chapter  14
18 Pages

The Immigrant Intellectual

The life of a man in society is hard. It is hard in the society into which he has been born and in which he has lived all his life. The life of a person who leaves his society often seems to him in some respects even harder. The life in his new society is usually hard but it is usually in a very significant respect better than what it was or appeared to him to be in his native society. The quest of an im­ proved standard of living or the desire to escape from restrictions and damages inflicted because of religious beliefs or ethnic qualities is usually attained in the society to which the immigrant comes. But with those improvements, which are often obscured by com­ plaints, there are also deprivations. Although his income in the host society is almost invariably better than what was earned in his society of origin-except for exiles who are expelled physically or who fled for their lives-satisfaction over the attainment of a higher standard of living does not inevitably come. The employ­ ment which he finds is very likely to be in an occupation which is not well regarded by the host society. This is only one of a large number of stresses to which a newcomer to a society is subjected. I

I The newcomer is usually ignorant of the language spoken in the host society and even if his language of origin is of the same linguistic family, the dialect which he speaks obstructs his intelli­ gibility and marks him off from those who are native to the host country. His perceptible distinctiveness in complexion, dress and demeanour renders him easy to identify as a foreigner and accordingly to exclude from convivial association and friendship. As a result, his contacts with members of the host society are restricted and he is confined to the company of his former fellowcountrymen who share his handicaps. Although this protects him it also exacerbates his sense of being alien to his surroundings. The communal life which he can lead is deformed; the sex and age

ratios of the immigrant community are often deformed by the selectiveness of emigration; climatic conditions and the arrange­ ments of buildings affect the pattern of his pleasures. The pleasures themselves are often looked at askance by the members of the host society who come into contact with them. They are thought to be outlandish and quaint at best, repulsive or immoral at worst. Religious institutions must be reconstructed; sometimes they cannot be reconstructed because they depend on traditions, skills, persons and social arrangements which cannot be transferred.