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Should we all become nomads? Anthony Sattin's 'Nomads'

Nomads embody a forsaken arcadia. Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Nomads embody a forsaken arcadia. Kevin Frayer/Getty Images


December 23, 2022   7 mins

Around 4,000 years ago, a band of roving tribespeople, known as the Hyksos, migrated west from Mesopotamia towards the fertile floodplains of the Nile Valley. They found a region ripe for the picking. Egypt’s pharaohs, complacent after centuries of political stability, capitulated in the face of the nomads’ dynamism. The Hyskos burned cities, massacred inhabitants, enslaved survivors.

In the long-term, however, a different legacy emerged. After bloodshed, the incomers brought new ideas, and revolutionary technology. By the 1600s BCE, as Egypt’s dynastic rulers reasserted their dominion, this cross-pollination of cultures provided the impetus for a great flowering of art, imperial expansion and wealth. The treasures of Tutankhamun’s tomb are relics of what would come to be remembered as the golden years of the pharaonic age.

The little-known story of Egypt’s “shepherd kings” could in some ways be seen to represent the dual consequences of human mobility. On the one hand, the threat of upheaval. On the other, the cosmopolitanism that can lead to innovation and prosperity. Against a backdrop of climate change and migrant crises, the idea of human movement as the ultimate change-agent has come under scrutiny in a series of books, which together describe how nomadic and migratory behaviour has shaped, and will continue to shape, our world.

The history of the Hyksos is one of several chapters resuscitated in Nomads, by the travel writer Anthony Sattin. “People who live with walls and monuments, and who have written most of the history,” Sattin writes, “have failed to find meaning in or to recognise the value of the lighter, more mobile, less cluttered lives of those who live beyond borders.” Itinerant peoples tend to be misunderstood, he argues. And yet they continue to exert a hold on the urban imagination.

Mobility, Sattin regularly reminds us, is in human DNA; it is the impulse that carried our species out of Africa to populate the world. Prior to the dawn of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent 12,000 years ago, every hominid was a hunter and gatherer. Once characterised as an era of brutality, some anthropologists have since described the era preceding the dawn of agriculture as the “the original affluent society”, a prelapsarian world without hunger, hierarchy and exploitation.

Even as humanity gravitated towards sedentary life in villages, towns, and cities, there remained the holdouts — pastoralist cultures that moved with the seasons. These nomads, as Sattin’s book makes clear, have often been portrayed as romantic figures. While city life persuaded inhabitants into ever more niche specialisms, the nomads were generalists who retained the ability to survive independently, and on their own terms. In so doing, they were often seen to embody a forsaken arcadia.

One has only to consider the fetishisation of today’s nomadic cultures — captured, for example, in the idealised photographic portraits in Jimmy Nelson’s controversial 2013 book, Before They Pass Away — to see how this fascination persists today.

But persistent, too, has been the conflation of rootlessness with unsophistication, even savagery. With settlements came walls, and their corollary, paranoia. To persevere with roaming ways in the sedentary age has often been perceived as a cause for suspicion.

Reading Sattin’s book, one becomes aware that the ensuing conflict, both physical and ethical, has simmered uninterrupted through the centuries. The biblical story of Cain, the farmer, murdering his herder brother Abel is often interpreted as an allegory for an ancient anxiety: that it was the nomad, living not in defiance of nature but in harmony with it, who retained God’s favour. Sattin’s primary geographical focus is the steppelands of Eurasia, where different nomadic tribes have for centuries contended “for pasturage and bounty”, and history was punctuated by the ravaging conquests of the Scythians and Mongols.

Yet still, in between, there were moments of productive collaboration between city-dweller and nomad: the Hyksos’ bequest to Egyptian culture, the pax Mongolica, the Silk Road. With the world now ordered into sedentary nation states, and traditional nomadism relegated to a footnote, the legacy of these ancient dynamics endures in the battle of ideas, in our attitudes towards people on the move.

Today, of course, concepts of nomadism have been reshaped by more modern phenomena. In The New Nomads, published last year, French writer, and self-described “recovering globalist” Felix Marquardt expands his definition to encompass the migrant, the refugee, and the affluent citizen of nowhere. The stories he includes in his compendium are selected to convey the mutual benefits for both migrant and recipient country that can prevail when migration works. It opens with the story of a Malian immigrant who finds work, and a surprising welcome, on a Christian Trump-voter’s cattle ranch in Montana. Cumulatively, these testimonies embody Marquardt’s belief in migration as a virtuous cycle: for the migrant, opportunity; for the host-country, enrichment both cultural and economic. “It is so often the case that immigrants are entrepreneurs, go-getters, hustlers,” Marquardt writes.

What all these anecdotes of successful immigrant assimilation also emphasise, however, is the central paradox in host-migrant relations, which is that hostility towards incomers tends to prevail most virulently in the abstract. The object of anti-migrant feelings is seldom the nice waiter serving your coffee, but the anonymous hordes in the newspapers. Suspicion of outsiders tends to be fiercest in places where there are hardly any immigrants at all.

