Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Third World Perspective (Part I)

After seeing how much I wrote for this post, I think I have a lot to say on issues as they relate to less developed countries so I will give my thoughts on these topics the same titles so that they can be easily found later on...

Last weekend, I watched the movie Maria, Full of Grace on TV. I have been wanting to watch it since it first came out but had been forgetting to borrow it from Rogers. Anyways, I happened to see it on TV, 15-20minutes after it started. Usually I never start watching a movie on TV, that I really want to watch, after it has already begun. I'm weird that way and I get a lot of flack from my sisters about my preference. When they want me to join them in watching a movie half hour after it started, much to their chagrin, I always tell them that the movie will repeat one day.When we we were young, before the easy access to streaming videos, if I missed a movie in the theatre I would say that one day it would come out on TV (it always does even if it is years later - I never saw Pretty Woman until I was in college!). However, this time I made an exception because Maria, Full of Grace was on French TV and therefore in French and everyone who reads my blog knows about my obsession in French.

I like watching movies that leave me thinking about the issues raised in them long after I've watched them. Maria, Full of Grace did that to me. A little over a week after watching it, I still think about it everyday. The movie tells the story of a 17-year old Colombian girl who gets pregnant and then decides to become a drug mule in order to earn some money. I am also from a Third World country: a country, like Colombia, where the illegal drug trade is booming. I have also lived in the inner-city of said Third World country. For me, the movie highlighted what it is like to live in a country where you feel like you have no real hope to improve your situation. It shows how far people will go to change those odds and get a better life for themselves even when they know the harsh consequences they may face for choosing some of the more illegal options.

It got me thinking again about something I've asked myself before...if I were (still) in a similar situation (maybe not pregnant but just generally hopeless), would I be willing to risk it all to have the chance at a better life?

Many people growing up in a Third World country recognize that the only way they can really truly achieve all that they desire or 'Be all they can be' as a famous ad says, is to emigrate. The sad truth is that their, our, countries cannot give us the type of life that we desire - whether that be a life free from fear of violent crime, a life where there are many well-paying job opportunities or a life where our children will have a real chance to attend university and have a better life than our own. However, while some of them who feel this way resign themselves to staying where they are, there are others who are willing to do their best to get out of their countries into one of the many lands of opportunity. (For those in the Caribbean, Latin and South America the main land of opportunity is the USA). There are the lucky ones who have relatives abroad who sponsor them. I'm not going to talk about those lucky few and of course, what I say will not apply to those who are well-off enough to easily qualify to emigrate to the USA or Canada.

I'm talking about the ordinary Third World citizen who would like to leave their country in search of a better life...Some of us work our asses off in high school and try to get excellent grades, and a very good SAT score to get into a school that will offer us a full scholarship or almost full scholarship and we seek out long-lost relatives and old family friends living in the US to co-sign loans for us. This is done all in the hope that when we have graduated from a US college we will have a good chance to get a job with an American company and then will much likely get a green card. Then there are those who are good at sports and practise as much as possible so that they can be one of the elite athletes. They do this in order to get a sports scholarship to university and/or become a member of their country's national team, which inevitably leads to them being able to afford living outside of their home country for the majority of the year. Finally, there are the ones who are (talented) singers, musicians or other artist. They aim to be the best in their field so that they will earn lots of money and be able to travel regularly and afford a home ouside their home country.

Maria, Full of Grace made me ask, what about all the remaining ones? What about the ones who are desperate to leave their country but don't have family abroad or good grades and are not gifted athletically or artistically? What can they do? What choice do they have?
The answer of course is that there aren't many legal options available. In fact, as of this writing, I am hard-pressed to think up other legal means to emigrate to the US or Canada. This, my friends, is why every legal immigrant either knows of or actually knows at least one illegal immigrant. These illegal immigrants are in the set of remaining ones who want to get out but don't really have any other means. After asking myself the question, the next thing I think is that Americans, Canadians and other born-and-raised citizens of developed countries will never really understand, for example, what brings a man, who cannot swim, to leave his family and board a boat, that can hold 20 people, with 39 other men or what leads a pregnant woman to swallow 60 packets of cocaine to take a plane - both in direction: America. Desperation is a very powerful impetus.

