One of our relatives just came back to visit from Canada, and she is looking to recruit people to work with her in Alberta. I said no thank you, since my Hispanic (adopted) son already was working in nearby Alaska, along with other Hispanics and Filipinos, and he said if he changed jobs, he preferred a warmer climate.

So what is a Filipina doing in Alberta? It’s the oil shale stupid. She helps run a hotel for those visiting the area.

Every time that blowhards shout about “buying most of our oil from dictators”, Canadian Mark Steyn is apt to point out that Canada, the country that supplied the largest percentage of crude oil to the US, is not run by a dictator.

I’ve read Chomsky, and sympathize with the goals of the left, but if you actually have lived overseas, you find out that they don’t know what they are talking about.

I am no expert on the oil industry, but the cliches that some activists tell to the press, including the “blood for oil” meme, approaches the point of ignorance in a multilateral world.

The majority of oil and natural gas might come from the Middle East, but the “Middle East” meme is complicated by things like oil, natural gas, and pipelines all over the place.

Saudi might have the largest oil fields, but the Middle East is not a monolith.

The small Gulf states have a long history of world trade, Iraq has a large educated population, Iran is not a monolithic empire but a semi democracy run by theocrats, and the dirty little secret is that a couple million “guest workers” in those areas run much of the oil industry and construction, run the shops, work as maids and chauffeurs, and if you got rid of them, the place would collapse.

But without oil, the world economy would collapse, and those hit worse will not be Americans but Asians, including China.

So discussions on who will control resources go way beyond simple “blood for oil” memes.

Similarly, the world’s growing search for energy goes way beyond the West.

Was the war against Georgia about an oil pipeline from the Caspian Sea, or about Putin echoing the Tsars in history trying to regain a lost empire?

Is Iran, which has trouble paying bills for natural gas to nearby countries, and who lacks gasoline refineries, really need nuclear energy for electricity, not just to nuke Israel?

Did the US look the other way when Cuban mercenaries made it safe for businesses exploiting oil in Angola, or did they tolerate the Cubans as an alternative to genocide?

Did the Philippine President sign away national sovereignty in the Spratlys Islands for a bribe, so that China now has control of that area’s natural gas resources, or was it a smart deal that benefits the country since the Philippines lack the resources to exploit the area?

Is China involved with training the Pakistani Army to keep their western pipeline open, or to keep it’s own western minorities under control?

Is China backing Sudan for it’s oil resources, allowing Sudan to destroy Dafur, or it is just that China wants to trade, and will back the one who gives them the best deal?

This list goes on and on.

Like fundamentalists in religion, too many of the loudest political activists have nice pat answers for all the world’s problems. On the right, capitalism is the world’s savior. On the left, the devil is Western civilization or the white man or the US.

If there is one reason I dislike Obama, it is that by attending Reverend Wright’s church, he was given a simplistic way of viewing God’s world and how to help it. Reverend Wrights’s church helped many poor people,and I’ve worked with many good people who held similar opinions, but in the long run, movements that preach hatred of the other to help improve the lot of the poor can result in terrible consequences. Doesn’t the Reverend realize this? Or is the press misreporting his words like they misreport many other controversial religious figures, from the Pope to the prophet Mohammed?

On the other hand, I find it encouraging that Robert Reich, whose ideas on multinationalism in economics were behind the Clinton years boom, is backing Obama. Ah,the real question is if Obama would hire him to advise him, or will Obama give in to the far left, scarp NAFTA and the Colombian trade agreement, and cause the expanding Latin American economies to crash?

One longs for a discussion beyond namecalling in the media.

Tom Friedman’s book The World was Flat is be a good starting point for pundits to learn about globalization; one wished that the pundits would read it.

One hopes that in the upcoming election, some of them will try to ask questions of the candidates that would make sense. Not the trivia “Who is the president of Zimbabwe”, but things like: If democracy would return to Zimbabwe, would you encourage Chinese investments in their mining and manufacturing industry, or would you encourage low interest loans to local businessmen so that China doesn’t get a monopoly on their chrome mines?

So what is this to me? Well, Filipinos tend to be in the middle of all of this. They work in the Middle East, but also in the various newer Central Asian countries. What are they doing? Working as nurses, running hotels, and doing all sorts of blue collar work. Some of it is lack of jobs here (who wants to invest when the corruption is expensive and causing political instability). But a lot of reasons for the Filipino diaspora is that they speak English, the language of the world, and the pay is a lot better.

So if there is a ship hijacked off of Somalia, there will probably be a few Filipino sailors in danger. If there is someone kidnapped by terrorists in the Nigerian Delta, it could be a Filipino. And when Canada or Central Asia has an oil boom, you will find Filipine workers there.

This brings me to another question that wasn’t even whispered about in the Republican convention: immigration.

Given a Democratic Congress, I suspect McCain would be the best one to settle this question. A lot of these “illegal” immigrants work quietly and support their families. Throwing them out is wrong, even though a subset of nativist Republicans would do so.

But the dirty little secret no one wants to talk about is that many of these immigrants are taking jobs away from the American poor, some of whom happen to be black. Opening the borders might win Hispanic votes, but the “losers” might be a single dad like my son who was once fired because he refused to work overtime without time and a half pay, unlike the illegals at the same plant.
The press hasn’t yet noticed that McCain has chosen a governor familiar with the struggles of the ordinary family (as opposed to those of us who had good financial cushions by working for the government). She has fought the oil industry and their political friends. And she lives in a state both a large minority ( Native American) population and a large immigrant population.

So now, we come back to the first item in this overlong essay: Oil and natural resources. How to balance the needs of people without destroying the environment.

Who should make the decisions on using Alaskan resources? And who should benefit from the money? Native Alaskans (like Palin’s husband), or Alaskan Citizens who migrated there in the past 100 years, or should it go to the workers who just moved there last year from another country, or should the decisions on how to use resources or to a Federal Government five thousand miles away, who will get the revenue?

Alaska is a little more complicated than the pundits would have you believe….which suggests Palin’s experience is a little more than the pundits recognize.

As for those who dismiss the value of working as a “community organizer”, well, maybe someone needs to write the details about this too. Outsiders who go into communities to change things have to be sensitive to the morals and structure of their community before they try to change things. This is indeed a valuable life experience for those going into politics. I know how this works in cross culture medicine; but the press has done little homework in trying to find out and explain how Obama’s work benefitted his community…

Just something for the pundits to contemplate and write about when they are finished salivating about Bristol Palin’s pregnancy.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. She writes on human rights issues at Makaipa Blog.

Be Sociable, Share!