You. Yeah, yooou.
Ah FFS… Not You (you muppet). YOU.
Finally… what the hell does it take to make you people listen?
Right. All you people over there take a look at his guy.
Right. He, this slightly oily looking bloke, is not a New Zealander.
Right right, yell all the heck you want you’re just making dicks of yourselves and proving my point.
Real New Zealanders don’t make a fuss.
Yes Yes I know that’s “a little bit controversial” but if you can’t face facts then you’re also not a real New Zealander.
“If we’re not New Zealanders what are we!” you say?
Easy question.
You’re hired help.
Weeeelll you can whinge all you bloody like about me saying that, it’s a free country after all, and if don’t like it you can bloody piss off back to Kraplackystan or wherever the hell it is all you people come from.
Racist? Me? What? Look people I’m not saying that I don’t like you, just that you’re… you’re… well… not one of us.
Yes yes, enough of the bloody yelling, didn’t I already say that real New Zealanders don’t make a fuss? You’re just proving my point.
And! To prove it, look at that bloke.
No, him. Yes, him, the white bloke.
Jesus… bloody hard to get you excitable types to focus, ain’t it?
He’s not a New Zealander either.
Well, he speaks with a funny accent.
Maybe French or something.
And no I don’t know how the hell he got in here.
There’s still that boat incident, and don’t think we’ve forgotten the World Cup…
The commonsense fact of the matter is that if you speak funny you’re not really welcome here and you certainly are not, in point of fact, a New Zealander.
What about that white bird you say?
South African.
Doesn’t count.
No that isn’t a double standard and don’t start with all this bloody waving of the arms and demanding ‘something be done’, or ‘I can say things like that’ because I just did.
Hmmm… how in the hell did you get into my neighbourhood anyway?
No, no, nothing, never mind.
Look, if you aren’t really ready to accept the rules then maybe you shouldn’t have bothered coming here in the first place.
Well, we make the rules.
Me and everyone who’s like me.
Well, it doesn’t matter if we’re not a majority because we’re the ones who’re making the rules, and you’re some powerless hired help.
(At least until we deport you…)
Nothing! I said nothing.
Look, the simple fact of the matter is that New Zealander means what we want it to mean, and all you slightly yelly people fall outside the meaning.
OK, OK, maybe if one of your kids actually plays for the All Blacks or storms Monte Cassino or something we’ll reconsider…
Until then, well, quiet in the cheap seats.

The speciman who might be White Mans Last Great Hope

Kyle Chapman: The specimen who might be the Last Great Hope for the worlds white men (from Stuff)

With 100 Word Blog gone I thought I’d best take the baton on Kyle Chapman, darling of the right wing’s, latest idea.

The latest idea from this gifted thinker is a gated community somewhere in the South Island, for “like-minded Europeans”.

Now we can only imagine that Kyle has finally discovered the love in his roots, and has decided to resurrect those ideas lost by the Hippies in the 60s: Safe communities, where like-minded people can remove themselves from the greed and violence of modern society, to bring their children up with their loving ideas, and even sometimes, loving them themselves.

And what an idea! Troops of bald and jack-booted guys in camo, living together in a like-minded way. A social club where they can drink and share their ideas about what it means to be a white man, and maybe, become one. For this is what “unity” means, no?

And a large vegetable garden. Probably filled with a whole lot of cabbages.

An inevitably brought about by the increasing social and political strength of women since the end of the Second World War has been a decrease in the absolute power many men indulged in. Where once a mans word was the law in a household, or in the workplace, these days this is only the case among luddites like fundamentalist Christians.

What’s interested me for a while has been thinking through the role of masculinity in a our new, non-patriarchal society, and it’s thinking that that accelerated of late with the prospect of an addition to my family. So to give us a starting point, a favourite quote of mine has always been Germaine Greer, “the opposite of patriarchy is not matriarchy, but fraternity” (or at least, I that’s how I’ve always remembered it). What I’ve always liked about the statement is that it doesn’t suggest that the old power structure should be overturned (i.e., now women have exclusive power, and men are relegated to the shed, where a god deigned to grant them appropriate skills), but rather that the role of men within society needs to be re-imagined.

It’s appropriate at this point to state that I don’t consider that great Australian value ‘mateship’ to be the fraternity I’m talking about. Mateship is probably the most exclusive kind of fraternity you can imagine. It’s sexist, racist, and anti-intellectual. So when I say fraternity I mean it in a much more simple sense; family and brotherhood.

