Wicked Problems: Bringing Wisdom and Compassion to Immigration

Magdalena Smieszek Cognitive, Ethical, Ethics, How should we relate to the social justice movement?, Integral Justice Warrior, Moral, Perspectives, Politics, Video, World Affairs 32 Comments

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“Once again, ‘unitas multiplex’ is still the best motto: universal deep features, but culturally relative surface features, are what we find in the growth to goodness.”Ken Wilber, One Taste

Immigration matters have been viewed by many as a “wicked problem” — implying a complexity that has sets of values in tension, something societies have dealt with since the very dawn of civilization itself. Human beings are by their very nature a migratory species, having colonized almost every major land mass on the planet and competed over the scarce resources provided by our local environments and social systems.

And yet, over that long and usually violent history, migration has been a powerful force in the unfolding of the human spirit. The ongoing exchange of ideas, values, identities, traditions, and worldviews has generated new forms of art, literature, engineering, science, and mathematics, while also deepening our empathy and understanding of each other, and of the human condition as a whole.

While the challenges and benefits of migration have been with us since the very beginning, in today’s world the problems have become even more wickedly complex. We are now seeing an entirely new set of pressures and life conditions weighing down on us, as things like climate change create additional drivers of forced migration at a time when the nation-state has become our primary source of identity, governance, and distribution of scarce resources, when social and institutional trust is at an all-time low, and when the boundaries between people feel more opaque than ever.

There are competing views in all this, that too many or not enough immigrants is unwise, while too few is uncompassionate, and in the ways migration impacts the economy and social life. So how do we find a more integral approach to immigration, one that:

a) is based on worldcentric values, ethics, and moral reasoning
b) respects the humanity, needs, agency, identities, and dignity of migrants (or the “other”, wherever we find it)
c) respects the agency, identities, and resources of citizens and understands their threat perceptions,
d) respects and includes ethnic differences without falling into ethnocentric thinking?

Watch as Magdalena, Mark, and Corey offer their own ideas and reflect on the reasons this issue has become one of the central fault lines in the culture wars. Topics include:

0:00 — Republic of the heart: remembering Terry Patten
10:25 — The “wicked problem” of immigration tensions
15:34 — The false choice between isolationism and “open borders”
17:59 — Include the values, negate the views
21:27 — Nation-state identities
23:24 — Borders: where identity and threat perception meet
28:05 — Direct causation vs. systemic causation
30:10 — Barack Obama’s border wall
33:40 — “Desirables” and “undesirables”
39:16 — Cultural compatibility and healthy pluralism
43:47 — The problem of scarcity
47:34 — Rising immigration patterns in the U.S.
50:35 — Calling out the tropes: Islam and welfare
55:52 — The development of identity
57:27 — How social media is making ethnocentrists of us all
1:03:15 — How should integral standards be enforced?
1:08:20 — How international diplomacy can help
1:11:37 — Regulating the transnational economic holon
1:15:40 — Moving beyond the nation-state
1:22:01 — The neoliberal bias: extrinsic vs. intrinsic value
1:23:36 — Developmental diversity: wisdom and compassion
1:25:08 — The Canadian border wall
1:26:03 — The cruelty is the point
1:31:44 — Equal opportunities and more equitable inequities

Let us know what you think in the comments below!

If you enjoy this episode, be sure to check out more episodes of Integral Justice Warrior. Watch them all for only $1!

Written and produced by Corey deVos

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Notable Replies

  1. “The border is a handshake that becomes a squeezing contest.”

    This is a line from “The Border: A Double Sonnet” by Alberto Rios. You can read the entire (short) poem, full of metaphors, at poets.org/poem/border-double-sonnet. I know Alberto; I wouldn’t consider him “woke” in the negative way that word is commonly used. Much of his poetry has been in the style of magical realism, but he did grow up on the AZ-Mexico border and as the inaugural poet laureate of Arizona, has written in response to the conflicts there, where, as Magdalena so aptly put it, “national identity and threat perception meet.”

    As indicated by the time-and-topic log presented above, this discussion covered so many aspects of the complex immigration issue. Deep bows to Magdalena for orienting the conversation to the overarching Integral value of inclusion and the wholeness of humanity. And bows to Mark and Corey for verbalizing support of that value while speaking (so it seemed to me) on behalf of amber and orange perspectives/stages of development (e.g. cultural compatibility and demographics and resources), without all the excessive distancing and abstraction of people that these stages proper can tend toward.

