Tolerating intolerable nonsense

Following on from my previous piece on Harmony Day and the benefits of cultural diversity, it was a bit sad, and faintly pathetic, to see The Australian choose that very day to run a rather lame opinion piece trying to do a hatchet job on multiculturalism.

The article was by Queensland University law Professor James Allen and consisted of the tired old trick of putting up two definitions of multiculturalism, one purporting to be an old definition, which happens to be excessively narrow and benign:

the phenomenon of restaurants serving foods from across the world: food that was, on the whole, far better than the then bog standard Anglo-Saxon fare.

along with

novel dances, different music, unusual art, and so on.

and the other definition so extreme and broad that it is nothing but a caricature:

the spoken or unspoken proposition that no culture’s beliefs, practices or achievements are any better (or worse) than any other’s,


the feeling or sense (for it is rarely openly defended) that tolerance is always good, that there is no limit to what one should be tolerant of and prepared to defer to.

Prof Allen then sets about attacking the caricature, as though it had some connection to the real world.

We should strive to be tolerant of much in life. But not everything. It is not a good thing but a bad thing to tolerate the neo-Nazi thug, the child-murdering suicide bomber, the serial rapist, the fanatic who professes to have a pipeline to God and aims to kill those who disagree.

Of course the new multiculturalism never makes such absolutist support of tolerance explicit. To do so would reveal how absurd such a thorough-going refusal to pass judgment ultimately is. But that absolutism is nevertheless there, lurking quietly in the dark corners of this modern-day catechism.

So there you have it. No one ever says multiculturalism involves an absolutist notion of tolerance (apart from those who are verballing it as a means of attacking it), but despite the fact that its harshest critics accept that no one has ever said this, apparently it is none the less true, a belief “lurking quietly in the dark corners.”

And despite the fact that Professor Allen himself says no one ever says that multiculturalism involves an absolutist notion of tolerance, none the less “our schools treat some of this dogma as near gospel, to be force-fed to our children.” Those teachers must be very clever, teaching (let alone ‘force-feeding’) something to children without ever actually expressing it.

I hope Professor Allen requires better standards of proof than this when he is teaching law to his University students.

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  1. Mr. Bartlett,

    Discrimination against Catholics 50 years ago is no more evidence for the need of a “multiculturalism” policy than discrimination against pedophiles 50 years ago is evidence for a “pro-pedophile” policy in 2007. In fact, a “multicultural” policy that does not discriminate isn’t worthy of the name. I mean, if there isn’t some kind of discrimination then how do Australians know whether you are ushering in unique and beneficial culture and dismissing corrupt and corrosive culture?

    But alas, you do practice a “multiculturalism” policy that discriminates and it start with something like this… This post is awaiting moderation. Do you not like this piece of American culture via this particular writer? Are you suggesting that this discrimination against moi is evidence for the need of a “pro-thordaddy” policy? LOL!

  2. Sorry for the delay… blame Andrew.

    No you are right Muzz, they are NOT part of Australian culture. For one who seems to deny there is an Australian culture you certainly seem to know what it is not.

    Mind you some of your examples re National culture are a might dodgy.

    Sport is part of the Australian culture Muzz.
    I suggest the Senegalese learn English to be able to communicate to the wider community and not be isolated Muzz.
    I speak French and Italian as well as English… what’s your point?
    Eating is a world-wide phenomenon exhibited by humans.

    Let’s cut to the chase then eh…

    If someone migrates to Australia should they not become Australian? IE; speak and understand Australian English and adopt the Australian life, Australian culture?

    Or should they remain; Lebanese, Japanese, Senegalese, Brazilian, Scot, Pakistani.

    No one has ever expected a migrant to get amnesia and forget their heritage. My grandparents didn’t forget theirs, yet they became Australians and embraced its culture.

    What real benefits does Multiculti actually bring Muzz?
    I’ll want real examples too.
    BTW I won’t be able to reply for a while due to Andrews ridiculous limits.

    Oh and Muzz… in today’s Australia you can do all those things you mentioned without the need for a Multiculti policy.

  3. Thordaddy, It beggars belief that you can even begin to compare discrimination against Catholics (because of what they believe or in what family they were born) to paedophiles (a criminal action taken by individuals)?

    The very fact that you attempt this ghastly comparison makes me wonder if any of your arguments are worth reading any more.

  4. Donna [post 41]:
    Anti-Catholic discrimination was usually slightly more subtle with “Which schools did you go to?” rather than “What is your level of education?”

    Letters of Application which mentioned a convent school [=Catholic/parochial] got the same treatment back then as do similar job applications now from Postcodes 4076, 4305, 2560, 2770. etc., …. the applications went straight into the bin …. and word soon spread that applying to those specific firms was a waste of time and paper, regardless of the outstanding quality of the applicants.

