Though this blog could very well be retitled Stuff I Disagree With, I try not to argue with the same person two posts in a row, especially when its someone who is mostly on the same side as me. So Im sorry to have to pick on Chris Trotter again. But his recent Bowalley Road post Checkmate In Two Years? needs a response. Im not debating its major thesis I dont know whether the present media flap over free speech for alt-right bigots will or will not blow up into an electoral defeat for Jacinda Arderns Labour-Greens government in 2020. I cant see it myself, but Trotter has historically been better at predicting New Zealand election outcomes than I have. But I have some things to say about the points Trotter raises along the way.
Lets start with this:
Theres a saying, often attributed to Voltaire, which declares: To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize. The free speech controversy, by identifying multiculturalism as the concept Kiwis are not allowed to critique without drawing down the unrelenting wrath of its state-sanctioned and supported defenders, has caused many citizens to wonder when and how nationalism and biculturalism became dirty words.
Do I have to pull out that xkcd cartoon again? When did Southern and Molyneux get arrested? Because I dont remember seeing that bit on the news. People protested against them, yes. That is to say, people criticized them loudly and angrily. Theres a saying, often attributed to Voltaire, which declares
OK, cheap shot. Again, Im not here to rehash my previous post. Im here to talk about multiculturalism and nationalism, and in New Zealand that means giving biculturalism a look-in as well. Trotters post makes as good a springboard as any.
First up, either Trotter or I must be confused about what nationalism means. Trotter says
A country whose elites have signed up to an economic philosophy based on the free movement of goods, capital and labour the three fundamental drivers of globalization is more or less obliged to adopt multiculturalism as it core social philosophy.
Old fashioned New Zealand nationalism, and its more recent offshoot biculturalism, were products of a country which saw itself as offering something uniquely and positively its own to the rest of the world. It is probable that a substantial majority of Kiwis still subscribe to this notion (although a significant minority still struggle with the concept of biculturalism).
What the free speech controversy of the past four weeks revealed to New Zealanders was that too forthright an expression of cultural nationalism can result in the persons advocating such notions being branded xenophobic or racist and even to accusations of being a white supremacist, fascist or Nazi.
The battle for free speech cannot, therefore, be prevented from extending out into a broader discussion over whether or not New Zealanders have the right to reject the downsides of neoliberalism, globalization and multiculturalism. Is it any longer possible to advance the radically nationalistic idea that the nature and future of New Zealand is a matter which New Zealanders alone must decide, without finding oneself pilloried on Twitter or banned from the nations universities?
Abstractions are always fuzzy around the edges, and nationalism shades into racism along one edge and patriotism along another. Still, Trotter is here giving the term a usage that I do not recognise. As I understand the word, the central concept of nationalism is to connect political sovereignty within a given state to membership of some particular ethnicity, understood as being the rightful owners (in some sense) of that state. Foreigners and immigrants, except for expatriates of the favoured ethnicity, are to be excluded from the political process. Typically this exclusion is to be accomplished by exclusion from the territory, sometimes with the alternative option of cultural and linguistic assimilation into the favoured ethnicity. It is not about offering something uniquely and positively our own to the rest of the world. Its about keeping something uniquely and positively our own all to ourselves and the rest of the world can naff off.
What does Trotter mean by the nature and future of New Zealand is a matter which New Zealanders alone must decide? Is the New Zealand whose future is being decided exactly the same entity as the New Zealanders doing the deciding? Is there a concern that the New Zealand electorate might start accepting votes from citizens of Sri Lanka, Ghana, or Luxembourg? Or does the sentence mean People of Pākehā and Māori ethnicity have a special right to exert political control over the lives of anyone, of any ethnicity, resident in the territory governed from Wellington? (Thats insofar as Pākehā is a distinct ethnicity, of course. Im not clear what we white New Zealanders have, as Pākehā, thats uniquely and positively our own and couldnt just as readily be found among, say, white Australians or English-speaking white South Africans.)
