A sense of order and calm filled the picturesque streets. Despite their bloody history of continuous invasions over the centuries, the charm, certain safety and, yes, interesting history of the capital cities of Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius now invites a return visit—especially when one thinks of the terrorism that has plagued other, more typical tourist destinations in Europe .
But the magic of freedom, achieved in 1991, has been transformative. The shops seemed well stocked and the restaurants excellent. And prices had definitely not hit the high side, even though the dollar is now at a one third discount from the Euro.
Vilnius, Lithuania, is one of the oldest cities in Europe. Its outskirts show the effect of large foreign investments—the car dealerships and other businesses that mar the approaches of many American cities. But once in the city center, one is taken back centuries, despite the destruction that occurred in WWII, still being repaired.
All these Baltic citizenries have a real sense of their history and the value of their present governance. They are ethnically very similar, allowing for some regional differences, And Lithuanians, like Poles, are certainly bound together by their religion.
But so do we!
However, Lithuania`s most striking problem is—excess emigration! The literacy rate is nearly 100%, but there`s a paradox to this high level of education. Unlike Mexico, which endeavors to export its untended poor, many skilled Lithuanians have gone West. Indeed, not only do Lithuanians with high skills leave to get higher pay abroad, but this flight has also taken working class people such as truck drivers, waitresses and supermarket clerks. (The US doesn`t benefit from this emigration because the infamous 1965 Immigration Act in effect discriminates against Europeans and in favor of the less-assimilable Third World.)
According to a January 10, 2007 Christian Science Monitor article, Where have all our migrants gone? Eastern Europe wants them back [By Michael J. Jordan] " some 400,000 people, an incredible 10+ percent of the population, have migrated West, "whether to work in construction in Dublin, pick strawberries in southern Spain, or conduct research in Scandinavia."
Now the Lithuanian government has set up a department, the "Returning Lithuanian Information Center" (RLIC), to entice migrant Lithuanians to come home.
To augment the RLIC, there is the International Organization for Migration (IOM) whose job it is to get employment information to those Lithuanians thinking of emigrating and to Lithuanians overseas who might be considering coming home.
The Mexican government, if it didn`t have such passion to dump its poor and uneducated workers on the US, could well benefit from an IOM. But of course that would mean Mexico`s oligarchs would have get the country`s education system up to par and make more effort to build a Mexican middle class. Not likely.
There is one similarity, however, between the US and Lithuania. Complaining of a "people shortage", Lithuanian employers have begun taking in laborers from Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, and Moldova, Some Lithuanians see the threat of a return to Russian dominance—just as many in the US now see the threat in our southwestern states of "La Reconquista".
Does this sound like our US situation, where Americans will do any kind of work–there are no jobs Americans won`t do–if the pay is adequate??
For decades, our feckless and/or greedy politicians have allowed the Treason Lobby to inject the heroin of cheap labor into our system. Now in many parts of our country, this slave labor has replaced what our own young people did as entry level jobs, which are such a key part of learning to grow up. As a teen, I so well recall being a shoe salesman in the Christmas rush period and working construction jobs in the summer. Now far too many of our too-idle teens loll at malls and inject drugs.
If little Lithuania, with its rich cultural history which its people value highly, wants to remain stable, healthy and free, then the efforts of those entities like IOM and RLIC must be increased. Further, its employers must be willing to pay more.
Significantly, part of the draw to get Lithuanians to come back home (or not to leave in the first place) will be, not higher wages, but rather what economists crassly call the "inertia" which ties most people to their native lands.
One unique approach is offered by lietuviams.com. It seeks to stop the diaspora, not only by emphasizing job opportunities, but by stressing the quality of life to be enjoyed at home, as well as Lithuanian "istorija" and "tradicijos"—powerful inducements for this ethnically homogeneous population.
It is now so clear that we, as a planet, must understand that a world population of 10 billion by 2100 will present very difficult problems. In reversing high population growth, countries with low birth rates can prove instructive in showing others how to manage a gentler return to lower levels of population.
The lesson that Americans can draw from the Baltic phenomenon: quality of life will be the key.
Donald A. Collins [email him], is a freelance writer living in Washington DC and a former long time member of the board of FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform. His views are his own.