OnPoint by Keith Ng

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OnPoint: Dear Peter Brown: *Hug*

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  • Neil Morrison,

    People retain a distinct ethnic identity -- often down through generations -- but also salute the flag.

    It's interesting how one level of identification can counter some negative consequences of another level of identification.

    One way of looking at nationalism is that it was a way of bringing together people who had otherwise identified (and caused trouble) on the basis of family (tribe, clan etc - ie ethniciy its broader meaning). But then nationalism has had its own problems.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Every time people talk about "Mr Brown" on this thread my first thought is always "man, people are being really rude about Russell today" and then I suddenly click (again) that we're talking about a different Mr Brown.

    I worry that people lecturing others about what they should or should not think doesn't help, and in most cases only drives people to keep their thoughts to themselves and to feel anger because they cannot express their thoughts or fears, and where these fester and becomes potentially much more unpleasant.

    I don't think you change people very often by lecturing at them. Sometimes maybe, but unlikely. Whether or not they become worse if people keep them in... I dunno. The converse is to say that maybe by showing how they're unpopular, we discourage group think and peer pressure for them to come out in bad ways. One person is probably less likely to express their thoughts as violence than half-a-dozen people who back each other up.

    I think some things in people only change generationally. I think part of the reason that the world is largely more enlightened in a number of areas - gender, race, sexuality etc - than it was 50 years ago, is that people who held those old ideas have died off, and that newer generations (even the children of the people who have held those ideas) are more enlightened in those areas. It's a slow way of changing the world, but laws can't often change how people think.

    That being said, if someone is a racist bigot, then I'd much rather as a general rule, that they kept those thoughts in their head rather than having them spill out into public. It's not a better world, but it'll probably feel better for those people that are the targets of it.

    And I think if you're the subject of some bigotted asshole, then it's nice to have someone else step in and say "hey shithead, don't be a bigotted asshole', rather than having to defend yourself all the time and feel like you're alone in that.

    I've been thinking about this a little as this morning at 2am while my girlfriend and I were walking towards my car, some cultured 'yoof' with some boy racer car made a comment about me and then a rather explicit one about my girlfriend as we walked past. I would have liked to have a quiet chat with them about how they're just being really rude, but they were just looking for trouble, which is why they started on me first, so I just ignored them. I would have felt better about that if a couple of other people had told them off however.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    There's a school of thought that the American style of integration has been a success compared to those of France or Britain. People retain a distinct ethnic identity -- often down through generations -- but also salute the flag.

    I would disagree there. Firstly, people should be free to choose which aspects of their new country they want to partake of. For me saluting a flag is saying that your country is basically perfect and it isn't my place to try and change it. One is entitled to think that, but equally entitled to believe that there is a lot wrong and try to change things (by non-violent means, of course).

    Secondly, I think the migration experience has actually been better for those who've gone to Britain. People keep the things they want to keep (like rugby and pissing it up at the Church on a Sunday morning) whilst at the same time benefiting from the many great things the UK has to offer (cheap drugs, I suppose).

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    And my long-term bug-bear, the New Zealand Immigration Service .... I'm surprised that anyone wants to come here at all considering the stories I've heard from virtually every immigrant I know.

    Really. I thought they were one of the better ones? My process of coming here was slow but reasonably efficient and most of my migrant friends had a similar experience. I've not dealt with Aussie or Canada but doubt they're much better. The UK and US are terrible - if you are in the US on a work permit, then applying for a green card can cause them to refuse your next work permit renewal because you are trying to migrate permanenently.

    Personally, I do think that rather than trying to second guess the labour market, having a job offer at above-average wages (or for a job like nursing that *should* pay such wages) ought to be treated as prima-facie evidence that one is a skilled worker. That would be a much simpler system. That, and a years work permit for anyone with funds to keep themselves and the fare home.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Really. I thought they were one of the better ones?

    May well be, but I've heard too many tales about people who've been treated like they're trying to smuggle bacon into Mecca not to wonder where the hell the NZIS are getting their staff from. And I'm talking about perfectly reasonable people who understand that the process is a little more involved and time consuming than ordering a Happy Meal.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    The problem is that Auckland gets most of the long-haul flights, and hence, most of the immigrants

    I think many of us are capable of managing the 5 minute walk to Domestic and getting a connecting flight. In my case my then girlfriend picked me up and drove me to Papamoa.