    Andrew Bartlett:
    There are indeed definable national cultures and they do have many beneficial features but trying to set them in concrete, never to change, and forcing others to adhere to each and every aspect of them is counter-productive.

    One of the things that gave Pauline Hanson such an astounding number of votes was the overenthusiastic promotion of migrants’ homeland cultures AT THE SAME TIME AS the culture of native-born Australians was being denied, vehemently despised, belittled or pointedly ignored …. a sure-fire recipe for mischief and mayhem if ever there was one!

    Assimilation is now seen as Evil Incarnate but, for people like me, it was a two-way process rather than the over-simplistic imposition of the dominant culture and the extinction of all other cultures.

    [My wheelbarrow is empty and ready to take the torrent of abuse and hate, from all those do-badders, for daring to say such things]. ;-)

  5. Muzzmonster,

    I purposely used my example to show that discrimination, per se, DOES NOT leave one to conclude that a “multiculturalism” policy is needed as Mr. Bartlett had indicated.

    In fact, DISCRIMINATION is required for a “multicultural” policy to have ANY meaning. Is not discrimination AGAINST pedophiles a piece of cultural legacy that exists throughout virtually all Western cultures? Is this discrimination evidence for the need of a “multicultural” policy? I think not… And so why would discrimination against Catholics 50 years ago be evidence for a “multiculturalism” policy in 2007?

  6. You aint done toobadd for a doogooder Graham.

    I think your about right in #52, mainly becaue of a percpetion, whcih although might not have been a reality is alwasy more powerful than reality.

    I don’t nkow why people get excited about this – even the inuits have chnaged over time its what happens. Tribalsim, call it racsim if you like, is a universal value (see there is one) – over time and as generations chnage so the culture will change and some otehr form of human differnce will emerge as the next bogeyman – just get on with it.

    Althouhg I’ve alwasy been wary of left footers, ingrained in me at school.

  7. Geoff, I’m getting a very clear inference from your posts that you believe people in Australia should live in a manner that conforms to your idea of what is Australian culture and the Australian way of life.

    Why do you think it is necessary to micro-manage and nanny-state the activities of others?

    Your call to demonstrate the benefits of multiculturalism is a red herring. Multiculturalism is a liberal policy which says that, beyond the obligations imposed upon us by legislation, we are allowed to live in a manner of our choosing without being forced or oppressed into a lifestyle imposed by others, and certainly not a lifestyle dictated by government fiat.

    Multiculturalism is designed to protect us from busybodies who want to decide how we are allowed to behave beyond our basic legal obligations.

    That is the benefit of multiculturalism: Personal liberty.

    I’ve lived in multicultural Australia since I was six months old. I like to play bocce, occasionally do some tai-chi and yoga, speak passable Japanese and certainly enjoy sushi, try the occasional salsa (which nobody should be forced to witness), cook a mean Thai curry, and enjoy a Scotch whisky.

    I’ve never been to the footy, I don’t drive a Holden, I’m not much into meat pies and haven’t a pet kangaroo.

    And I’m buggered if I’ll change my lifestyle one jot to conform to yours or anybody else’s idea of what it is to be an Australian, mate.

  8. Here’s another one Andrew… excluding your comments that makes 3 I should be responding to.

    Yet 2 a day on any one topic??????????
    That can get really messy.

    “you believe people in Australia should live in a manner that conforms to your idea of what is Australian culture and the Australian way of life.”

    Well an Australian would live according to the Australian way of life and therefore it’s culture. Otherwise how do you claim to identify then as Australian? Oh that’s right there are no real Australians.

    If I choose to live as an Italian here in Australia, then I am for all intents and purposes an Italian. IF I choose to live as a japanese the same applies. Except perhaps that I wouldn’t be accepted in Japan as japanese due to my race.

    I hardly think a National culture is micro-management. Do you suppose speaking English is micro-management?

    “Your call to demonstrate the benefits of multiculturalism is a red herring. ”

    Well no it’s not and like many others you have FAILED to state even a single benefit.

    Apart from prisoners and Aborigines… Personal Liberty has always been available here .

    It’s good to see what you think of Australian culture. Are you so bigotted and narrow you think what you have stated about it? Personally I don’t suffer from the same cultural cringe you appear to.

    Mate? Well there’s a start eh.

  9. Yes Geoff. You can do all of those things in Australia. And I think anyone should be able to do so without being hassled.

    I’ve seen people abused for not speaking English on a train (as if I spoke Icelandic when I was in Iceland, Japanese when I was in Japan and Arabic when I was in Turkey). Migrants want to learn English so they can get ahead but when talking to others from their home country why use a language in which they cannot express themselves as well.

    More to the point, I don’t think doing any of those things makes one any less Australian. In the same way that I don’t feel any less Australian because I don’t like rugby league, the Bathurst 1000, nor do I eat meat and two veges every night.

    I think seeing how other people live and the influences they bring to our cuisine, our arts, our music and our literature enriches the world. It’s good to understand that people think and act differently; whether that’s people of another gender, age, place of birth and belief. It expands the mind and allows us to live better with our neighbours.

