Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Don't let the door hit your arse on the way out

Pauline Hanson, figurehead of Australian anti-immigrant sentiment in the late 90s, is becoming an immigrant.

The former member of parliament is going to spent some time in New Zealand and then wants to settle in the UK, where she is eligible for citizenship due to her parents being born there.

According to this news story, the One Nation Party founder thinks Australia has changed too much for her liking. "Sadly, the land of opportunity is no more applicable," she said. Of course, Australia has given Pauline opportunities to get elected and spend some time on Dancing with the Stars.

In any case, I won't be at all sad to see her go.

Hanson's meteoric rise to fame began when she ran as a Liberal Party Candidate for the Queensland seat of Oxley, winning the seat as part of the massive swing towards the Coalition in 1996. However she was disendorsed by her party mid-campaign after her comments criticising the amount of welfare received by Aborigines. She won the seat as an independent, but since she was still mistakenly listed as a Liberal on ballots, it is hard to say whether her success was due to her comments on race.

Here is an excerpt from her maiden speech to parliament:

Immigration and multiculturalism are issues that this government is trying to address, but for far too long ordinary Australians have been kept out of any debate by the major parties. I and most Australians want our immigration policy radically reviewed and that of multiculturalism abolished. I believe we are in danger of being swamped by Asians. Between 1984 and 1995, 40 per cent of all migrants coming into this country were of Asian origin. They have their own culture and religion, form ghettos and do not assimilate. Of course, I will be called racist but, if I can invite whom I want into my home, then I should have the right to have a say in who comes into my country. A truly multicultural country can never be strong or united. The world is full of failed and tragic examples, ranging from Ireland to Bosnia to Africa and, closer to home, Papua New Guinea. America and Great Britain are currently paying the price. Arthur Calwell was a great Australian and Labor leader, and it is a pity that there are not men of his stature sitting on the opposition benches today. Arthur Calwell said: Japan, India, Burma, Ceylon and every new African nation are fiercely anti-white and anti one another. Do we want or need any of these people here? I am one red-blooded Australian who says no and who speaks for 90% of Australians. I have no hesitation in echoing the words of Arthur Calwell.

(Caldwell is better known for his infamous joke to parliament that "Two Wongs don't make a white.")

Hanson only lasted one term in office as the major parties all did their to ruin her chances by directing their preferences away from her. It also hurt her chances that the Coalition had started adopting policies which were Hansonesque. As the overall political climate shifted in a right-wing populist direction, Hanson was no longer the maverick she had initially been. It was one of John Howard's Machiavellian masterstrokes as PM - to strongly denounce Hanson's xenophobia, yet then proceed to copy that same quality - but it also remains a stain on his legacy in office, which Australia's race relations have not really recovered from.

Perhaps the lesson to be learned from the Pauline Hanson story is the danger of dismissing the rumblings of the ignorant. The reaction of the nation's media and political parties was to ridicule Hanson for her regressive views on race and her lack of intelligence in the usual political sense. Which is understandable, because mocking the stupid and ignorant is irresistable.

But like it or not, Hanson represented a lot of people who were fearful of change and fearful of difference. They admired her for her open racism (or as they would call it, being un-PC). She represented people who no longer trusted politicians and so were attracted to a candidate they saw themselves in. The phenomenon has parallels with the appeal of George W Bush and Sarah Palin in the USA; intelligence in politicians is viewed with suspicion, as something associated with "the elites", and it's more important just to believe the right things.

Do I think we were wrong to treat Hanson with such contempt and ridicule? Perhaps. Not that I think she is undeserving of such treatment. But it is hard to argue that the rise of "political correctness" (as a real and often imagined phenomenon) also gave rise to a backlash, of which Hanson was one manifestation. Is that the inevitable cost of keeping hateful discourse out of the public arena? Perhaps. But I also wonder if it is the consequence of a policy of multiculturalism that no one really understands, and therefore makes a convenient bogeyman for fearmongers to rail against. Perhaps we need to have a multiculturalism that exists within more clearly defined boundaries, and is easier for all Australians - including those who would vote for Hanson - to understand and embrace.

7 comments:

  1. Now for Andrew Bolt to migrate back to Holland. :P

    Yes I guess the worry for many people is whether, with such high immigration levels, we can form a socially cohesive and homogenous society.

    I think what people have a problem with is hard multiculturalism as opposed to soft multiculturalism. The former inspires images of self-imposed segregation and apartheid while the latter is reassuring to many in that they expect the second generation to "become Australian".

