Thursday, September 28, 2006

"Manpower-Export"

Written twenty-five years ago.

The business was organised. Like accountants studying tax laws, the the manpower-export experts of Pakistan studied the world's immigration laws and competitively gambled with their emigrant battalions: visitor's visas overstayable here (most European countries), dependants shippable there (England), student visas convertible there (Canada and the United States), political asylum to be asked for there (Austria and West Berlin), still no visas needed here, just below the Arctic Circle (Finland). They went by the planeload. Karachi airport was equipped for this emigrant traffic ...

Abroad, the emigrants threw themselves on the mercies of civil liberties organisations. They sought the protection of the laws of the countries where the planes had brought them. They or their representatives spoke correct words about the difference between poor countries and rich, South and North. They spoke of the crime of racial discrimination and the brotherhood of man. They appealed to the ideals of the alien civilisations whose virtues they denied at home.

And in the eyes of the faithful there was no contradiction. Home was home, home wasn't like outside; ecumenical words spoken outside didn't alter that.


V.S. Naipaul, "Among The Believers"

2 comments:

Umbongo said...

"Among the Believers" is an amazingly prescient book. I read it in the 80s and, until this year, forgot all about it and then reread it. I'm amazed that V S Naipaul hasn't been fatwa-ed. Of course, William Dalrymple is a critic and damns Naipaul for being "too negative" about islam so VSN must be getting something right.

verity said...

I too read it in the Eighties. V S Naipaul is a brilliant man. The first book I ever read of his was 'A House for Mr Biswas' and I was hooked.

I'm going to reread it, too!