Saturday, 28 July 2012

Politics On Rustum

In the concluding Rustum story (Poul Anderson, New America, New York, 1982, pp. 117-157), we read two political speeches about how the Rustumites should respond to a new wave of immigrants from Earth. Dan Coffin wins the argument that new immigrants should be welcomed but let us consider the counterargument, which is in part:

"...since they are alien, since there are bound to be offenses and clashes, they could become the victims of hatred, even outright persecution. We are not saints on Rustum. We are not immune to the ancient diseases of xenophobia, callousness, legalized robbery, and mob violence. Let us not inflict upon our home the same unhealable wound which was inflicted on Mother America.

"Lead us not into temptation." (p. 149)

The speaker cannot claim an academic neutrality. He is leading into temptation. By speaking as he does, he encourages the most xenophobic tendencies in Rustumite society. If both Coffin and O'Malley had welcomed immigration, then individuals who wanted to articulate xenophobia would have felt isolated and might have been silenced. Instead, O'Malley gives them the opportunity to argue, "We are not saints. There are bound to be clashes (so let's cause some). We cannot help hating aliens. We have support in the Constitutional Convention where O'Malley said, 'We are not immune...'"

Thus, O'Malley could have found his proposed exclusion policy supported by demonstrations expressing that xenophobia that he does not want to "...inflict." If that tendency does exist on Rustum, then it should be opposed, not appeased, and it should be the duty of Convention representatives to unite against it.

I am making a speech here but I think that Anderson's story (rightly) invites, or challenges, each of us to be clear about where we stand on this issue.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

While I agree with Dan Coffin's arguments in favor of welcoming the neo Confucianist immigration from Earth, I don't think all effortsd at immigration control will be necessarily bad. Nations do have a right, as sovereign states, to decide who can or cannot enter their territories. After all, not all immigrants will be of the apparent high quality of the neo Confucianists mentioned in "To Promote the General Welfare."

I get the impression that these neo Confucianists were not as libertarian and individualist minded as most of the older stock Rustumite colonists. And Dan Coffins seems to think that was good--because it would correct the tendency of individualism degenerating to crass selfishness.


Paul Shackley said...

Personally, I am against all immigration controls, regarding freedom of movement as a basic right but I hope we can agree on opposing O'Malley's argument that "...there are bound to be clashes..." etc. Nothing is inevitable but clashes are more likely if someone in his position accepts them as inevitable.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

Actually, I agree with O'Malley that "clashes" will be inevitable. Because that is simply part of what human beings are like. But, I don't agree with his absolute opposition to all new immigration. So, yes, we can agree that some new immigration will be good.