  10. I also think you’re broadly right Graham – multiculturalism is about recognising the valuable parts of all cultures, not about denigrating Anglo culture. I agree some perceived it as doing this, and the cultural cringe of a few decades ago may have enhanced this.

    It’s a bit like your description of assimilation – for many in the past era it was seen as a two way process, albeit a less conscious one than the policy of integration which lies at the heart of effective multiculturalism. But over time, assimilation has come to be perceived as being about the imposition of the dominant culture – which is not surprising, as it how Geoff and others promote it.

    In response to Geoff (#50), I can’t see what is proved by insisting things like ‘sport is part of Australian culture’. Many countries like sport, but many Australians don’t. Perhaps fortunately, I like many sports, but I know many Australian born people who don’t. So?

    And in response to Geoff’s desire to list the benefits of multiculturalism, here’s a few:
    – as evidenced by Thordaddy’s responses, multiculturalism has provided a recognition that discrimination on the grounds of religion, ethnicity or other nationality is undesirable;
    – it has given us a much more fully integrated society;
    – it has expanded and diversified our cultural experiences and practices;
    – it has expanded our intellectual base;
    – it has enabled us to get much greater diversity in our society and economy, and to gain more of the economy, cultural and social benefits from that diversity;
    – it has increased our business and social networks with many other nations;
    – in short, as Mercuris (#55) says, it is a liberal policy, and it brings with it many of the benefits of that philosophy – not the least of which is greater individual freedom

    We should also remember that an estimated 20 per cent of Australians also hold citizenship of (at least) one other country, which makes it rather hard to insist they must be either Australian OR something else

  11. Andrew Bartlett:
    Firstly. A personal aspect: given my own background, experiences, attitudes and deeds one would expect me to be a favorite with the multiculturalists …. but the exact opposite happened.

    My own life has been enriched so much by the contact I have had with people from other cultures and with very different backgrounds to my own. Nothing that any ever-righteous, deliberately-ignorant bigots, using their own version of “multiculturalism” as a cloak for their own viciousness, can ever take that away from me.

    Secondly. No job is perfect …. and in the next parliament, you might have to cope with having Pauline Hanson in the chamber, on commmittees and at social/ceremonial functions. Never mind. Eventually, you’ll be able to knock-off then head home to relax with your family and forget about your fellow Senators …. until you get back to work. [I don’t particularly like Pauline Hanson but I do respect how she managed to survive despite what some of her nasty enemies did to her].

  12. Graham Bell – thanks for your response at #46, and return apologies for my sluggardly reply.

    The feelings of alienation and disenfranchisement are common amongst voters throughout Australia, but the degree of disaffection does seem to be strongest in Qld. I don’t know why – perhaps it has something to do with the changes to the economy that affected the other states during the 80s & 90s, accompanied by the rise of new managerialism, finally reaching Brisbane c. 2000. Whatever the reason, it is of real concern: its an indication of an unhealthy democracy.

    re your comments on assimilation at #52. Unfortunately the actual experience of assimilation for many postwar migrants was very much a one-way process. All those stories of heart surgeons & professors being sent to Tasmania to push ore carts in tin mines are true – I’ve met a couple of them. Their descriptions of immigration officials of the time closely match your descriptions of Veteran Affairs officials in some of your posts on other threads. The more things change…

    Saw your #59 while writing this – I’m not sure who you are describing as ‘multiculturalists’. In any case, if you were really that much of a pariah, you would not be welcome over at LP. Yet you seem to fit in pretty well amongst those young-ish, left-ish, muliticultural inner city academic types.

  13. Geoff,: I did state a benefit of multiculuralism: Personal liberty. That’s what multiculturalism protects – the liberty of individuals to live how they please once they have fulfilled their basic legal obligations.

    You complacently declare that “personal liberty has always been available here”, yet you fail to understand that liberty requires eternal vigilance. Your totalitarian insistence that we all live according to “the Australian way of life” is a direct threat to the personal liberties that our ancestors fought and died to protect.

    And don’t verbal me. I have made no statement that is critical of Australian culture. I have stated my preferences of how I wish to live, and don’t you dare label me a bigot for choosing to live however I please. Not you or the government’s idea of culture can constrain us from living our lifestyle once we have fulfilled our basic legal obligations – that’s multiculturalism.

    A national culture, in the manner you propose, is micro-management – and has the potential to become totalitarian. You insist that we should all to behave in a manner consistent with your idea of “the Australian way of life”. How are you going to do that, Geoff? Are you going to hire some Stasi to stand on every street corner and arrest people who behave in an unapproved fashion? What are you going to do with the people who don’t wish to live by your prescriptions? Deport them? Shoot them? Re-educate them in a labor camp? National culture building is a very strong industry in Iran, North Korea and Maoist China.