    It's not like one has to crawl up the beach and build a shack on the spot!

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • J Wilkinson,

    Man, you gotta get out more.

    Perhaps a night class at AUT would interest you?

    Or perhaps become a regular at the Newmarket Pool (although their "we no longer tolerate sexual harrassment" policy in the Sauna's has put a dampener on those "desparately dating asians").

    Grafton • Since Feb 2007 • 24 posts Report Reply

  • J Wilkinson,

    <that was meant to be a reply to Tom Semmens>

    Grafton • Since Feb 2007 • 24 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    David,

    Apologies. My rebuke was aimed at "those people" who suggested pandering to xenophobia or confronting xenophobia. Of course I see now that this is not your opinion, rather a sentiment of "some nameless people" whose views you chose to publish.

    My working assumption is that xenophobia/racism is an irrational response to the adversity caused by immigration. Immigrants drive up rents/house prices & drive down wages causing adversity to low wager earners who do not own property. Racism is merely a symptom and not a cause, I think it would be both pointless to treat the symptom as if it were a cause. Kieths go-hug-a-racist & your "unnamed aquaintances" suggestion of pandering immigration on racial lines do treat only the racism. I do not think they have a hope in hell of working.

    I think it is even dangerous to take that approach, because labelling with "massive and unsubstantiated generalizations about a group of people" being deep down racist is a bad thing. Kiwi groups most disadvantaged by the adverse economic factors immigration are our indigenous poor who are unrelated to the immigrant groups - poor whites and poor Maori. I'd expect racism to be strongest amoung these groups and this does gel with my own experiences, but like you I have no hard data. If a "generalization" took hold that one or other of these groups are inherently racist it will become politically possible to consider them our "undeserving poor" - that is never a good thing to happen on so many levels.

    I believe than answer lies in mitigating the economic effects of immigration (income disparity & housing costs being the biggies). Removing the cause should lead to the symptom dying a natural death.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • WH,

    Keith, do you think that the effect of immigration policy on the cultural and racial makeup of a country is a matter of legitimate public interest?

    (I tried to put that as neutrally as I could.)

    Since Nov 2006 • 797 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward,

    Well poor Mr Brown will be choking on his whitebread this afternoon - the FTA is letting up to 1800 more of them in! Proper real China Asians!
    And they're Gibberish Speakers (Mandarin Teachers) and Ninjas (Wushu coaches)!
    http://chinafta.govt.nz/1-The-agreement/1-Key-outcomes/2-Services/4-Temporary-entry-and-employment/index.php

    /tongue-in-cheek

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1727 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward,

    And does Peter Brown perhaps writes Scoop's headlines for them? The Government's own press release hailing all the various changes in tariffs etc is re-headlined to read:
    "Trade Agreements: FTA Brings Chinese Workers To NZ"
    which is surely one of the more minor points off the whole thing?

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1727 posts Report Reply

  • jh,

    I can't believe how badly NZ First has blown the immigration issue.

    the issues as I see it are
    1. We were a prosperous nation when we had a small population and even poor kiwis could retire to a beachside town and live in a small batch like dwelling.
    2. The government talks about needing skills to grow the economy. I'm sure that's partly true but a lot of the skills needed will be in the construction industry (building houses).
    3. Immigration agents are lock pickers On what basis did Nai Yin Xue gain residency ….business? (One of 6 Chinese language newspapers)
    An Economics lecturer at Waikato University posted research that showed (in his opinion) that the benefits of immigration are "over stated" he said that many who come in on the Business category end up in dairies etc. His analysis was summarily dismissed by David Cunlife.
    4. In Christchurch and other cities we wring our hands about growth, infrastructure, infill housing, sprawl, traffic. Some people are getting very rich and some are suffering . Those who champion property rights are the last to champion the rights of an existing resident to sunlight, should a plan change to facilitate growth.
    It is mainly the $20Billion property industry who benefit (and back the two main parties). Our globalised property market is a sell out of the local population.
    5. House prices track net migration. Given the unaffordability of NZ housing it deserves a mention.
    6. There is no agreed principle as to what constitutes an ideal number of people. I was skeptical of an economists claim that (the South Island) reaching one million was a "great achievement". I'm sure that needs qualifying. People say that we don't have "neeeearly enough people!" and pull a figure like 10 million out of the hat.