The first thing I can imagine an intellectual friend like Deborah stating at this point is, “but isn’t that still exclusive? Fraternity distinguishes itself from sorority by it’s very nature.” To which my answer would be, “well yes, but you say it like it’s a bad thing.”

From my long study of identity politics I noticed that one common mistake made by people is often to confuse equality and sameness. Being equal does not mean having exactly the same rights, and it does not mean have exactly the same obligations. The problem always crops up in arguments about multiculturalism, where rights given to a minority are interpreted to mean fewer rights on the part of the majority. But this is usually a perception issue. The right to speak a minority language in political life doesn’t take anything away from speakers of a majority language, if anything it expands the options available to majority individuals. Thing is, it’s really hard to get that across to some people.

And that, from my perspective, has been the problem with the decline of masculinity within our society (and possibly Western societies of our type). It seems to be regarded as a zero-sum game in which gains by women are at the expense of men. Now in some cases that would appear to be the truth. If more women are in executive positions in corporations, there will be less men. But women in these roles doesn’t weaken masculinity, it weakens patriarchy. And frankly, good. Patriarchy held back men as much as it held back women. 

My opinion is that there is too much confusion of patriarchy and masculinity. Being a man doesn’t necessarily need to mean that you exercise political power, or that you have a right to exercise that power and women cannot share it. Being a man does however mean that you have a right to exercise masculinity, or put another way, you have the right to represent masculinity.

But let’s segue out for a second and state for the record, that beer-swilling, date-raping football players aren’t masculine. They’re dickheads. It’s probably also a good time to state that classic William Gibson quote, “the future is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed.”

A lot of men haven’t caught up with the C20th yet, meaning their idea of masculinity is confused, and in transition.

As I say, being a man doesn’t mean you have to be “the Man”. Exercising the essence of masculinity isn’t a power trip, it’s a way of being. And it’s a way that should find its complement in femininity, and it should be strengthened through fraternity and family. With the decline of patriarchy what men seem to have missed out on is some way to reassert the worth and validity of masculinity, and cultural norms mean we don’t talk it through. Which on average might not be an entirely bad thing. American willingness to talk about everything, all the freaking time, is at best annoying…

I’m running out of words, so I’ll continue this conversation in comments and in another post. But the idea of rescuing masculinity, and restating what it is to be a real man, is something we al need to think about. Men who feel self-worth are better men, and men who know their role in society and the family should be less prone to confusions, and more accepting of their strong feminine counterparts.

“Are you gunna go with my Gran?”

Jesus kid, you’re breaking my heart here. You don’t even know who I am, but you’re looking at me like I’m the same old same old, aren’t ya?

You’re breaking my heart.

There was a time once when I thought well of people, you know? When I thought that good intentions would overwhelm all the evil shit that happens to people like yourself. A time when I thought that someone like me might actually make a difference. So to respect that younger, foolish me, I’ll answer your question.

Am I gunna go with your Gran? Well, let’s look at this reasonably. Let’s ignore that your Gran is well, a gran. Let’s ignore that she’s probably 50 but looks 70. Let’s ignore that’s she’s lost most of her teeth, and she’s pissed at 11.30am, on a Saturday. And let’s face it, she’s a bit worse for wear. Even ignoring all these things, the answer is still, undoubtably, no.

Now this isn’t to say that no-one I know wouldn’t go with your Gran. Because your question, asked by you who is obviously no older than 7, reveals two interesting things. First, people going with your Gran isn’t outside the boundaries of your everyday reckoning. Second, blokes who look like me are obviously the type of bloke who do drive up that long out-of-the-way road to go with women who live up here.

So Gran, you’re breaking my heart.

Why I’m here is something I undertook even before you were born. Your sister here might have been perhaps two or three years old when I first same here to speak with your family, and the people who live round here. And she’s giving me this look like, “if not my Gran, then who?”, and I’m looking at her like, “love, if you were a boy, you’d barely be shaving.”

So the three of you, you’re breaking my heart.

But here I am, all the same, a bloke who’s seeing something he’s seen before, when he came up here the last time, acted out all over again. And the sadness it laid on me then was burnt out in the kitchens of the big city while I slaved to finish this, a book I brought up here to give back to your people. And you look at me with the eagerness of a group of people somehow conditioned into thinking that blokes like me come up here for one real reason, to lay with a woman old enough to have birthed me, and or a girl still with the flush of innocence on her cheeks.