    And I’m delighted you brought up the issue of English-speaking. Since I’m trained as an ESL teacher, I know how to help people get to the shops, buy a bus ticket, explain about our national holidays, explain how to handle and deal with the behaviour of people around them, what to do at social events, in business and at school. I’ve done a lot more to support the integration of people into multicultural Australia than your tub-thumping ever will.

  14. So many posts so little room to reply.
    “I also think you’re broadly right Graham – multiculturalism is about recognising the valuable parts of all cultures.”
    Actually it’s not. You know that. It’s about putting up with “tolerating” other cultures. It’s about transplanting other cultures within an existing one, a very successful one.
    As for “recognizing other cultures”… to do so does not require the policy of Multiculti.
    I recognize many cultures and their national labels. I’ve managed to do so like my forebears long before the policy of Multiculti.
    “It’s a bit like your description of assimilation – for many in the past era it was seen as a two way process, albeit a less conscious one than the policy of integration which lies at the heart of effective multiculturalism.
    Errp! Wrong.
    Assimilation, Integration and Multiculti are 3 distinct policies. If Integration was the same as Multiculti why was Multiculti necessary? We’ve been over this Andrew and you still deny it.
    “But over time, assimilation has come to be perceived as being about the imposition of the dominant culture – which is not surprising, as it how Geoff and others promote it.”
    Actually it is how YOU and your fellow Multiculturalists have promoted it Andrew. Instead of accepting it as the inevitable outcome of migrating to another country and culture you have vilified others who expect it and portrayed it as an evil imposition. Racist at it’s heart. You know very well you have.
    “In response to Geoff (#50), I can’t see what is proved by insisting things like ’sport is part of Australian culture’.”
    Because it is and it is recognized as such across the world Andrew.
    Since culture embraces every aspect of a society… it’s hardly likely that everyone will participate in or reflect every aspect of that culture. It doesn’t mean they go into denial and ignore it.
    “And in response to Geoff’s desire to list the benefits of multiculturalism, here’s a few:
- as evidenced by Thordaddy’s responses, multic

  15. Mr. Bartlett opines,

    And in response to Geoff’s desire to list the benefits of multiculturalism, here’s a few:
    – as evidenced by Thordaddy’s responses, multiculturalism has provided a recognition that discrimination on the grounds of religion, ethnicity or other nationality is undesirable;

    You have this EXACTLY BACKWARDS. It is BECAUSE Australia and most Western Countries have NOT DISCRIMINATED on the basis of “religion, ethnicity or other nationality” that we find ourselves in ever greater strife continually setting up new anti-racism and equality bureaucracies and handing out freebies in order to assuage our audacity to “progress.”

    Again, if the above criteria are NOT used to make decisions on what cultures are desirable or undesirable then on what basis is Mr. Bartlett judging cultures…? Good food…? Colorful dress…? Queer festivals…? What exactly?

  16. More restrictions Andrew?
    How can one debate effectively with so many restrictions?

    and ignore it.
    “And in response to Geoff’s desire to list the benefits of multiculturalism, here’s a few:
- as evidenced by Thordaddy’s responses, multiculturalism has provided a recognition that discrimination on the grounds of religion, ethnicity or other nationality is undesirable;”
    I’m sorry these things were recognized before we ever had Multiculti. As for being able to discriminate differences being undesirable, that’s debatable too. If no differences existed we wouldn’t need a policy and laws to force tolerance onto us.
    “it has given us a much more fully integrated society;”
    Really. How is this so? How is the Eastwood enclave, the Cabramatta enclave, the Lakemba enclave… etc, etc, etc a reflection of that belief?
” it has expanded and diversified our cultural experiences and practices;”

    Really must I mention enclaves again. BTW education, reading, and travel do the same things all do not require the existence of Multiculti.
    “it has expanded our intellectual base;”
    Rubbish. Increased population due to increased birthrates or migration does that. Assuming by “ours” you mean Australia’s.
    “ it has enabled us to get much greater diversity in our society and economy, and to gain more of the economy, cultural and social benefits from that diversity;”
    Care to show how increased imports due to Multiculti and exports have provided us with a net economic benefit?
    “ it has increased our business and social networks with many other nations;”
    Really? So Globalisation and trade is all Multiculti based eh? I’m sure it existed prior to the policy.
    “ in short, as Mercuris (#55) says, it is a liberal policy, and it brings with it many of the benefits of that philosophy – not the least of which is greater individual freedom”
    Rubbish. It has brought laws to infringe freedom of speech and increased political correctness to censor and deny dissent.