    Since May 2007 • 103 posts Report Reply

  • jh,

    Is it racist to worry about mainland Chinese given the type of society they come from (ie we can be guaranteed some very bad eggs)....?
    I'm thinking blue babies, head in suitcase etc.

    Since May 2007 • 103 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    And they're Gibberish Speakers (Mandarin Teachers) and Ninjas (Wushu coaches)!

    And don't forget folks who know fifty ways to turn Rover and Fluffy into dim sum. God, sometimes I wonder if you have to be psychotic or a drug fiend to work in television news and current affairs.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • jh,

    Fair enough to talk about immigrant numbers (even including the number zero). It's even been suggested to me that we should accept the fact that a significant proportion of New Zealanders are xenophobic, and devise a pragmatic immigration policy that will frighten the xenophobes as little as possible. I don't personally agree with that, but it's a valid point to raise for discussion.

    If it is xenophobia, then we need to know what form this takes.
    1. My Grandfather used to say that if the Chinese invaded "all they would need to arm them selves with is frying pans". Think sack of rice over NZ with a cut at the bottom.

    2. Combine populous China with our most self aggrandizement obsessed property developer,political party funding, PR firm and advertising reliant media.

    3. I don't think people fear the hard working "brainy" Chinese (one's surgeon); it's (for example) those from a much tougher planet who have seen the future and are buying 1,2,3..x properties.

    4. A Chinese friend looked at my garden and said "if a Chinese family lived here (that) would be covered in vegetables and they would be selling them at the market". I find that disturbing (rightly or wrongly). One side say's "we'll that's a lot better than going on the dole"; the other say's these are advantaged people, trained in a landscape we have never known and now allowed to graze on our easier pastures. Perhaps it is saying that's what we need to be doing (or that is us... holding up a mirror and saying "we'll we are really just peasant's too")

    5. In addition there is the (perception of the) clannish nature of some of the Asian communities. I once asked an Indian man what he did in the evenings back in Delhi; did he go out and drink coffee with other men, or drink alchohol? "Oh No! I have 40 family members living in my house...." work and socialising were combined for him. We have an individualistic culture but groups of Chinese are like (almost) Exclusive Bretheren.

    6. NZ had a lot of "freebies". Not just the welfare state but there was a sort of security to the big back yard. Now it is a commodity > farmer sells to developer ..and the government and the media say "all is Good".
    7. Our whole society is underpinned by a paradigm of progress that is a miss-match with common sense and what our eyes see.

    Since May 2007 • 103 posts Report Reply

  • jh,

    True xenophobia is a genuine phobia and needs treatment?

    Since May 2007 • 103 posts Report Reply

  • Max Call,

    I informally interviewed some international students at a NZ high school late last year.

    I asked them what they would tell other (kiwi) students if they could.
    They said they would tell them "Just because we 'look' Asian does not mean we are all Chinese" and "just because we are 'Asian' student does not mean we are brainy!" they were quite anxious that the 'kiwi' students thought they were 'geeks' or 'swots' who had no interest in a social life or joining sports teams (for example).
    The Brazilian and German students did not have these same issues

    Fruit Bowl of New Zealand… • Since Jun 2007 • 153 posts Report Reply

  • Max Call,

    above high school was a very middle-class 'white' neighbourhood.

    just thinking that maybe comments about racism dying out (with new generations being more tolerant,integrated etc) might be true in the big metropolis of Auckland but not in the provinces where you often hear comments from teenagers and think 'that came straight out of their parents mouth'

    Fruit Bowl of New Zealand… • Since Jun 2007 • 153 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Withers,

    idiot savant: I agree with you about the risks of "empericising" the race debate. You make a very good point. Equally valid is that simply bashing people who say these things doesn't work. It fails to address the substance or the affect of what they say and further it risks making them look like martyrs at the hands of a PC 'mob'. Whether one gets into the evidence or not about the claims made, any effective response needs to be measured, constructive and positive and to engage undecided persons with a view to winning the argument and discrediting the position that supports racism.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 312 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward,

    God, sometimes I wonder if you have to be psychotic or a drug fiend to work in television news and current affairs.

