Non-fiction (Immigration, Race Relations)
A book in the collection: The West
A book in the series: Nationalism
Whether we like racial diversity or meekly accept it, the West’s overarching objective is trying to make it work. We’ve made race relevant whenever it promotes multiculturalism, but irrelevant whenever it doesn’t.
Still, the West’s attempt to create multiracial societies has failed. Multiculturalism depends upon individualism: people not siding with someone of their race or religion feeling hurt or aggrieved. Only white people buy into it.
Conversely, many of the problems with racial diversity are those with individualism: the lack of common feeling. Those problems aren’t resolved by being ignored.
- Critical Analysis
- The End of Society
- The End of Authority
- Tribal Conflict
- The Failure of Multiracial Liberalism
- Economic Incentives
- Generosity without Gratitude
- Biological Bases of Criminality
- Ideologically Acceptable Aspects of Crime
- Marketing Multiculturalism
- Multicultural Cities
- Vicarious Racism
- Victims of Colour
- The Loneliest People on Earth
Chapter 1: Words
“We make mistakes because we are only human,” said Ben Chifley, Australian prime minister, “and no political party can remake human nature.” He died in 1951.
The multicultural West is trying to remake human nature. So did communist Eastern Europe.
“They believe in words,” said Marek to my girlfriend and me in Warsaw, the first Thursday in November 1986. The worse things became, the better communists said things were. The less food people had to eat, the more they said harvests were plentiful.
Western Europe, North America, and Australasia have become the same. The lies we agree with, we call education. The facts we dislike, we call propaganda.
The overarching objective of our postmodern West is not the pursuit of knowledge, arts, fulfilment, or greatness, trying to build the best societies we can. Whether we like racial diversity or meekly accept what we feel powerless to prevent, we deploy an extraordinary amount of time, effort, and resources trying to make multiculturalism work.
Referring to culture when we mean race is among the West’s new secrets of language. It’s by no means the only one; we like keeping secrets. When culture sounds too much, we reduce it to cultural background. Multiculturalism is our euphemism for multiracialism.
“We believe one of Australia’s greatest strengths is its cultural diversity,” parliamentarian Malcolm Turnbull told Australian Broadcasting Corporation television in 2011, sounding like any number of Western leaders of their countries. His words were smart politics, making us happy when we so much need happiness. We’re not so judgemental to adjudicate otherwise, or to examine homogenous nations elsewhere. Nor are we so rude as to ask why?
Before we chanted diversity, we preached tolerance, until we realised tolerance implied something unpleasant. So, we decided other races don’t bring any ills. They bring only good, which we should celebrate.
Since 1998, the Australian government has declared the twenty-first day of March each year to be Harmony Day. In the government’s words (appearing on the official Harmony Day website in 2008), it “is about bringing people together to celebrate Australia’s community harmony, participation and cultural diversity.”
Posters, parades, and projects don’t promote harmony. They insist it’s already here. Six months after one Harmony Day and six months before the next, presumably as part of the annual Floriade spring flower show in September 2010, the flowers adorning a grassy Canberra park were shaped in huge letters: “Harmony Day.” I couldn’t stop thinking that if we really had such harmony, then we wouldn’t need to keep saying we did.
My youngest daughter’s year-one class at our local primary school needed to follow three sets of four rules each, the last of which was headed “Respectful.” It went onto explain. “We are respectful to each other when we” do certain things including, as always, “celebrate diversity.” Anything else was disrespectful.
On the wall at the rear of the classroom, the rules linked to photographs of the children’s faces affixed to colourful cardboard figures holding hands. Celebrating diversity was the only rule upon which the teacher dwelt at the parent information evening three weeks into the school year. The children had spent two days discussing it.
At the end of the first week of fourth term 2011, my wife and I were at the school to see our second son receive a banner and our youngest daughter receive a merit award. By then, all three sets of school rules were displayed in white letters from large black boards at one end of the school basketball court and play area.
Ernie Friedlander, a survivor of the Jewish Holocaust through World War II, neatly summarised the purpose behind Harmony Day. In 2005, he started a poster and song writing competition that, in 2011, involved two hundred and fifty-seven schools across New South Wales. “I wanted to overcome prejudice, discrimination, and stereotyping,” he explained, “and in the process, plant the seed into the minds of young people to identify and realise not to be judgemental of people, rather to consider them on their merit.”
Judgement is a rational assessment having regard to all available information. Merit means seeing only the good.
We see people through the prisms of our heartfelt ideals, with a teary-eyed glee at how happy we are. We talk as if talking makes anything real, demanding affirmations from others. It’s the essence of Harmony Day.
