International Migration: Success as a Reward for Courage

The print media’s current life-or-death struggle with its Internet nemesis is something which affects many literate people over 40. In view of the basically shallow and solipsistic nature of Internet journalism, it is in our interest to wish the print media a viable degree of success – which will enable us to continue to benefit from the valuable services of their practitioners for at least a few years to come. Après cela, le déluge, naturellement!

A seemingly minuscule, parochial and ephemeral print newspaper article offers food for thought on this topic. It is addressed to a few hundred thousand “broadsheet” supporters – a fraction of the 4 million inhabitants of the “tiny” Australian State of Victoria and a mere dot compared to the world’s current 7 (?) billion human occupants. This brief human interest background fill-in article, inspired by an extremely parochial State election budget, actually provides a handful of fuel for the argument in favour of the continuance of the print media.

‘Minimum options even above the minimum wage’ is the unprepossessing title of Melissa Fyfe’s minor 310 word contribution to The Age (Melbourne, Australia – venerable sister to The Sydney Morning Herald, which is also struggling to remain afloat) for today: Sunday, 15 May 2011. (You can follow Ms Fyfe on Tweet if you wish on:: twitter.com/melfyfe.)

“Victor Barrientos is 67. His desires are simple. Buy a house, slow down, spend time with family – these are his thoughts as he cleans Melbourne Airport, and, when he knocks off that job, helps his wife clean a school.

But as an unskilled labourer, these dreams remain far-off possibilities. Mr Barrientos is paid $16 an hour plus an airport allowance and works a total of 11 hours a day, six days a week.
With his wife’s cleaning wage, the family earns about $72,000 a year. The El Salvadorean refugee, who came to Australia 22 years ago, is struggling.

”It’s very hard to save on this money. We can’t save,” says Mr Barrientos, whose two daughters, studying at university, live at home. ”The petrol, the food – everything is so expensive. So many bills – telephone, internet, electricity, gas. There’s not enough money to cover all the things we need.”

Last week, Mr Barrientos listened to the post-budget debate over middle-class welfare. He and his wife earn less than half that of a family on $150,000, the cut-off for some federal government family benefits.
While he refuses to judge those who complained about the budget, he just points out they receive ”good money” and ”they have no reason to say it is still not enough”.

”I know [higher income earners] have good qualifications, but the majority of people are on a very low income. We are struggling.”

With the minimum wage case starting tomorrow, and research from the Australian Council of Trade Unions showing that Australians have a fundamental misunderstanding of wealth distribution in this country, Mr Barrientos asks that people keep in mind those at the bottom ranks of the income scale.

”We have to look after those who are struggling and support them because we are the people who run the country,” he says.”

A touching family story. But apart from the attempt to make a very local political point, much more important and even uplifting information can be inferred from Ms Fyfe’s report on Mr. and Mrs. (ex Señor and Señora) Barrientos’s story.

This is, in fact, another specific success story of the millions of human beings and families who have taken the huge risk of uprooting themselves from difficult or unbearable conditions of life to give themselves and their families a better future. And a success story also for the countries which have accepted them. It is obvious that, basically, the Barrientos family, in spite of their parochial (and hopefully ephemeral) Australian (Victorian ) problems, have SUCCEEDED – and are to be congratulated – in their major life adventure and that their children and grandchildren will be grateful for the courageous decision they made 22 years ago.

Maybe Ms Fyfe (or her colleagues) could look past the 2011 Victorian State Budget and do some further research on this very positive story.

In USA, Canada and Australia (in particular) there must be millions of similar success stories. In Europe, ditto, but the economic and social environment there and future prospects are much more complex.

Señor y Señora Barrientos:
Les felicito por su valiente decisión de arriesgarse a la aventura de la emigración y espero que sus problemas financieros sean leves y pasajeros. En todo caso, y pase lo que pase, sus hijos y nietos se lo agradecerán. Les mando un saludo muy cordial de otro inmigrante mucho menos valiente y más “chiqueado”.

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