Watched "Maria, Full of Grace" this weekend, the very good movie on a Columbian drug mule. Also continued reading Albert O. Hirschman's Exit, Voice, and Loyalty--see this summary at Wikipedia. And finally read this piece in the NYTimes magazine on American missionaries to the Samburu tribe in Kenya. What do they have in common?
Not much, except provoking thought on the boundaries of human loyalties and experiences. With the Samburu, the missionaries hope to bring Christianity to the tribe and eliminate female circumcision from its culture. But the tribal members seem satisfied with their religion and culture, even the females. The tribe is not in decline; members are neither exiting nor voicing discontent. Does one go along, or is there a moral obligation to change it?
The movie shows exit--Maria leaves the drug running and leaves Colombia. But one of Hirschman's points recapitulates the old "safety-valve" theory of American history: to the extent that the discontented are able to leave a human organization/group, the strength of voice--the expression of discontent and the working for change from within an organization--is weakened. (Part of the old "frontier theory" was the idea that "free land" in the West drained the cities of their poor and malcontents. Think of Horace Greeley's "go West, young man". My understanding is, while the idea seems valid, historians couldn't find many people who actually moved from cities to farms.) Anyhow, the director's commentary on Maria says 10 percent of Colombians live in the U.S., often the better educated. Does that mean that the forces of democracy in Colombia have been weakened? Do our open borders hurt the cause?