And you’re breaking my heart, again, while I stand with book in hand, trying to fulfill a promise, one I made long ago to people who aren’t even living here anymore. A promise that’s dug into my conscience for three years now, while I grow fat and content off the Degree I made out of knowledge I took from here. And I know that once I ditch this copy I’ll get back into that rented car and drive that 4 hours back into the big city to a cushy hotel room and sleep comfortably while out here the cycles we all hear about, and all hear about needing to be broken, are repeated endlessly.

And it’s not guilt that twangs on my heart-strings, it’s anger. Anger that’s breaking my heart because I know that years of work amount to nothing out here in the wilds. A place where 7 year-old Aboriginal boys find it usual that blokes are coming up here to treat their women like a convenience. A place where all my work amounts to nothing but an avenue for a bloke to take a step ahead, while you take the step backwards. A place where the word ‘sorry’ is a meaningless nothing spoken by well-meaning liberals.

So I’m looking at your sister, and I can see the intelligence in her eyes, and I pleading with her, gently, to read it. Just read these pages… Please. Not the whole thing I’m saying, just this bit here, because this is your history. The history of this place that’s been scattered to the winds over the years because blokes like me can’t see any worth in writing it down. A history that makes blokes like me get fat off the proceeds of books and talking tours while up here you have a life like your Gran’s to look forward to. Abuse. Alcoholism.

So I’m looking in her eyes and I know that once I leave that that big ugly dog in the corner will eat this book, and I’m trying to hide my desperation, because I know that education and knowledge is the way out, and I know that this thing making the difference to just one person would make all those years worthwhile. 

But you’re breaking my heart, because I know, in the end, it’s futile. Blokes like me never make a difference. We take what we need, the way we always have. And people like you three keep living on these mission stations, the remnants of a once proud people destroyed under the genocidal policies of the blokes who now come up here, for fun.

And the anger, it will always break my heart. But I tried. And I cared. Which is something I need never regret.

(PS. Cross-posted over at Public Address)

Way back in late 1998 and until 2000 there was a show on the ABC in Australia called The Games. I’m sure many of you have seen it. It was pretty funny stuff, a mockumentary about the Australian Olympic Committee trying to get the event ready for the whole world. If you can find it on DVD it’s funny to this day.

The episode I enjoyed the most though was the one where they had John Howard apologising to the Aboriginal people for the dispossession and the cost to their lives, and oft-times the cost of their lives, in the establishment of the Australian nation. Back then it was damn funny stuff, especially because it wasn’t John Winston Howard former Prime Minister they had doing the apology, but John Howard the well-known actor. The reasoning was that no-one overseas knows what John Winston Howard looks like.

Here’s the clip if you haven’t seen it.

My favourite bit is all the people jumping up and down celebrating the apology.

What I remember thinking at the time was that the jumping up and down was about as likely as Howard giving the real apology to the Stolen Generation. And I’m very glad to be proven wrong. In fact, exceedingly glad.

One of the things I did a lot of when I was in Melbourne was to spend time talking to Aboriginal people about how they saw their treatment at the hands of Australian nationals. There was a kind of resignation among people that I spoke to that Howard’s refusal to acknowledge the injustice of the Stolen Generations was something that was shared by “heaps” of ordinary Australians. Now to an extent that is true, many Australians simply could not see why an apology was necessary. They didn’t see themselves as persecuting Aboriginal people, and didn’t think that some “historical” was relevant to contemporary Aboriginals.

The first thing to note is that the Stolen Generations is not an historical event. Many children forcibly removed under eugenicist policies are still alive today. Kim Beazley, former leader of the Labor Party, appeared on another TV show called The Panel and stated that he remembers having these children pass through his home when he was a child. These are modern tragedies, not the product of some far-flung colonial past.

The next thing to note is that this apology is all about the symbolism. While Howard refused to apologise the refusal was deeply felt by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. They saw the refusal as an indication of their unimportance to the Australian Government. Their tragedy was something that did not warrant attention being paid to it. Worse, Howard’s refusal was based on the chance that compensation might have to be paid to the individuals removed. Money was more important to Howard than acknowledging that the Stolen Generations never should have happened.

