Natal homing

The salmon, up here in the Canadas, as elsewhere, are apparently acquainted with the old Russian proverb, that “a man can do the most good where he was born.” Whether these salmon in fact think that they are men, like the sheep in New Zealand, is a side issue. Truth to tell, I never interviewed a salmon, in half a century of hack journalism, including the last decade or so of being a cancelled one — when gentle reader might think I’d have more leisure to widen my contacts. Indeed, in the only tête-à-têtes I can recall, the salmon were not in a position to reply.

But the homing instinct is not confined to them. A quick check in the Wicked Paedia reveals that “natal philopatry” is a thing. As usual, they display their tedious Darwinist assumptions, which they imagine to be buttressed by geomagnetic imprinting, chemical and olfactory cues, &c. We are slapped in the face by sea turtles, and Atlantic Puffins.

Granted, I am also tedious on this subject, but I giggle every time an unnecessary Darwinist assumption is dangled. This means that I am laughing a lot. The point is, most creatures, including cats, dogs, and migratory avians, reach a point in their wanderings when they want to go home. And, it turns out, most of them know the way.

I’ve never interviewed a Bluefin Tuna, either, but I celebrate their native conservatism — which some might confuse with racism. Those from eastern or western shores mix freely in the mid-Atlantic, and yet they know to which side they should return, as they grow and mature and want to start a family. “There is a chemical imprint in the animal’s otoliths,” it says here; and while a certain number find their way into trawlers, instead, only a tiny proportion make mistakes in the state of nature.

Recently, among my human friends, I have lost several old companions to natal philopatry. Why, just since the Batflu, I have lost one couple to Moravia, and another to southern Sweden, who had long been refugees from there. All observe, that there is now more socialism on this side of the Atlantic, than on that side, or it’s all much of a muchness. They might as well go back to where their language is understood and, quite frankly, the food is better. Enough of this refugee rubbish.

I can’t blame them, although I’m entitled to miss them. Well, in a few decades they’d be dead anyway, and maybe even before then, I will be; so everyone “goes home” eventually.

But sticking, rigidly, to the world of the biologically mobile, I think that Russian proverb is sound. Our notions of “multiculturalism” (more accurately, de-culturalism) have advanced, so that all the welfare states have become, in effect, refugee camps, and the inmates keep moving from one camp to another. As a Pakistani acquaintance once informed me, “Canada is a country of excellent facilities” — arguably better in this respect than his native Pakistan — and so he decided this is the place to be. But he still pines for home.

Once upon a time, when I was wandering in the East, to a place where I was employing foreign-educated smart young things, this topic often came up. Most observed that facilities were better elsewhere, and thought “elsewhere” would be an easier place to get rich. They hadn’t yet considered the consequences, not only to them but to the people they were abandoning. Perhaps, if they thought facilities were good things to have, they should attend to improving them where they were born. Perhaps even make them more attractive and humane, than the post-attractive and post-humane facilities in the West.

This was an heretical thought, “against progress,” even then: forty years ago and ten thousand miles away. It was hard to argue, for what was I doing there? (“Travelling.”) I noticed, however, that the stay-at-homes were the wiser, in my demographic samples, and likely the happier. Too, probably the more usefully productive. (We need a category for “uselessly productive,” that I’d be happy to supply.)

Is it best to be a heretic against progress, where one was born? I’m with the Russkies, on this.