One of the more incisive aspects of Marquardt’s assessment is his conviction that this age-old schism has been deepened, in no small part, by political animus. A former PR consultant who used to organise exclusive networking events for technocratic elites, Marquardt understands how a “predictable globalist ode to mobility” chafes against ideas of national selfhood and sovereignty. The enthusiasm of the Davos set for free movement emanates from a cohort who, through their wealth, insulate themselves from its complexities. Marquardt criticises “the aloof, idealised take on migration of many liberals”, saving especial scorn for this elite’s own outrider, the “digital nomad”, for whom mobility is first and foremost a status symbol. “Rootless, they have forgotten that nomadism has always been a lifestyle rooted in the pasture: in locality not just in motion.” The new nomads may emulate their traditional counterparts in terms of geographical mobility. But in terms of the selfhood, and collective identity that their respective lifestyles engender, the two are poles apart.

The anti-migrant backlash is in part a response to this hypocrisy. Marquardt’s unconvincing solution seems to be that more immigration, rather than less, will eventually persuade societies of its myriad advantages. Young immigrants, with their drive and nomadic wisdom, will “become the vectors and creators of a more grounded, global ethic”. This wishful prescription, alongside Marquardt’s reluctance to acknowledge the social and economic issues that can arise when migration is mismanaged — ghettoisation, cultural tensions and wage suppression — makes his rhetoric feel like the same Bo-bo parlour talk he earlier critiques.

According to Gaia Vince, the author of Nomad Century, the work of resolving such issues has never been more urgent. Anyone who agrees with our Home Secretary that 40,000 people crossing the Channel on small boats in a year constitutes “an invasion”, prepare yourself. For Vince, nomadism, living without borders, is neither a premodern anachronism nor a bourgeois fad. It is essential if humanity is to survive.

Her book opens with a stark summary of the climatic changes that will precipitate unprecedented mass displacements between now and the end of the century. In Vince’s analysis, paradigm shifts in hydrology and topography are set to create a broadening equatorial belt of intolerable heat and aridity. This “Dustbowl world”, she claims, is set to uproot 3.5 billion people.

And it’s not just climate change: other factors, not least the growing demographic imbalance of many developed countries, inform her prediction that “cities from Munich to Buffalo will begin to compete with each other to attract migrants”. Even the most stubborn climate change sceptic should be able to see this book as a thought-experiment, a worst-case prophecy that asks two fascinating questions. If Vince’s terrifying future comes to pass, what would a “good Anthropocene” look like? And is society capable of making it so?

The first of these requires some head-scrambling terraforming. Think of Greenland megacities, audacious geoengineering technologies, and supranational cooperation on a hitherto unimagined scale. What is striking, aside from the sheer radicalness of the vision, is how much of this manifesto is within our ken. Many of the necessary innovations that Vince enumerates, from 3D printed houses and lab-grown meats to subterranean stormwater sponges and the transformative potential of geothermal power, are already in the realms of the possible.

An unprecedented upheaval needn’t spell complete catastrophe, then. Indeed, Vince subscribes to the economic school of thought which contends that the dissolution of borders would lead to a doubling of global GDP, and the elimination of global poverty. But it’s hard to buy Vince’s argument that we have the cognitive flexibility or political wherewithal to bring this vision into being. Vince recognises this. “Challenging, though, will be the task of overcoming
 the idea that we belong to a particular land and that it belongs to us.”

Vince’s cri de coeur echoes a sentiment shared by Sattin and Marquardt. Migration, she argues, is an innate feature of the human condition. In biological terms, the DNA differences between European and African are infinitesimal. In anthropological terms, nationhood, and the sedentary foundations of modern identity, are new constructs that we can relinquish. “We are trapped in the socio-political-economic web that we’ve woven,” Vince writes. The Covid pandemic is cited as an example of how large populations are able to stomach radical social change if the reasons for doing so are critical.

But however deft the dismantling of their foundations, the idea that our prejudicial reflexes could be switched off at the very moment that billions of climate refugees are being pushed north of the 45th parallel seems hopelessly optimistic. Countries in continental Europe, Vince acknowledges, have recently been “testing a ‘sound cannon’ to be used against refugees as part of a €37 million border control programme”.

There are moments, reading Vince, where you encounter prospective geopolitical Gordian knots that turn the stomach. “Russia, which is already the world’s biggest exporter of wheat, will see its agricultural dominance grow as its climate improves,” she writes. And that is before you even get into the minutiae of persuading populations raised on beef that maggots are an excellent source of protein.

If this tour of nomadism’s past, present and future teaches us anything it is the strength of the covenant we made when humans first staked out a piece of ground. We live in an age in which the follies and drawbacks of the settled age have never been so apparent. But we are too wedded to our borders to go back. What remains of our nomadic instincts may, in coming decades, be harnessed only to corral us into the mega-cities of a dystopian future. With the disappearance of traditional nomadism comes the acknowledgement that we are now all children of Cain.

It is in this context that the tension between the rootless and the rooted is only likely to grow. Resolving that tension is likely to be less a feat of ingenuity than of imagination.


Henry Wismayer is a writer and gardener based in London.

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Nell Clover
Nell Clover
1 year ago

The writer cites the Hyskos migration as an example of how dismissing the “idea that we belong to a particular land and that it belongs to us” can lead to a a great flourishing.

Well, the Hyskos migration was very violent and destructive until the land they’d migrated to firmly belonged to them and they belonged to it. And then there continued to be war between them and the Egyption dynasty based in Thebes until the Hyskos were defeated. Only then did relative peace return to Egypt.