  17. Geoff, do you have any idea how comical it is that you complain in long vociferous posts that your freedom of speech has been curtailed?
    BTW, if you don’t like Andrew’s comments policies, don’t post here. Start your own blog where you can complain in thousands of words that multicultural policies have denied you freedom of speech and crushed your right to dissent. I doubt ASIO will knock down your door and make you disappear.
    As for your objection that people might choose to live “as an Italian” or “as a Japanese”, what on earth do you mean? Why don’t you go to Sicily, Calabria, Naples and Milan, and then tell me what living “as an Italian” is? Why don’t you go to Hokkaido, Tokyo and Okinawa, and then tell me what living “as a Japanese” is? Then why don’t you go to Hobart, Broome, Byron Bay, Sydney, Arnhem Land, Kalgoorlie and Port Augusta and then tell me what living “as an Australian” is? Honestly, I’ve met first graders who display a more sophisticated understanding of culture than the views you profess here.

  18. The Feral Abacus [post 60]:

    Many people seem to fall into broad categories on Multiculturalism:

    [a] Open and neighbourly “Anglo-Celtic” Aussies who recognize difference but look to a person’s character and behavior rather than their race or religion. They should be encouraged, not vilified.

    [b] “Anglo-Celtic” Aussies who are suspicious, fearful and resentful of new
    arrivals. Occasionally, there is actually a real basis for that [such as laying-off native-born union members then replacing them in the same jobs with back-packers or “457 visa” contractors]. No matter how inelegantly expressed, their concerns should be heard and addressed ….. before a few nasty groups and firms do so and use what they hear to our detriment.

    [c] Aussies from migrant families. Although they may have first-hand experience of the problems of settling into a strange country, some do need reminding that old hatreds and imported prejudices have no place in today’s Australia.

    [d] Do-gooders; sometimes “more-ethnick-than-the-ethnicks”. Provided they don’t attack others, they just cause embarrassment. Let them be ….
    they’re harmless.

    [e] Those genuinely concerned about racism and immigration scandals. They
    really do need to be educated on how best to target these injustices and not
    just to thrash around hurting anyone who does not express concern in
    exactly the same way as they do.

    [f] Those who pretend to be terribly concerned but in reality don’t give a damn about any “wogs”, “towelheads”, “slopes” or “jungle-bunnies”; they are ruthless; they manipulate multiculturalism to suit their own agenda. Attacking native-born Aussies is an easy way for them to promote their own selfish interests. They are completely amoral so trying to reform them is a waste of time. We need to stop rewarding them for stirring up community discord and instead get as tough with them as we do with rabid racists.

    [Shall comment on Queensland later]

  19. I’ll try to ignore your spurious comments and ad hom mercurius.

    I was engaged to an Italian for years, I think I have a fair idea about what an Italian is.

    I have spent a lot of time studying japanese culture, so puhlease, comment where you have credibility.

    As for my comments to Andrew… I’m sure he understands my points. It’s up to him to act or not.

    As for our culture, There is not enough room here for me to comment in one or even perhaps 6 posts, so I’ll add this link in the vain hope you learn something about Australian national culture.

  20. The dead stinking corpse of Multi-Kulti has been propped up in the front sitting room since its death very shortly after it was first invited in to ‘set awhile’. And in deference to a mad relative, the rest of the family has been forced to ignore its sorry state & play along, offering it tea & cake, complimenting it on its attire. You may rest assured though, that collective sighs of relief are being heard from the family of Australians now the dried, mocking corpse is finally being quietly dismantled & disposed of, even as we still must nod our heads mutely as someone sings its praises.

    Multikulti is no reality in the true meaning of the word. It is an artificial political construct. Whether designed to or not, it abases the host culture. And lessens all involved.

    If anyone is wishing to become Australian or is emigrating to live or work in Australia, there is a perfectly good culture here for them to use. This organic fashion of assimilation has worked truly for mankind for 10’s of 1000’s of years, taking the cream of skills, ideas & attitudes, & weaving them into the country’s main culture to make it stronger. Without the fuss, without the division, without the rigid, stupid ideology that multikulti is. Humans understand its working instinctively 99% of the time. That, is how culture grows. Through strength & confidence. Not through mistrust, weakness & division.

    Just in the same way the English language has proved itself so useful, flexible & resilient. By borrowing & adapting when needed. Organically. Naturally.

    And incidentally, the damage historically that such attempts to debase & corrupt language through political dickering with it’s words mirror the type of damage rigid racial & cultural ‘betterment’ doctrines do to a society as a whole. They both are examples of stupid, irrational, vain & mystic appeals like raindances, as opposed to rational management or development strategies. No matter how one tries to disguise them.

  21. Graham Bell, that’s a useful taxonomy you present.

    Geoff, the culture section of Convict Creations is a useful guide for tourists, with possible application in an ESL classroom. But if that is where you wish to set the bar for cultural understanding, then I could declare myself an authority on every country in the world by reading Lonely Planet guides.

    My remarks were not an ad hominen attack. They were an assessment of the level of cultural understanding displayed in your posts, compared with that I have observed in some six-year olds, who understand that it is unwise to generalise from one person (even one you’re engaged to!) to an entire culture, and who understand there are vast regional differences within cultures. Until your posts display a comparable level of subtlety and nuance, I will have no basis on which to alter my view.