Six thousand, three hundred, and seventy students produced posters and songs espousing harmony in Friedlander’s 2011 competition. “Each student who has created an artwork gets a certificate of participation posted to school,” said Friedlander. In true postmodern style, “everyone is basically a winner.” Entrants needed only to say we had harmony to win.
Funnily enough, the theme that year was “making our world a better place,” in a rare implication the world could be improved. I’m not sure many of the posters or songs dwelt upon that, except to say we make the world better by accepting more immigrants.
Our exertions don’t end with Harmony Day. My children, like thousands of other primary school children across New South Wales, participated each year in the Multicultural Perspectives Public Speaking Competition.
The competition, said the 2009 notice, “aims to heighten awareness of multicultural issues among primary school students while developing their interest and skills in public speaking, as well as their confidence.” Such aims were high and noble for children so young, except that no parent or child doubted the awareness required of them. The topics that year included such pointed ones as “When does a migrant become an Australian?” and “Welcoming refugees.”
According to the notes under the heading for evaluation in the 2013 competition, speeches “need to show an understanding of multiculturalism.” That meant they had to endorse it. This was no forum to wonder whether immigrants ever became Australians or opportunity to review the West’s open borders. It wasn’t even a place for public speaking. Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address would fail a multicultural speaking competition for failing to laud racial diversity, but three grunts would suffice if two of them were “dumb” and “racism.”
Students also “need to display a balance of humour and sincerity,” meaning they must believe what they say. When we reward people for believing what we want them to believe, they believe, or at least pretend to believe.
Sincerity is profoundly important in our postmodern, multicultural West. We have to learn how to fake it.
The only imagination we require is finding new ways of saying the same things: how much we like other races around us; how awful things used to be. The words don’t have to be true. They have to be right. Scrutinising what people say more than anything they do, words previously unimportant have become all important, to people without anything innovative or profound to declare.
We’re telling children what to believe, to the point of pressing them to say it aloud, rather than leaving them to learn from their experiences or the experiences of others. If our children don’t like multiculturalism, they don’t learn public speaking. They don’t develop confidence. We don’t want people questioning multiculturalism able to address a crowd. We don’t want them feeling confident.
Ten years old in 2009, my second daughter picked what she thought was the easiest topic for her speech: “What comes after saying ‘sorry’?” Unfortunately, she assumed the topic was civility. With pretty colours and diverse writing styles, she prepared a speech about forgiveness, noting several responses a civil person might make to an apology: “Please”, “Yes, please”, “Thank you”, “Yes thank you”, “That’s alright.”
Her teacher told her to redraft it. The topic referred specifically to our supposed past cruelty to Aborigines; white racial guilt doesn’t contemplate forgiveness. Like the topic “Reconciliation and me,” the only speech my daughter could make was about more things white Australia could do to help Aborigines. If such topics help white children build confidence, then it is to apologise more confidently.
I couldn’t fault my daughter for her error. After all, that was the Multicultural Perspectives Public Speaking Competition. It wasn’t the annual Sorry Day.
My daughter chose a different topic altogether. She spoke, truthfully or not, of “Who are we and where are we going.”
My eldest daughter, turning twelve later that year, told me that all she’d learnt at primary school about the Aborigines was the genocide she was told we’d committed against them. It wasn’t true. Like Marek with his children, I corrected her.
It doesn’t end with primary school. My eldest daughters’ high school had no lockers for the children’s books and bags (because past lockers concealed drugs) until my second daughter’s final year (when it installed them for younger years), but convened Multicultural Day annually. Normal classes were suspended, but not for talk of challenges or problems when races live side by side. Instead, rooms blissfully promoted immigration with food aplenty.
My eldest daughter’s history assignment at the start of first term in 2011 asked the children to contrast European colonisation of Australia with that of America, examining war, disease, and massacres. There was no consideration of Europeans on our merits, no need to be respectful by celebrating that diversity. The diversity we applaud when other races come is one we condemn when we look back to the years white people came. Refusing to consider positive or even neutral consequences of European colonisation, the only consequences contemplated were strikingly negative.
The assignment contrasted with the topics for the multicultural speaking competition distributed at the same time to our youngest children by their primary school. Refusing to imagine negative or neutral consequences of interracial immigration, the only consequences contemplated were strikingly positive.
The first arrivals supposedly suffered for our coming. The last arrivals supposedly improved our lots. We’re the arrivals in between. Colonial Europeans become indebted to immigrants, but remain indebted to indigenous peoples. While we presume modern-day immigrants all become Australians, we presume European colonists never became Australians. Europeans coming was an absolute evil. Everyone else coming is an absolute good. While we only entertain consideration of the supposed benefits of other people’s immigration, our forebears enjoy no such luxury.
