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is formed by people under age 27. the number of Hispanics (now 41.3 million) is expected to keep increasing because

of continued immigrations and a high birth rate. And if until the 70’s the Hispanics used to enter the country with a

low level of education, now we are seeing a powerful cultural transformation. Experts say that this situation would help

the US prosper in a global economy.

Between here and there

This article is about the border zone between the US and Mexico. This zone has always represented a problem for both

the countries; here Spanish melts with English and it is not senseless thinking of the border as a separate country. But

it would be a strange country: richer than Mexico, poorer than the US and above all not united. And that is the

problem. The border is a series of paired cities strung out across a vast tract of wilderness, with some things in

common but also with a lot of differences.

In spite of all this the border is booming: in a decade the population of the Mexican side has increased by nearly half.

Most people came to work in the “maquiladoras”, the factories that make products from duty-free imported parts for re-

export to the US. They were devised to reduce migration, but what they really did was to exploit labour (in fact on

average an American border makes 3 times what a Mexican does), product toxic waste and contribute little to the wider

economy, since they are often foreign-owned.

Most of the cities in the border zone began as illegal settlements set up by migrant workers, who then fight local

councils to get services. The biggest concern is water. Only half the population has running water and slightly more are

connected to the main sewer. Another serious problem are the services; they are overstretched in the American border

cities too, but several things make life more difficult for the Mexican side:

- almost all their money comes from the government. How much they get depends on their population, which is hard

to count because many are just passing through. And what’s more, a lot of people work across the border, paying taxes

in America but using services in Mexico

- toxic waste that during the maquiladoras’ duty-free regime used to be returned abroad, now have to stay in Mexico,

where there’s only one fully-equipped refinery for industrial toxic waste

- social problems, like the change of traditional family roles, are brought by the explosive population growth

- crime, much of it related to drug traffic, is high and the justice system is overburdened

- drug-taking is also particularly high because of their cheapness and availability on the border.

Despite all this, things are going slowly better: factory owners are becoming more aware about the workers’ needs and

the government helps workers with financing. More often pairs of border cities collaborate rather than going through

the bureaucracy of Washington and Mexico City and there are countless groups for cross-border co-operation. But they

have power to solve only small problems, while big decisions must be taken a thousand miles away.

Biting more than they can chew

When times get hard and economy slows Americans have often shown their xenophobia. But this time the immigrants

under attack have the resources to fight back.

In 1992 the US began a visa program in response to a shortage of skilled labour, under which companies could look

overseas to find high-tech workers. These visas last six years and then workers can apply for citizenship. Since then

thousands of people came to the US, mostly from India and China. But now that American economy goes better and

that the visas have expired these workers are vulnerable. If they don’t find another job immediately they risk

deportation. So they are forced to accept low pay deals. And they also have to deal with complains from Americans

about stealing jobs and depressing salaries.

This is an old story but unlike previous immigrants, many refuse to go home. Instead, they are taking lower-paying

jobs, trying to enlist in American universities and complaining loudly.

Social security: migrants offer numbers for fee

With the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 immigrants who want to work in the US must provide a Social

Security Number to prove they have entered the country legally.

There are now in America hundreds of thousands of immigrants who have crossed the border illegally and need to

procure a legal identity. On the other hand, many legal immigrants who have come back in Mexico risk to lose their

green card if they stay outside the country too long. So they are happy to lend their number in exchange of a fee. This

practice also generate cash in other ways. Illegal immigrant workers usually earn so little they are owed an income tax

refund at the end of the year. The illegal immigrant usually pay the real owner by sharing the tax refund.

By now a secondary trade in identities has emerged, involving an undetermined but relevant number of peoples. It is

seen as a normal thing to do, and even if there are risks involved in letting one’s identity be used by someone else, the

appeal of the chance to make a little extra money gets over any fear.

In fiction, a long history of fixation on the social gap

On television, in the movies and novels now people tend to dwell in a classless, homogenized American Never-Never

land, where the order of sex and looks has replaced the old hierarchy of jobs and money. But for a long time American

culture was preoccupied by class. A preoccupation that has diminished somewhat but it hasn’t entirely disappeared.

Before the World War II in every movie or novel you were reminded that in the American society there was an

insuperable gap between the middle and the upper class. This explains the great American nightmare: the dread of

waking up a day and finding yourself at the bottom. This fear gets expression in books of the second half of XIX

century, which were meant to shock their middle-class readers.

The poor are absent, however, in the American novel at the turn of the XIX century, in the work of writers like Henry

Johnes and Edith Wharton, who are almost exclusively concerned with the rich or the aspiring middle classes. Novels

had a sort of documentary function.

After World War II novels ceased to be this way and the glamour of the upper class lowered, while the importance and

number of the middle class rose. The old kind of class novel is still being written, but more often novels these days

take place in neighbourhoods that could be almost anyplace. There everyone fits in, but nobody feels really at home.