    One element of the immigration debate that garners little attention is the declining world population. This decline (thus far) is not based on deaths from Covid (750,000+ so far in the U.S., 5 million+ worldwide), or from any possible or projected future pandemic/disease or climate-related causes or war or famine or any other unknown, but is due to the actual current lower fertility rates (fewer births) which are expected to continue as a result of women’s education and work and the wider availability of contraception. 23 countries, including Japan, Italy, and Spain, are expected to see their populations more than halve by the year 2100. While the U.S. is expected to remain close to the same in population, the U.K. has reportedly already used migration as a means of boosting their population in compensation for the falling fertility rates, and China has gone from a one-child policy to a conditional two-child policy, to, just a few months ago, a three-child policy. The “problem” is that the world is expected to be populated primarily by older people, many 80+, with too few working-age adults. (bbc.com/news/health-53409521, July 2020, based on research at the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation).

    Some researchers predict that there will come a time before the end of this century in which countries will actually be competing for migrants in order to have a labor pool that automation cannot satisfy.

    There are 70 million displaced people in the world right now, with climate-change, wars, and the waning of democracy throughout parts of the world (leading to rising authoritarianism, corruption, human rights abuses, and hopelessness for change) increasing that number even as we speak. “Masses,” “waves,” “hordes,” “surges,” “floods” of people, each a human being with a face and a name, and most of them looking to satisfy needs way down there on Maslow’s hierarchy–food, shelter, safety.

    While I have a pragmatist in me too, I wonder how different the conversation might be if we conducted it as a “thought-experiment” based on the idea that migrants are needed. What brainstorms, what practical ideas might we come up with then around immigration? While the U.S. might not need immigrants now, we have needed them before and likely will again,.

    Granted, there is that approximate 60% of the U.S. (maybe 50% worldwide) that is ethnocentric. I agree we cannot force people to grow, but can we or should we force the halting of growth in consciousness that has already occurred and is occurring at other (higher) stages of development? At what point do we ask people to disregard or subordinate the dictates of their moral conscience?

    Tricky and tough questions, all around.

    "The border used to be an actual place, but now it is the act of a thousand
    imaginations." Alberto Rios

    We need bigger and healthier imaginations.

  2. What’s the confusion? Honolulu is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, and it’s entire modern history is of welcoming outsiders. Yes, doing that was to the detriment of the original inhabitants in the 19th century - so strong borders were as I say a solution for 18th and 19th century problems.

    But ever since the 1920’s and so on, foreign owned land and foreign people living here and becoming “local” is just accepted as a normal part of life. There are a few extremist views in some Nativist movements to “kick out” everyone, but even in the Sovereignty movement this is a very small minority - so maybe 100-1000 people in the state might be Hawaii Protectionist. IDK the exact numbers but living on an Island you HAVE TO HAVE import and export of goods and everyone wants to get “off the rock” now and again, so almost nobody is anti movement of people.
    Then most importantly, the economy is based on tourism and you have to bring in foreign labor for a lot of that. Hotel guests want a clean room daily - which is provided by cheap labor mostly from the Phillipines, and tourists enjoy the great variety of foods within walking distance and so this logically means we want immigrant cooks, waiters and small business owners and all the rest.

    The more I dig into it, yeah - Hawaii has always had far more open “borders” than lets say Texas, California, Arizona. Even though we share laws with those states, the difference is like night and day.

  3. Yes, we agree with this definition. “Agency” is the interior capacity to manage and attend to your own thoughts, behaviors, relationships, and engagements. But it’s not just about “personal responsibility”. It also allows us to determine our own boundaries and sense of personal worth. It’s about our inner creativity, our drives and dreams and ambitions, our deepest sense of who we really are, and who we want to be.

    And “autonomy”, I believe, would be the individual’s capacity to take action in order to attend to their needs and fulfill those drives. It is the range of freedom the individual has to exert their agency, and the capacity of the individual to actually do so. They are closely related, but not quite the same thing. One is more interior, zones 1 and 2, while the other is more of an exterior zone 5 autopoiesis, I think.

    And my point is that the range, power, and depth of both our agency and our autonomy are constrained by a) interior development and b) exterior conditions.

    Sometimes people are subject to conditions for which they cannot take responsibility — conditions that literally rob them of their agency, and the only personal responsibility they can take is learning how to cope with those conditions.

    Sometimes people’s agency and autonomy drive them to do things like try to escape their conditions, maybe even to a different country, in order to find a safer home for their family.

    Sometimes people’s agency drives them to seek collective action in order to improve the life conditions that restrict our autonomy.