    I too have studied Japanese culture for many years, and spent as much time there as my scant finances permit. But I would not declare myself to be any kind of expert, as you so glibly do.

    Still, since you are so knowledgeable about Japanese culture, I’m sure you’re aware of the very popular bestselling genre of “Nihonjinron”, which for decades has reflected upon, contested, debated and re-defined many times ideas about Japanese culture, and are read and enjoyed by millions of Japanese.

    If the Japanese don’t have definitive ideas about their own culture, perhaps you could enlighten them with your bountiful knowledge of who they are and what their culture is.

  22. Spurious argument and ad hom mercurius… that’s what you post.

    I haven’t given an appraisee of any culture to do that would take quite a bit of space.

    The fact you still fail to understand that Japanese is a national culture and that all “japanese people” can be identified under that just as Americans and Dutch etc can be is pathetic. You are in denial. If these cultures are not identifiable, why do they exist?

    I hardly think there’s room or this here to discuss Japanese nationalism here. Certainly 2000 chars won’t allow it.

    Like I said spurious argument. Like I said your needling is annoying, much like a flea.

  23. A more reading for the Australian culturally bereft.

    Our culture, the Australian culture, is as worthy of “preservation” and protection as any national culture.

    Multicultists talk of many cultures and the need for diversity yet when it comes to the host culture are not concerned about it being equal and part of that diversity. Fortunately many of us see that Multiculturalism already exists at a global level and that is where it belongs.

  24. Gee you people tend to get personal.

    I definitely agree with Mercurius’s argument, which was not about nationalism but how different people in a country think differently about their country.

    Ask 100 people in the street what their national culture is and you’ll get 100 different answers. Does that mean there is no culture? No – it means that the world and each nation is made up of many different cultures (even if everyone in them is of the same colour and from the same background.)

  25. Graham Bell – thanks for your response at #66. Lots to think about there.

    One aspect that stands out to me is that the role of govt has been neglected for some years, particularly WRT your groups a] and b]. There was a time when the govt took an active role in encouraging us to accept migrants into our community. Bodies such as the Good Neighbour Council were active in doing this, as I recall. It’s very clear that the need for such bodies still exists.

    Re your group f]. Outside of my experience I’d have to say. But then the world seems to be brimful of opportunists of every sort, so there’s bound to be some that will latch on to multiculturalism as their vehicle for personal advancement. I’d say that the problem there lies with the individuals concerned, rather than multiculturalism itself. If the latter ceased to exist, its a fair bet to say that the opportunists would simply move on to something else.

    How’s the next instalment going?

  26. The Feral Abacus [back on post 60]”
    On disaffection and alienation in Queensland. It definitely does exist but explaining it is far from easy. All I can think of are three factors.

    i. Queensland is in two parts – Australian dollars and the English language are used in both. There’s the “South-East”: Brisbane, Ipswich, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast. Then there’s “The Rest”. Very different.

    ii. Between the 1880s and the 1950s there was a lot of progress and hope in Queensland [even during the Great Depression}; Queensland was world class in so many ways: mining law, health care, etc.. From the 1960s onwards, money certainly increased but social wellbeing – and optimism – declined. [[gee, that’s too short even for an abstract!]].

    iii. Most political activity is concentrated in the “South-East” so “The Rest” is, in the main, left to just look on; political parties seem to be in there only at election time. Labor has contempt for The Bush. Liberals aren’t interested. The Greens are seen as irrational and downright hostile towards everyone in The Bush. Nationals have, for decades now, put so much emphasis on obedience and conformity that they are seen as policy-free and irrelevant. Australian Democrats would probably best meet the needs of people in the Rest of Queensland but lack resources and so are almost unknown. So that leaves only Family First and the many unobtrusive not-for-election political and religious activism groups listening attentively to people in the Rest of Queensland.

  27. Feral and Graham

    Thought I’d add my thoughts.

    I think there’s a group that has not been considered. They come somewhere after group c). This group are the children or descendents of post war immigrants who have experienced prosperity in Australia after relative hardships in their war-ravaged countries.

    After two generations living in Australia, they seem to have an attitude of being superior immigrants to those ‘queue jumpers’.

    Graham, I think you mentioned in one of your posts that Pauline Hanson is a shining light for groups such as single mothers. I don’t think she is. In fact, I think she might be perceived as a danger.

    Getting onto the disaffection of Queensland. I don’t know why attitudes prevail in Queensland as they do. It’s always been a ‘them’n us’ culture.

    I can remember as a child, a teacher friend of my parents’ always rabbiting on about the Indonesians wanting to invade Australia. There’s always been this fear of the ‘other’ wanting to ‘invade’ or getting preferential treatment.

    At the school I teach at, some of the attitudes of the white children are extraordinary. They have staunch views of ‘others’ for such young people without life experience.

