I usually write about America. In this I am not simply a self-obsessed ‘nationalist,’ because there are people all over the world who talk and talk and talk about America this or that, good or evil, the glory of the world or the cause of the end of time. I tend to probe numerous sides of this same debate, but that is a tale for most of the other pieces written on Recording Editorial History. As this series on the rest of the world outside my home concludes (or Part One of the larger piece I will return to, picking different nations or notions from all of the continents again), I’d like to discuss my immediate neighbors, those who share the same larger space with us, and outline the differences in culture, their ideals, and many of their problems. It might be best to start with everybody’s friend, that icicle to the North known as Canada.
I have been to Canada several times. Beautiful place, or at least where I was (Vancouver, Montreal, various locations throughout Quebec . . . Toronto, which is closer to an American city). And the rumors are mostly true–the citizens are very friendly, often well meaning, and frequently cheerfully drunk. The political climate is mostly liberal (although there are pockets of mostly rational conservatism; there are fewer extremists on any side, although if we look to the college age, there are still the same either petty or serious, but disorganized movements to ban or defend something). To give an example of just how calm the atmosphere is, at least in my limited experience, when I was crossing the street, an anxious east coast USA city boy, far more used to people blowing through stop signs and even traffic lights, then honking me and flipping me off as I jump back, at a green light some smiling resident waved me across the street, apparently content to not be in any sort of hurry.
I understand, frankly, why so many Americans after an election that did not turn out the way they hoped declare, without any sincerity, that they are leaving the US for Canada. Canada is our sister nation, or at least a first cousin. We have an enormous amount in common. Even many of our social problems are the same. Take, for example, this list of issues plaguing Canada, with angry responses on the rise:
- The healthcare system that surly Americans use to trash the high cost of their home, while certainly more concerned with the nation’s citizens, continues to be a massive drain on the economy, as all socialized programs cannot help being. And while the very nature of such a system is unquestionably a benefit to most, with the glut of aging baby boomers both living longer and getting sicker and sicker, the funds to cover everyone might just bankrupt the nation. On top of that, the truly innovative doctors, those researching cures for dread diseases, and new surgical techniques helping the blind to see, the lame to walk, and the dead to return to life tend to run to America, where they can make a fortune off their genius. This forces sick Canadians to run away into massive debt as they plead with America for a chance to go on living.
- As with everywhere else in the world, the natives of the land continue to suffer, both through indifference from the people, and a profoundly justified rage. Unlike Mexico, where Spain enslaved their natives, and the US, who performed a wholesale slaughter (with slavery for the few remaining), France was faced with a far more aggressive and wily group of natives, used to the freeze, and therefore able to defend themselves better, sometimes with extreme barbarity. This has gone on to this day to being the primary racial issue within the nation, many of the Eskimos and other native groups willfully cutting themselves off into their own communities and, as a result of modernization, watching generation after generation suffer through extreme poverty and a hopeless future where no one ever gets ahead in a place they can no longer call their own.
- Another trend now being followed, inspired by the US, is the collapse of union-protected jobs. Independent businesses are choosing to hire people under their own contracts, freeing them up to pay what they choose, and to fire workers for any cause. And with a wavering economy, there are many jobs lost as a result of continual downsizing. As with any economic downturn for individuals (if not actually the nation, as Canada is still quite a success), frustration and rage inspires people to drink, to radically turn to a new God, or even to discover hatred as a way to salve their fear. As tolerant as Canada is by reputation, their dark history of racist cults is on the rise, and hate crimes are committed with increasing frequency, not helped at all by laws restricting certain unsavory styles of speech.
- Unaffordable childcare. There is an expanded child tax credit under Justin Trudeau which comes nowhere near meeting the cost and overall tax credits. Many struggling people continue to wait for government checks to arrive, putting themselves deeper and deeper into debt over endless delays. Proposals for free daycare continue to be bogged down in parliament, which also debases the job market as many people have no choice but staying at home with their young children. As Americans also know, having only one income is no longer tenable–especially with children, who are more expensive than the most precious diamonds.