    I mean, it depends on the employment, right? There are certainly employers that can help the employee fulfill an interior sense of meaning, purpose, etc. Many values-driven businesses try to do this. I think the idea that we should all pursue our own unique Ikigai is an incredibly important one, don’t you?

    Some companies explicitly try to facilitate this – offering training and skill development and wellness benefits for employees, for example. And they often find that investing in these things actually increases productivity and morale, which in turn creates a more finely tuned business.

    If a new generation of the work force wants to use their own sense of personal value to push more companies to adopt these sorts of incentive structures, then it’s hard not to support that.

    Of course, as you say, the market will figure it out. If these kids end up valuing themselves right out of the market, well, they will have to adapt. I’ve seen the same happen to people who have overeducated themselves right out of the market, and have a hard time finding employment with compensation that justifies their investment in their own education.

    As it is, businesses are suffering because often the only way for employees to increase their value is to rapidly move from one company to another, so the turnover for businesses can be very disruptive. It turns out, most businesses are willing to hire someone at a higher salary than they are willing to bring an existing employee to that same salary. This is a notoriously bad problem when it comes to hiring marketers, for example. It’s hard to keep them for longer than a year or so. My wife’s company is experiencing this very problem, despite offering generous salaries and benefits.

    In this case, the employee’s sense of self-value is not pricing themselves out of the market, but disrupting the market by lowering retention and increasing expenses to find and train replacements. I wonder if and how the market will adjust?

    Again a fallacy that government will do this is just that, a fallacy.

    Who ever said that it’s a government’s responsibility to provide “meaning” for its citizens? No one. Though many people in fact do pursue meaning through public service. The government’s job is to help protect and improve the general welfare of its citizens (i.e. life conditions) so that they will have the agency to discover their own sense of personal meaning, and the autonomy to pursue it.

  4. @corey-devos

    I’ll start in reverse and play this out:

    • Biden/Democracts promote “worker collectives” from the podium (this last week)
    • Workers organize and “walk out”
    • Market place won’t pay $10 for a Big Mac or $8/# for bacon or or or…
    • Employers replace every employee they can with automation - or hire workers that like their jobs - or outsource to Phillipines or Vietnam or or or…
    • Democrats run again on UBI, since “Capitalism is broken”
    • Low skill/unskilled workers stay home playing video games and have weed and munchies delivered and mail in their ballots voting for more free stuff that perpetuates the cycle.

    All of this is promoted under the guise of “fixing the external systems (that don’t work) that are oppressing internal quadrant development and creating a meaningless life”.

    It’s a good plan to expand government. Same holds for say the $15/hour national minimum wage. $15/hour is likely somewhere near the right wage level for assembling a Big Mac in NYC or San Fran. Is it the right wage in Greeley CO or Prescott AZ? Likely not.

    Your marketing firm example is a very similar example. I might be off on the type of marketing firm your wife is with, but typically there are people that bring in/win business opportunities and then those that execute the concepts. Execution is worth quite a lot, but the prize is in winning the business. And sadly for the employees, the longer you are with a firm the harder it is for you to help expand the business. You might get better at execution, but your network eventually becomes synonymous with the firm’s network. It’s the classic “what have you done for me lately” conundrum.

    But getting back to Agency and Meaning in Life, Frank Furedi (communist, psychologist) lays it very concisely. You build yourself through vocation, skills, essentially self development and execution. Anything that creates trajectories (arches of development?) that distract people from their own development (free lunch, collective free lunches) is therefor unhealthy for both individuals and collective society.
    So looking at “free stuff” to help people, free trade schools, STEM education would be fine. Free “party with your friends for a couple years programs” like Intersectionality Studies are detrimental to both the individual and society.

  5. We didn’t follow the thought line, but as defined our roles and responsibilities for, as an example, POTUS are not first and foremost Teal roles. First and foremost, as currently defined, is the protection of the Citizens of the United States.

    I would say the population of the United States and most importantly the voting Citizenry. There isn’t a poll today, of voting eligible people that are aware that Biden/Harris/Mayorkas are “kicking ass” on Immigration.

    I don’t see the polarity that you do between individual agency and communion. From my perspective they are decided distinct in their own rights.

    Perhaps where we differ is in the concept of development arch or trajectory? Creating a trajectory towards collectivism for particularly young people can distract from their own development of personal agency. Grooming young people primarily on a collectivism arch can easily fuel their ego’s that the “issues” are “out there”. When we look at what we actually have control over, first and foremost is your own inner quadrant development.

    My synopsis of Frank Furedi’s discussion was hardly complete. I would recommend giving it him a bit of time.

Continue the discussion at community.integrallife.com

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