All of me

The song goes:
“All of me / Why not take all of me
Can’t you see / I’m no good without you
Take my lips / I want to lose them
Take my arms / I’ll never use them…”
[1]

The sentiment is not entirely different from that expressed by an Episcopal priest during a sermon in recent memory: “Christ doesn’t want your very best; He wants all of you.” [2] The risk otherwise – that is, to picking and choosing to take only the parts that you like – is that what gets left behind will fall further and further into decline and unwantedness, literally dis-integrating the person/group/society/soul.

Jump now to the new “agreed immigration” deal struck by France with Senegal. An article in the weekend FT (7-8 October 2006) puts it thusly: “The agreement secured last month by Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s ambitious interior minister [Ed. note: and now President], offers more favourable facilities for Senegalese business people, students, artists and sportsmen in exchange for repatriation of unwelcome migrants.” [3]

It doesn’t require a remarkable leap of insight to understand that in such a scenario, those being accepted into French (and, I should add, Spanish) life and culture are those with greater education, advantage and, probably, money. Who gets left behind to mind the shop? What becomes of Senegalese culture, politics, economy, life, back home in Senegal?

These are times of great mobility. Even for the poorest of the poor, who have somehow become exposed to the concept of it, if not its reality, it is all too compelling to leave a negative situation at first opportunity rather than to try to improve it. Perhaps in many ways the notion of improving it is an idle one. Politics and people being what they are, this is not unlikely. The incredible divorce rate of 50% (in the U.S., at least) is some indication of this.

But, as in divorce, which literally tears families and their people apart, so too does the allowance of immigration by selected types of individuals. To take the narrow view, it gives France / Spain / etc. the comfortable façade of accessibility and openness. While every country must protect itself against absorbing all of the problems of another country, how fair is it to go to the opposite extreme, and to accept only its brightest lights?

We can’t at the same time tout democracy, which in my mind has as its cornerstone the concept of equal opportunity, and the policy of agreed immigration, which is effectively the opposite. Some of Senegal’s bright lights simply need to stay in Senegal, where they will necessarily make a difference. And some of her sorry souls need to be permitted to find their way elsewhere, whether that be France, Spain, or beyond.

[1] "All of Me," a song written by Gerald Marks and Seymour Simons in 1931.
[2] Rev. John Andrew, former Rector, St. Thomas's Church Fifth Avenue (New York City).
[3] "Migrants who risk death for a better life in the west," by David White for the Financial Times, October 7 / October 8 2006.

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