(What’s never clear through our ideologies of immigration is whether multiracial immigration ameliorates indigenous peoples’ suffering. When, late in the 1980s or so, Aboriginal leader Charles Perkins expressed concern for the impact of Asian immigration on indigenous Australians, we shouted him down. The chorus condemning him said a victim of white people’s racism, as everyone of another race is presumed to be, shouldn’t tolerate other people being victims. I never heard an indigenous leader dare express such concern again.)
Among all the films my eldest son’s year-ten English class could have studied, the school chose Mississippi Burning, a fictionalised account of the murder by white people of two Jews and a black man campaigning for black American rights in 1964. Student assignments required more discussion of white people’s prejudice. My son had learnt well. He topped his form for his work, with the advantage in knowing to talk of the evils of racism.
Other parents tell similar tales. My friend Tim’s son Sam at his school studied a unit on anti-Semitism. It wasn’t about Jews or Muslims, but about us in our bad old days.
Children know little of the world, except as others describe it. So do most adults. From our schools come our adults.
With all I’d observed of my children’s schooling, I was intrigued by one person’s response to the uproar following an appearance by John Elliott, a former president of the Carlton Football Club and of the Liberal Party, on the television programme Can Of Worms in 2011. Elliott was part of a panel answering the question, “Should we acknowledge traditional owners at official events?” The traditional owners were Aborigines, not us.
Acknowledging them was “sheer bloody nonsense,” said Elliott. “I was in St Paul’s Cathedral the other day and there’s the dean of the church, and all he did for the first five minutes was talk about the abos. Indigenous people, sorry. Not allowed to say that word.”
Panellist Maude Garrett pulled him up for his language.
“That’s how we were grown up and talked about them,” replied Elliott, “but I know it’s changed and I’m sorry for that.” Elliott was born in 1941.
Elliott’s apologies weren’t enough. Among the two hundred and twenty-five comments posted to the Age newspaper website by the time the next day I read the article reporting Elliott’s remark, one was particularly interesting. “Clearly it is offensive,” wrote Sarah, “but that is how Australians were raised to consider Indigenous Australians in the past. If you read children’s books from the early half of the 20th century you will find extremely offensive and racist views and terms. Such as that Indigenous Australians were “dying out”, and judgments on blood percentages etc. My father was similarly raised and also uses the term on occasion. We can only encourage those who were indoctrinated in this way to change their language, and be confident that such language is not part of how younger non-Indigenous Australians think of Indigenous Australians.”
The kindest words we can say of our forebears are that they didn’t know any better: that they would’ve been like us if they’d known what we know. We grant them the presumption of ignorance.
“While it does not excuse it,” Sarah continued, “a perhaps more troubling aspect of his comments is his problem with traditional owners being acknowledged rather than the term itself, which was common parlance up until several decades ago. I would say he’d not be unusual among people of his age group in this usage.”
Generalisations by people’s age no longer surprised me; they’re the norm in a way that racial and religious generalisations no longer are. What surprised me were Sarah’s presumptions about indoctrination. Elliott’s generation was among the last to grow up free to speak much as people felt and to say what they thought to be true, without fearing others virulently feeling offence. Theirs was a time people abbreviated words with colourful turns of phrase we curtail.
When we of the West lived in harmony, before becoming mindlessly immersed in idiot slogans, we had no need for Harmony Day. We had no need to declare we were happy, when we really were happy. Not trying so hard to convince ourselves that the present was wonderful, we had no need to denigrate our past.
My generation followed Elliott’s generation. No one taught us to be racist. No school indoctrinated us to value our culture and race, forming judgements about ours and others. I never heard anyone being reviled when discrimination was the norm as I heard people speaking out of turn being reviled by 2011.
Of course, people could’ve been indoctrinated without realising it; education is easier than re-education. “Men are born ignorant, not stupid,” wrote English philosopher Bertrand Russell in 1945, “they are made stupid by education.” Our potted lives are products of our times and places.
When we’re not trying to change people, we’re managing them. We’ve made race and religion relevant whenever mentioning them promotes racial or religious diversity. They’re irrelevant whenever mentioning them doesn’t. We control what we say, but we have to do that. Our countries might blow apart if we don’t.
We used to say truth was the first casualty of war. It’s certainly the first casualty of multiculturalism.
A handful of journalists, academics, and other commentators tucked away report facts that don’t find their way into multicultural speaking competitions. People I’ve met revealed similar experiences to mine. Many more people surely could too. Instead of Harmony Day, we could do something bold. For one day of the year, at least, we could tell the truth. Imparting information and knowledge, protecting people, we could have Honesty Day.
In Sarah’s sense of enlightenment, so intriguing wasn’t her presumption that past generations must’ve been indoctrinated to think as they thought. It was her presumption that hers hadn’t been.