    I think it's just a question of Australians preferring assimilation over segregation, with the "One Nation" within the one state, rather than the many nations within the one states as we find in a segregated society like the United States, where tere is a "white" nation, a "black" nation, a hispanic nation, etc. Australians typically recoil at the idea of hyphenated identities in Australia -- African Australian, Greek Australian, Italian Australian, etc. -- which segregated countries find quite natural and are quite comfortable with because they do not foresee assimilation.

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  2. I think former Keating minister Gordon Bilney said of Hanson something like, "5% of our nation are idiots and it's right that they should be represented too".

    (incidentally, Paul Keating's maiden speech to parliament wasn't very PC either- "women should stay at home", "immigration too high")

    But I don't think she necessarily represented idiots. The Westerm model of citizenship that is defined almost completely by a passport and nothing else is a relatively new, challenging and far from universal thing. Go into the 3rd world and you will be besieged by people asking how they can become Australian/Canadian/French/US/Swedish etc, at least in the legal sense to the extent that they can live and work there.

    It is inevitable that receiving populations would be challenged by this and some would act defensively. Its much better for people to express these things and work through it (within a framework of not inciting violence or hatred) than to pretend it doesn't exist or repress it.

    As with religion, gender and sexuality, eventually the logic of inclusion usually wins out (partly because it is also has the virtue of usually being more profitable in the longer term).

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  3. Great take ES. I was a bit dumbfounded by the news. I wasn't quite sure if she knows what Britain is like these days. And it kinda contradicts her defense of 'Australian-ness', no?

    Westerm model of citizenship that is defined almost completely by a passport and nothing else is a relatively new, challenging and far from universal thing.

    Uhm...Paul, the Jewish disciple of Jesus, anyone? The concept has been around for at least 2000 yrs, possibly more.

    Acts 22:26-29
    The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, "Rid the earth of him! He's not fit to live!" As they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, the commander ordered Paul to be taken into the barracks. He directed that he be flogged and questioned in order to find out why the people were shouting at him like this.

    As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the centurion standing there, "Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn't even been found guilty?" When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. "What are you going to do?" he asked. "This man is a Roman citizen." The commander went to Paul and asked, "Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?"

    "Yes, I am," he answered. Then the commander said, "I had to pay a big price for my citizenship."

    "But I was born a citizen," Paul replied. Those who were about to question him withdrew immediately. The commander himself was alarmed when he realized that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains.

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  4. And here's a little more info from wiki on Roman citizenship as a tool for 'Romanization':

    The granting of citizenship to allies and the conquered was a vital step in the process of Romanization. This step was one of the most effective political tools and (at that point in history) original political ideas (perhaps one of the most important reasons for the success of Rome).

    As a precursor to this, Alexander the Great had tried to "mingle" his Macedonians and other Greeks with the Persians, Egyptians, Syrians, etc in order to assimilate the people of the conquered Persian Empire, but after his death this policy was largely ignored by his successors. The idea was to assimilate, to turn a defeated and potentially rebellious enemy (or his sons) into a Roman citizen. Instead of having to wait for the unavoidable revolt of a conquered people (a tribe or a city-state) like Sparta and the conquered Helots, Rome made the "known" (conquered) world Roman.


    On the other hand, the idea of nation-state (one nation in one state/country) is relatively new. Historians like to cite the unification of Greece in 1848 as the time when this first became formalized in the world we know today. So, I'm guessing Pauline's idea of 'one nation' is relatively new if we look at it this way, while 'multiculturalism' is relatively old. What is new about today's 'multiculturalism' is probably that there are no formal ways of enforcing unequal citizenship rights based on your ethnicity, religion, or class as they did in the past.

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  5. there are no formal ways of enforcing unequal citizenship rights based on your ethnicity, religion, or class as they did in the past.

    I forgot to mention 'gender' with that.

    And oh, here's a bit about the nation-state.

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  6. Multiculturalism and globalisation is the way forward, and nations who don't adapt will fall behind.

    The irony is, this is exactly what happened to China, and various other Asian countries, during the 17th to 19th centuries.

    Also, when people talk about race problems in America and Britain, they're somewhat inaccurate. The problem is not race - it's poverty. How many wealthy, educated Asians do you see committing petty crimes, causing violence, etc?

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  7. That was pretty enlightening, fromthetropics. Thank you very much...Nothing new under the sun...

    Incidentally, as time goes on, examples like these remind me how astute the Monty Python crew were in Life of Brian- there's a scene where Brian is brought before Pontius Pilate and claims he shouldn't be treated roughly because he is a Roman (his father was a centurion named Naughtius Maximus...not Biggus Dickus)-
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2K8_jgiNqUc

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