I get annoyed when I hear Americans or Canadians say that they are tired of their countries taking in too many immigrants and refugees. They love to complain that illegal immigrants and even just immigrants from less developed countries in general raise crime levels and bring down the wage levels. I also abhor when they say that they hate having their country help other countries when they have lots of problems in their own countries to which to attend. I want to tell them that they do not realize that they are lucky that they were born in a developed country. I want to ask them, what did they do to deserve to be born in America or Canada? What did all the rest of us do to deserve to be born in a Third World, war-torn or poverty stricken country? They did nothing to be born where they were and neither did everyone else. The fact that they were one of the lucky few does not mean that they shouldn't share their wealth or their country. They could just have easily have been born in a Third World or poverty-stricken country to a poor family.

With regards to the point about too many immgrants, the majority of immigrants, both legal and illegal are just trying to make a better life for themselves and have no intention to live a life of crime. The vast majority of illegal immigrants want nothing more than to become legal and be able to lawfully contribute to their new country by working legally and paying taxes. To all who say that illegal immigrants are bringing down the wages, well have you ever thought that if your country helped to make their country a good place to live, they wouldn't be coming here at all? So as for the second point, yes I know that there are problems in the US, Canada and other developed countries. For instance, the situation of Native Americans in both countries is appalling and disgraceful and NEEDS to be properly addressed and there are far too many people living below the poverty level in countries that have enough to tide over their entire populations and then some. What Americans and Canadians who make negative comments about helping other countries need to realize is that it's not like people in other countries are telling them to abandon their countrymen in favour of helping war-torn or poverty-stricken countries. No that would be very selfish. However, I believe that the US and Canada have enough money and resources to work on their internal problems AND help other countries. So all I ask is for them to stop complaining about helping.

One more thing....If Canadians or Americans ask me why can't these less developed countries help themselves. My response would be that that is a question I often ask myself. In fact, in an earlier post, I mentioned that question as one of the contributing factors to the overall feeling of hopelessness one gets from living in a war-torn, poverty-stricken or Third World country. I really wish that all these countries could get leaders who STAY committed to improving their country's situation for the ENTIRE duration of their term or terms in office and at the same time rally the people up enough for them to be be willing to walk with their leader on his or her route to country reform. Until that time though, it is the many excellent organisations that exist within each of these countries that are trying to effect a change and they need help from countries like America and Canada.


Fuzze1 said...

great post, but you also forgot that alot of the these Canadain and American citizens, are only a couple of generations away from being immigrants. i am greatful my grandparents left europe after the war and started a new life here... if not, who knows i may be living in europe right now... keep the posts comin... love ya

Case No. 3KY687p said...

Yeah, preach it, sister! Never have truer words been spoken.... Clearly you had a lot to say, because you're right, this is a long post; but it takes only 5 minutes to read. What is five minutes of communicating important thoughts in a day that is filled with at least 3 hours of entertainment TV for the average family? Keep 'em coming, friend.

Also, I would like to contribute that many war-torn...Third World countries are new countries: they were ravaged by colonization and have had to start from the ground up. Those countries that colonized them have over 500 years of a head-start, PLUS the spoils from the countries they pillaged. Some responsibility goes both ways, certainly, but the point is that it's hard to rebuild your economy and the morale of your country from the ground up, and harder still when we now exist in a globalized world, where everyone is interdependent and vested interests give cause for some nations to prosper by keeping others down and trying to control them.

And one more thing: aforementioned point by fuzze1 is true. With the exception of Europe (which itself has a new immigrant population, but that's a different discussion for a different day), almost all Americans and Canadians...and Australians, and so on, are immigrants. You'd expect that there would have been a culture of helping out other immigrants that burgeoned along with their new identities. But no, how easy it is to forget the misery of being unfortunate enough to be born in a struggling country. And just take a look at the early beginnings of the United States for a history lesson: the Brits hating the Irish and the Italians and the Jews and the Africans...everyone hated everyone else and wanted the other to leave, even though they were all immigrants and were fleeing similar hardships. So, I think this all ties back to my blog (Scars) about human nature. We need reminding about our common humanity, so that our similarities, and not our differences, define us.

Hmm...clearly, I had a lot to say too : )