8 June 2009

a thought to be explored

Emigration to another country is an intrinsically egoistic act. Leaving family and friends behind, separating children from their classmates and grand parents just to accomplish one's own goals. Unsocial and egoistic. (I am excepting those, of course, who are emigrating to save their lives.) For people from poor countries it is often the only way to get ahead, but for those from well-developed countries it is an all the more individualistic act.

Egoism alone is not a problem. It is a natural part of human character and live. But if you have a regular instream of egoists into one country (all leaving their social networks behind), then it's no wonder that this country creates a very individualistic and less social culture.

4 comments:

catenary said...

That's a nice provocative thought, Robert, but I think it is easy to demonstrate it is wrong. Though there are egoist migrants, there are many reasons to emigrate that are not essentially egoistic. To show you what I mean, let me twist your words:

Emigration is an intrinsically selfless act. Leaving family and friends behind, separating children from their classmates and grand parents, all in order to offer one's talents to use where the community can exploit them best. (...) And if you have a regular instream of selfless people into one country (all leaving their social networks behind), then it's no wonder that this country creates a very communitarian and more social culture.

~Jorge

Robert said...

Thanks for your comment, Jorge! We should talk about this more in-depth some time!

Just for the present point: I think your word twist demonstrates nothing, because you base it on the fact that people emigrate selflessly "to offer their talents". I agree, that many people emigrate for altruistic motives, but I think most of them are to go study abroad so they can go back and use their education to improve their home country.

I would think that the only people with skills that can only be used in certain countries are some nerdy grad students. (Many of them see themselves as being useless for any practical work.)

I think that statistics show clearly that most people emigrate for "economic reasons" and even if that includes offering their skills where they are better used, it also includes offering their skills where they get more in return.

And no matter if the motives are selfish or selfless (or maybe just plainly pragmatical), emigration often cuts people out of their extended family and existing social network and this certainly has a strong effect on the people and the culture they evolve.

My provocative thought has been partly born out of the struggle for integration of immigrant's children which I observed while TA'ing CSC 108 (first-year computer programming). But that's material for another post.

catenary said...

I agree we should talk about this later! For now I just wish to clarify: all I wanted to do was to point that emigration is not intrinsically egoistic. If my word twist did not convince you, I am sure you yourself can come up with at least a dozen fairly popular reasons to emigrate that are not egoist in nature.

Jackie said...

I'm interested in your thoughts on how immigrants' children struggle to integrate!

I also disagree that emigration is intrinsically selfish. Here is a concrete example. A large part of the reason why my parents moved here was because of me and my siblings. There was the whole 1997 thing and they also wanted us to have a better education. You could say that my parents were being selfish in defending the interests of our family, but then we could go on a whole debate about Ayn Rand.

And if immigrants migrate primarily for their family, you might expect a culture to be more family-oriented and social.

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