A lot of the opposition to global neoliberal capitalism is framed in terms of the threat it poses to the national sovereignty of individual countries over their own economies and ecologies. If this is where Trotter is coming from, then my only quarrel with him is his choice of words. I dont like the idea of land or other local resources being owned and controlled by people who dont live or pay taxes or buy goods and services in the area. But I also dont like the national sovereignty framing. It doesnt bother me that the people who own the farms or mines or whatever arent New Zealanders; it bothers me that the feedback loop between cause and effect is severed, that a small group of powerful people can wreak extensive damage on the landscape and economy without experiencing any consequences to discourage such behaviour. If some corporation is polluting rivers in Otago, its not important to me whether their headquarters are located in Auckland or Beijing.
But at least Trotter does offer some explication of his use of the term nationalism, however incomplete. That gives me some idea what hes talking about. Not so multiculturalism. That word he never unpacks. It is evidently associated with neoliberalism and globalization, but more than that is hard to discern. So I genuinely dont know whether what I will defend for the rest of this post under the name multiculturalism is the same thing as what Trotter is opposing, or at least lending support to the opponents of, under that same name. Bear that in mind as we proceed.
Multiculturalism, as I understand the term, is the idea that different ethnicities can coexist with each other, or should coexist with each other, or do coexist with each other. No ethnic group, and no ethnic groups way of life, is superior to others; all are valid systems for coping with the world. Therefore, there is nothing to fear from encountering cultures different to ones own. No culture can claim to be truer or realer than others. It is never the case that one cultures way of doing things is objectively the right way of doing things, simply because there is no neutral frame of reference from which to make such a judgement. Therefore, no ethnic group has any business trying to force members of other ethnic groups to give up their own cultures and adopt the first groups culture.
Let me start by laying to rest one reasonable, but misguided, fear: that if cultures are allowed to freely mingle, they will become diluted and indistinct, and everything that makes our culture unique (whoever our culture might be) will fade away and be lost the horrifying image of the melting-pot. What actually happens when cultures meet is quite the opposite. They borrow ideas and artistic motifs from each other; they learn how to make each others food; they create whole new cultural experiences that neither one would have come up with by itself. The example most likely to be familiar to my readers is the English practice of drinking hot tea from porcelain cups quintessentially English, and yet it must have begun with someone only a couple of hundred years ago saying Lets pretend were Chinese, because both tea and porcelain are imports from East Asia. Or consider how much less distinctive Italian cuisine would be without pasta (from China) and tomatoes (from the Americas). I could list more examples at great length. Its not a melting-pot, its a smorgasbord.
Anthropologists in the early twentieth century, when respecting other peoples cultures was a startling new idea for Europeans, would have disagreed. Margaret Mead argued that Pacific Island cultures did best when they were left pristine, untouched by outsiders. The social problems she saw in many of the Islands she attributed to contact with Europeans. This was far from her only or even her biggest mistake, but it was a mistake. Mere cultural contact doesnt cause social harm. The problems Mead saw have a far more sinister origin. Europeans didnt just make contact with the Pacific, and they didnt just migrate into it. They colonized it. They took the land by armed force, they destroyed cultural centres, they imposed laws that made the local people second-class citizens, they beat children in schools for speaking their own languages, and they backed it all up with the fear of hell-fire. That sort of behaviour is what destroys a culture.
Since were on the subject of cultural sharing and colonization, I suppose I need to quickly mention whats called cultural appropriation, which is the intersection of the two. Much digital ink has been spilled over what it means and what it doesnt mean, and I cant do it justice without giving it a post to itself. It doesnt mean white people doing yoga; it means white people claiming authority over the meaning of yoga. When a colonizing ethnic group picks out images or expressions from a colonized ethnic group, discards their original meaning and uses them with some other meaning, and then the new usage becomes so widespread that the colonized group can no longer use them to convey their original meaning because the colonizers new meaning gets in the way, thats cultural appropriation. Often the new meaning is no more than Look at me, Im a [member of colonized ethnic group], arent I funny / sexy / spiritual / rebellious? Think tribal tattoos, topless Pacific Islander pinups, Native American feather bonnet Halloween costumes, and T-shirt logos of the Hindu sacred word Aum (ॐ).