But, this is the same man who pledged billions in pork-barrel guarantees if the Liberals carried the 2007 election.

The symbolism of what Rudd said today in stating that the Stolen Generations should never have happened, and especially that it will never happen again, cannot be over-estimated. And what today heralds is a chance for all those Aboriginal people who have for so long seen themselves as outside the nation, to not be ‘real’ Australians, to be be brought into the fold. It’s a chance for the leadership of Australia to exercise that leadership and improve the treatment of Aboriginal people. These aren’t simply a bunch of natives who need to be disciplined and taught how to behave like the mainstream, they’re a people with an ancient and rich history who can contribute to the development of the nation itself, if only they’re recognised as something more than the bottom end of the welfare train.

Here’s something I used to say to explain what it must have been like to be Aboriginal. Let’s say that every day from now on I’m going to tell you you’re shit, every time I see you. At first you’ll tell me to get stuffed. But after a week you’ll start to doubt yourself. After a few months you’ll start to believe it. After a year you’ll know it. Aboriginal people have had 200 years of being told.

Finally, after a decade of stone-walling, a practical apology, and actual reconciliation can take place. And I for one am bloody glad to see it happening, at last.

Well, at the risk of putting te ngeru among nga kereru, there’s something I’ve been wondering about ever since the kerfuffle earlier this year over naming and identity.

The way I remember it, Hannah Ho started up a fairly substantial debate around the application of the label “white” to majority New Zealanders. This debate was mostly held over at a conference website, here.

I’m not much interested in getting back into that debate. Pretty much everything that could be said was, and it all started to get kind of circular.

I’ve been thinking about the motivations for the argumentation that occurred though, and something very interesting popped up. In a nutshell, the issue was the application of the title “white”. While it’s obvious that the majority of New Zealanders are racially Caucasian, what’s not always accepted is that with that race comes “white culture”. It’s only natural. And why? Because most New Zealanders don’t seem to see themselves as a distinct racial group. The identity splinters into country, nationality and culture of origin. Consequently, the label “white” ends up as a kind of catch-all for everyone who doesn’t belong to a racial, religious or ethnic minority. In other words, a simplification, or stereotype.

And that lead me to another thought. Why do majority New Zealanders so dislike being tarred with the “white” brush?

For one, they don’t like the suggestion that they’re “oppressors”, or “the man”. This is actually perfectly natural, and the sort of response you’d get from any majority who was labeled with a slightly derogatory term.

More interesting though is the issue of naming, and who gets to name groups. One of the things that define majorities is that they get to say what things are. They name places, events, festivals and the like. They define the national languages, and the national symbols. Again, this is normal, and global.

I’m coming to the opinion that this could be the underlying reason so many people react against the type of thing Hannah has tried to do. Although it was not her intention, Hannah has stepped into the majority, but as a self-identifying minority member, and named the group. Result? People freaked.

And why? First we need to disregard that “white” in the way Hannah was using it is commonly perceived as a derogatory label, as in “whitey”.

What is more important probably runs closer to the title of Tze Ming’s blog. Their is a long-standing concern about the yellow peril, one manifested in the success of xenophobic politicians at becoming re-elected term after term.

The fact of the matter is that naming places and people is also what colonisers do, and the collective memory of colonialism is still very close to the surface in New Zealand. I would hazard a guess that New Zealanders would be unhappy with any label they did not chose themselves, and to reflect their own view of themselves.

OK, I’m afraid of losing you on the first couple of lines, so I’ll say this really quickly and move on: ‘I wrote my PhD on theories of nationalism.’
Now, in the world outside of academia nationalism has a pretty bad reputation. This is almost entirely because people automatically associate nationalism with racism, jingoism, militarism and other poor behaviour. But nothing could be farther from the truth. Nationalism is often adopted by the jingoistic or the racist, but in practice it is just the everyday process of identifying with your fellow citizens.

The Arts and Letters Daily provided a link to an interesting article yesterday, one picked up by Deborah over at In A Strange Land.

It’s a compelling article. The author discusses the work of a social scientist called Robert Putnam. Putnam has been studying the impact of ethnic diversity in American cities for a decade and has produced some interesting findings. Without having read the original article (and relying on the Boston Globe story), Putnam has demonstrated that trust and civic engagement is lowered in diverse communities.

