Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The bloke from the anti-Asian party and his Asian wife

I wonder if this guy has ever uttered the phrase, "I'm not racist - my wife is Asian." If so, he wouldn't be the first.

The director of One Nation in Queensland has an Asian wife.
It shouldn't be a curiosity, and wouldn't be, but this is the party whose founder made her first contribution to federal politics by warning that Australia was in danger of being "swamped by Asians".
Just months after Pauline Hanson's 1996 speech, Sansanee Nelson, the wife of One Nation's now-Queensland director Ian Nelson, left Thailand for a new life in Australia.
The couple hasn't had an easy road, and it's becoming a lot harder as Mr Nelson tries to breathe new life into the dormant party.
It's not the word "Asian" in the first sentence that's provocative - it's the words "One Nation".
One Nation Queensland was deregistered in November 2009, as its membership had fallen below the 500 required.
It's preparing to re-launch before the next state election, meaning Queenslanders will be seeing more of Mr Nelson before March 2012.
And if Sansanee, or their daughter Patti, join him on the hustings, voters could be forgiven if they do a double take.
As an aircraft mechanic, Nelson has lived around the world, including in Thailand, where he met his second wife. Like most new Australians, it took Sansanee time to find work because of her limited English.
But she persevered, with the encouragement of her husband, and now works in a restaurant while presiding over the family's neat home and garden north of Brisbane. Despite witnessing his wife's difficult adjustment to a new culture and country, Nelson has no sympathy at all for the most recent targets of multiculturalism's critics. For him, the woman he affectionately calls "little one" is not like the other new Australians, particularly Muslims, at the heart of the current national debate.
"It's the ones that don't [assimilate] and live in their little enclaves that's unacceptable in this country," he said.
"We've got some wonderful people who are coming into this country. They talk like Australians and they have the barbecues and they assimilate right into Australia. The ones who scare me are the Muslims, they terrify me."
His fear seems to stem from a difficult relationship with two Lebanese-Australian apprentices, and the Cronulla riots.
"They are a race that don't assimilate, they treat Australian women like dirt ... how many were gang raped?" he said of the 2005 violence.
But in contrast to his fixed views on Muslim Australians, Nelson is uncertain whether he and Sansanee have personally experienced discrimination. He's even a bit muddled on whether he was offended by Hanson's revulsion of Asians, which surely cast a shadow over Sansanee's first days in Australia.
"I cringed just a little," he says, before adding: "But we sort of have been since then".
People have stopped him in the street and called him a "dirty old man" in reference to what they perceive is the couple's age difference (although Sansanee is 50 years old).
Mr Nelson says the party is fine with his relationship - its president is married to a Filipino woman - and he doesn't consider whether racism played a part in Sansanee's early employment problems.
"Nobody would ever admit that was the problem," he said.
They say love is blind.
As One Nation attempts its comeback in Queensland, Mr Nelson's blinkers, and those of voters, will be tested again.
 Full story here.
Now, it's not my place to suggest that Ian Nelson's relationship with his wife Sansanee is anything but loving and genuine. But some questions just have to be asked...

* So, does the party who first came to prominence with Pauline Hanson's line "Australia is being swamped by Asians" all of a sudden think Asians are OK?
Perhaps now they've realised that compared to the fear they have of Muslims, Asians aren't really all that threatening anymore.

* Would Nelson be mocked as a "dirty old man" if he had a 50 year-old white wife? Almost certainly not. So why the double standard? Well, it has to be said... the combination of older white man and younger South East Asian woman is one that always raises an eyebrow or two. It just has strong colonialist overtones, and too often seems to feature a imbalance of power in the relationship. It's that stereotype of the ageing white guy who prefers the "submissive" Asian woman who "understands her place" better than white women, and "knows how to treat a man properly".
I'm not going to suggest that is true of Ian Nelson. Being the product of a WM/AW relationship myself, I'm wary of the stereotypes that sometimes attach to these pairings. But sometimes you still can't help but wonder. That the party's president has a Filipino wife is perhaps telling as well.