The deepest kind of cultural sharing is the opposite of appropriation; you learn the meaning of the image or expression from the other culture, and you take it to heart, and you give proper credit for where it came from. But of course if youre doing that, you are already being multicultural. Multiculturalism facilitates the free sharing of ideas, and the free sharing of ideas is an inescapable prerequisite for both science and democracy to function. It wont have escaped you that this is also one of the central arguments for free speech. If you believe in free speech at least, if you believe in it for this reason then in all consistency you must also believe in multiculturalism.
Multiculturalism shades into whats called cultural relativism, which in turn shades into social constructivism and idealism and various other less-than-creditable philosophies. Youll often see cultural relativism portrayed, by its opponents, roughly as follows: All cultures beliefs are true, including the ones about gods and demons and magic. All cultures practices are moral, including genital mutilation and human sacrifice and cannibalism. The only standard for assenting to a belief or practice is whether it is believed or practised by a bona fide culture, whatever that is. No genuine cultural belief or practice is ever wrong. Do we really have to accept this?
I wish I could dismiss this as a pure straw-man, but alas, its not. My own university degree is in cultural anthropology, and this semester I have for the first time been set to take notes in an introductory cultural anthropology paper. And I am cringing, absolutely cringing, at some of the things Im having to write down. Especially when anthropology lecturers talk about the health professions, of which I have extensive lecture-room experience. In the last month I have heard, and had to type without adding any dissenting comment (because thats the rule of my profession), that people dont need protein because some cultures understand food in different terms; that Tibetan herbal remedies must be effective because they contain so many ingredients; that the use-by date on a bottle of cough syrup is a power play by biomedical technocrats. (For the record, pharmaceutics break down over time into waste products, some of them dangerously toxic.) Cultural anthropology, my own degree, is turning out to be the single most evidence-scorning discipline that Ive ever taken notes in and Ive done economics.
But cultural relativism doesnt have to go that far, and it cant be thrown out the window completely. Cultural relativism means taking the perspective of another culture to the point that you can see how their beliefs and practices make sense. Every cultures beliefs and practices make sense within that culture; when they stop making sense, they stop being believed and practised. Cultural relativism in this sense is a methodological tool without which no study of any culture can be done. I have been unable to track down which philosopher it was who first pointed out that no language has a word meaning I wrongly believe that..., but whoever it was, their insight applies just as well to cultures as to individuals. Existential beliefs serve the same functions in peoples minds, behaviours, and social interactions regardless of whether they happen to be correct or incorrect. If you want to empathize with someone who believes the Earth is flat, Imagine if you believed the Earth was flat is the wrong formula. The correct formula is Imagine if the Earth really was flat.
You also have to do cultural relativism in the other direction. With cultures that arent your own, the difficult part is getting to the point where their beliefs and practices make intuitive sense. The, well, not exactly easy, but easier part is analysing the economic, environmental, and historical circumstances that led them to those beliefs and practices. With your own culture its the other way around. Presumably your own beliefs and practices already make sense to you; the great difficulty is in realizing that Why do they make sense? is even a question. This epiphany is perfectly in line with the core principles of science. Just as all astronomy depends on realizing that the Earth is not the centre of the universe, and all biology depends on realizing that humans are not the centre of the biosphere, so all studies of humanity depend on realizing that ones own culture is not the centre of the human world. There is a reason why anthropology no longer addresses, as its core question, Why are brown people funny?