What this result means is that people are less likely to mix with their neighbours, even ethnically similar neighbours, and less likely to participate in political, social or cultural life, when diversity is high.

A very big finding. One that potentially undermines the arguments posed in favour of multiculturalism. For example, if introducing people into communities has a negative effect on democratic interaction, then why encourage immigration from ethnically distinct sources?

As you can imagine, the conservatives are having a field day.

What’s interesting about Putnams results though is that he’s demonstrating that old ideas about civil society are defunct in the modern world. Much like conservatives who haven’t caught up with the realities of metropolitan life, the ideal of the perfect civil society has simply had its day. Whereas once we could aspire to perfect social and political interaction in gleaming cities without poverty, disease or hunger, modern advances in communication, transport and economics have put all those ideals out the window.

But, what Putnam has not demonstrated is that civil society is under pressure from diversity. Instead, what Putnam has effectively demonstrated that civil society is an outmoded utopian dream in the face of modern social realities. It isn’t the issue of diversity that needs to be addressed. Unless some massive change occurs, such as the end of easy international travel, diversity is here to stay.

What needs to be addressed is our outmoded social and political institutions. Institutions that rely on homogeneity and uniformity to operate effectively. As I indicated in another post, our institutions were designed and constructed in during the Industrial Revolution, and are becoming increasingly irrelevant to a wired, globally mobile population. Blaming diversity for an unresponsive and defunct socio-political system is pointless, new systems need to be devised to accommodate the needs of diverse societies.

Fortunately, as Putnam has discovered, diverse societies, workplaces, teams and communities are hard-wired for innovation and higher productivity. Maybe the answers are in the communities themselves.

PS. I did some snooping around, and here’s the original Putnam article. I’ll read it over and maybe make another post based on it, and your comments.

Anjum Rahman was kind enough to send me a copy of her paper from the recent SPRE conference, and on reading it I was struck by how much things never really change for migrants.

I’ll qualify that statement by saying that my personal experience of migration is living in two countries where my only point of different was a distinct accent and a mild cultural genuflection (when in Rome, as they say). That said, while I studied in Australia I found myself having to canvass a lot of material on migrant assimilation, and mostly because of it’s central role in defining the race and culture of Australian citizenship.

My study of the migrant experience in Oz provided a couple of interesting lessons for me. The first is that regardless of the culture into which a migrant tries to fit, the experience tends to be very similar. This is of course dependent on the degree to which the migrant differs culturally, linguistically or religiously from the host society, but also on the degree of xenophobia exhibited by the host. Very generally though, alienation, social isolation and the like are ‘normal’.

The second, and more interesting thing the study revealed is that a benign policy environment is essential to the mitigation of this negative migrant experience. And strangely enough, though you wouldn’t believe it after Tampa, Australia has had such an environment.

Anjum’s paper discusses the experience of a woman called “Mei Lin”, who came to New Zealand in the 1960s with her husband. They settled and had a family, but without her familial support network began to to suffer mental health issues. I’m paraphrasing far too much, but essentially Mei Lin’s condition can be attributed to her experiences of social alienation and New Zealand xenophobia.

I’m not in any position to comment on improvements in settlement assistance for migrants in contemporary New Zealand, I simply don’t know anything about what’s happening here these days, but I can say that Mei Lin’s experience has been well documented in Australia among migrants there. And, especially in the time before the implementation of multicultural policies.

What Mei Lin’s experience demonstrates, as does the poor experiences of hundreds and thousands of migrant women in 50s and 60s Australia, is that difference does count. There is a tendency for host nations to assume that migrants can just “work hard” and “fit in”, but this expectation is actually quite unreasonable. Migrants can often want to fit in, but be prevented from doing so by “business and usual” alienating behaviour of the the host culture, let alone by the differences between their own culture and the host’s.

Or, put another way, any migration and settlement policy built on an assimilation and mono-cultural model simply does not work in the real world.

It’s a pity then that I missed Anjum’s paper at the SPRE conference. I’m sure their was plenty of subtle commentary in the presentation that doesn’t translate into written English!

Well, it’s been an interesting week of discussions about Islamic migrants. Actually… I’m not even sure that I should be using the term ‘Islamic migrants’ because it seems like most of these migrants are actually nationals of some particular variety who also happen to be Muslim. Would you say ‘Christian migrants’ when talking about Europeans? No. You wouldn’t. And why? Because you’d sound like a dick. (more…)


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