The little bastards and the big bastards, the bastards of all the hues of the rainbow, the bastards of every faith and tradition, are sneaking in everywhere. They’re running through the Chunnel from France to England; they’re smuggling themselves into Australia, leaping the Straits of Gibraltar, sifting into Europe in the damnedest ways. Recently, 193 Iraqi Kurds turned up on the Greek island of Yioura in the Aegean Sea. No sooner had they arrived than they were kicked out, but rely on it: They’ll be back.
The following item appeared in Israel’s Ha’aretz a couple of weeks ago: “A group of police and government officials began a crackdown on illegal workers on Tuesday. The campaign aims to expel 1,000-3,000 illegal foreign workers each month. In addition, the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry announced that no new foreign workers would be allowed in the country, and that most foreign construction workers with valid work permits would soon be asked to leave Israel.” Cutlasses at the ready! Stand by to repel boarders! It’s as though the rich or advanced nations from Japan and Singapore in the East to Germany and France in the West have been simultaneously stung by a xenophobic convulsion.
The American travails with undocumented or illegal immigrants became routine news years ago. Its growing importance is seen in the rivalry between the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The two compete in announcing the largest drug seizures versus the biggest human-contraband seizures. The D.E.A. is at a disadvantage in the contest, since it has nothing to show by way of pictures except stacks of sacks or boxes with dopey-looking cops pointing at them. The I.N.S. comes up with dramatic film of people discovered in unimaginable places and unbelievable conveyances. The uninvited and/or unwanted come in skiffs, hiding in shipping containers, stowing away in airliner wheel pods, in freighters, floating on inner tubes, wetbacking across the Rio Grande, infiltrating from Canada, trekking across the Mexican desert, paddling ashore in rubber boats or dropping from the sky.
They’re arriving by the millions, sometimes with–but more often without–a pot to piss in, indifferent to laws, regulations and procedures. The sons and daughters come without a by-your-leave, as though they’re entitled to move in on somebody else’s country and snatch a job and a living or just slum it up here because we’ve got better slums than where they came from. Many of us know they don’t stay where they belong because they’ve screwed up their own countries so badly that there’s nothing left for them to do but come over and screw up ours. Some of us call it diversity, which makes the inundation O.K. Others don’t think it’s O.K, but don’t say much because they might get pulled over for hate talk.
All the while, there is much discussion about “recapturing control of our borders,” amnesty for some illegals, and generally getting agreement on a good–or at least a better–immigration policy. The possibility that such discussions may be a waste of time and an exercise in futility is so “out of the box” (to use the new Washington vogue expression) that no one thinks about it. The whispers of history, however, bid us to think the unthunk. We like to say of the United States that it is a nation of immigrants, but there is immigration and there is big, big, uncontrollable immigration. This latter phenomenon we have not, until perhaps now, had to contemplate, but others have. A vast mass movement of humanity against its borders hit the Roman Empire and, in the opinion of some, accounted for its collapse. Before it subsided, it was a social tidal wave, a gigantic seiche. This huge movement of peoples is referred to by the historians as the Volkerwanderung .
It began in the third or fourth century A.D., perhaps starting in Mongolia, and by the time it subsided the social and political arrangements of the Eurasian land mass had been drastically altered. Empires fell, religions vanished, new kingdoms arose, other creeds held sway. So are we now seeing the takeoff of another Volkerwanderung , but this time of global proportions? It’s only the second year, but so far the evidence hints that the history of the 21st century may be the story of the Second Volkerwanderung .
Look at the basic elements. The export of medical technologies by the advanced or smart nations to the emerging or dumb nations has resulted in a decrease in infant mortality and therefore a ghastly increase in population. Despite the endless yak-yak in the U.N. and elsewhere on the subject, the disparity between the rich and the poor remains dangerously large. It’s dangerous because, in addition to medicine, the smart-rich have exported to the dumb-poor knowledge of the ease of life and sensuous excess in their lands, plus a lusty appetite to betake of the very same. Driven by both relative and absolute poverty and lured by tales of nations where all are rolling in luxury, tens of millions have, evidently, gotten the message and are up and moving toward us.
The more the dumb-poor come, the less the smart-rich are able to keep them out. The smart-rich Romans built walls and fortifications, but in the end the dumb-poor Goths and Franks overran everything and everybody. Complicating the dilemma of the smart-rich is the population vacuum in the advanced countries. From Japan to Germany, wherever technology is king, the local residents go into every business but the begetting business. They don’t have enough children to replenish themselves. These advanced societies, which are characterized by their fixation on sex, can’t seem to use it to perpetuate themselves.
Hence the smart-rich need the dumb-poor, and thus are obliged to drill holes in the very walls built to keep the hoards out. But when some of the dumb-poor are admitted, they quickly make a lodgment which they can use to bring in others, and the controlled trickle becomes an uncontrolled flood, ripping the walls away and leading to what no one can say.
We can say that the First Volkerwanderung proceeded slowly, as people moved from east to west on foot or horse. The Second Volkerwanderung , involving tens of millions more people and traveling at the speed of jet, truck and freighter, is coming at us very rapidly.