Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Press "3" for Chinese

July 1 is celebrated as “Independence Day” north of our border.

Unlike our own Independence Day, the transfer of power in Canada from the English was MUCH more gradual than our separation. The initial transfer of control from the English to the folks in Canada was in 1867, but the full transfer of control didn’t actually occur until 1982 – not exactly what you would could a dramatic upheaval.

Apart from a common language, a common border, and a friendly trade agreement, we also share another part of our history, the part that deals with the topic of immigration.

In 1923, Canada passed the Chinese Immigration Act, which effectively reduced the immigration of native Chinese folks to almost zero. This act was actually a further restriction of the law passed in 1885 that levied additional taxes on Chinese immigrants. After WWII, most countries came to the realization (thanks to the Holocaust) that it no longer made sense to treat “foreigners” different from natives, and the act was repealed in 1947.

The United States had its own version of the Chinese Immigration Act, but it was called the Chinese Exclusion Act. The act was passed in 1882, and it eliminated ALL Chinese immigrants until 1943 (a year after we started the Japanese interment camps). Even in 1943, though, the number of Chinese allowed into this country was only a token amount, and it wasn’t until 1965 that the quotas were expanded to realistic numbers.

A heavy preponderance of the goods we buy in this country today are made in China, due (in part) to China’s entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001. Our trade deficit with China was $268 billion in 2008, and there have been some interesting cultural blendings in recent years.

China's largest home appliance manufacturer put in a bid for Maytag four years ago, and a Chinese company recently bought the Hummer brand from the now bankrupt General Motors.

When the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower) becomes the Bank of China Tower at some point in the future, there's going to be a LOT of people in Mayor Daley's city who are going to be up in arms!

There was a time in our recent past, however, when the Chinese were our bitter enemies. The Chinese sided with the North Koreans during the war that lasted from 1950 to 1953, and they used some heavy handed interrogation methods to extract information from U.S soldiers. Chinese support of North Vietnam was also the main reason that both we and the French got our butts kicked in our
wars in French Indochina
(French Indochina was renamed Vietnam in 1946).

As the New York Times reported last July (see below)

what IS waterboarding?

the U.S adopted virtually the SAME unreliable interrogation methods that the North Koreans used in the Korean War for the prisoners that are currently being held in Guantanomo Bay, Cuba.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite comic strips was Pogo, penned by the late Walt Kelly. Although his early cartoons were primarily designed simply to be humorous, he veered into political commentary in the early 1950’s, a courageous thing to do when Joe McCarthy was still making waves in the Senate. In a lot of ways, he was an early version of Gary Trudeau, who still writes Doonesbury today.

The most famous strip that Mr. Kelly ever penned was the one that said “we have met the enemy, and they is us”. Admittedly, the guys we have locked up in Cuba are definitely not nice guys, but we definitely have been guilty of pushing the envelope a little too far due to the actions of our recently defeated President, George W. Bush.


It seems like Pogo was right after all.

The latest group to come under our scrutiny (apart from the bomb chuckers from the Middle East) is “all those damn Mexicans”, who are the folks from our other NAFTA partner, Mexico.

Illegal immigrants from Mexico have probably been a problem in this country since 1849, the year after we took control of the large parts of our country that USED to be part of Mexico. In 1954, President Eisenhower approved an operation with the politically incorrect title of "Operation Wetback".

"Operation Wetback" ended just before President Eisenhower left office. Although it DID solve the problem of illegal immigrants, it failed to eliminate its cause, which is why we are in the process of building a god-awful expensive wall to stem the tide of all the “illegal immigrants” from south of the border. In spite of all the efforts made by our government, the Hispanic population continues to be the fastest growing segment of our society.

As a reflection of that growth, the message “press 2 for Spanish” started to appear roughly 20 years ago.

For some reason, the phrase still manages to ruffle a lot of feathers today, particularly among our “fellow Americans” who speak ONLY English, and who may not be aware of the fact that in little more than one more generation, the "minorities" will be will be a majority in America.

Not long ago, the Swedish vodka maker, Absolut, published an ad that was intended ONLY for vodka drinkers in Mexico.

That ad can be seen below:

habla espanol, senor?

If our little disagreement with a guy named Santa Ana had turned out differently, it’s entirely possible the phrase in vast parts of our country today would be “press 1 for Spanish, and press 2 for English”

The next logical extension, of course, is to add “press 3 for Chinese”

Due to the spread of the English Empire, as well as America’s influence on world affairs at the end of WWII, English has been the international business language for at least 100 years. Since 60% of the words in the English language are derived from Latin, it could be argued that the international business language is actually Latin, but that’s a topic for a different time.

The language that is spoken by more people in the world than any other language is Mandarin.

Since China has nearly 6000 years of history, and since the Chinese economy will be the largest economy in the world by the year 2035, it’s not inconceivable that at some time in the fairly near future, you’ll start to hear “press 3 for Chinese” on recorded messages.

It's also not too far fetched to imagine that well before the close of the 21st century, the international business language will be Chinese, not English.

If that doesn’t put a chink in your armor, I don’t know what would

1 comment:

  1. Still struggling with all the issues surrounding immigration...mostly the unlawful part due to what I see daily ~ THANKS for helping me to keep it in perspective...which is REALLY hard.

    Love all the entries to date BTW! Keep writing!