I spend time in Europe for professional reasons. Some of my founders are unable to reach the United States as our visa program has become untenable. So I spend time in places founders can reach me. Trade crossed all borders.
Just in the last two, I’ve had Nigerian, Indian, Albanian, and Russian Jewish founders years find themselves unable to secure visas to visit America, not even for professional conferences or tourism. It is much worse with HB1 or O1 visas. You may not think this problem doesn’t affect you, or may even benefit you, but can I assure you one day it will affect you negatively. American industry was built by immigrants.
At first I thought I could simply work around America’s travel restrictions. Capitalism will overcome the inequalities our states have wrongly thrown up to divide us.
But I am learning that climate change and failures in sustainable energy policy is making it much harder to travel with a disability or chronic medical condition. Heat is a strain some bodies can’t take. And mine is one of those bodies. Migraine sufferers are too. So are the elderly. It’s quite common.
Last year I briefly did that American thing where we pretend we the Mediterranean lifestyle is aspirational by spending two weeks on the Ioan Sea. Utter disaster. I am not calling White Lotus a liar, but I couldn’t possibly imagine how hell could be worse than a heatwave in Sicily in July.
Watching the Germans treat air conditioning use like some sort of criminal shameful behavior was a vivid reminder that society always chooses who we hurt first. A policy that is for the common good may find uncommon hurt delivered to those we didn’t consider. It’s not deliberate but it may as well be.
If you paid attention during the pandemic you probably learned a lot about how we treat the sick and weak. Now imagine yourself as an one of them. It’s almost enough to make you consider becoming a reader of Rawls.
The end result for me is that I don’t believe I’ll be traveling to Europe except in the winters going forward. I can’t risk the lost days of productivity to something stupid like a default hotel setting for 72 degrees. I feel a bit robbed by this. Grief even that even late May is too risky to be on the road.
It’s a small thing to have your travel be restricted in a world of bigger sorrows, but the feeling of having your opportunities narrowed hurts. I’m sad because a utilitarian neoliberal wonk decided that most people would be perfectly comfortable with slightly warmer rooms. The finance teams at the hotels agreed. It’s not so bad. It doesn’t bother them. I wonder what other decisions won’t bother them. And whether they will hurt me unintentionally.