Ironically, the example used to justify no borders is a classic example of why we have borders. The Hyskos only became peaceful once their own borders were settled and they had their “own land”, and war in Egypt only ceased when they were re-conquered by the Egyptions and the borders of Egypt re-asserted.

It is suggested the Hyskos brought the horse and chariot, the so-called flourish the author refers to, but they did so to destroy their opponents and claim the land of Egypt as their own. Even this is disputed: many historians believe the horse and chariot technology arrived in Egypt independently of the Hyskos and their epic smash and grab. So not only did many people die to satisfy the Hyskos land grab, the technology transfer remarked upon in this article was already underway.

So how is the story of the Hyskos supportive of the end of borders?

Last edited 1 year ago by Nell Clover
John Holland
John Holland
1 year ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

The article isn’t promoting “the end of borders”, it’s merely discussing migration with an open mind.
The author fully admits that the social consequences of mass migration and the psychological resistance to it may be impossible to overcome- illustrated by the inevitable Unherd rants that I’m sure will follow….

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
1 year ago
Reply to  John Holland

The author states in the opening “After bloodshed, the incomers brought new ideas, and revolutionary technology” but this is highly disputed. The ideas were already diffusing from Asia to the Middle East and Europe, which is how the Hyskos got them in the first place.

The author goes on to claim the “great flowering of art, imperial expansion and wealth” arose from the Hyskos, but that’s plain wrong because this great expansion came after the Hyskos had been completely defeated. It was the re-assertion of Egyption power, built to defend against then defeat the Hyskos, that led to that expansion. It was battle hardening in war, not migration, that gave Egypt its later expansion and prosperity.

The author claims that “cosmopolitanism [] can lead to innovation and prosperity” but perpetual war isn’t cosmopolitanism and the Hyskos didn’t didn’t innovate anything, their ideas were copied from elsewhere.

In short, the Hyskos are a poor example for whatever the author is trying to communicate about migration. In fact, the only conclusion you can draw from Egypt and the Hyskos is that nation state war and the battle of ideas and technology is what drives development and progress. Something we could also attribute to the great flourishing that took place between the competing states of Europe until recent times.

Last edited 1 year ago by Nell Clover
John Holland
John Holland
1 year ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

So perpetual war is our best bet in the coming century, or have I read you wrong?
By the way, who exactly are these “Hyskos” you keep talking about?

John Holland
John Holland
1 year ago
Reply to  John Holland

Moreover, there have been many times when near-constant warfare has been the norm- not many of them led to any great technological or cultural innovation. Worship of bloodshed as the great advancer of humanity is not only historically dubious, but, after the 20th century, rather idiotic.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  John Holland

“not many of them led to any great technological or cultural innovation.”
Im not sure what periods you’re referring to, but it seems to me that war has led to many advances, or innovations. Of course we have to agree on the meaning of advances.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  John Holland

“not many of them led to any great technological or cultural innovation.”
Im not sure what periods you’re referring to, but it seems to me that war has led to many advances, or innovations. Of course we have to agree on the meaning of advances.

John Holland
John Holland
1 year ago
Reply to  John Holland

Moreover, there have been many times when near-constant warfare has been the norm- not many of them led to any great technological or cultural innovation. Worship of bloodshed as the great advancer of humanity is not only historically dubious, but, after the 20th century, rather idiotic.

John Holland
John Holland
1 year ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

So perpetual war is our best bet in the coming century, or have I read you wrong?
By the way, who exactly are these “Hyskos” you keep talking about?

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
1 year ago
Reply to  John Holland

The author states in the opening “After bloodshed, the incomers brought new ideas, and revolutionary technology” but this is highly disputed. The ideas were already diffusing from Asia to the Middle East and Europe, which is how the Hyskos got them in the first place.

The author goes on to claim the “great flowering of art, imperial expansion and wealth” arose from the Hyskos, but that’s plain wrong because this great expansion came after the Hyskos had been completely defeated. It was the re-assertion of Egyption power, built to defend against then defeat the Hyskos, that led to that expansion. It was battle hardening in war, not migration, that gave Egypt its later expansion and prosperity.

The author claims that “cosmopolitanism [] can lead to innovation and prosperity” but perpetual war isn’t cosmopolitanism and the Hyskos didn’t didn’t innovate anything, their ideas were copied from elsewhere.

In short, the Hyskos are a poor example for whatever the author is trying to communicate about migration. In fact, the only conclusion you can draw from Egypt and the Hyskos is that nation state war and the battle of ideas and technology is what drives development and progress. Something we could also attribute to the great flourishing that took place between the competing states of Europe until recent times.

Last edited 1 year ago by Nell Clover
Rick Hart
Rick Hart
1 year ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Indeed. Nomads tend to migrate from places that have been exhausted or become uninhabitable, either temporarily or permanently, to more resource – rich environments. For us all to become nomads, we would need to find a second Earth.
The author fails to mention the prehistoric Yamanyaya culture that swept out of the Steppes of central Eurasia and violently colonised most of Europe. DNA evidence shows that they basically killed off all males in the cultures they encountered and took over, imposing their culture and language. Nomadism can be a very dangerous thing.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

This is an argument based on not a lot of evidence either way, which is why historians dispute it, but common sense would tend to argue that it would be rather remarkable if a poor bunch of nomads could defeat a long standing sophisticated empire without some strong technological or other advantage over it. This might just have been that they were much more flexible and willing to adapt to change themselves, as for example the Mongols did in their conquest of China.