 * Given that Sansanee had problems finding work and speaking English, she sounds exactly like the kind of immigrant One Nation rails against. Thus, I can't help but think she is recognised as having properly assimilated because she is an attractive Asian woman who married a white man. Which is fine... but it just makes me wonder... would the party be quite so accepting of a Somali migrant named Abdul with poor English and little success in finding work, but who married a white Australian woman?
* Now I know that most couples have their own nauseating pet names for each other. I get that. But was it just me, or did you feel like vomiting upon reading this phrase?
For him, the woman he affectionately calls "little one" is not like the other new Australians

* This is apparently what it means to be Australian:
"They talk like Australians and they have the barbecues and they assimilate right into Australia."

So fire up that barbie, Abdul, start saying "faaak" a lot, and hope for the best. 

15 comments:

  1. "As an aircraft mechanic, Nelson has lived around the world, including in Thailand.."

    Just as I said in another post, a white Aussie who thinks migration is a one way street. Try going to Holland Road in Singapore or afternoon tea at the Borders Book Store on Orchard Road, you will run into white Aussies and Brits, particularly women, who think that working abroad should be a one way street...that white people should be allowed to work in Asia, but Asians should not be allowed to move to Australia or UK for work! Some of these women also have utter contempt for local Asian women, especially those who marry white men. However, things are not as bad as in the Middle East...there you have some white people from the UK who are card carrying members of the British National Party or One Nation!

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  2. Good post.

    You made a great point - the acceptance might not be so effusive if it were a man of colour marrying a white woman.

    It's disappointing that this guy's wife seems content to not challenge her husband's prejudices - which also makes me wonder if she is the submissive type.

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  3. "You made a great point - the acceptance might not be so effusive if it were a man of colour marrying a white woman."

    At least they will let the couple into the country after some hassles at the consulate. If that happened in Denmark the couple will be thrown out of the country!

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  4. Contrast his views with this article published the next day - I wonder what Ian Wilson would make of this example of Lebanese Muslims integrating rather successfully!
    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/new-apartment-projects-build-on-the-success-of-migrants/story-fn59niix-1226012252948

    I think the quote in that article is also fascinating: "Mr Hartwich says immigration has been more successful than in Europe because Australia has demanded more of immigrants in terms of skills, language ability and willingness to integrate." A sign that our immigration system is working?

    Getting back to Ian Nelson, I also wonder what the true story is behind this "His fear seems to stem from a difficult relationship with two Lebanese-Australian apprentices..."

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  5. whatever the details, i do think people need to be more cognizant of differences between various immigrant groups. muslims in particular, all things equal, are very problematic. specifically, i suspect a lot of the issues are pronounced in muslims from nations where they are a majority, and the culture mores as such that non-muslims are marginalized and "put in their place." muslims who are from india, often ismaili, are much more assimilated into british society than those from pakistan. some of this is due to human capital differentials (ismailis are often secondary migrants from east africa who had a history of being business people), but some of it is surely to the fact that ismailis in india have had to learn to fit in as one group among many, while muslims from pakistan come from a society where non-muslims are being cleansed and subject to de facto "jim crow" practices (because they are "dirty" kufars, with many christians and hindus being "low caste" to boot).

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  6. @ Razib:
    I guess one point I can draw from your comment is that there are different kinds of Muslims. One Nation and their like do not make any real distinction between the moderate ones who fit in and the crazies that don't.
    I do actually agree that Islam presents a challenge to multiculturalism in a way that immigrant groups do not, since in its stricter interpretations it is incompatible with sharing a society with "kufar". However I also think that people who are Muslim have made valuable contributions to the fabric of my country. So having Muslim immigrants is not really the problem per se; it's how they are managed in their new home. Liberal tolerance can go too far; that someone like Anjem Choudhary can preach hate against the British state while still picking up a dole cheque from the British government shows that something has gone awry there.