- The promised conversion to develop a “green infrastructure” has yet to materialize. Betting much of the nation’s fortune on such future business opportunities, the longer Canada waits, the less time and money they have to put such industry into place. And since the majority of the nation supports this idea, and focus a great deal of their energy and concern on environmental issues, the population is left to question just what, exactly, their government is doing.
- The rising younger generation is demanding free college–or at least a limit placed on the cost of post-secondary education. This has been met mostly with aloof murmurs of discontent and no action on the part of either side of the issue. It has become a culture of complaint, as the youth of today all over the world continue to whine about what they believe they deserve, despite having contributed next to nothing. This, at least, is the growing opinion among the generation still in power, and it is creating an American-sized social rift.
- The absolute decriminalization of narcotics is also angrily debated. Recreational marijuana has become a reality, much to the delight of many. But the paranoia of the stoned has suddenly given birth to newfangled conspiracy theories about things being injected into the pot, mind-control theories, and the suspicion that the drug is now so powerful it removes the will from the users to do anything at all other than think quietly to themselves and their friends. Other people–serious junkies, demand harder drugs and no more jail time. People want prostitution to be legalized too, run by the government with more increased spending on healthcare to keep the sex industry clean. And while much of these demands are met with conflicted nods of approval, an increase in arguments over morality even further divides society.
Of course we could go on and on discussing the difficulties of living in Canada today, but their reputation continues to be sterling. Besides, this final part of “Elsewhere” is already getting long and there is a lot more to cover.
Mexico. Ah, America’s southern neighbors, once an ideal vacation spot, and the home of some of the world’s greatest boxers. And great drugs for those inclined to try them. There is a definite character to Mexican people, one both holy and tough, that of people struggling through difficult lives in a society so divided between the wealthy elite and the majority poor, that chaos and criminality can not help but arise.
The drug cartels were hear so much about, which are often used as a bedtime horror story in America to justify building Donald Trump’s wall, are seriously monstrous people, at least on the most part. These cartels have replaced the old world Mafia as the most powerful and influential elements of organized crime in the world. And while no doubt there are honorable people caught up in this terrifying world, the vast majority are greedy thugs who take retribution three steps further than the old world mob, and entire families, children and dogs too, if you don’t bend your knee. Sometimes the rulers are true psychopaths, dreaming a life of dictatorial control, threatening the highest political leaders with a withdrawal of money and agreements that would keep them in power indefinitely. In other words, like the Mafia before them, the cartels have an enormous amount of political influence.
But stepping back from such transparent horrors, a look at the ordinary Mexican citizen shows sincere, hard-working, family-loving people. The reasons that most of these people might consider crossing the US border has everything to do with their families. Mexico is one of the last places on earth, in this barbarically selfish world, that welcomes extended families into their homes: grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles–everyone. And while this might sometimes become a burden, and plenty of people cannot stand the crowd (spousal and child abuse is a serious problem in Mexico), the idea of personal responsibility usually overwhelms the frustrations of everyday life.
And so many Mexicans put themselves into dire risk in order to get underpaid at one horrible job after another (many of these people work more than one low-paying, undesirable shift). They send most of their money home. These loving family men and women struggle, and miss their families, and only occasionally hear news of a child graduating from high school, having a child, or getting gunned down in a gang war. Such heroic people cannot help but live a hard life, and so many of them take it with dignity and conviction, expecting nothing from the world other than what they put into it. Such attitudes should be a model for all, and such people should be openly welcomed anywhere. But, while often treated poorly at their jobs, and while anger so often overflows into violence, tagging many Mexicans as “the criminal element,” threatened by their employers with calling immigration if they protest their salary or work conditions too strenuously, any time Americans feel the need to blame a failing economy on anyone, it seems to always be these hard-working people, transforming desperate motives into the greatest threat in the world.