I am sure that invaders DO often bring about social and / or technological innovation – the Normans were notably more impressive builders than the Anglo Saxons for example, which is why we have only a handful of pre-Norman buildings left.
The numbers of invaders need not be large to have an enormous impact.

But in any case, I rather agree that citing a military conquest would be a rather peculiar way to argue for the benefits of migration in the modern world. Although the author wasn’t actually making a simplistic claim that large scale migration is always beneficial and certainly not that it won’t often be resisted.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew Fisher
John Holland
John Holland
1 year ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

The article isn’t promoting “the end of borders”, it’s merely discussing migration with an open mind.
The author fully admits that the social consequences of mass migration and the psychological resistance to it may be impossible to overcome- illustrated by the inevitable Unherd rants that I’m sure will follow….

Rick Hart
Rick Hart
1 year ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Indeed. Nomads tend to migrate from places that have been exhausted or become uninhabitable, either temporarily or permanently, to more resource – rich environments. For us all to become nomads, we would need to find a second Earth.
The author fails to mention the prehistoric Yamanyaya culture that swept out of the Steppes of central Eurasia and violently colonised most of Europe. DNA evidence shows that they basically killed off all males in the cultures they encountered and took over, imposing their culture and language. Nomadism can be a very dangerous thing.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

This is an argument based on not a lot of evidence either way, which is why historians dispute it, but common sense would tend to argue that it would be rather remarkable if a poor bunch of nomads could defeat a long standing sophisticated empire without some strong technological or other advantage over it. This might just have been that they were much more flexible and willing to adapt to change themselves, as for example the Mongols did in their conquest of China.

I am sure that invaders DO often bring about social and / or technological innovation – the Normans were notably more impressive builders than the Anglo Saxons for example, which is why we have only a handful of pre-Norman buildings left.
The numbers of invaders need not be large to have an enormous impact.

But in any case, I rather agree that citing a military conquest would be a rather peculiar way to argue for the benefits of migration in the modern world. Although the author wasn’t actually making a simplistic claim that large scale migration is always beneficial and certainly not that it won’t often be resisted.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew Fisher
Nell Clover
Nell Clover
1 year ago

The writer cites the Hyskos migration as an example of how dismissing the “idea that we belong to a particular land and that it belongs to us” can lead to a a great flourishing.

Well, the Hyskos migration was very violent and destructive until the land they’d migrated to firmly belonged to them and they belonged to it. And then there continued to be war between them and the Egyption dynasty based in Thebes until the Hyskos were defeated. Only then did relative peace return to Egypt.

Ironically, the example used to justify no borders is a classic example of why we have borders. The Hyskos only became peaceful once their own borders were settled and they had their “own land”, and war in Egypt only ceased when they were re-conquered by the Egyptions and the borders of Egypt re-asserted.

It is suggested the Hyskos brought the horse and chariot, the so-called flourish the author refers to, but they did so to destroy their opponents and claim the land of Egypt as their own. Even this is disputed: many historians believe the horse and chariot technology arrived in Egypt independently of the Hyskos and their epic smash and grab. So not only did many people die to satisfy the Hyskos land grab, the technology transfer remarked upon in this article was already underway.

So how is the story of the Hyskos supportive of the end of borders?

Last edited 1 year ago by Nell Clover
jmo
jmo
1 year ago

“The Covid pandemic is cited as an example of how large populations are able to stomach radical social change if the reasons for doing so are critical.”

Having managed to visit that trauma on us it will now be the pretext to do whatever they want with us.

The reasons weren’t critical, and we couldn’t stomach the radical social change. I believe it’s ruined a couple of generations.

William Foster
William Foster
1 year ago
Reply to  jmo

That is simply shrugged off as you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs. Expendable casualties. No justification for recall. It is more important to create the globalist vision as described by the references in this article. I wonder what Dua Lipa’s take on this is?

William Foster
William Foster
1 year ago
Reply to  jmo

That is simply shrugged off as you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs. Expendable casualties. No justification for recall. It is more important to create the globalist vision as described by the references in this article. I wonder what Dua Lipa’s take on this is?

jmo
jmo
1 year ago

“The Covid pandemic is cited as an example of how large populations are able to stomach radical social change if the reasons for doing so are critical.”

Having managed to visit that trauma on us it will now be the pretext to do whatever they want with us.

The reasons weren’t critical, and we couldn’t stomach the radical social change. I believe it’s ruined a couple of generations.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 year ago

The illegal migration on the USA’s southern border is not due to climate change, but rather it’s driven by failed South American governments (as well as the failed and extreme handling of Covid in China) – both situations are man-made.The sole reason these illegal migrants are jumping the border is for economic opportunity. That’s all well & good, but the financial burden not only on borders states but at the federal level is running into billions, at a time the USA is spending billions to fight the Ukraine’s border wars. Moreover, the just passed omnibus bill will also pay billions to ‘protect the borders’ of Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia & Syria. When many Americans are living on the edge as it is, this largesse by our ruling class becomes obscene. Hence, Trump’s popularity.