    I’m wondering if the imaginary evacuation line during WWII, that was set up somewhere near the border with NSW, might play a part in our aliention. That if the ‘Japs invaded’, then Queensland would be sacrificed.

    There was also Joh creating economic links with Japan during the 80s, and much Japanese investment in Queensland tourism, creating a fear that ‘they’re going to invade us yet’.

    Then during the technology boom, I heard another theory that the ‘Japs may not have been success at invading us during WWII, but they’re now invading us quietly through technology’. Some Queenslanders were convinced that there was some master plot to invade.

    Of course Queensland seem to have lost their preoccupation with the Japanese for a while, but other groups have filled the void for them

  28. Donna [post 75];
    Thanks. I had sort of included children of DPs/post-WWII migrants in [c]; what say we make them [c.2]? Surprisingly. some of them were major contributors to racism – along with the older top-down economic racism [“don’t question the right to deprive blacks of land and put it to better use”] and the virulent racism that came in with the American forces in 1942 [was “koon” part of Australian slang before 1942?].

    Fear of invasion is very real in the Rest of Queensland because it was only narrowly averted [we had an air-raid trench in our chookyard]. That this fear has been so successfully manipulated by political splinter groups says more about the vigour of such groups than it does about any intrinsic evil in the citizenry …. and it speaks volumes about the sloth, inappropriateness, misdirection and distraction of groups that could offer an alternative point of view.

    It wasn’t fear of invasion that aroused resentment against Japanese and other Asians; it was flogging off productive assets and natural resources at give-away prices by Joh’s mob. For instance; ask any former Queensland professional fisherman what they thought of opening up THEIR fishing grounds to “open-cut mining” by foreign ships for a peppercorn rent; if they had been asked [and they weren’t], they would have taken the hat around themselves and got ten times the amount for the Queensland government to retain those fishing grounds for the Queensland fishing industry. Why wouldn’t they then become “racist”?

  29. Donna and Graham Bell

    While I was living there, it seemed to me that politics in Brisbane were largely dictated by regional concerns and a very powerful rural lobby. I also saw a Labour Govt providing services to the rural sector that no other govt in Australia would provide (though many have now been phased out). And yet the regions feel neglected by Brisbane, as Graham’s comment in #74 indicates. This is one of the apparant paradoxes of Qld politics that I struggle with. Graham Bell – What is it that I am overlooking, or do your comments concern working people in regional centres rather than the farmers & graziers bloc?

    In general I saw little passion about politics, and – perhaps unsurprisingly – a very poor understanding of political and administrative due process. But what did surprise me was the strong libertarian streak among grass-roots Nationals supporters. They were the ones who thought Howard had been dodgy over Iraq, who referred to the detention centres as concentration camps, and who were appalled by the Fed govts treatment of David Hicks. Obviously these are voters who are not well served by their representatives.

  30. The Feral Abacus [77]:
    One of the reasons industries in rural areas were so successful in Queensland was because of impartial and efficient technical support, such as extension services, by the Dept. of Agriculture & Stock, the Lands Dept. and the Mines Dept. Advice on the same issues from firms tends, instead, to be brand-specific and sales-orientated.

    Strangely, it was the Nationals in recent decades who wiped many of these “socialistic” things.

    It is the communities’ memory of everything that has been lost that makes the Nationals future quite bleak now. The successes of Barnaby Joyce and Bob Katter Jnr come from them distancing themselves from “that pack of mongrels who sided with the banks when [[here insert any market collapse or natural disaster within living memory]] happened”; likewise the rising success of former National, James Baker.

    There is indeed a libertarian and progressive streak alongside the usual conservatism …. its a paradox I don’t fully understand …. but it applies as much to quite a few farmers and graziers as to any workers in the mining industry and in regional centres.

    The very poor understanding of political processes come from decades of very active discouragement of interest in politics by Labor and Nationals apparatchiks; no matter how many pretty brochures are on display in a local MP’s office and how many political meetings are held. It’s easier to keep the mugs under control that way; stops awkward questions too. Regional news media doesn’t help by sticking to the same old two-party-prefered entertainment.

    There is, on the contrary, quite a lot of political passion but it’s rarely seen in public because of social pressure – few are willing to be known as “political”, a term socially equivalent to “drinking problem” or ” always in trouble with the law”.

  31. Feral

    I agree with you that during the 20 or so years the Nationals were running the place, a lot of ‘bush’ issues appeared to be prioritised for *some*. I was living overseas when Labor initially were voted in.

    As a young adult first entering the workforce during the reign of the Nationals, I was teaching in Central Queensland. I can recall allegations made by disenfranchised bushies that a sealed road was installed for a private property close by that was paid for by the Mains Road Department. Whether it was true or not I’m not sure.

    Then there were allegations of successful tenderers for Government projects being linked to the then National Party.

