Saturday, February 19, 2011

Ok so I forgot to post

Yesterday was a day of writing and turning 3 more young roosters into food as fast as possible. The first time we did this it took us 3 hours for 5 chickens... I did yesterday's alone (trying to get back to work in a hurry) 3 in 45 minutes. So practice does help. It also marked the day when I first got heated about something in Australian politics. The ALP seems to believe that multiculturalism is good thing for Australia. I believe that the Australian culture of tolerance, letting people have a go, stepping in to help them with learning a strange environment are good for Australia. That's a culture in itself, one that has served us, as new migrants, well. One I'd like to imitate and learn to do my turn. The trouble as I see it is that ALP grandees failed to look at what makes a migrant migrate. The answer in almost cases is that they are unhappy with the Socio-political system - or the products thereof (economic situations are a product of the Socio-political situation, not of geology or the weather. Those can help, but as potentially super - wealthy countries like Zimbabwe and Iran prove, aren't enough in themselves).

It makes no sense, whatsoever to run away from a failed (for the migrant) Socio-political system to one which you percieve as better (or producing better outcomes, because its socio-political system is better) and dragging the baggage of your old system along with you. It makes no sense for me having come from a culturally divided country, where racial discrimination is a norm, and where there are 11 official languages and precious little national unity or common ground, riven with crime and xenophobia, to come and try make a little South Africa here. Yes, until I die will remember good people and lovely places in South Africa. I'll miss those. But I am meeting and making good friends with people here, and learning from them. If they pick something up from me, great. But that isn't the point of the excercise. It's the other way around. I'm here in their country to learn from them. To integrate into the Island and thereby Tassie, and thereby Australia. To immigrate means de facto to accept changes. It's a lot easier if you embrace changes. If I wanted it just like 'ome - I would have stayed there. And if I wanted to rebuild into a historical 'home' - I should remember that history repeats for those who don't learn the first time.


  1. Definition of terms may be part of the issue here. Pre-multiculturalism the Australian attitude to migrants was to pretty much expect them to assimilate - bugger giving thm a hand to deal with a strange place, or thinking they might have something to offer. They should learn English, eat proper food and generally just fit in.

    I don't think the point of multi-culturalism is to encourage people to try and re-create their own homelands in Australia. I always understood that it was intended to allow migrants to acknowledge their origins and yet be accepted as first class citizens. To make Australia something more than an Anglo-Celtic nation that someone had carelessly dropped on the edge of Asia.

    For us native-born Australians it's supposed to make people with odd accents and strange dietary habits less frightening. I'm young enough not to have experienced the White Australia Policy, but old enough to remember a time when you couldn't find a cafe with outdoor tables, most "Chinese" restaurants would have chicken and chips on the menu, and Greeks and Italians were considered "wogs".

    I'm all in favour of people leaving old arguments behind in the old countries[0], and I expect tolerance and acceptance to be reciprocated, but I much prefer multi-culturalism to putting up barriers and expecting everyone who arrives to pretend to be just like all of us who were already here.

    Apart from anything else the food is much better nowadays :-)

    [0]Your point about not recreating societies/situations that failed to the point that people were prepared to get away from them was amply illustrated by any number of my Serbian and Croatian acquaintances in high school. Thankfully their kids seem to be mostly over it all now.

  2. Hmm. Neill, as you say we may be talking about interpretation of terms here. I think the key would be ask the people who needs must be most affected by Australia calling itself 'multicultural'understand by it. ie what it means to potential immigrants.
    Q:What does multicultural Australia mean to you?
    A:(from most) 'I can have my culture there'
    Q: "So do you think this means your whole culture or just the window-dressing - food, unusual clothes, different festivals.
    A: The whole culture of course. Lock, stock and barrel, my own language, school, church/mosque our way of doing things etc. No one may stop us! And I hear we get money to help with it!
    Q:You come from South Africa. Your last President said that asking men to stick to one partner or use a condom if having multiple partners to stop the spread of HIV was racist cultural imperialism.
    A: That is my culture...he is actually correct for a polygmous society, where a pregnant woman is more valable because you know she is fertile.

    Q:You come from Uganda. Your president and church leaders have said in African culture there are no gay people. Anyone who is gay can be(and are) beaten to death.

    Q:You come from Somalia. Genital mutilation of young women is a cultural norm which happens to nearly all girl-children. Are you entitled to bring this aspect of your culture into a multi-cult society?

    Q:You come from Saudi Arabia, in your culture it is not permitted that a woman drive or go out without her husband or a male relative as an escort. Is is Okay to bring this culture to Australia?

    And that's just the start... Most of the world from the US to Balucistan has cultural practices which range from offensive bad(spitting for eg) to illegal (arranged marriages and genital mutilation)in Oz.

    I certainly don't support a dictactorial monoculture: but a willingness to fit in IS important. I think the answer should be that we will welcome the window dressing of your culture, and tolerate the rest provided it is not overtly cruel, and no respect breaks any of our laws. Even if you skirt the letter of law (send your child to Somalia to get mutilated or Pakistan to get married) that is simply not tolerable.
    And you cannot expect other Australians to give up their ways to satisfy your cultural desires. That's monoculturalism by inversion...

  3. This is very much why I thought we had different definitions of multiculturalism.

    I absolutely agree that there are cultural practices that have no place in Australia. I don't believe that the ALP have ever advocated tolerating practices that would be illegal under Australian law. If migrants break Australian laws that should suffer the appropriate consequences.

    Tolerance does imply that putting up with things we don't like/aren't comfortable with. Like free speech (something we technically don't have a guarantee of in Australia) there's no need for tolerance if we all agree. But it absolutely must have limits. Anything that cause significant harm to others should not be tolerated.

    I do agree that being prepared to fit in is important, else why chose to live here? At the same time, fitting in doesn't mean we all need to be exactly the same.

    I don't expect Australians to give up our ways, I want us to live up to them. My favourite Australian customs/traditions/values are the fair go, mateship and egalitarianism.

    This would be a great conversation to have over a beer - I'm finding getting my thoughts down in a blog comment to be a real challenge :-)

  4. Yeah - my problem is I think very few _migrants_ DON'T see it as 'we can bring it all, regardless' and therefore as licence and basically 'our culture trumps yours' which is a long way from what Canberra might be trying to say. Maybe Aussie born people understood them (and I don't disagree with what you're saying) but that's not what migrants and potential migrants understand by it. Anyway, over a beer someday :-) And I actually think YOUR list are cultural items Migrants NEED to learn and be prepared to adopt wholeheartedly.

  5. As a resident of Canberra, may I just mention that we're not actually trying to say anything at all. The Federal Government, on the other hand......

    Apologies, but you just petted one of my oldest grumpiest peeves

  6. Fair point. The people of Pretoria used to have the same peeve. :-)