Moreover, many if not most illegal migrants who cross are illiterate or barely educated so it’s not clear what more they will be doing in the short term than cleaning toilets and agricultural work. We’re not getting rocket scientists & artists like we did post WW2. Small local towns are burdened by educating their kids, providing welfare for a considerable time only to endure the drug culture and crime that is enabled when a number of these migrants transport drugs over the border as payment for passages.

To romanticize the so-called contribution they make is just ludicrous. The burden is very heavy indeed.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 year ago

The illegal migration on the USA’s southern border is not due to climate change, but rather it’s driven by failed South American governments (as well as the failed and extreme handling of Covid in China) – both situations are man-made.The sole reason these illegal migrants are jumping the border is for economic opportunity. That’s all well & good, but the financial burden not only on borders states but at the federal level is running into billions, at a time the USA is spending billions to fight the Ukraine’s border wars. Moreover, the just passed omnibus bill will also pay billions to ‘protect the borders’ of Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia & Syria. When many Americans are living on the edge as it is, this largesse by our ruling class becomes obscene. Hence, Trump’s popularity.

Moreover, many if not most illegal migrants who cross are illiterate or barely educated so it’s not clear what more they will be doing in the short term than cleaning toilets and agricultural work. We’re not getting rocket scientists & artists like we did post WW2. Small local towns are burdened by educating their kids, providing welfare for a considerable time only to endure the drug culture and crime that is enabled when a number of these migrants transport drugs over the border as payment for passages.

To romanticize the so-called contribution they make is just ludicrous. The burden is very heavy indeed.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 year ago

If you believe climate change is a literal apocalypse, you’ll do nearly anything to avert it. This writer seems to have fallen for the “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Planet” apocalyptic nonsense. If you want people to do something, fear is a great motivator. The reality is that the equatorial regions are already woefully unsuited to mass agriculture, being largely dense jungle or desert, and always have been, which is why humans originated in Africa, but civilization developed largely in temperate zones, with Egypt being the only notable exception I’m aware of. Migration issues have nothing to do with climate and everything to do with keeping the cost of labor down and exploiting the most vulnerable people. The migration problems of today are largely related to two factors, neither of which is remotely connected to climate. First, the demographic trend of fertility falling dramatically in developed nations which are largely in the global north, while fertility remains high in the global south. Second, the need for labor has not declined as sharply as the birth rate, so there’s a perpetual need for low level workers. Much of the migration pressures are driven by service industries that literally couldn’t exist in their present form if they paid wage rates similar to what unionized factory workers commanded a few decades ago. Migration empowers the wealthy elite to continue to hold down wages and exploit people… period. Immigration, in the US, UK, or anywhere, can be easily managed by A.) raising the minimum wage, B.) punishing employers severely for employing illegals and/or participating in human trafficking, and C.) establishing unions in all service industries, fast food, janitorial workers, landscapers, etc. and D.) allocating sufficient resources to police immigration and seriously enforce the law. I grant this would cause economic problems, probably a severe recession, as businesses, governments, and people adjusted. Whole industries might collapse. The same is true of limiting free trade based on wage scale differences between nations. Nevertheless, if people ever want to be out from under the thumb of international finance, multinational corporations, and unaccountable, unelected, tyrants like Musk, Bezos, Gates, etc. this is a pill we have to swallow. Immigration is a good way to fill shortages in critical fields, like medicine, nursing, transportation, construction, and so on. It shouldn’t be so people living in mansions can have perfectly manicured and maintained lawns while paying at or below a living wage. It should be driven by common sense, national interest, and economic need and balanced against social stability, not by corporate greed and not by sympathy for people who were, unfortunately, born in really awful places. Climate change is just another excuse to continue the policies that have already resulted in a new class of global oligarchs and a dwindling middle class throughout the developed world.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 year ago

If you believe climate change is a literal apocalypse, you’ll do nearly anything to avert it. This writer seems to have fallen for the “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Planet” apocalyptic nonsense. If you want people to do something, fear is a great motivator. The reality is that the equatorial regions are already woefully unsuited to mass agriculture, being largely dense jungle or desert, and always have been, which is why humans originated in Africa, but civilization developed largely in temperate zones, with Egypt being the only notable exception I’m aware of. Migration issues have nothing to do with climate and everything to do with keeping the cost of labor down and exploiting the most vulnerable people. The migration problems of today are largely related to two factors, neither of which is remotely connected to climate. First, the demographic trend of fertility falling dramatically in developed nations which are largely in the global north, while fertility remains high in the global south. Second, the need for labor has not declined as sharply as the birth rate, so there’s a perpetual need for low level workers. Much of the migration pressures are driven by service industries that literally couldn’t exist in their present form if they paid wage rates similar to what unionized factory workers commanded a few decades ago. Migration empowers the wealthy elite to continue to hold down wages and exploit people… period. Immigration, in the US, UK, or anywhere, can be easily managed by A.) raising the minimum wage, B.) punishing employers severely for employing illegals and/or participating in human trafficking, and C.) establishing unions in all service industries, fast food, janitorial workers, landscapers, etc. and D.) allocating sufficient resources to police immigration and seriously enforce the law. I grant this would cause economic problems, probably a severe recession, as businesses, governments, and people adjusted. Whole industries might collapse. The same is true of limiting free trade based on wage scale differences between nations. Nevertheless, if people ever want to be out from under the thumb of international finance, multinational corporations, and unaccountable, unelected, tyrants like Musk, Bezos, Gates, etc. this is a pill we have to swallow. Immigration is a good way to fill shortages in critical fields, like medicine, nursing, transportation, construction, and so on. It shouldn’t be so people living in mansions can have perfectly manicured and maintained lawns while paying at or below a living wage. It should be driven by common sense, national interest, and economic need and balanced against social stability, not by corporate greed and not by sympathy for people who were, unfortunately, born in really awful places. Climate change is just another excuse to continue the policies that have already resulted in a new class of global oligarchs and a dwindling middle class throughout the developed world.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Jolly
Bernd Ohm
Bernd Ohm
1 year ago