So where does science fit in? One school of anthropology would have it that science is merely one more cultural belief tradition, that its claims to objectivity and legitimacy are nothing but manoeuvres for power, that scientists and doctors are the priesthood in white robes, no less! of the Wests most prominent fundamentalist religion. They allude to Thomas Kuhns The Structure of Scientific Revolutions and snidely insinuate that scientific discoveries are purely political events. They call science Eurocentric on account of its being dominated by dead white men, a criticism which quietly slips out the back window when they start expounding G. W. F. Hegel, Karl Marx, Max Weber, Émile Durkheim, Claude Lévi-Strauss, and Michel Foucault. Outside of anthropology departments not many people hold this view consistently, but lots of people from time to time find their politics rubbing up the wrong way against particular scientific findings, and they predictably mine this school of thoughts talking-points for gotchas even while happily citing science on other topics where it is convenient to them. No political party or movement that Im aware of is free of this particular hypocrisy.
Youll have gathered that I think this view is wrong. Again, I dont have the space to argue the point here (how often do I say that?) Science is simply what we call ordinary applied curiosity about the world when it gets complex and far-reaching enough that we have to pay people to do it. Every culture I know of has a vibrant empirical information-gathering tradition, at least in aspects of life where theres a clear connection between accuracy and survival. Most hunter-gatherers would put Western experts to shame with their in-depth knowledge of natural history and forensics. I have had occasion before to describe the phenomenal navigational achievements of the Pacific Islanders. And of course Europeans were late-comers to the scientific enterprise as we know it, following on the heels of the Chinese, Indian, and Muslim civilizations.
It must be conceded that it was in Europe that people first banded together to apply this practical curiosity to the deep questions of existence, like Where did the world come from? and Why are people people? There have been various self-congratulatory theories as to why. Personally I think its mainly because Europeans in the seventeenth century urgently needed a new way of addressing such questions that didnt involve setting people on fire something their contemporaries on other continents were mostly managing, by that point, to avoid. That headstart gave Western scientists of the following centuries an entirely misplaced sense of superiority, which led them to dismiss all other cultures knowledge (as well as that of their own working classes) as superstition. (Superstition included, among many other things, the quaint beliefs that cow pox is protective against smallpox and that malaria is carried by mosquito bites.)
The irony is that science thrives on positing new ideas and challenging old ones, both of which would only be enhanced by regular exercises in making sense of the unfamiliar and re-examining the familiar. I do still get frustrated with those science writers, and they are not few, who shrug off cultural relativism root and branch as irrationality. But having observed at first hand both cultural anthropologists and scientists yes, biomedical scientists in particular lecturing undergraduate students on these matters, there is no longer any doubt in my mind that the anthropologists are the ones coming to the table in bad faith. That is a pity. Multicultural science would be science improved, and the good news is that the scientists are gradually getting there even without the anthropologists help.
So what happens to biculturalism? Its a legitimate question. For readers not from New Zealand, biculturalism means two cultures; its how our national ethnic profile was reconceived around the late 1970s and 1980s when it became generally acknowledged that Māori culture was not, after all, going to disappear. Not coincidentally, this was also the time when Māori people began organizing to demand and win their rights under the Treaty of Waitangi. I was a small child at the time just young enough, I believe, to have received instruction in Māoritanga from my very first day at school so I cant tell you from direct experience how much of an adjustment in attitude this required from Pākehā adults. I do know that many of my parents generation (though not my parents themselves) have never made that adjustment.
Biculturalism means public signage in English and te Reo Māori, Māori greetings in broadcast media as well as a dedicated Māori television station, Māori art motifs in the branding of government documents, and a few hours set aside each semester for health professions students to learn about things like why you dont sit on the bedside table if youre visiting a Māori patient in hospital. It doesnt, so far, mean Pākehā internalizing Māori values or adopting Māori standards of public comportment, nor that Māori are no longer judged by Pākehā values and Pākehā standards of comportment. It doesnt mean that employers wont discriminate against job applicants with tā moko facial tattoos, though it probably does mean that they wont admit to it. To be fair, it does seem to have brought about a general grudging acknowledgement that Māori culture is part of New Zealands soul; something worth preserving and perpetuating; something to show off ones knowledge of when overseas.
