September 2015
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Letters to The Ethical Spectacle

Spectacle Letters Column Guidelines. Send your comments to me at I will assume the letter is for publication. If it is not, please tell me, and I will respect that. I have gotten into the habit of leaving out full names and email addresses; I have had too many people think better of something they said fifteen years ago. If you want your name and email included, let me know. Flames, however, will be published with full name and email address.

Dear Jonathan,

I just read your August Rags and Bones segment on "Migrants." Your thesis is the kind of thing anyone could and would accept except for one important thing. The fact is that it is, in reality, what songwriter and Wobblie activist Joe Hill called "pie in the sky." By this I mean it is something we could all wish for, but has no material underpinnings in the real world at this time.

You bemoan the fact that nations make decisions based solely upon their own needs and wants, regardless of those decisions' effects on people outside the country. You call for such decisions to be made "upstream," that is, by larger groups that include all of the parties involved, like the United Nations. That sounds great. Unfortunately, there is no way in the current world it can reasonably happen. Why? Because any attempt to include *all* factors in the decision making would be opposed by some party to the process.

For example, let's say that there are people fleeing famine and want to go to places where others have enough food. The hoped for destination won't let the others in and you and others complain that the decision base is too narrow. The decision ought to be made by all people who are affected by the situation.

Let's try to work that out. The hungry people are trying to come into my country. I realize, first, that the people in my country worked very hard to grow the food that this country has and letting in all of the others would overrun the food supply and many of the people who worked hard to produce the food would be denied what they worked for and would starve, too. I also realize, second, that the people who are trying to get into my country to get more food don't have enough because they, historically, have had so many children that they overran their own food supply and now want to take a big part of ours.

Will I agree that the decision to resolve the disposition of my country's food be made not just by my country, but by many others, including those who selfishly had too many children? If I tried to put an overpopulation condition onto sharing my country's food, lots of people would scream bloody murder, saying "It would be wrong to tell people how many children they can have." This is exactly what happened when China, already overpopulated, tried to take responsibility for it and imposed a one-child-per-couple policy on its own population. People the world over said that China was awful for the policy, even though it was taking responsibility for a problem its own people had caused.

So how is your upstream decision making going to work fairly when *all* conditions of the problem are not subject to the decision making process.

That's why I say Pie in the Sky.

Bruce Clark

 (Joe Hill song:

"Long-haired preachers come out every night,
Try to tell you what's wrong and what's right;
But when asked how 'bout something to eat
They will answer with voices so sweet:

You will eat, bye and bye,
In that glorious land above the sky;
Work and pray, live on hay,
You'll get pie in the sky when you die."