Friday, November 2, 2007

Intelligent Thoughts from Readers

I received some interesting and thought provoking feedback from my readers on the previous post: Brain drain is not "heart drain." Since some of them came through direct email, I thought I will share them with you in my today's posting. But before I go to the specific comments, I would like to express my deep appreciation for your comments. Being a researcher by profession, I realize how much critical feedbacks and alternative points of view help in enhancing the richness and thoroughness of a manuscript. The quality of a researcher's manuscript increases significantly when the researcher inculcates the constructive feedbacks of the peers into his/her manuscript. Of course, it doesn't make sense to rewrite one's blog based on the comments one received because it has already been published, but I thought it will be a good idea to discuss some of the alternate points of view expressed in a separate posting.

I have reproduced the comments verbatim, and show in italics. My responses to those comments are in regular font.


Burt said: In your latest blog concerning the contributions of immigrants, I agree with you completely but there are at least two negative aspects of immigration that you don't mention. The first concerns primarily illegal immigration across our southern border by poorly educated but willing workers. They drive the low end of our wage scale down and take jobs from the segment of our workforce that we have the most trouble employing. That increases the differential between the high and low end jobs. That differential is a looming problem. The second is that all immigrants (I think) push our culture towards a more collectivist social organization, assuming that all other country's social organization is more collectivist than is ours. Going further along that path will lose for us the only advantage that we have. That is the reason I was so interested in your comparison of Indian and American social organizations. The only solution to this latter problem is to control the rate of immigration to balance that of integration so as not to be overwhelmed.

My Response: Burt, thank you so much for sharing your insightful thoughts. You make many pertinent points which I had not adequately addressed in my article. Let me discuss them one at a time.

I completely agree with you that my essay didn’t explore the intricacies of illegal immigration. I just wanted to restrict my analysis to legal migration in my article because the economic, psychological, social, and cultural causes and consequences of illegal immigration are so complicated and different from legal migration. However, I did not explicitly delineate my article's focus on legal migration, which I should have. Thanks for helping me see the irregularities in my writing. Coming back to your specific comment, I absolutely agree with you that many of the points I tried to make in my article may not apply to illegal immigration at all. Many countries, including US, India, and the Mediterranean European countries have been dealing with the problem of illegal immigration for long. The repercussions of such illegal migration have been wide. Illegal immigration has not only affected the economic, social welfare, education, and health care systems of the host country, but also resulted in increased crime, prostitution, and terrorism in many cases.

About your second point, I agree that whenever people from different cultures interact closely, there always occurs some form of change in their cognitions and value systems. So you are right when you say that immigrants from other countries might be causing changes to certain value systems of Americans. However, the changes can go in either direction, and not necessarily towards the mean of the values of Americans and immigrants. To put it differently, it is likely that some Americans are getting less individualistic as a result of their interaction with the immigrants, but it is also equally likely that the interaction is causing some other Americans to get more individualistic than they ever were. The direction of the change will be determined by the nature of the specific experiences they had. Also, I personally don’t see the integration of cultures as a problem, though I realize that some people (Americans, Indians, as well as people from other parts of the world) would disagree with me. Integration happens when people see value in the values of another culture. Certainly this is not always the case; integration is sometimes forced through prolonged occupation of a country, or through the financial power of (say) multinational companies, and so on so forth. Nevertheless, I believe integration, at least in educated societies, happens through the development of mutual respect for another’s culture, or by seeing some form of benefit in inculcating the values of a foreign culture. To summarize, I believe that whichever direction culture is changing, it should not be a cause of huge concern as long as the change is not being forced through any devious means.


The next set of comments are from Rama. These comments can be read in the comments section of my previous posting, however I copied them here to give the readers direct and easy reference.

Rama said: agreed that a 'stimulating envt' spurs creative thinking, but it doesn't require too much of an effort on the individual's part to nurture and demonstrate his/her creative skills here, because for the most part, the daily strifes of life such as water, electricity, basic meals and other amenities are what bog down the average Indian, where as those are taken for granted here and one has time, resources, money and freedom to do anything one wants. being in an individualistic culture, u do what you want. You can totally disregard how you are affecting those around you. Where as there, people are bound with invisible links with their families, neighbors and society, which take precedence over your own needs and ambitions. It is much more challenging to nurture creativity in such situations but amazingly, it is being done. What immigrants should do then is not just send money and be done with that, but also transmit encouragement, nurturing thoughts, and inspiring life stories. every dollar sent home should have a string of encouraging thought attached to the receiver, who will then see beyond his daily struggles and create that 'stimulating environment' in his microunit. Hopefully that will have a snowballing effect and...

My Response: Rama, thank you so much for sharing your keen observations. You make a very interesting comparison between the United States and India. I completely agree with you that the abundance of resources enhance the creative output of people in US. In India, resources are much scarce, and so people often have to struggle to acquire the resources needed to be able to pursue creative ventures. I really appreciate you brought up this point because I think it gives an indication that there may be two forms of creativity: one that deals with producing novel ideas and products, and the other involving making do with minimal resources. The first form, which is common in US, is what most people and researchers normally think creativity to be. The second form, however is also creativity because it involves combining and exploiting the minimal resources at hand in novel fashions to be able to come up with valued outcomes. A classic example of the second form of creativity would be the Jaipur Foot, a water-resistant, light-weight, and natural looking prosthetic leg invented in India, that was designed using locally available resources. As a result Jaipur Foots are very inexpensive, and quick to fit and manufacture. They cost just $20 in India; In contrast, the average prosthetic leg costs $8,000 in the United States. Several countries world wide have benefited from the Jaipur Foot. Thus, I agree that lack of resources hinder the first form of creativity in India, but definitely not all creativity. The second form of creativity, in fact, gets a chance to flourish because of the scarcity of resources in India.

Your next point is about the advantages that come from being in an individualistic culture. I think you may be right in saying that the individualistic culture of US favors and encourages creativity; Burt will agree with you. You mention possible mechanisms through which this happens: lesser conformity, and lesser obligations that allow one to concentrate on creative activities. The arguments are compelling, however, I'm not sure if we can make definite conclusions because countries like Japan that has a strong collectivist culture also has extremely high creative output. It would be interesting to know how Japan is so creatively productive. Is it because of their collectivistic society, or is it in spite of it? I guess we will have to ask a Japanese.

I completely agree with your recommendations that migrants should go beyond just sending money home. Money might help buy a few extra resources, but what really needs to be transmitted are the thoughts that help retain and increase the confidence of individuals of being capable of producing creative outputs.


Thank you again Burt & Rama for your really intelligent and perceptive comments. It greatly helped expand my own thoughts on the topic.

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