2013-07-10

Is Immigration The Same As Mass-Murder?

Sonic Charmer's most recent venture into the anti-immigration concept generated some fascinating comments from his readers. Stationary Waves readers will find these comments of interest in light of what I wrote the other day.

Before I go on, let me reiterate the gist of why I'm writing about this. I would like to assess the arguments made by the anti-immigration crowd on the merits of those arguments. If there are good reasons to keep foreign people out of the United States, then they should be voiced. From the sounds of it, however, most of the arguments posed seem to reduce to racism. That is, those who oppose immigration appear only to oppose immigration because they have a "distaste of other cultures." 

"Distaste of other cultures" is an actual quote from someone who opposes immigration. Continue reading to find out the details. 

Anti-Immigration Advocates, In Their Own Words
Here are a few choice excerpts from the RWCG blog post linked above (all emphases mine unless otherwise indicated):

"James" says:
In an anarcho capitalist society, of course, free migration of inferior races would not be a problem, because no one gets to vote, and because instead of welfare, the rentacops move along anyone who does not look inclined to earn a living, or flat out kill or enslave them.
"Lenior Rel" says:
Countries formed from clans and tribes that had to defend themselves, their lands, and their females from rival tribes taking them. This is the Raison d’ĂȘtre of the state, even the modern state. For modern people to say that this is somehow “evil” is preposterous, this would mean the end of the nation state, and even the tribe-state
"asdf" says [Note: I have no idea what "NAM" means, but it clearly indicates some sort of poor immigrant]:
Do you not see how immigrants fundamentally change the character of communities even if they can’t vote, thus affecting the body politic by their very existence? Certain kinds of societies are only possible if those living in them have certain characteristics. People are not fungible. You don’t just stick people X in system Y and get result Z. System Y was designed for people Y, if you try to stick people X in it you don’t necessarily get result Z. This is playing out all over the developed world. Go watch some “youths” riot and set some cars on fire and then tell me that everyone’s the same. 
I know you know this kind of stuff deep down because you spend most of your waking hours trying to make enough money to not need to have to live around the NAMs you doom everyone else in the country to have to live around. No, you keep those people out because you know what they will do to property values, but somehow can’t make the mental leap from NAMs = the value of my block goes down to NAMs = the value of my country goes down. 
When I pointed out to this group of readers that they were expressing xenophobic ideas, one person named "Mike" had this to say in response:
There is nothing irrational or unreasoned [sic] about my distaste of other cultures. Cultures that I have experienced first hand and have found wanting. Oh, and I’m not afraid of these things, I don’t like these things. 
This may make me parochial in my attitudes and thoughts on culture, but I am not xenophobic. [italics in the original]
Well, point noted Mike: You're not xenophobic, you're just xenomisial. The truly baffling thing about Mike's position, however, is that he seems to take offense to the suggestion that "xenomisia" (xeno comes from the Greek for "foreign" and misia comes from the Greek for "dislike") makes him ethnocentric.

In fact, Mike wasn't the only one to take offense to my suggestion that disliking other cultures is pretty much the definition of ethnocentrism. Commenter "Matt," for example, even has the audacity to equivocate between having a distaste for other cultures and having economic motives for importing labor. Here he is, in his own words:
Throwing around insults, however, is just a waste of everyone’s time. Not everyone who comments on the cultural impact of immigration has the best motives in mind, but then neither does everyone who comments with respect to economics. The attempt to demonize one of those and not the other should be rejected by every thinking person.
Matt missed an important point of mine. When I pointed out that the anti-immigration readership of Rhymes With Cars And Girls is ethnocentric, my intent was not to insult or demonize them. My intent was merely to acknowledge the plain truth of it.

After all, why would an admitted ethnocentrist object to his being classified an ethnocentrist? If I believe in the cultural superiority of people like myself, and therefore argue that my community should not contain people unlike myself, why on Earth would I be insulted when someone told me that the reason I oppose immigration is because I consider my culture superior to that of the newcomers?

And Then They Dropped The Big One...
But "Matt" is not simply bad at logic: he defies it. Take a look:
But then, as you evidently don’t care in the slightest if the entire population and culture of the US disappears due to mass immigration, perhaps you’d like to defend your genocidal view?
Mull that over for a moment and consider what Matt means. What he means is that he considers a large influx of foreign culture to be genocide. I even imagine he typed that with a straight face.

Never mind the fact that immigration does not involve the killing of anyone. Matt simply believes that if his culture changes over time in response to human migration, his race has been murdered. It's hard to take that kind of idea seriously. But if I absolutely must take it seriously - at least seriously enough to refute it - then I'll do what I can.

First of all, to call the mere expiry of a set of cultural ideas over time "genocide" is to completely redefine the word "genocide." Genocide literally means to murder an entire race of people. Changing the physical make-up of a community up to the point that the community's culture changes is (a) not murder, and (b) not specific to race. Thus, Matt's "point" fails at the definition stasis.

Second of all, referring to a change in culture as genocide personalizes culture in a way that contradicts the definition of that word, too. Culture isn't solely made up of those aspects of your community that you love and hope never change. Culture is also made up of those aspects that will inevitably change. Culture is also made up of things of which you are completely unaware, whether they change or do not change. No individual has any control over their culture. In fact, culture is nothing more than a set of general proclivities that a mass of individuals appear to possess, from the standpoint of an outside observer.

Considering that fact, it makes little sense to object to immigration on grounds that it changes the culture of a community. One important cultural attribute of that community is that it attracts immigrants. Forcibly preventing immigration is such a community is equally as disruptive to that community's culture as the influx of immigrants itself might be. In either case, non-cultural forces exert an influence on the community's cultural trends.

Besides, some members of the community may actually prefer the influx of immigrants and may feel it is more reflective of the community's culture than the absence or restriction of immigrants.

In any case, it is clear that genocide is not happening - first because nobody is killing anyone, much less killing an entire race of people, and second because restrictions on immigration are as much a change in culture as the absence of restrictions.

Conclusion
I don't believe that all opponents of open borders are bigots. Nevertheless, I can't help but notice that opposition to immigration is a position (at least apparently) held by a good number of bigots. As I said the other day, if an objective person is not to believe that opposition to immigration is racism, then an objective person eventually needs to hear some arguments against immigration that aren't... well, racist arguments.

Finally, let us please not endure a preposterous discussion about whether there is a difference between xenophobia and xenomisia, or a difference between a sense of cultural superiority on the one hand and a "rational" distaste of other cultures on the other hand, or any such nonsense. Racism is, by definition, preference of one race over another. Ethnocentrism is, by definition, the belief that one's own culture is superior to others. The idea that one can simultaneously prefer one's own race or culture to all others and yet not be a racist or an ethnocentrist is untenable.

Actually, "untenable" is far too charitable. The belief that you can hold racist beliefs and still not be a racist is childish and stupid. If you don't want to be childish and stupid, then either own up to your own biases and defend them, or relinquish your illusions and correct your thinking.

But acting like a racist while demanding that no one refer to you as such is not a possibility. If you do or say things that others deem racist, you will be judged accordingly. You have no control over the thoughts of other people.