By Nauman Sadiq
There are two contrasting styles of debating an issue: those who prefer the normative arguments, and those who choose the descriptive arguments. Most pop intellectuals nowadays adopt the former approach, but the truth unfortunately is generally bitter.
Let me admit at the outset that I do understand that race relations are a sensitive issue in the Western countries; especially when millions of skilled and unskilled immigrants from the Third World countries flock to the economically prosperous developed countries every year to find a better future for themselves and their families.
However, instead of bending over backwards and demanding from the natives of their host countries to be more accommodating and totally non-communal, the immigrants need to understand that migration is not the natural order of societies.
In order to elaborate this paradox by way of an analogy, when we uproot a flowering plant from a garden and try to make it grow in a different environment, sometimes it works but sometimes it doesn’t; depending on the adaptability of the plant and the compatibility of the environment. If you want to change the whole environment to suit the needs of that particular uprooted plant, such an unrealistic approach may not be conducive for the native flora and fauna of those habitats.
The right way to tackle the migration problem is to discourage it by reducing the incentive for the prospective immigrants to permanently abandon their homes, families and communities to find a better job in a foreign country and a radically different culture, where they would be materially better off but socially isolated and desolate.
Therefore, in order to minimize the incentive for immigration, we need to revamp the global economic order which makes the rich nations get richer and the poor poorer. Once the relative imbalance of wealth distribution between the developed and the developing world is narrowed down then there will be no need for the people of one region and culture to relocate to another, except on a temporary basis for education, traveling and cultural exchange.
Notwithstanding, throughout our anthropological evolution, from our nomado-pastoral, hunting-gathering phase to the golden era of agriculture, the humans never lived as individuals, but as social groups, clans and tribes. The ‘individual’ is only an artificial modern construct that has been conceived to suit the needs of the industrial economies.
Individuals must have intellectual autonomy and freedom of investigation and information for obvious reasons, but individualism as an ideology with complete disregard for our innate social nature only nurtures lost souls who sometimes find solace in existential acrobatics and sometimes in drug addictions.
More to the point, there is an obvious difference between a Chinese and an American: a Chinese speaks Mandarin while an American speaks English; they don’t understand each other, because they can hardly communicate with each other due to the difference of language.
Now if the difference among people on the basis of language is duly accepted and appreciated with the naked eye, then we should try to understand that under the sociological microscope the cultural ethos and social values of two or more radically different cultures don’t always blend seamlessly.
Humanism only implies that we should be just and fair in our approach: that is, we should try to understand that foreign people and cultures also have their legitimate material, moral and social needs and aspirations; instead of imposing our Orientalist ‘vision’ on them, we should let them choose and facilitate and expedite their choice and vision.
The human mindsets, attitudes and behaviors are structured and conditioned by their respective cultures and environments. A person born and bred in Pakistan or India generally has more in common with the people of the subcontinent.
For instance: when the first generation of Indo-Pakistani immigrants relocate to the foreign countries, they find it hard to adjust in a radically different culture initially. It would be unwise to generalize, however, because it depends on the disposition and inclination of the immigrants, their level of education and the value-system which they have internalized during their formative years.
There are many sub-cultures within cultures and numerous family cultures within those sub-cultures. The educated Indo-Pakistani liberals generally integrate well into the Western countries; but many conservative Pakistani and Indian immigrants, especially from the backward and rural areas, find it hard to adjust in a radically different Western culture. On the other hand, such immigrants from the underprivileged backgrounds find the conservative societies of the Gulf countries more conducive for their individual and familial integration and well-being.
In any case, the second generation of immigrants, who are born and bred in the Western culture, seamlessly blend into their host environments; and they are likely to have more in common with the people and cultures where they have been brought up. Thus, a first generation Pakistani-American is predominantly a Pakistani, while a second generation Pakistani-American is predominantly an American, albeit with an exotic-sounding name and a naturally tanned complexion.
Notwithstanding, the rise of Trump in America, the Brexit in UK, the anti-immigration protests in Germany and the ‘Burkini’ ban in France (which was subsequently overruled) is the manifestation of the underlying sentiment against the policymakers’ normative approach towards the issue of immigration, which generally harms the interests of the working classes of the developed countries.
Therefore, instead of offering band aid solutions, we need to revise the prevailing global economic order; and formulate prudent and far-reaching economic and trade policies that can reduce the imbalance of wealth distribution between the developed and the developing nations; hence, reducing the incentive for the immigrants to seek employment in the developed countries.
Finally, let me confess that I am somewhat insensitive to the issues of racism and discriminatory attitude that the immigrants suffer at the hands of the white supremacists. Actually I am someone who is acutely aware of the reality of the Third World: that is, laborers pulling carts like animals; construction workers doing backbreaking work under the scorching sun; the children of the Afghan refugees working as scavengers in the streets of Pakistan; and all in all a subhuman condition in which the majority of the Third World’s population has been condemned to labor.
Moreover, it’s a fact that we, as individuals, don’t like to revamp our deeply entrenched narratives even when such narratives have conclusively been proven erroneous, because our minds are incapable of radically transforming themselves, especially after a certain age. Despite being a mystery of gigantic proportions, the human mind still has its limits, especially the minds of grownups are highly cluttered.
The reality is always too complex to be accurately conceived by the mind. Our narrative is only a mental snapshot of the physical reality that we have formulated to the best of our humble abilities. But since our minds are quite overloaded, therefore, we generally tend to adopt linear narratives; and try to overlook the deviations and contradictory evidence as mere anomalies (selective perception and confirmation bias.)
Additionally, our minds also adopt mental shortcuts, or heuristics, to ease the cognitive load while making a decision. To instantiate this concept, Pakistan has numerous problems: like, poverty, social injustice, religious intolerance and patriarchy, to name a few. My individual narrative, however, has mostly been predicated on the social justice aspect; but I do acknowledge and appreciate the tireless efforts of the dedicated social activists who are doing commendable work in other areas too.