December 28, 2003
I told Don Rogers once that I didn’t even know how to say “hello” in less than 300 words. I think he challenged me to look up the word “prolix.” I told him I didn’t have to. It was my middle name.
That’s an irrelevant prelude to an apology to Marty Lich.
Frankly, had I known of her community credentials earlier, I would have accorded her views (most specifically on undocumented aliens, or illegal aliens if you prefer) a far greater respect and attention.
I do believe that people who put themselves out there, or put their money (and effort) where their mouth is if you prefer, deserve more attention than anonymous Tipsline whiners. And, frankly, much more initial respect than those of us who merely sit behind a keyboard. (Doesn’t mean our arguments aren’t decent, though.)
I still can’t agree with her, though. (And I was mortified to find out Ms. Lich was a lady. I spoke to her and about her as if she were a man. Should that make a difference? Oddly, it does.)
I can’t agree with her because she dwells in the past. Not in circumstance, but rather in solutions. She is perfectly right when she discusses the “problem.” Here’s why I disagree with her, offered with respect.
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Try something, if you will. This year at New Year’s dinner, look closely at your children. Try to imagine what they’ll look like at 100 years old or even 120. That’s how long most of them will be destined to spend on this earth.
Between gene therapy, genome research, medical nanotechnology, stem cell research, gene modified diets, cell regeneration therapies, etc., on and on, ad infinitum – many, if not most, of those kids will never know the threats of cancer, or diabetes, or AIDS or a thousand other threats to life. They are going to be around a long, long time.
In their century or more on this earth, they’ll work till they’re 90 by choice. They’ll enjoy three, maybe four entire careers. Many of them will go back to university in their 60s, or 70s, and it’ll be normal. They’ll live in a maelstrom of technological advances. They’ll have to absorb five or six times as much knowledge as you or I just to function happily. And they’ll do it.
The total sum of knowledge on earth is reputed to double every 15 years. The sum of human knowledge available to them will increase seven or eight times over in their lifetimes. They’ll know, in the aggregate, seven or eight times what we know now.
During their time on this earth, an extended one according to contemporary standards, a lot is going to happen.
In 1900, one life ago by the standards of your children, there were 1,000,000,000 people on this planet. At the end of that theoretical life, the year 2,000, there were 6,000,000,000. It doesn’t require a Max Planck to contemplate 2100, merely a theoretical life away.
If one looks about one, at the state of a good portion of that 6 billion, one must ask what it will be like in 10, 20, 50 years. A small percentage, relatively, of your children’s lives.
Every day, hundreds of thousands of have-nots are created into worlds of abject hopelessness. Of these, a small percentage, but a high absolute number, will refuse to accept their evident fate in life. Imagine the problems we have now and, when there are 10, 50, a hundred or thousand times as many poor, bitter, angry people in this world willing to risk their lives for just about anything.
They’re going to keep coming no matter what you do. As long as we are “haves,” they’ll keep coming. Some by the sweat of their brow. Some with bombs in their hands.
Is “Fortress America” the solution? Maybe in the very short term, but then we’d no longer be America.
The only real solution is to build a buffer of economic prosperity around us and hope they can filter some of the rush. If we don’t create alternative sources of hope other than our own shores, we shouldn’t be surprised when we’re flooded.
No. Illegal immigration is with us forever.
Unfortunately, so is terrorism most likely. Probably the two biggest issues these kids will have to deal with are illegal immigration and terrorism. Probably for their entire lives. People wanting, in one form or another, to get some of what we have.
Except there is one other minor little problem they’ll face.
For when they ultimately succeed as best they can, and they will, the biggest issue in their lives, in one way or another, will revolve around the environment. Even if the population doesn’t fully sextuple, even if it only quadruples, add that to the increased life span of all those billions. Then look around and think about what our paltry billion has done to the biosphere. Times four, five or six?
If they don’t solve that problem, the rest is all a waste of breath. And it’s only a small portion of their lives away.
Anyway, Ms. Lich, that’s why I have denigrated your perspective in the past. I felt, and in all honesty, still feel, that you are tilting at windmills while storm winds rush past you. We can’t stop immigration. (Democratic governments actually don’t do anything well, including sealing borders, and if they do, perversely enough, they become less of a democracy.)
We need to look at wholly innovative ways to manage it, rather than simply pursue traditional solutions more assiduously. That just seems so painfully obvious.
And! If we don’t somehow order our priorities, all the rest of these subjects of debate are essentially, masturbatory. A good leader and a willing (and yes, rich) population, could possibly lay a foundation to start to seriously address these problems and help our next generation out. But then, one of the downsides of democracy is an avoidance of obvious problems until they land on your doorstep.
But our kids will learn from our mistakes and shortsightedness, and like every generation before them, they’ll deal with it and prosper, perhaps more so by far than any previous generation.
They’ll consider us a generation when life was “nasty, brutish and short.”
Still, you don’t have to be a Faith Popcorn to worry.