It’s “Hyksos”, for chrissakes. Can you at least check the spelling before embarking on rambunctious deliberations on world history?

Andrew Buckley
Andrew Buckley
1 year ago
Reply to  Bernd Ohm

Well said, I noticed this error.

Andrew Buckley
Andrew Buckley
1 year ago
Reply to  Bernd Ohm

Well said, I noticed this error.

Bernd Ohm
Bernd Ohm
1 year ago

It’s “Hyksos”, for chrissakes. Can you at least check the spelling before embarking on rambunctious deliberations on world history?

Jack Tarr
Jack Tarr
1 year ago

“Indeed, Vince subscribes to the economic school of thought which contends that the dissolution of borders would lead to a doubling of global GDP, and the elimination of global poverty.”
1/ Where is the evidence behind the statement “the dissolution of borders…would lead to a doubling of global GDP”?
2/ Over what timescale would this doubling take place? Decades? Centuries?
3/ Who would benefit from this doubling? In more precise terms, what would the Gini coefficient be?
The direction for the future mapped out by the WEF, World Bank and so on points to a totalitarian transglobal corporate state in which a very small proportion of the population own virtually everything and control what they don’t own. If the borderless world does indeed double its GDP most of the world’s people won’t see any of this wealth – they’ll “own nothing and be happy”.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jack Tarr
Jack Tarr
Jack Tarr
1 year ago

“Indeed, Vince subscribes to the economic school of thought which contends that the dissolution of borders would lead to a doubling of global GDP, and the elimination of global poverty.”
1/ Where is the evidence behind the statement “the dissolution of borders…would lead to a doubling of global GDP”?
2/ Over what timescale would this doubling take place? Decades? Centuries?
3/ Who would benefit from this doubling? In more precise terms, what would the Gini coefficient be?
The direction for the future mapped out by the WEF, World Bank and so on points to a totalitarian transglobal corporate state in which a very small proportion of the population own virtually everything and control what they don’t own. If the borderless world does indeed double its GDP most of the world’s people won’t see any of this wealth – they’ll “own nothing and be happy”.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jack Tarr
Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago

Let’s not confuse “migrants” with “nomads.” Nomadic communities have chosen a way of life, pastoralism, that requires some mobility but definitely not random wandering. And most of these pastoral communities have inter-dependent relations (trade) with the settled agrarian ones through which they travel according to the seasons.
Very few of the migrants today are pastoral nomads and have any intention of establishing new trails for flocks or herds. Rather, they come from poor agrarian and urban environments and probably hope to settle in wealthy European or American cities, which offer them–or at least their children and grandchildren–many advantages. I doubt that climate change has much to do with current migrations, but it could in the future as it has in the remote past.
Historically, conflict has often erupted between agrarian and pastoral communities. But conflict has often erupted among agrarians themselves and pastoralists themselves. Nonetheless, some of the latter have been particularly aggressive, notably several waves of Huns and Mongols who stormed out of central Asia into Europe and the Near East. They had less property to protect than agrarians did, after all, which has allowed them to be more mobile.
The Hebrew Bible does record a conflict of many centuries between nomadic tribes and agrarian states or city-states. At first, the Israelites were nomadic pastoralists. Eventually, however, they conquered much of agrarian Canaan, settled either in or near towns and established a kingdom but nonetheless retained nostalgia for the old ways–that is, they remained ambivalent about the new ways (partly because of their associations with foreign religions).

Last edited 1 year ago by Paul Nathanson
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Paul, i’m really enjoying your contributions to this forum. Your study of comparative religion is obviously time well spent and even though i’m far from being religious myself (which isn’t to say spiritual), the historicity which you bring is not only valuable but quite rare in the 21st century.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

What a delightful way, Steve, to begin the new year (not that I actually expect to see much improvement in this world of increasingly polarized ranting).Thank you for that encouragement. Generally speaking, bloggers are indifferent to what I write. So I’ve learned to value every acknowledgment of the effort that it takes merely to clarify historical or cross-cultural contexts.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

What a delightful way, Steve, to begin the new year (not that I actually expect to see much improvement in this world of increasingly polarized ranting).Thank you for that encouragement. Generally speaking, bloggers are indifferent to what I write. So I’ve learned to value every acknowledgment of the effort that it takes merely to clarify historical or cross-cultural contexts.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Paul, i’m really enjoying your contributions to this forum. Your study of comparative religion is obviously time well spent and even though i’m far from being religious myself (which isn’t to say spiritual), the historicity which you bring is not only valuable but quite rare in the 21st century.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago

