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81 Demographics and history
Problem: We want to
I want what
I want when I want it. You are here to
it for me.
That is the earliest feeling I can remember. Have you outgrown it better
than I have? I still have selfish impulses to overcome. Do you
ever wish other people would do all the work while you retain
control? My stories below are the macro and micro level of just
that. Please regard all accounts below as old wives’ tales
regarding particulars. I am selecting specialized perspectives to
illustrate, not prove, a major point.
The outstanding example in America and other parts of the world is
slavery. Dominant cultures harvested human beings to become
skilled work machines without allowing them to be human beings.
The world still suffers from the injustice by those who commanded
labor and exercised absolute control.
more than a decade ago I read an article suggesting that in the
near future there would be more Americans of Oriental descent
than of European descent. The start of this population tipping
process was said to be the huge Chinese labor force imported to
build the American railroads. It wasn’t quite like enslavement of
Africans (Chinese workers came willingly), but some Americans
still resist giving these workers’ descendants and other invited
Orientals a greater voice in government.
Preying on the lack of opportunity
elsewhere, many Americans have welcomed Latino immigrants as
cheap labor. Panic breaks out when there are so many of them that
“locals” need to learn Spanish. Recently a politician proposed
that these “aliens” be barred and replaced as a work force by the
prison population. I grew up in an agricultural valley realizing
that migrant agricultural workers (many of whom were Latino) were
highly skilled, underpaid workers. Farms depended on experienced
seasonal laborers who genuinely understood the operations of
When I lived in Switzerland 1963-1966
that country required guest laborers (primarily Italian) to leave
the country over Christmas. I was told that this was to keep them
from immigrating permanently. Their labor was welcomed, but not
I have read that Russians migrated to neighboring countries that
were willing to import a labor force. After enough years passed,
the immigrants proposed holding an election to decide whether to
belong to Russia. They were accused of executing a land grab to
increase Russian territory.
American colonization by Europeans was
far less justified than laborer ascendancy because the Europeans
were never invited to come, much less to dominate.
stories concern countries and distinct cultures having diverse
languages. The contrasts and changeovers are stark and dramatic.
Most of my audience does not deal in demographics at that level.
We may do better to study smaller examples—the micro level.
Before we do that, consider the legal rule against perpetuities.
American law tries to protect flexibility. It does not
want one owner at one point of time to lock an asset into a
single use for the rest of eternity. A fake absurd example would
be a philanthropist who feels that the skunk population should
not be decimated. He makes a one-acre skunk preserve on the edge
of town that can never be used for any other purpose. Two
generations later when that piece of ground is near the heart of
a major city, or in the middle of a suburban shopping mall, the
rule against perpetuities becomes obvious. The current population
on the land wants to control it. It seems reasonable to be free
from the wishes of dead ancestors who do not live there now.
We are ready to study a conflict that
arises in one neighborhood within a small portion of one lifetime
and can affect any one of us. The story, based on an online
account I read several years ago, differs in detail from four
bongo drum cases I found on the internet today.
The neighborhood in question started out
relaxed and hippie friendly. Every evening the bongo drums would
sound late into the night, maintaining the local social
tradition. Gradually the neighborhood gentrified. New residents
carried on different lifestyles and work hours than did the
people they displaced. By and by they passed an ordinance
declaring late evening outdoor bongo drumming a public nuisance.
The old-timers who had lived there all their lives felt that
their character and freedom had been taken away from them. They
were faultless. It was the law that had let them down.
I included the colonization example above
(new residents of America came as conquerors, not neighbors) to
make the comparison with wealthy move-ins who conquer
bongo-playing natives of an urban neighborhood and take away
their ground. Somebody likely
profited from the gentrification. Perhaps the invaders were not
entirely uninvited. If the profit went to absentee landlords, we
are back on morally questionable ground because somebody’s rights
to peaceful enjoyment were abrogated.
we have considered slave masters, foreign conquerors,
exploited labor turned voter, and demographic mobility. I am
invoking a wide range of emotions, hoping every reader will
become excited about at least one of the stories. I expect each
of you to leap forward in evaluating the human dimensions. You
will apply logic, law, morality, ethics, economics, sociology,
political science, and other fields of knowledge. Please spend a
bit of time analyzing your feelings as you move from one story to
Do you remember
Friday’s article about patriotism? I used the word explicitly
in the cover email. The article aroused your loyalty to the
values that make America beautiful, and invited you to make it
even more beautiful through your personal contribution, being
constructive rather than critical.
Today’s article follows the pattern of
giving you the article before explicitly saying the topic. The
title tells you what type of stories I will tell. They involved
diverse nationalities, languages, and cultures along with the
passage of time. We have reflected together on the role those
factors contributed to the human mix we have now.
Following that exercise, I disclose
today’s topic, the object of our patriotism: DEMOCRACY. You are
now ready to review this article through the lens (question) “how
does democracy play out in this story?” Is democracy the force
that decides right and wrong by counting people? Is it the
principle of inviting every person’s equal voice? Is it the
social fabric constituted by the entire population? Is it a
mechanism for the evolution of history?
I am patriotic to a democracy
that is neither singular nor
static. It serves a complex world.
Being For Others Blog copyright © 2020 Kent Busse
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