The Blame Game
An archaeological dig is ongoing in Philadelphia, carefully disinterring the bones of 57 Irish Immigrants who were brought to this country in June of 1832 and were found dead, every one of them, within 6 weeks, and dumped into a mass grave that has remained unmarked for 178 years. The official story was that they had all died of cholera, but from the start there were rumors and suspicions that at least some of the men had been murdered. Now, finally, their bones are beginning to confirm those suspicions.
Now, before we ask the more delicate questions that most people would clearly rather avoid, such as who killed these men and why, let's go back a bit.
These men were brought from Ireland to work on the construction of a railroad line through a particularly difficult stretch of land. They had no previous experience for this type of work, which immediately raises a question: Why would someone go through all the difficulties and expense of bringing workers from so far away? Were there no able-bodied men available in Philadelphia?
The simple answer is that of course there were. There just weren't enough who were willing to do such physically demanding work for the meager pay offered. This situation arises all the time in all societies the world over and has done so since the beginning of history. Whenever a social group reaches a certain over-all level of well-being, (standard of living), suddenly no one wants to or needs to do the dirtiest, hardest, lowest paid jobs that have to be done. Consequently, these social groups, (nations, states, communities, etc.) import workers from poorer communities or nations; workers who are more than happy to do such work because the pay is still better than what they can earn at home.
Just look around at the countries currently with the highest standard of living, such as Switzerland or the Scandinavian countries. Who performs those lowly jobs there? Immigrants from poor countries. Especially from countries that were at some point Colonized by the now host country.
When the United States joined WWII, its vast farming industry was still made up mainly of family farms. As hundreds of thousands of young men were conscripted into service, these farms were left with no one to do the manual work. The U.S. filled their sudden and dire need for farm laborers by importing them from Mexico. England brought in workers from the Caribbean and other of their poor ‘possessions' for similar reasons. Such transactions would seem to be a perfect solution. A win win situation for everyone.
In a perfect world it would be. In our world, societies are living organisms that change, constantly. Therefore, economic well-being fluctuates, up and down. And when the cycle is on a downturn, the resulting stress reveals not only the weaknesses of humanity but ultimately the uglier side of our societies. When times are hard we have the tendency to look around for someone to blame. Like cowardly schoolyard bullies, we generally pick on the weakest and most different among us.
When the Roman Empire was faltering, a small, little-known group known as Christians became one of its scapegoats. Many were killed, even tortured. When the German society was suffering under sanctions imposed by the victors of WW1, they all too willingly joined with a man who offered them a scapegoat: the jews. We all know the horrible outcome of that.
This tendency that we have to blame someone else whenever our problems become overwhelming may be society's greatest weakness and its biggest failure because we never learn from it and thus we keep repeating it. Together with our fear and distrust of anything or anyone different from us, it has caused more strife and human suffering through history than even wars, which are often the result of such a weakness.
Like small, isolated fires, fueled by fear, prejudice, ignorance and hatred, they can grow into conflagrations that eventually destroy countless lives and come to be called ethnic cleansing or genocide.
Blame, blame, blame! It is so much easier to find a scapegoat than to work hard to find solutions to problems we were too busy during good times to foresee.
Sarcozy blames the gypsies, the American rednecks blame the Mexican laborers, the British right wing blames the Jamaicans, the old immigrants blame the new immigrants, the Spanish conservatives blame the North Africans, the White Supremacists in South Africa blamed the blacks and now some of the black majority blames the white minority.
In Philadelphia, back in 1832, the poor Irish laborers who ventured across the sea to seek a better life found instead a violent death. More and more it seems they were the victims not only of cholera but also of mob violence.
What kind of person would incite normal citizens to acts of murder? What reasons would he use? If history is anything to go by, he would have blamed them for the economic woes, for unemployment, lowering of wages, etc. And he would have pointed out that they were different and therefore a threat to their way of life.
Ignorance has always been fertile ground for cowards, bullies and extremists. It is so in the middle east just as it is here.
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