondering. After all, if everyone had to buy a car with the money that they had on hand and saved, their prices theoretically would be significantly lower (as would the labour costs and various other steps involved with them). Naturally, the actual cost of manufacturing the object has to be taken into account, but I have a hard time believing that credit hasn’t played a major role in the current cost of living and the sky-high costs of housing in many areas. Plus I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a factor in the growing wage gaps, since creditors are always going to get paid one way or another.

Anyway… fitting with the random subject matter this week, I picked a couple songs I’m into at the moment just for the hell of it. First up is “Jerry Was a Racecar Driver” by Primus, and “Devour” by Shinedown. Not really bands (or even songs) that I listen to all that often, but I was feeling it this week so I hope you enjoy.

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