In 2008 John Keys National Party became the government in coalition with the Māori Party, an arrangement which proved distinctly one-sided. Six years previously, however, Don Brash had pulled National out of electoral free-fall with a speech appealing to Pākehā resentment of the Māori renaissance. And back in the 1990s, National got elected and re-elected on promises of curtailing the Treaty of Waitangi settlement process. At every stage, the objections raised to biculturalism were exactly the same as those being raised to multiculturalism. Itll destroy our national unity, itll erode away our European heritage, I cant understand their funny language, hang on werent they cannibals before we came along, cant we just all be New Zealanders?
This much is true: in the 1990s, Nationals more liberal supporters did like to counter the Lefts picture of a bicultural Aotearoa with No, I think we should be a multicultural country. I think this was mostly about opening up New Zealand to international developers, a process somewhat at odds with the aspiration of returning stolen land to Māori. It also, obviously, allowed them to present themselves as having the more enlightened view of racial justice while maintaining their political alliance with those who took offence at hearing the National Anthem in te Reo Māori at international sports events. Multiculturalism in that time and place had the same kind of associations and implications that All Lives Matter does in the late 2010s, with biculturalism in the place of Black Lives Matter. Trotters objections to the term are to that extent fair.
But that was the 1990s. Since then the Māori Party have come and gone; whatever else one might say they achieved, they did get the National Party to stop pandering openly to anti-Māori bigotry. And I think that particular character flaw is getting rarer now than it was in 2002. Once upon a time you could get the nations attention with a book titled The Travesty of Waitangi. Now even the anti-Māori racists have to call themselves Hobsons Pledge, a reference to Governor William Hobsons words upon the signing of the Treaty, to avoid being jeered off the public stage. (Hobson said He iwi tahi tātou, and had his grammar gently corrected by Hōne Heke to He iwi kotahi tātou We are one people. Don Brash and his fellow passengers on the ship of fools that is Hobsons Pledge read this as Cultural distinctiveness is bad and government policy should ignore any ethnic disparity in social, economic, or health outcomes.) There is not at present any serious danger of Māori losing the gains they made in the 1990s and 2000s; the pressing task is to extend those gains towards true equity with Pākehā.
Biculturalism was fundamentally the recognition that Māori continue to suffer social and economic injustices as a result of colonization by Pākehā which cannot be set right without restoring the status of Māori culture as a legitimate framework for life in Aotearoa, plus the choice to use the Treaty of Waitangi as the basis for the process of restoration. No aspect of that is contradicted or threatened by multiculturalism in the sense that Im defending in this post dont be fooled by the contrasting terms. If anything, the presence of multiple different cultures should help persuade us Pākehā that its not our way or the highway.
And now for the elephant in the room. Go do an image search for multiculturalism cartoon with SafeSearch off.
Revolting, isnt it?
Well, I feel that vindicates my hypothesis that overt racism is driven by the patriarchal view of womens bodies as property, with men of unapproved ethnicities as thieves of that property.
(If you cant see the cartoon Im talking about, try adding "that's my daughter" to your search terms. Graphic content warning for rape and racism. No, Im not showing it here. Or linking it. Or describing it.)
Trotter doesnt mention Islam at all in the post Im answering. Thats why Im calling it the elephant in the room. Im going to assume, from charity, that he moves in different online circles from me and just didnt know that multiculturalism as a pejorative is a dog-whistle for Islam. Scroll down through that Google search and it will soon become clear. There are multiple entangled moral issues here which, at the risk of becoming repetitive, I dont have space to deal with in this post. We can simplify considerably by noting that anti-Muslim bigotry shares a basic mindset with other bigotries. The hated group are all the same and cant change they share an essence of evil. Every one of them is morally responsible for the bad actions of any one of them, because those bad actions arise from the shared evil essence. They lack moral instincts and empathy; their motives are purely predatory or else senselessly hateful. Any appearance to the contrary is a pretence, and a sinister pretence at that. They are dirty and sexually deviant. They are after our women, and their long-term strategy is to replace us. There can be no negotiation, compromise, or accommodation with these people; they must be excluded from our territory by force, and if necessary by deadly force.
