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  HOME | Opinion (Click here for more)

Carlos Alberto Montaner: We are all Norwegians
Carlos Alberto Montaner explains that President Trump's preferred Norwegians were also once "shitty" people.

By Carlos Alberto Montaner

Donald Trump would like Norwegian immigrants. Blond, tall, tidy, hard-working, educated and clean people. Successful people with whom he shares physical features and certain traits. But it's unlikely that he'll have any luck. Today, Norwegians enjoy a standard of living higher than Americans and find that in their democratic, free and peaceful homeland there are plenty of opportunities to improve themselves by their own efforts. They have no reason to emigrate. Almost no one likes to depart for destinations unknown.

In contrast, fate (or geography, which is almost always the same) has delivered to Trump Mexican, Brazilian, Guatemalan, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Honduran, Haitian, Colombian and -- lately -- Venezuelan immigrants and other “shitty people” who flee from their failed societies in search of security and progress (“Shithole” people is the denigrating and unfair term put into service by the very president of the United States in a conversation that allegedly was private.)

In reality, two thirds of the world's population are much closer to the “shitty” people than the Norwegians. A lax description of the societies in India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Indonesia, China, the Arab and sub-Saharian nations, a part of Europe, Russia and Latin America would elicit from Trump the same offensive definition he utilized for Salvadorans, Haitians and Africans.

In any case, it is absurd to think that the solution to problems is in social homogeneity. Sharing a single race, a single religion, a single language only guarantees us boredom, monotony and abuse. That's the road to Nazism and the extermination of different people. The glorious message of republican ideas and parliamentary monarchies is that diversity is not only inevitable but also very convenient.

The 1790 census in the United States tallied roughly 4 million white Americans, almost all of English and Irish origin, and half a million black slaves. Only a handful of native Americans remained, and they weren't even counted. In 2018, we have 325 million people, of whom 72 percent are white, 13 percent black and 16 percent Hispanic, a strange definition that is attributable to the European colonizer.
This enormous leap has been achieved while the country rose to the head of the planet. In 1890, the United States already was the world's largest economy. After more than a century, it continues to be, although it grows at the rate of only 2 percent a year. This means that, at least until today, the machine that turns “shitty” people into productive and wealth-producing citizens has worked splendidly, an extreme that should not surprise us. The species is the same. What changes is the circumstances, the incentives and the institutions.

The children of the Polish or Russian peasants, in numerous cases born in tiny Jewish villages, or shtetls, became renowned doctors, lawyers and scholars of all kinds. The Indians, fragmented into 200 castes in their homeland, were the segment with the highest level of income in the United States. The second generation of Cubans, whose fathers had turned their island into an unproductive collectivist disaster, attained a high degree of education and economic performance.

What I mean to say is that the United States does not need Norwegians. It needs institutions, fair laws, opportunities for newcomers to develop, and moral and material incentives for individual enterprise. If that holds, the Haitians will slowly become Norwegians, even though they'll keep their ethnic features.

After all, today's admirable Norwegians were once fierce Vikings, crass and brutal, who had a bad habit of spitting into the bathtub where they washed off the blood and mud that covered them after they exterminated their adversaries. That's when the Norwegians were shitty people.

Carlos Alberto Montaner is a journalist and writer. Born in 1943 in Cuba and exiled, Montaner is known for his more than 25 books and thousands of articles. PODER magazine estimates that more than six million readers have access to his weekly columns throughout Latin America. He is also a political analyst for CNN en Espanol. In 2012, Foreign Policy magazine named Montaner as one of the fifty most influential intellectuals in the Ibero-American world. His latest book is the novel A Time for Scoundrels. His latest essay is "The President: A Handbook for Voters and the Elected."


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