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Globalisation and immigration
Dele Oguntimojuis the senior partner of Ogun@Law, a City law firm in London and the UK Director of Publicity of the Movement for National Reformation (MNR) in Nigeria. The MNR's publication is Nigeria Review. Immigrants, Globalization
Keywords: Immigrants, Globalization
AbstractThe virtue of "free movement of capital and labour" has become one of the shibboleths of modern political discourse, even though it provokes unease among politicians and citizens alike. Supporters of economic neo-liberalism, generally on the "right", regard free-flowing capital as fuel for the engine of economic growth. For the most part, they stay silent on mass immigration or express hostility to the idea. Social liberals, generally on the "left", oppose immigration controls because they confuse the defence of national boundaries with "racism" or "xenophobia". This weakens their critique of economic globalisation - and plays into the hands of genuine racists and xenophobes. This article argues that the corporate globalism of the multinationals and the unrestricted, desperate flow of migrants represent two sides of the same coin and are together increasing global inequality and undermining democratic institutions. Support for democracy and social justice therefore involves the defence of the nation state and the security it provides its citizens.
The "nationalist" is a strange and, in this age, much vilified creature. He is the one who loves his nation for the simple reason that it is his. He loves his people's art, culture, music, language, literature, food, customs, folklores and history. For him the contours and general beauty of his land and his women cannot be bettered; the strengths and idiosyncrasies of his men-folk have no equal. That his nation is economically successful is but more reason to be proud of it yet he will not forsake it even if it is not.
The "economic nationalist" may sometimes be confused with the nationalist because he too loves his nation but his is a different kind of love. He loves his nation because it is successful. The more successful his country or the better the prospects it offers, the more he loves it. He will, in fact, be more passionate in the expression of that love than the nationalist because he will always wear his love on his sleeve: at every opportunity he will wear the national dress, show off his mastery of the history and traditions and his will be the most passionate voice in any rendition of the national anthem. But his love is fickle. No sooner that the economic outlook for his country becomes less promising than that offered by another country or political unit than his love will begin to wane. Because it is success that he treasures, he is easily seduced by any other political unit that can offer him the opportunity of that success. For the economic nationalist, sovereignty is a tradable commodity like any other and he will always be ready to trade in all or part of his nation's identity and independence at the right price.
Nationalists all over the world are under siege from the tyranny of economics and the worshippers of money. We live in an age where the only values that are of any consequence are ones that can be measured in pounds or dollars. The love of things for their intrinsic qualities belongs to a different era.
In times past trade did not pose such a threat to the things that nationalists held dear. This was a time when most business was conducted by real people either alone or in partnership or at least by government on behalf of real people. No conflict of loyalties arose then because, however successful an enterprise might be, the people behind it could not but have an attachment to a nation since they had to live somewhere. Since business in that age was local, the entrepreneurs would typically be attached to the same nation. But then came the joint-stock company, a creature that exists only in our minds; a creature of commerce that needs no home, no family, no community and no country and which, by virtue thereof, has no loyalty to any particular land or nation and attaches no importance to any of the things that the nationalist holds dear.
As with many things in life, when the company was small and local, a mere vehicle of convenience whose essence was still the individual, family or group of friends behind it, it was useful and harmless. Things changed when the creature was allowed to develop an essence of its own when it was allowed to grow beyond the human scale by the simple expedient of issuing pieces of paper and by being licensed to enter into commercial obligations that were unmatched by the net assets of its participators. Now, not only have the companies ceased to be small, they have ceased to be local. The global company is owned by other companies through their pension funds and by people living in different parts of the world owing allegiance to different nations. As for the company itself, being a creature of commerce largely managed by accountants, its only creed is profits. If this means that production must be shifted from the country in which the business concept was first originated to a lower cost country at the expense of jobs in the country of origin that nurtured it through its early years with its patronage, then this is what must be done. Everything must be sacrificed in the interests of earnings per share. The corporation which started life as a servant has become the master.
In different parts of the world this conflict between the nationalists and the economic nationalists, between those who say small is beautiful and those who insist that big is better; between the defenders of the local and the advocates of the global, is being played out. Those whose first loyalty is to money are necessarily in the globalisation camp because for them a profit is a profit whether it is expressed in pounds, dollars or drachmas. The holy grail of business is a mass market.
But it is not just production and investments that are being pushed into orbit by the globalisers. As some parts of the world are growing economically, other parts of the world are getting poorer with the result that the economic nationalists in the poorer parts are packing their bags ready for a move. Every day the urge grows stronger as more and more gadgets and trinkets from the rich world invade their senses. Even the nationalists among them are finding the pressure to join the global village unbearable. The differences of language, dress sense, culinary tastes, culture, and faiths which once served as natural restraints on mass migration are being systematically broken down in the relentless and reckless pursuit of the enhanced bottom line. As these junkies for bigger markets, who have outgrown their local markets, encourage and pressure more of the world to speak the same global language (English), to adoptthe same dress code (Western), to live by the same values (liberalism), to listen to the same music (pop) and to imbibe the same Hollywood culture, the people are rapidly overcoming their natural inertia.