    I can also recall some property owners I knew at the time complaining of other property owners rorting subsidies.

    But I also saw a lot of disadvantage out there. It was the first time I encountered illiterate adults and a complete lack of value of education and the opportunities it created. There were not great opportunities for women without an education, and whose families could not afford to send them away.

    I can also remember how young the women got married out there. There was just little ambition for many female townfolk beyond marriage and family.


    I think the poor understanding of political processes is due to an apathy of most people because their lives are quite secure. It’s only when some implementation of a policy occurs that impacts on peoples lives negatively, that an individual will want to know the who’s, why’s and when’s of what has happened to them.

  32. Graham Bell – one possible cause of higher levels of alienation among Qld voters might be that the quality of their representatives is lower than in other states.

    However, I’m not sure that is the case. While the quality of sitting members at the state level isn’t overly impressive (Beattie – whatever his failings – being the notable exception), its arguably little or no worse than in several other states. Standards of debate in the House may well be another story…

    But even if Qld politicians were greatly inferior to their interstate counterparts, one would have to ask why. Perhaps the social pressure that you mention at the end of #78 is part of the equation; there’s no doubt that the pressure to conform is unusually pervasiveness.

    BTW I wasn’t thinking so much about impartial and efficient technical support – one would hope that state govt agencies would provide this – but more the level of govt agencies doing everyday tasks for farmers/business people/etc gratis.

    Donna – Qld was notorious for the crudity and brazenness of its corruption during the Bjelke-Peterson years (and earlier), so I’m not surprised to read your comments in #79. And yes, the historical disadvantage of sections of Qld rural society was marked. But is that still the case? Besides, much of the alienation that we’ve been talking about here can be seen in suburban Brisbane.

    I think you are correct in saying that security & apathy can result in a politically uninformed electorate. But I also think there is another cause, and that is when disadvantaged people are made to feel powerless. In that circumstance, most people stop trying. To them, knowledge of the political system is useless and meaningless, so they have no incentive to find out. My guess is that both causes can be seen in different parts of Australian society.

  33. Feral

    It’s an interesting comment you make on the quality of representatives in Qld. I think Ronan Lee is a fairly clued up individual, and approachable, as is Michael Reeve, State Member for Mansfield?

    I’m not sure about the others. I do think that there’s an overwhelming pressure for these ministers to conform to rigid ‘group think’, as you’ve already mentioned.

    I also think that some of the representatives up north and the endorsed candidates for the next federal election are quite interesting characters to say the least.

    Getting on to your comments on disadvantaged people within Brisbane. For some reason I didn’t quite see how well represented they were until I moved to the suburb I am in now. There are a lot of homeless people where I live.

    The local Labor branch held a public meeting addressing the homeless problems in the electorate. The demography of homelessness is changing significantly and well-represented by women and children with no place to go after a marriage breakdown. So I see both men and women, and sometimes children, looking down on their luck. The community I live within is quite organised in supporting these people to a certain degree.

    As for country folk, I hear that although mining towns are booming, this boom is creating a lot of disadvantage for those within the towns that are not employed by the mines.

    But I think with marginalised populations living within cities, I suppose there are always facilities, although seriously stressed facilities, such as hospitals and St Vinnies.

  34. Donna – I was making a general statement, and you’ve come up with some first rate exceptions!

    Michael Reeve I know nothing about, but Ronan Lee was my local member. For those who don’t know Qld politics, Lee represents perhaps the youngest electorate in Australia, covering Taringa, Toowong & Indooroopilly.

    Lee does some interesting things. He has an email newsletter that circulates several times a year to subscribers, and is less overtly party-political than many MPs newsletters. It also includes quite a lot of community-oriented information; schools, churches, Rotary, public talks and so on.

    Lee also holds Saturday morning forums, when constituents can buttonhole him on a street corner at a given time to talk about whatever happens to be on their minds. Each street within his electorate has this opportunity twice a year, I think. I never attended myself, but there were a couple of times when I drove past the poor guy being harangued by small groups of constituents…. Quite a contrast with the local Federal member – Michael Johnson – who has taken to standing on the side of highways with a big cardboard “thankyou” sign whenever he is re-elected.

    When I made my statement about the quality of Qld representatives, I was thinking about the cabinet. There’s Beattie of course, and Anna Bligh is very capable. Steven Robertson seems able, but the rest look pretty thin. And I don’t think the Opposition has anything better on offer.

  35. Feral

    Ronan use to be my representative at one stage of my life as well.

    The last time I saw him, was immediately after a ferocious storm had just hit the western suburbs and these trees had fallen down.

    Just past the Eldorado Cinema, before you go over the bridge to Graceville, on the right there is a windy, narrow, road that leads you along the river.

    Trees had fallen down onto one side of the road, and Ronan was there directing traffic around the trees. The cops hadn’t even arrived yet, and here was Ronan like superman rescuing the day.

    I think we should get him a cape.

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