Novel reading is a middle-class pastime, which is another reason that novels have so often focused on the middle and

upper classes. Mass entertainment is another matter: during the Depression most movies were based on formulaic

fantasies in which a member of the upper class fell in love with a working girl/boy, by whom he/she was saved from a

stiff and emotionally vacant existence (ex. “Pretty Woman”).

Although the formula persisted, television has turned its attention elsewhere and the new heroes are doctors, cops and

lawyers. The old curiosity about how other people live is in reality television. This kind of television is based on the

old game-show formula: the fantasy that you can be plucked out of ordinary life and immediately vested with celebrity,

which has become a sort of super-class that renders all the old categories irrelevant. Celebrities have taken the place of

the aristocracy.

Chapter 2

The political System – a classless Society?

Background Information

The United States is a democracy, and all the power rests ultimately with the people, but no one can violate the

amendments of the Constitution, written about 200 years ago; the Constitution also divides the political powers of the

country, to avoid giving too much power in the hands of few. For this reason, powers are separated among different

branches of government, and the US. has been called “federal democracy”. Federalism allows the single states to decide

its own laws for school, marriage, criminality, for example, but they can’t declare war, trade with foreign nations, coin

money and so on, because the last one are tasks for the national government.

The political power is divided into three branches: legislative, executive, juridical; the legislative branch makes laws,

and it’s formed by two organs: the House of Representatives and the Senate, that together form the Congress. Members

of the House are elected by the districts of the states, so the more a state is populous, the higher number of

Representatives it will have, while the Senators are always two for each state. A bill (disegno di legge), to become a

law, must be proposed and checked by both organs, and only after a compromise can be signed by the President.

The President is the chief of the executive branch, and has got many powers, like the possibility to choose the

Secretaries that form his cabinet, or to look after international relationships and to be chief of armed forces. The vice-

president, instead, presides the Senate and must take the place of the President if this one dies or is dismissed.

The judicial branch is divided into federal courts for every states, headed by the Supreme Court, and this branch must

check that nor the Congress or the President’s actions violate the Constitution; the politics of the Us is a so-called

“system of check and balances”, where every organ has the function to watch over the others in a crossed way: all the

organs must have, with this system, the same power.

Class in America: shadowy Lines that still divide

There was a time when America was clearly divided into three classes, the upper, the middle and the lower one, but

now the borders among these are blurring or, someone says, disappearing. The reality is that new generations are

moving along the economic ladder, so almost anyone can go up or down with its own work, mind and abilities, so

richness is not just inherited (as 37 of the 400 richest Americans), but is mostly self-made. The author still speaks

about “classes” just because it’s easier, for a wealthy family, to let their sons study, because studies are the basis, onto

one can build his own future: this is a paradox of the so-called “American meritocracy”.

Faith in the System

Most of the American people seem to like and trust this “rising classes” system, and the majority of the interviewed in

a New York Times poll declared that they had moved from a lower class to a higher one. Not everyone thinks that this

system is fair, but America seems to be still the “Land of Opportunities”, even if times are harder for people, especially

for the high taxes that they must pay.

The Attributes of Class

What does really “class” mean? Different people means different definitions: Marx, who first gave a definition of this,

th

divided the 19 -century society in two big classes; Later Weber added some more, because the society was in

evolution, and in the present time, sociologists do not agree whether classes have still sense ore not. A few scholars

say that the differences are so diverse, that the concept of class must cease to exist, because the “economical ladder” has

now so many rungs that it’s impossible to put people together in a bigger whole. Most of the researchers disagree with

this hypothesis: as this is a time of great inequality, says Michael Hout, it’s naïve and ironic not to distinguish among

classes. American themselves recognise the class differences, and in interviews most of them declare that they were able

to jump up oh the economical ladder, rather than falling down to their knees.

The American Ideal

Benjamin Franklin has always been taken as an example of American social mobility, because he was one of the 17

children of a candle maker, and earned his notoriety and money just thanks to his studies. But scholars do not always

agree on how the born status influences the future of an American: some time ago it was said that classes didn’t matter,

but how could differences been so high, then? Economists say that initial studies were false, because there no common

pattern on which everyone can study has been selected: the data on rising and falling between generation are not and

probably won’t be conclusive for years.

The only thing that seems to have support from a whole part of researchers and politician is the optimal range of

mobility, which says that everyone must have the possibility to go upwards in the mobility ladder, so this can be also

an incentive for parents to grow up their children as good as they can.

One recent study has found out that mobility in the US is not as high as in some countries of Europe, even if it’s hard

to believe: the countries in Europe (Canada too) have less inequality, so it’s easier to jump up on the ladder, while in

America an already-existing economic pattern, on which one can invest, is almost a must-have to access privileges a

poor one can not.

Blurring the Landscape

Now it’s really hard to distinguish the class of a person by his possessions: factories and brands are now opened to a

“poorer” branch, they propose their products to low-income people, too, so now what a symbol of high life was, has

become common. Nor it’s easier to distinguish the class of someone by looking and its vote or its religion: it’s no

more controlled by tradition but by economics; race is again no more a distinguishing tract too, Afro-Americans are

now blurred everywhere in the economical panorama, as well as Mormons or Jews are making it into the Senate, for

example.

