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Random Thoughts

Immigrants and Money – According to the White Man

Towards the beginning of his biography of Queen Victorian, A. N. Wilson writes the following, reproducing a longstanding Western idea of the immigrant:

 

“Victoria and Albert came out of Europe, and they can only be understood in a European context. For Victoria, although she was born in England and became the figurehead of the British Empire, England was also a place of lifelong exile. She grew up as an immigrant in London. Her mother, who had imperfect English, filled her with all the immigrant uncertainties, as well as hopes; and many of her adult characteristics are based upon the classic immigrant insecurity. For example, her cunning ability to hoard wealth is classic immigrant behaviour, replicated in so many first- and second-generation immigrant families. In America, where everyone started, at one stage or another, as an immigrant, this amassing of money is popularly described as the American Dream. Not having the security of belonging, the immigrant tries to make cash a substitute for being at home.”

 

N. Wilson’s unqualified and unsupported assertions regarding the immigrant and money are part and parcel of a longstanding construction of the immigrant. Were not the Jews constructed as misers and hoarders by the English in the past? In A. N. Wilson’s view, only the white man, or the English spend their money in the ‘right way’. They don’t scrimp and save, they spend. Here, an idea of the rational economic actor in a capitalist English state is contrasted against the irrational, hoarding instinct of those that come from an unspecified abroad (notice the importance of America in his assertions, the land of the immigrant). What gives A. N. Wilson, this man of the white majority, the authority to make his unqualified and unsupported assertions? Because he is a white man and it has always been the white man who decides what is the right way to act in this country.

 

Yet, from the immigrant’s point of view, it is the white man who acts irrationally. The immigrant saves his money for his children’s inheritance, so that they do not have to undergo the hardships that he has endured. The immigrant has come from a place where there has been no money, no security, no savings. He understands how hard it is to get money and the reasons why it should not be wasted or spent recklessly on things that we don’t really need. In the end, it is the immigrant that understands the web of maya, not the white man of the white majority.

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