Friday, September 09, 2011

Negative retrojection

Years ago, during the worst of the AIDS years in North America, I was executive director of an AIDS nonprofit in Canada. As such, I was asked to give a talk at an international meeting, justifying the existence of NGO's in the array of responses to the epidemic. Since this was Canada, non-governmental involvement in mostly anything is something that is not taken for granted, but must be justified. One of the many unknown differences between Canadians and Americans who are not Democrats.

Anyhow, not being a statistician or having a lot of time, I just provided the official estimates of what each AIDS patient cost the (government) health care system, what it cost for them to fund NGO's, and what it saved them for any single person we succeeded in keeping uninfected or out of the hospital longer. My argument was that we were a bargain. And I used what I called --totally made up-- the method of "negative retrojection"*. Which mean, go back into the past and remove us from the equation and see what happens.

Almost three decades later, my views on many things have morphed into a condition that would truly horrify my compatriots back in those days. And, had I had a crystal ball, would have horrified me. But there I am. And one of those views is that not every individual and --and here's the real heresy-- not every group of people is equally valuable.

So one of the thoughts I have is to speculate about what the effect would be if various configurations of people were "negatively retrojected". Someone made a film a while back, called, I think, A Day Without A Mexican, where all the Mexicans in America suddenly disappeared in a kind of liberal-apocalyptic rapture. There was a crisis in the housecleaning, baby care, restaurant and landscaping industries. To say nothing of the bilingual signage and phone tree industries. "Press 1 for English" would be no more. The point of the film was to show us how lucky we are to have Montezuma's children, sometimes literally, all over our backyards.

What the film failed to mention, however, was that gangs would virtually disappear, crime would decrease, the prison population would have plummeted by 37% and costs to the healthcare system would likewise drop like a stone. (And if all the Mexicans in the US went home, that country would likely a) go bankrupt and b) implode in revolution.)

Hey, whats' good for the oca is good for the ganso. Or, dos can play at this juego.

Lots of other speculative movies can be made with all sorts of segments of the population. The results, likewise partly speculative, are interesting. They reveal what the contributions and the deductions are to American life, not from individuals, but from all kinds of groups in the country.

A Day Without:

The US Military.
White Anglo-Saxon Protestants.
University Humanities Faculties.
East Asians.
Blue or Red States
Straight White Men.
Graduates of the Ivy League.
The Boomer Generation
The Top Richest 10%
People with an IQ less than 85.
Blue Collar Men.
Women who vote Democrat.
Illegal immigrants.
Legal immigrants.

And of course you can break these and many others down and cross reference them, etc. to see what you think would be lost and might be gained by their absence. You can learn a lot about them and their group behaviors, as well as what you yourself value and don't.

There are some groups of people --and individuals-- who are a lot more trouble than they are worth.

*PS. I should have copyrighted the phrase. Even after all these years, if you Google "negative retrojection", only this blog comes up.

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