ON THE PERILS OF IMPORTING AN ELITE
An old tradition of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is that all officers are grown organically from the bottom. Meaning, there is no Israeli West Point. There are no commissions to be acquired or honors to be purchased. Since the days of the rag-tag forces that brought victory in Israel’s War of Independence, the only way to become an officer is to start as a grunt.
The downside, which I can attest to as an officer myself, is that Israeli officers lack finesse and sometimes even much-needed theoretical education. The upside is natural cohesion and care. The officers are not an alien caste of the priestly pure, but members of the same dust-covered masses and their custodians. The Israeli officer and his underlings all recognize one another as peers. The atmosphere is that of comradery and much down-to-earth familiarity.
What is true for the military is true for society as a whole. Our civilian officers, our elites, those entrusted with power and influence through their rank amongst the upper echelons should function as custodians of our society. Cicero put it nicely in On the Republic: “Neque enim hac nos patria lege genuit aut educavit, ut nulla quasi alimenta exspectaret a nobis.” For in truth, our country hasn’t gifted us with education and good birth as if to expect no nourishment in return.
Meaning, the republic, the legacy of our forefathers and a trust charged to us, requires our nourishment and sustenance so that we pass it on to our own posterity. To be a good citizen is to be a good custodian. And the best custodians should be those among us endowed with wealth, power, and great abilities.
More and more, however, we are in the habit of endowing wealth and power without custodianship. Almost 600,000 employment-based permanent residency petitions are approved in the US each year (given a backlog, only about 140,000 employment-based green cards are actually granted. The rest of the applicants remain in the country on a work visa). About 85,000 work visas are granted to foreigners each year, most of them from India. It’s worth mentioning: These visas and green cards are bestowed not on table scrubbers and street cleaners, but upon management consultants, engineers, bankers, financiers, and the like of them. Meaning, these are visas for the upper-middle class.
Further upstream, about 5.5% of America’s students are foreign. But that includes 3rd and 4th-tier colleges. In the Ivy League, America’s most powerful catapult into the upper-middle class, the average is 12%. All students receive two years of work approval upon graduation (OPT) and are free to apply for employment-based visas.
Why exactly are we squandering the nation’s resources and granting them to those who lack affinity to the American republic, its legacy, and its people? Elite jobs, places in elite schools, and elite positions are national resources. They should be granted first and foremost to Americans, not to foreign-born Brahmins.
You may say “oh, but we have a shortage of native skills.” My reply, what kind of skills exactly are required for a job in management consulting or a career at Goldman Sachs? Clearly, Harvard’s business school can choose whether to accept a foreign candidate from Uttar Pradesh (or the Israeli desert, like me) or simply to move on to the next local candidate from Indiana. Why catapult a foreigner, unless we are talking about a second Einstein, into the heights of the American ruling class? Why not catapult an American?
An immigrant myself, I can tell you all about it. America’s foreign H1B holders, green card holders, and even its newly minted citizens of the various upper-middle-class professions, are generally a law-abiding and productive group. We pay our taxes and stay out of prison. But not many have an idea who Paul Revere was, not many care for the immortal words of Patrick Henry, and not many embrace America’s people and legacy. Instead, we tend to embrace real estate investments, exotic vacations, and chic brunch hot spots.
The result accelerates an ugly reality: A deracinated corporate class, partially planted from above, preaching universal values and idiotic “woke” ideas while lacking any sense of patriotism, custodianship, or affinity to America. Is it good for our GDP? Maybe. Replacing my mother with Sheryl Sandberg may do wonders for my family’s GDP. But I like my mother the way she is, and I doubt Ms. Sandberg would care much about me.
A case in point is the crazed story of Aruna Khilanani. The daughter of distinguished doctors from India, she was invited to speak at Yale University. Alas, what she had to share was her wish to end the lives of “white people.” Clearly, this psychiatrist pampered by all the conveniences of the American elite has not assimilated to develop an affinity to the American nation. By the way, I’m not exactly sure why anybody was shocked about Aruna’s more vulgar comments. The entire title of her talk was “The Psychopathic Problem of the White Mind.” Clearly, not a custodian for the interests of Iowans and Nebraskans.
The republic, tells us Cicero, exists to benefit its citizens. And the republic’s most excellent citizens should be filled with a sense of duty to care for it, they should come from within it, just like good IDF officers. A foreign elite is the last thing America needs.
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