    God, sometimes I WISH you had to be a psychotic or a drug fiend to work in television news and current affairs!
    At least the angles of the story would be a little less obvious and who DOESN'T want to see Mark Sainsbury tell everyone it's OK because his moustache has told him the location of the Green Party's underground postal system...

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1727 posts Report Reply

  • Joshua Drummond,

    Very cool. I don't know how I missed this one when you first posted, and now I've dipped out on all the discussion, but... very cool. I've never seen it put better.

    Since Nov 2006 • 119 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Robeson,

    I totally agree re:Obama's race speech - it's just amazing to watch an American politican talk about American racial politics in a realistic and honest way. I was leaning a bit more towards him before that, but that's what sold me; the ability to start that sort of dialogue is priceless in a President.

    As for Brown, I watched his interview with Campbell and he just came across as an bit of a joke - repeating the same statement over and over, refusing to engage with the fallacies in his argument even in the face of the facts, and, of course, insisting that he's the right kind of immigrant because he speaks English, unlike those Asians, who don't. I can't believe that anyone would take him seriously. In which case, he probably is in need of a hug.

    Brown was an understudy who either didn't have the skill or conviction to muster any kind of performance in this highly specialised role. Seemed to think that reciting the text was enough. very poor.

    Peters is much more difficult to pin down in that way- (John Campbell certainly couldn't) how else do you explain a man successully hobnobbing in China as foreign minister on the back of a few votes, while disagreeing with his government's position at home? has no problem with transitioning roles, and playing with feeling. Finlay Mac was saying that Key was a response to Clark's centerism, but Winston was somehow in the centre before that. Is it too much to suggest that both the larger parties in realising the MMP realities are in fact following him?


    Obama's speech was amazing. You forget that sometimes the president needs to have skills with words. That words are vital, important and when the right person speaks them, very very able to make a difference. yet in the U.S. it was left to John Stewart to pronounce on it with respect...I think Russ pulled up the quote...you have to think- wonder what say, Australia would make of him as P. Don't know if it did start a national conversation, but guess we'll see.

    Since Feb 2008 • 87 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Robeson,

    For the record, I've come to the conclusion that Peter Brown isn't a racist at all -- he's something much, much worse. A politician facing electoral oblivion who has cynically decided that a good chunk of his party's potential supporters are -- hate Asian immigrants, think everything was Shangri-La before the dirty foreigners can in and brought all our assets.

    I'm not sure about his English background but it strikes me that he is, well, maybe a British rail middle manager somewhere who has been told to go about and whistle the dogs, while the chap who knows how to do this, our rugby playing rural idyl hero, is otherwise occupied. Don't think PB is the villan here. More the henchman who gets knocked off before the end of the second act.

    sorry for the mixing of metaphors. As I said in response to David Slacks post- i'm not convinced it's racism, but more playing to a kind of nostalgia that does exist in places of New Zealand where time may have stood still for some despite the changes, which mostly have happened elsewhere.

    oh sorry about the punctuation too...

    Since Feb 2008 • 87 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Robeson,

    But they all have American flags outside their stores.

    Yeah well, that's part of American culture we could skip. And it's not unique to recent immigrants over there as well.

    There's a school of thought that the American style of integration has been a success compared to those of France or Britain. People retain a distinct ethnic identity -- often down through generations -- but also salute the flag.

    hmmm...yeh kinda experienced this or a variant of in Queensland as a kiwi, which is not much different at all, but it was a lot of if you come in drink beer and do things our way we love to have you as a guest. but don't think about being weird or thinking differently...

    then again both the states and Queensland are mighty big places...

    Since Feb 2008 • 87 posts Report Reply

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