Bigots will find means to justify their prejudices when under threat. Typically this means compiling long lists of bad things done by members of the group they hate. Now, there are over a billion Muslims in the world, of whom roughly 24 million live in western Europe and maybe two million in the United States. If Islam has no effect either way on violence, then the proportion of violent criminals in the Muslim population will be the same as that in the population at large, a few percent which makes tens of thousands of violent Muslim criminals in the US and hundreds of thousands in Europe. If it were one-hundredth of that, a few hundredths of a percent, that would still make hundreds in the US and thousands in Europe. And yet anti-Islamic bigots present lists of only dozens as damning evidence against Islam. I have seen the same done against transgender women and also (lest I get complacent about my own groups virtue) against Trump voters. It only takes four or five repetitions of something for it to feel like a pattern, but thats a flaw in the cognitive software of the human brain.
Suppose, on the other hand, that you did find a statistical correlation between Islam and violent behaviour. Would that then justify tearing down mosques and banning immigration from Muslim countries and whatever other measures the bigots want to see? Well, put it this way. There is a category of the human race who are vastly more likely to commit violent acts than those not in the category, and by vastly I mean typically at least an order of magnitude. For sexual violence its two orders of magnitude, i.e., the ratio of members to non-members of this group among sexual assailants is about a hundred times as high as that ratio in the general population. These people occupy nearly all of the positions of power in our society to the point that its the denial of that statement that carries a whiff of conspiracy theory. Should we exclude these people from the political process for the safety of democracy? Should we restrict their ability to enter Western countries? If not, then we cannot in all consistency justify doing the same thing to Muslims.
If youve ever read this blog before, then youll have guessed that the group Im talking about is men.
Lets turn things down a notch. Not everyone who feels threatened by Islam is the kind of know-nothing Ive been talking about so far; theyre just the loudest and most obnoxious kind. And, after all, I do believe our society should take steps to limit male violence and mitigate male power, so my analogy by itself doesnt rule out taking some kind of precautions against fundamentalist Islam. I dont get to drop the mic yet. Islamic countries at present are doing relatively poorly on a number of well-being measures, notably democracy and womens rights, and worldwide more terrorist violence is committed in the name of Islam than any other cause. (Worldwide, but not in the US; there its eclipsed by white far-right extremists.) Does this constitute a problem for multiculturalism in the sense Ive been talking about? Does it challenge the proposition that all cultures, including Islamic cultures, are valid ways of life that should be allowed to run free in society?
First of all, the general validity of all cultures does not entail that all cultures have an exactly equally good response to every single challenge. Islam does seem to have a problem with terrorism, but then Catholicism by the same token has a problem with child sex abuse. Evangelical Christianity has a problem with racism, at least in America. And of course all three have a problem with homophobia. It so happens that terrorism by its nature is something done loudly in public, whereas child sex abuse is something done quietly behind closed doors; and also Western news media have a lot more Catholic viewers to keep mollified than Muslim ones, which they accomplish by treating terrorism as a systemic failing of a whole religion and sex abuse (when they report on it at all) as an individual failing of particular priests.
Youll also notice I said that Islamic countries are doing poorly on well-being measures at present. Thats not a trivial qualification. If I were to be whisked away in a time-machine and marooned in some century between about the eighth and the fifteenth, and was told I could choose whether to be dropped off somewhere in the Islamic world or somewhere in Christendom, I would unhesitatingly choose the former. Muslim polities then were more liberal, more scientifically advanced, more medically advanced, more peaceful, and more prosperous than Christian ones. Granted, there are passages in the Qurān that encourage violence, but you can find worse in the Bible. If liberal Christians today can intellectualize and theologize and spiritualize and generally waffle away Biblical violence, theres no reason why liberal Muslims cant do the same with Qurānic violence and indeed they do. The reactionary condition of the Islamic world today demands an explanation beyond Because Islam.