A fact that seems to be little appreciated by the ordinary people in the West, who are feeling besieged by the latest wave of immigration and who have not since the early days of the colonial adventures been subjected to the pressures and inducements to relocate, is that human beings do not lightly uproot themselves from the land of their fathers and abandon the joy of everyday contact with their immediate and extended family to live in foreign lands and to do work they would not deign to do in their homelands. This ignorance is manifested in the way that they direct their resentmentat the unfortunate immigrants who are, like themselves, but victims in a game being played above their heads. It must be hard for the average Westerner, secure in the opportunities afforded by his own country, to fathom the extent of the direct and indirect pressures to which the people of the poorer nations are subjected by the archangels of globalisation as they undergo forcible conversion from contented villagers to disgruntled consumers. They do not know, because they are not told, how the youth in the poor African cities are being seduced by lush advertising to shed their native dress in favour of blue jeans; to retune their ears from the traditional hi-life music to the drum and bass of hip-hop and Brit pop. When these brainwashed townies return to their villages they carry the contaminating gadgets and gizmos with them and in no time at all their contemporaries in the village have caught the bug of Westernisation. The peace of mind and contentment that they once enjoyed having been disturbed, like Dick Whittington, their sole aim in life becomes to go to London to see with their own eyes the streets that are paved with gold. Even now the British Council is busy, across Africa, training the next generation of immigrants in the language of their destination country.
Tougher immigration and asylum policies will not cure the problem of the "uprooted people". Such a policy is as misguided as the fortresses that the over-rich in Africa build around their homes to keep the beggarly neighbours out, while failing to appreciate that it is their claim to a monopoly title to opportunities that leaves the neighbours no alternative but to come to them.
To underline the myopia of the attempted solutions to the immigration problem, a distinction is sought between asylum seekers who are fleeing political persecution and economic migrants who are just seeking a better life. It seems not to be appreciated that the economic and psychological persecution to which those who are coming in search of a better life are being subjected by the globalisers can, in some respects, be more unbearable than the persecution of states: both make it impossible for the victim to live as he would wish in his own country. The loss of contentment with one's way of life is no less easy for a human being to live with than the loss of personal liberty: the one is a closed prison, the other is an open one.
Most commentators have been dealing with the opportunities of globalisation and the problems of immigration as if they were separate and unconnected phenomena. They fail to appreciate that globalisation will bring in a new generation of immigrants just as colonialism brought in the original wave. I often pity the young UK nationalists who have not been told and have yet to learn that Britain (or the urban parts at least) became multi-cultural as a consequence of the empire that their grandfathers built and which added the "Great" to their identity as Britons.
Simon Jenkins of the The Times is one of the exceptions that prove the rule. In a recent edition of his column in The Times he warned that "immigration is the globalisation of the poor". Samuel Brittan in his article "Europe is not working" published in the New European (Vol. 14 Nos. 1 and 2, 2002) showed a similar level of appreciation of the connection but his solution would only gladden the hearts of economic nationalists:
… my own heretical approach would be to abolish the distinction between asylum seekers and economic migrants and to allow people to move where they like.
In fairness, Samuel Brittan is only being honest because, in a true single market, labour not only is free to move to where the jobs are but is expected to do so. But where would this solution leave the nation state?
I would venture to suggest that it is this conflict between the economic nationalists and the nationalists that has been at the root of the turmoil that the Conservative party has been experiencing in recent years; the "European Union" (EU) has merely been the battleground where this conflict has been fought out.
When Britain ruled the world, and even when she was still a significant player in her own right, the Tory party was the home of both men of commerce and pure nationalists – those who loved Britain because it was successful made happy bedfellows with those who loved Britain for things British. But now the men of commerce are being tempted into a bigger bed – the EU.
If globalisation is so intrinsically tied up with immigration as I have suggested, the winners and losers in the globalisationgame will be determined according to how well they can absorb the immigrants who will inevitably be drawn in. The USA, being a land that wiped out its indigenous peoples and started afresh with immigrants drawn from all parts of the world, has perfected the art of assimilating new arrivals. Europe, a land mass of ancient nations with Britain one of its oldest, cannot hope to compete with the USA and Canada in the game of digesting mass migration without fundamentally changing the character of the society. The incidents in Burnley and Bradford are testimony to this fact.
It would be dangerous for Britain to rely on the so-called "special relationship" to assume that they will be safe from competitionfrom the USA because unbridled capitalism always has a way of consuming its own at the end of the day: it is essentially cannibalistic. If all that matters is to win, then it matters not at whose expense you do so.
A common language will not be enough to keep the Americans on Britain's side. One needs to remember that the Americans only entered the First and Second World Wars at strategic times when they could exact the best deal including, ultimately, the dismantling of the British Empire, without which the current US hegemony would not have been possible. In the same way the USA knows that Britain cannot win in the globalisation game without sacrificing those quintessentially British qualities which represent Britain's only remaining claim to superiority.
If the arguments in this article are sound, strange things may yet soon happen in UK politics. The Tories may be about to find friends among the African nationalists who have been struggling to resurrect their nations from the early graves to which they were consigned by Tory-led British colonial administrations in the interests of world trade in the age when Britain was the world.
One of my favourite campaign slogans was former Tory Leader William Hague's "Come with me and I will give you your country back". Alas, William found himself powerless to do so partly because he failed to enlist the support of the immigrants in his country who also wanted their countries back.
We will all get our countries back not so much through tighter immigration and asylum policies to keep the migrants out but by calling time on the globalisers to keep them at home. We will do so by restoring opportunities to the villages and the hamlets rather than by allowing more people to be sucked into the turbines of global trade. Just as many of the Irish immigrants who were once despised in England returned home when Ireland started to boom economically, so the other immigrants will start going back to their countries and new ones will stop coming when Britain and the West recognise that, when God gave each nation its own land and its own means of sustenance, He probably knew what He was doing. Let the world remain multi-cultural but leave the nations homogeneous.