Tuesday, May 16, 2006


The Nukak-Maku Indians, who have been living an essentially Stone Age existence forever, wandered out of the Amazon jungle recently and stated that they wanted to become part of the "modern world." No one at the present knows precisely why these indigenous people have now decided to enter a world they know absolutely nothing about.

In the United States millions of "illegal" immigrants (overwhelmingly from Mexico) are crossing the southern border of the U.S. No one knows how many are actually in the country. The numbers range from some 11 million to over 20 million.

Some two or three years ago, as a member of the Sierra Club, I received my ballot to vote for the new Board of Directors. At that time the contentious issue centered on immigration and the expressed belief on the part of some board nominees that environmental deterioration would occur with the flood of people crossing our borders. The worry for many of us was that the Sierra Club might be taken over by anti-immigrant bigots.

I, along with the clear majority of the Sierra Club, considered the views of these folks to be parochial and with more than a slight tinge of racism. My views have since changed, but not totally.

The word "cheap" has seemingly become the inspirational, all-purpose utterance for global capitalism and the developed world in general. As well, it is also the mantra for aspiring countries like China and India. Cheap (coupled with rising population) is now pushing us faster toward the destruction of finite natural resources throughout the planet. Cheap is the instrument for the "outsourcing" of far too many of us. Cheap is searching for workers everywhere on this planet who'll work for less and less and ask few questions. But cheap will also benefit a few of us--in the short run, a "run" that will indeed be, I think, much shorter than we think.

Why would a rational, well-run country, with an informed, well educated, and honest citizenry want millions upon millions of the poor and the illiterate crashing its borders? The answer is it wouldn't.

The problem is that the above description does not apply to the United States at the moment. America is not at the present time a rational, well run country. Neither is its citizenry well informed or well educated by almost any definition of a supposedly developed nation. We may actually be in the process of un-developing.

There may, however, be a "so-what" question in this entire discussion of immigration and the movement of people throughout the world. It may be that the diminution of nation-state sovereignty is rapidly becoming the reality. In other words, the state--any state--might not be able to preserve its borders for a variety of reasons. The term open source warfare, referring to increasingly powerful stateless organizations and groups within and outside of a particular country, may now be able to compete with the nation-state, and ultimately take control of it directly or indirectly. Anyone interested in a thought-provoking view of "open source" change should certainly begin with the web site Global Guerrillas published by John Robb.

But back to cheap, should we not consider the possibility that the Nukak-Maku Indians could end up being the cheapest workers of all, thus displacing workers from Colombia, who could then cross the Mexican-American border, and then displace lower income American citizens. The cost of goods at Wall Mart would continue to drop ... until of course they move their entire operation to China.

As the Nukak-Maku Indians know nothing of money or the "civilized" world, they could be taught some basic tasks and be paid in colored trinkets. This would reduce labor costs further, excite the financial markets, and make the few even richer ... for a short while. Did you buy "cheap" today?

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