And if various other issues Ive touched on would need their own post to explain properly, this would take a whole book. Colonization is part of it. Oil is another; mineral wealth tends to enrich only a very small fraction of a countrys population, because its value isnt enhanced by labour and hence cant be threatened by industrial action. Largely because of the oil, foreign powers have bombed and invaded and disrupted elections in the Middle East more than any other geopolitical region, and you can see how this would confirm and perpetuate any cultural narratives to the effect that said foreign powers are allied with the forces of cosmic evil. That then casts a pall over ideas associated with such powers, like, oh, lets say, democracy and womens rights. Which is not to say that there arent proponents of those ideas within the Muslim world, because there are, many and courageous. Just because Westerners havent heard of them doesnt mean they dont exist.
Heres something else Westerners havent heard of. One talking point of the Because Islam theory is that Israel sits right in the middle of the Middle East, an oasis of liberal democracy if not exactly of peace. It cant be geography making the difference; it must be that Israel isnt Muslim. Except that there is another oasis of liberal democracy emerging as we speak in Muslim North Africa, so far completely unacknowledged by Western countries: the Democratic Republic of Somaliland. No, not Somalia, Somaliland. Here, go and read about it. Then maybe write to your political representatives about persuading your country to officially recognise it. Somaliland is Muslim, unlike Israel, but like Israel it is a new state with no historical inertia binding its government to religious institutions, and even more than Israel it has the good fortune to have had women active in building it from the beginning. It follows that Islam per se does not impede progressive or liberal values in a society. It further follows that the existence of Islam is no argument against multiculturalism.
New Zealand can be a bit complacent about race relations sometimes. After all, we can always with perfect truth claim to treat both immigrants and indigenous people better than Australia does. But thats a pathetically low bar to clear, and we need to do better.
For a start, the excuses people all over the English-colonized world give for their suspicion of immigrants are even more transparently bullshit in New Zealand than elsewhere. We are one of the worlds most sparsely populated countries; we have plenty of room. If more people came to live in our cities, we could shift our economy more towards manufacturing and technology and away from dairy-farming, which would mean less stress on our natural environment. Nor would we have to farm more intensively to feed them, because we already grow far more than we ourselves eat; net immigration just means that that food will be consumed here instead of exported. Yes, wed need to invest a bit more in our infrastructure, but you can do that when you have more people in the country being productive, and our infrastructure is overdue an upgrade anyway. And contrary to what people fear, immigration has been shown in multiple studies to enrich economies and reduce crime.
I can understand people who dont know these things (and they are not well-known) being a bit cagey about immigration. And I know people do not suddenly change their minds when presented with new facts in public debate; not when they have face to lose in front of their allies. All the same, its telling that their next rallying point is reliably something along the lines of But too much immigration too fast will make New Zealand look unfamiliar. Immigrants should have to learn to assimilate into our culture. Lets consider what this entails on the level of individual justice. Sorry, madam. Sorry, sir. I acknowledge that youre experiencing hard times where you live and that were, comparatively, sitting pretty. I can see that your skills a doctor and a computer engineer, well done, you must be dedicated workers are just the sort of thing our economy needs. New Zealand would clearly be an ideal place for you to settle down. But Im afraid that your presence here makes us look just that little bit less like a Footrot Flats cartoon, so Im going to have to ask you to leave.
Trotter objects to opponents of multiculturalism being branded xenophobic or racist. I wonder what he would say if he had spent the time I have in recent years trying to convince people on Facebook that the solution to child poverty and homelessness in Auckland is not to close the gates to immigration from East Asia. Im not being racist, but there are too many of them. There cannot be such a thing as too many of something unless there is something bad about that thing that accumulates with increasing numbers. Im not being racist, but I dont recognise my country any more. Why not? I do. Neither Pākehā nor Māori culture is in any danger. There are now cultures here that werent here before, but thats only a bad thing if there is something bad about those new cultures.
And if youre against multiculturalism, and dont want to be accused of xenophobia or racism, then frankly I think the onus falls on you to explain exactly what that something bad is.