Let’s not confuse “migrants” with “nomads.” Nomadic communities have chosen a way of life, pastoralism, that requires some mobility but definitely not random wandering. And most of these pastoral communities have inter-dependent relations (trade) with the settled agrarian ones through which they travel according to the seasons.
Very few of the migrants today are pastoral nomads and have any intention of establishing new trails for flocks or herds. Rather, they come from poor agrarian and urban environments and probably hope to settle in wealthy European or American cities, which offer them–or at least their children and grandchildren–many advantages. I doubt that climate change has much to do with current migrations, but it could in the future as it has in the remote past.
Historically, conflict has often erupted between agrarian and pastoral communities. But conflict has often erupted among agrarians themselves and pastoralists themselves. Nonetheless, some of the latter have been particularly aggressive, notably several waves of Huns and Mongols who stormed out of central Asia into Europe and the Near East. They had less property to protect than agrarians did, after all, which has allowed them to be more mobile.
The Hebrew Bible does record a conflict of many centuries between nomadic tribes and agrarian states or city-states. At first, the Israelites were nomadic pastoralists. Eventually, however, they conquered much of agrarian Canaan, settled either in or near towns and established a kingdom but nonetheless retained nostalgia for the old ways–that is, they remained ambivalent about the new ways (partly because of their associations with foreign religions).

Last edited 1 year ago by Paul Nathanson
Jack Tarr
Jack Tarr
1 year ago

Migration isn’t needed nowadays for the benefits of cross-cultural fertilisation – just universal internet access and an absence of government/big business/academic censorship.

Jack Tarr
Jack Tarr
1 year ago

Migration isn’t needed nowadays for the benefits of cross-cultural fertilisation – just universal internet access and an absence of government/big business/academic censorship.

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
1 year ago

I don’t know about the Hyksos, but this article is a welcome invitation to reflect upon one of the critical issues of our times. Migration and its dangers and benefits, for both migrant and host.
What indeed is the difference between the motivations of the economic migrant and the digital nomad? Both are seeking a more comfortable life and better prospects in another country. Properly managed, these flows of migration have brought enormous prosperity to host nations (first and foremost the USA) but closer to home the Huguenots, the Jews and the Ugandan Asians have all made contributions to the growth of wealth, science and culture in the UK.
Nomadic existence or dystopian city? It’s a very good question and one that’s deserving of further debate.

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
1 year ago

I don’t know about the Hyksos, but this article is a welcome invitation to reflect upon one of the critical issues of our times. Migration and its dangers and benefits, for both migrant and host.
What indeed is the difference between the motivations of the economic migrant and the digital nomad? Both are seeking a more comfortable life and better prospects in another country. Properly managed, these flows of migration have brought enormous prosperity to host nations (first and foremost the USA) but closer to home the Huguenots, the Jews and the Ugandan Asians have all made contributions to the growth of wealth, science and culture in the UK.
Nomadic existence or dystopian city? It’s a very good question and one that’s deserving of further debate.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

These sort of ideas are very interesting, but squeezed into this journalistic form they don’t really come to life.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

That may be true, but isn’t the point of these types of articles to simply raise awareness of issues in a way which then encourages wider attention? It’s not as if migration doesn’t have all our attentions, but the article pushes in a direction some may not have considered. For that, it’s more than worthwhile, even though i don’t agree with some of it’s conclusions.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

That may be true, but isn’t the point of these types of articles to simply raise awareness of issues in a way which then encourages wider attention? It’s not as if migration doesn’t have all our attentions, but the article pushes in a direction some may not have considered. For that, it’s more than worthwhile, even though i don’t agree with some of it’s conclusions.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

These sort of ideas are very interesting, but squeezed into this journalistic form they don’t really come to life.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago

Lots of interest in this article, but let’s get one thing clear. The anguished discussion over to what extent we should have open borders, or indeed, whether they shouldn’t simply be abolished, is yet another phenomenon solely belonging to the ‘woke’ West.

China very clearly is not going to let all and sundry into its territory, and not are many other non western countries. Saudi Arabia took a grand total of zero refugees in the Syrian civil war, despite their far closer cultural and religious match than with European societies. Japan has notably been very restrictive in taking in migrants as it wishes to preserve its culture rather than entirely transform it.

Some countries may have little choice as to whether to accept refugees from wars across their borders, but their populations don’t like the fact and they rely on UN western-raised aid to fund large camps, which hardly amounts to a clarion cheer for the beneficial cultural effects of migration.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago

Lots of interest in this article, but let’s get one thing clear. The anguished discussion over to what extent we should have open borders, or indeed, whether they shouldn’t simply be abolished, is yet another phenomenon solely belonging to the ‘woke’ West.

China very clearly is not going to let all and sundry into its territory, and not are many other non western countries. Saudi Arabia took a grand total of zero refugees in the Syrian civil war, despite their far closer cultural and religious match than with European societies. Japan has notably been very restrictive in taking in migrants as it wishes to preserve its culture rather than entirely transform it.