I will leave Mexico with that. This has been a personal editorial, something I rarely do in these essays. But this is a profound belief of mine. It is not about “open borders,” but the offering of genuine opportunity to those willing to take the chance. It is about keeping serious people out of the shadows. Have you ever met a Mexican? Have you ever gotten past their well earned suspicions and actually sat down to get to know them? There is more honor in a barely literate Mexican maid or farmer than any condescending business person I have ever met.
Central America is a different sort of nightmare. And while there are many similarities with Mexican culture all throughout this bridge to South America, it is also a land that has a long history of political unrest and brutal dictators. Many of the limited wars of the United States since the 1950s have been with Central American leaders, both fairly elected and decent, and the militaristic products of violent coups. The Mexican and Colombian cartels also use places like Panama, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras as drop zones for their product, paying off criminals and corrupt politicians to distribute their product to many smaller dealers, most of whom have contacts in the US. Americans, it should be admitted, love getting high on anything.
But things get even worse, as the Cartels on either side of them close in, make increasing demands and, when they do not get paid enough because one of the leaders decides that some of their ill-gotten profits should actually be used for the benefit of their nation, there is a very good chance they will be killed, only to be replaced by someone with a more demagnetized moral compass.
But drugs and violence, of course, are not the only issues facing Central American nations. There is genuine political unrest too. Communism was once seriously considered in many of these places, but the United States expanded the idea of the Monroe Doctrine (“The Monroe Doctrine is the best known U.S. policy toward the Western Hemisphere. President James Monroe in December 1823, warned European nations that the United States would not tolerate further colonization or puppet monarchs.”), blaming even the most organic political movements that went against our policies, and crushed these rebellions, often using underhanded methods, or even going so far as to murder newly elected influence peddlers.
And yet, the natural beauty of many of these nations (at least internally) is unquestionable. I have been all throughout Central America, through the rain forests in Guatemala and across the monkey islands of Panama. I have seen glorious and endless banana plantations with lazy sloths across the street in the trees. The variety of animal species is remarkable to behold, including wild felines you can rarely see in a zoo and colorful butterflies larger than your head. And while the preponderance of insects can get overwhelming, and frightening to boot (malaria, anyone?), the absolute glory of such a natural world on this increasingly used up planet can still give even the most oppressed sugar cane worker hope for the future.
There is plenty more to say on all of these many nations, and I shall return to deal with deeper history and whatever issues may arise when “Elsewhere, Part Two,” appears, but I would like to close with two things:
First, south of the US border features perhaps the most unfairly despised people on earth. Ultimately the last preponderantly native Americans (by that I mean native of ‘The Americas,’), they continue to be treated harshly, the age old colonial hatreds turning white (and yes, the black in many cases) eyes blood red. They see jobs they would never work even if almost homeless, and yell about jobs being taken. We decide that every election we lose is the fault of illegal people voting. These folks are treated so poorly it shouldn’t be a wonder that so much violence and criminality has emerged, much of it focused on not just themselves, but on the entire world that hated them before they ever deserved it.
Lastly, an epilogue to the series:
Antarctica: The only people who temporarily live there are scientists, studying both the formation of the earth and the impact of climate change, among a few random other biological concerns. The only animals that live there are penguins, seals, and various forms of insect that can apparently survive anything. It is a barren, desolate place–our largest chunk of dry ground, covered with ice. I have only one idea about the place, a land I will never visit. As our climate continues to change, as the world gets hotter and hotter and more extreme; as human existence starts to wain towards extinction, hundreds or even thousands of years from now, there will be one last melting paradise. Buy land in Antarctica while is remains available. Set things up for your future generations, those you will be long dead before ever meeting. It is perhaps the best thing one could to do assure the continued survival of your bloodline, at least until all land sinks back under the water.
I hope you have learned something from this series. I know that I certainly have. I shall return tomorrow with another attack on American stupidity, then try to justify myself by stating, factually, that I am expressing a variety of other people’s opinions. Thank you for your consideration–
©2019 Lance Polin