From where comes inequality then? It come out from the disappearance of many jobs, who were stepping stone of the

middle class, and the movement of the big factories in developing countries: in a situation like this, skill and

education are now necessary to have a shot at the upper heaven; to avoid the actual trend, which shows a lack of lower-

class people with a diploma, the colleges are adopting programs to let even low-income families to make their

offspring study, in order not to lose talents and to avoid alienation and the consequent unhappiness.

Classes play still an important role in health, because the upper-middle-class seems to live more that the lower ones,

and in the family structure: richer people are more likely to marry and have children later that poorer ones, when their

high position let them to give their heirs everything they could need; a poll even showed that in upper-classes, the

parents tend to work more hours just to give the best to their children, and not to achieve a peaceful old age.

A Rags-to-Riches Faith

This paragraph says that, after all, American still have faith in this system, the famous “American dream”, because they

notice that they actually have more, then their parents had. On the other hand they seem to can’t stand the idea of fixed

classes, because it doesn’t depend from themselves, but from external factors. They can’t suffer to see themselves stuck.

Chapter 3

REGIONALISM VS. AMERICANIZATION

The United States is a wide country: to get from New York to San Francisco one must travel almost 5,000 kilometres.

Between the coasts there are forested, mountains, fertile plains, arid deserts, canyon lands. Much of the land is

uninhabited; the population is concentrated in the Northeast, in the South, around the Great Lakes, on the pacific coast,

and in metropolitan areas.

People within a region share common values and economic concerns.

The Northeast

The Northeast has traditionally been in control of the nation’s economic and social progress.

During the last two centuries Northeast has produced most of the writers, artist and scholars.

New England’s colleges and universities are known all over the country for their high academic standards. Harvard is

considered the best business school in the nation

After the Second World War the economic and cultural dominance of New England has gradually decreased. Business

and industries have been moving to warmer climates in the South and West.

The South

The South was originally settled by English Protestants who came for profitable farming opportunities. Some farmers,

capitalising on tobacco and cotton crops, became quite wealthy. African slaves were bought and sold as property.

Even after the North began to industrialize, after 1800, the South remained agricultural. Economic and political

tensions began to divide the nation and eventually led to the Civil War (1861-65). Most Northerners opposed slavery.

With the South’s surrender in 1865, Southerners were forced to accept many changes. During the post-war period of

reconstruction blacks were given a voice in Southern government.

Southerners are more conservative, more religious, and more violent than the rest of the country. Even today,

Southerners tend to have higher illiteracy rates than people from other regions.

Even their way of talking is different from other regions: the speech tends to be much slower and more musical. The

Southern dialect uses more diphthongs: a one-syllable word such as yes is spoken in the South as two syllables, ya-es.

The South is also known for its music. In the time of slavery, black Americans created a new folk music, the Negro

spiritual. Later forms of black music are blues and jazz.

The West

Most of the Mountain West is arid wilderness, but California has some of the richest farmland in the country, and

(along with Oregon and Washington) does not share the rest of the West’s worry about the scarcity of water.

The Pacific coast is densely populated and highly industrial.

The rest of the West is marked by cultural diversity. Utah has little in common with Arizona and New Mexico.

Westerners are bureaucrats. They feel alienated by government policies which fail to address the vital interests unique to

their region. Western states troubles with water scarcity. Particularly painful to Westerners is their lack of control over

Western land and resources. The federal government owns vast portions of land in many Western states. Westerners like

to think of themselves as independent, but they feel they cannot control their own destiny.

Western life is dominated by resources. Although water is scarce in Mountain West, the region is rich in uranium, coal,

crude oil.

The Midwest

The land is characterized by fertile farmland and abundant resources.

Class divisions are felt less strongly here than in other regions; the middle class rules.

The Midwest’s position in the middle of the continent has encouraged Midwesterners to direct their concerns to their

own domestic affairs, avoiding matters of wider interest. However, now that American agriculture has become

dependent on insecure foreign markets, farmers are no longer isolationist.

The Midwest is known as a region of small towns and huge tracts of farmland. Dominating the region’s commerce and


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DESCRIZIONE APPUNTO

Appunti di Inglese riguardanti nozioni generali. Nello specifico gli argomenti trattati sono i seguenti: the making of a nation, old immigration, illegal immigration, put out no flags by Matthew Rothschild,report describes immigrants as younger and more diverse by John Files, biting more than they can chew, social security: migrants offer numbers for fee.


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Corso di laurea: Corso di laurea in lingue e letterature straniere
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Università: Milano - Unimi
A.A.: 2010-2011

I contenuti di questa pagina costituiscono rielaborazioni personali del Publisher luca d. di informazioni apprese con la frequenza delle lezioni di Letteratura inglese e studio autonomo di eventuali libri di riferimento in preparazione dell'esame finale o della tesi. Non devono intendersi come materiale ufficiale dell'università Milano - Unimi o del prof Scienze letterarie Prof.

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