Some countries may have little choice as to whether to accept refugees from wars across their borders, but their populations don’t like the fact and they rely on UN western-raised aid to fund large camps, which hardly amounts to a clarion cheer for the beneficial cultural effects of migration.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew Fisher
Nicholas Taylor
Nicholas Taylor
1 year ago

Following Nell Clover’s point, if there were no borders there would be nothing for nomads – at any level, geographical, social or intellectual – to invade and plunder. However, it does seem a feature of human history so deeply ingrained I wonder whether it will ever cease. Mr Putin obviously does not think so. Maybe it’s just nature, a combination of slow inbreeding and settling of social layers creating opportunity, and the intensity of new order (whether or not truly progressive) being in proportion to the entropy it flings away. However, that the new order thrives may not be a law of nature, just luck.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

ahhh… we have dull, tedious man made fibre clad people on commuter trains from places like Kent and Surrey… we call them Gnomads…..

Gordon Arta
Gordon Arta
1 year ago

We should never have come down from the trees.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  Gordon Arta

Maybe not, but we did. That’s because we evolved to adapt to environmental change and even venture into new environments. But we’ve also evolved as a territorial species, curious but also suspicious of strangers (often with good reason).
One primary function of every state (or any proto-state) is to establish order in what would otherwise be chaos. That sometimes means protecting people from invaders (or acquiring resources by invading others) but it always means regulating both immigration and emigration. There can be no such thing, in short, as a state without one of its defining features. Abolishing borders would defeat the purpose of any state.
Those who want to argue for the eventual abolition of states (as Marx did, even though his followers went in the opposite direction by establishing communist states), must therefore make a coherent argument for that extraordinary innovation in human history, apply it consistently and therefore universally (not only to this or that state). The burden of proof is on those who want to change conditions, not on those who want to preserve or improve existing conditions. Far from being inherently “immoral” (as Nancy Pelosi claimed), even walls can be serve moral purposes.
But there is an underlying moral question that’s very hard to discuss without charges of racism. If we assume that borders should disappear and that all people should be unconditionally free to migrate wherever and whenever they like, then we must ask about the cultural cost to established communities. (I refer not to innate differences but to linguistic, religious, ideological or other cultural differences.) Why build any community and work or even sacrifice for it over many generations, after all, if its endurance has no moral legitimacy?

Alan Hawkes
Alan Hawkes
1 year ago

Not wild about the deaths of so many Egyptians being treated as collateral damage on the way to a better future. And as a precedent for further immigration….?

John Holland
John Holland
1 year ago

A terrific, if short, outline of the situation, and a rare rejoinder to the silly, myopic nonsense generally spoken about this issue.
The overwhelming majority of discussions in Britain now about migration lack any perspective- either historical or geographical- and are merely knee-jerk exercises in wishful thinking. The irony is that the driving force behind the next massive wave of global migrations- climate change- is generally ignored or dismissed by the very people who most fear migration.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago
Reply to  John Holland

The millions pouring illegally into the United States aren’t fleeing because they fear climate change. They’re fleeing the inept and evil governments who have turned their countries into unliveable, violent h*llholes. If their homelands were prosperous, sane, and safe, they would likely return, whatever the weather.

Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
1 year ago

I think the author is referring more to the 4 billion + experiencing medium to extremely high water stress in Africa, the Middle East, the Stans, India and all immediate neigbours and China.
Not forgetting Mexico.
Our World in Data https://ourworldindata.org/water-use-stress

John Holland
John Holland
1 year ago

No- but then I didn’t say they were.
Mind you, one thing that’s helped make Mexico into an “unliveable, violent hellhole” is the US ‘war on drugs’, a failed and foolish delusion.

Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
1 year ago

I think the author is referring more to the 4 billion + experiencing medium to extremely high water stress in Africa, the Middle East, the Stans, India and all immediate neigbours and China.
Not forgetting Mexico.
Our World in Data https://ourworldindata.org/water-use-stress

John Holland
John Holland
1 year ago

No- but then I didn’t say they were.
Mind you, one thing that’s helped make Mexico into an “unliveable, violent hellhole” is the US ‘war on drugs’, a failed and foolish delusion.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  John Holland

“The irony is that the driving force behind the next massive wave of global migrations- climate change-“
I’m not sure that what you think might happen in the future proves anything, irony or anything else..

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago
Reply to  John Holland

here soeaketh the philosophy of Testiclese…and Ess Fincta

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago
Reply to  John Holland

The millions pouring illegally into the United States aren’t fleeing because they fear climate change. They’re fleeing the inept and evil governments who have turned their countries into unliveable, violent h*llholes. If their homelands were prosperous, sane, and safe, they would likely return, whatever the weather.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  John Holland

“The irony is that the driving force behind the next massive wave of global migrations- climate change-“
I’m not sure that what you think might happen in the future proves anything, irony or anything else..

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago
Reply to  John Holland

here soeaketh the philosophy of Testiclese…and Ess Fincta

John Holland
John Holland
1 year ago

A terrific, if short, outline of the situation, and a rare rejoinder to the silly, myopic nonsense generally spoken about this issue.
The overwhelming majority of discussions in Britain now about migration lack any perspective- either historical or geographical- and are merely knee-jerk exercises in wishful thinking. The irony is that the driving force behind the next massive wave of global migrations- climate change- is generally ignored or dismissed by the very people who most fear migration.