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  7. So having Muslim immigrants is not really the problem per se; it's how they are managed in their new home.

    muslim immigrants from pakistan, unless appropriately sifted, *are* a problem. "moderates" in pakistan are not moderates like you & i would find congenial. moderates from turkey are less problematic. because of the influence and prestige of anti-pluralist muslim subcultures in the core of the arab world islam as a whole has a problem. if senegal was the model there wouldn't be a problem, but due to its marginality it's a deviation, not the expectation.

    both racialists and multiculturalists elide these critical distinctions, because they make their positions easier to defend. after wall, who wants to defend a "crazy racist position" or the "crazy anti-white leftist position."

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  8. ^ I must admit that Pakistan is one country that scares the shit out of me. I perhaps have a skewed perspective because my predominant exposure to Muslims has been to Indonesian Muslims. An radical Islamist in Indonesia would classify as a moderate conservative in many other Islamic countries.
    Your phrase "unless appropriately sifted" intrigues me. I'm opposed to racially discriminatory immigration policy, yet at the same time I want us to be more discerning in who we let in. How you do propose this sifting is done?

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  9. How you do propose this sifting is done?

    well, if you don't want to be culturally biased, filter on intelligence. real educational qualifications. the reality is that a lot of the most radical islamists are upwardly mobile, but their radicalism is in part a function of their lack of appropriate economic reward in societies where patronage and nepotism of entrenched elites keeps them from getting their just desserts

    the main issue with education isn't that it makes people more liberal as such. *but*, if you are a professional it is almost impossible not to be socially integrated, and therefore see the "kufar" as a fellow human being (i.e., if they're your patients, clients, etc.).

    that's why the working class pakistani proletariat in britain is terrifying. they live in their own subculture, and interact lot with "back home." and the amount of coddling they get from the british liberal mainstream is shocking. e.g., their persistent cousin marriage practices result in a genuine burden on the NIH way out of proportion to their numbers because of recessive diseases.

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  10. p.s on the last part about coddling. i went through britain last spring, and the working class pakistanis who adhere to conservative muslim values have their own place in that nation. it's accepted, tolerated, and encouraged. but they're nearly as sociopathological as the drunken british lower classes (in a different way). the white lower classes are not given the "space" that the pakistani working classes are, and that's because the latter are viewed as a "different culture," with "their own ways."

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  11. ^ Interesting ideas. "Liberal-Left Me" is very suspicious, whereas "Realist Me" is nodding and taking notes. I think this discussion needs its own post, and will put one together shortly.

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  12. I don't know much about Australia's multiculturalism, but I do know I hate Canada's multicultural policy. The main reason is that Canada encourages immigrants to remain in their enclaves and not become Canadians (this is a policy based on anti-American). I believe immigrants should be encouraged to become Canadians, but the problem is Canadians can't define what it means to be Canadian. For many, it may be "not American" and for others (Monarchists), it's British. The truth is that Canada is somewhere between, but no one knows this, and multiculturalism kills any attempt to define Canadianness.

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  13. Another note, it's unfortunate that his wife has nothing to say on the matter.

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  14. ^
    "it's unfortunate that his wife has nothing to say on the matter"

    I guess she "knows her place".

    "I believe immigrants should be encouraged to become Canadians, but the problem is Canadians can't define what it means to be Canadian"

    This to me is the great challenge of the modern multi-ethnic state. To define an identity that can embrace diversity, yet still have a strong vision of what it is and is not.

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  15. "I believe immigrants should be encouraged to become Canadians, but the problem is Canadians can't define what it means to be Canadian."

    I also believe that immigrants should be encouraged to become Australians or Americans, but it is difficult when one is not even clear what the native born white people really want...based on the link below, it seems like they want anyone not looking like them to go back home....

    http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/bonds-baby-search-competition-turns-nasty-as-tots-targeted/story-e6freoof-1226014967035

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