Friday, July 28, 2006



Immigration, "bedrock values", and tolerance

Don Brash is bashing immigrants again, this time by demanding that all immigrants should accept New Zealand's "bedrock values", which he describes as:

...an acceptance of democracy and the rule of law, religious and personal freedom, and legal equality of the sexes. If you don’t accept these fundamentals, then New Zealand isn’t the place for you.

Put another way, we should not welcome those who want to live in New Zealand but reject core aspects of New Zealand culture.

Interestingly, Brash's backers in the Exclusive Brethren "reject core aspects of New Zealand culture", and refuse to accept religious and personal freedom and equality of the sexes. Does that mean we should kick them out, or not let their friends come here?

The Brethren are an easy example, but there's a general point here: toleration also applies to the intolerant. Social liberalism and the acceptance of personal and religious freedom and non-discrimination necessarily entails accepting those who disagree with those freedoms. And there's no question that we accept this principle; if you point out to someone that there are fundamentalist Christians out there who believe that everyone should be forced to believe as they do and abide by "God's Law", or that there are good old fashioned misogynists who think that women are inferior, or outright racists who think the same of Maori or non-whites in general, you'll almost certainly be told that, while their views may be highly disagreeable, its their right to think that (people might even quote Voltaire at you). Nobody seriously suggests rounding up authoritarians, sexists, bigots, racists, and NZ First voters for deportation or extermination to preserve our tolerant, liberal society. Instead, we accept that accepting them is part and parcel of toleration, and that their views can be dealt with though the democratic process and social debate.

So why the hell do people think any differently of new immigrants?

I think the answer is that, while masked by praise of liberalism and tolerance, this is in fact a rejection of those values. Brash is even explicit about it:

In most respects, it’s a question of quantity and of balance. Diversity is a bit like red wine: a certain amount is good for one’s health; too much too quickly alters your personality and can be thoroughly bad.

Except that diversity isn't a foreign substance introduced into the body politic by immigration - its something that comes from every single one of us. While recent immigrants are one example of diversity, the vast majority of it is entirely internal, stemming from the different ways we lead our lives. Saying that we should only have "a certain amount of diversity" is saying that the life choices of New Zealanders - be they personal, religious, political, sexual or social - should be constrained to conform to some mythical "mainstream", so that old farts like Don Brash aren't confronted with the fact that people don't really think or worship or eat or fuck like them any more. This isn't "liberal", and it sure as hell isn't "tolerant".

23 comments:

I was at a citizenship ceremony the other day. It was great. The new New Zealanders were made welcome with the promise that the diversity and culutures they brought were an important part of our society. It was also made clear that there were certain fundamental beliefs that united NZers that they were, as citizens, responsible for upholding. These included respect, tolerance, freedom and democracy.

A day later I read Rosemary McLeods latest attack on gays, and now, in the same week, we have Don Brash's beat up. They are not alone. This year I have heard Stephen Franks of Act question cultures that he thinks shouldn't be welcome here and NZ First's track record is hardly exemplory.

So, we tell our new immigrants to be tolerant and respectful in a climate where nearly half our parliament and associated shills are preaching the opposite.

How depressing.

Posted by noddy : 7/28/2006 04:17:00 PM

The application form for Permanent Residence in New Zealand has a section where the applicant is asked if they have been a member of an organisation with racialist objectives. I presume the philosphy behind this is basically the same as what Don Brash said: people like that reject core aspects of NZ values, and as such we don't want them. Personally I see nothing wrong with that. KKK members, terrorist supporters, people who practise female circumcision and so on may be manifestations of "diversity" but I don't see that there is any benefit to New Zealand in allowing people like that to come here. I guess it's simply a question of where you want to draw the line.

Posted by Peter : 7/28/2006 05:17:00 PM

Peter: they also ask you whether you've been convicted of a serious criminal offence, been a drug dealer, been convicted of drunk or dangerous driving, served in the military, an intelligence agency, or as a law enforcement officer, or participated in war crimes and crimes against humanity. It's part of the general screening process to assess "character", and not necessarily an absolute veto (the things which would be an absolute veto are in s7 of the Immigration Act; being a racist is not one of them).

(It's also worth noting that "commitment to racial equality" is notably absent from Brash's list. I wonder why that is?)

But Brash isn't talking about criminals or supporters of violent extremism - he's talking about people with views no different from what we tolerate from other New Zealanders (and frequently identical to them, except for external branding). So what justification do we have for keeping one out while tolerating the other, and how does this fit with brash's "one law for all" mantra?

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 7/28/2006 06:19:00 PM

Did anyone hear Brash talking to Mary Wilson tonight on National Radio???? He basically said anyone who wrote to a foreign newspaper criticising NZ is guilty of treason, FFS. What a halfwit.

Posted by Sanctuary : 7/28/2006 07:12:00 PM

You think for a second that conservative national voters would not get all upset if 100,000 brethren tried to come to NZ?

BTW I loved the question about "participated in war crimes" and "committed crimes against humanity"
I wondered if anyone who HAS actually done those things ever thought they would be honest and face the surely inevitable life sentence in favor of the terrible threat of possible deportation for lying.

I was going to suggest saying yes but I figured that that would result in some very bad things happening if USA was ever a planed destination.

Posted by Genius : 7/28/2006 07:47:00 PM

The only alternative is to go down the route of Marcuse's "repressive tolerance" - and that is what Brash would appear to like but which no rational person would.

Posted by Jordan : 7/28/2006 08:14:00 PM

I heard Mary Wilson's interview - it was classic! Don Brash made to look like a blithering idiot yet again.

Don says democracy is a 'bedrock value'.

Don says people who write to foreign newspapers saying not to buy New Zealand goods is treasonous.

Mary says that writing to a foreign newspaper saying not to buy New Zealand goods is democracy.

zing!

Posted by Anonymous : 7/28/2006 08:19:00 PM

There is a rumour that his wife is from a one-party State ruled by a man who in the 1940s was on the U.K. and British Commonwealth's terrorist list of communist sympathizers; Still worse, it is rumoured his wife shares with all those people of her origin an irritating way of not speaking English like either an Englishwoman or a Kiwiwoman.

This must be exposed.

Posted by Anonymous : 7/28/2006 09:41:00 PM

Sanctuary: But doesn't Don Brash do that all the time?

So much for "one law for all".

Genius: it would depend on how much money they were willing to put up to bankroll conservative political parties, I guess.

Anon: I just listened to it (audio here), and Brash spends most of it going round in circles desperately trying to avoid naming names, because he's trying to dog-whistle rather than be explicitly racist. The treason comment is just mind-boggling, though. If we believe in democracy and freedom of speech, then that surely extends to criticising your country and telling people that they should express their displeasure with it.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 7/28/2006 10:26:00 PM

My word, the longer that man heads the National party the better.

He states;
Mohammed cartoons = free speech
Criticism of cartoons = free speech
Anti-NZ sentiment in foreign letter to the editor = treason.

What about the immigrant that came here because he wanted to live in a country where he could write whatever the hell he wanted to whomever the hell he wanted?

Or do Brash's version of 'bedrock kiwi values' not extend to free expression of opinion?

He is an idiot.

Posted by james cairney : 7/28/2006 11:09:00 PM

For the record, anyone kiwi who calls for a boycott of New Zealand products in a foreign paper is an arsehole.

However, in a democracy, I respect that arseholes are entitled to opinions.

Posted by james cairney : 7/28/2006 11:13:00 PM

I would hope anyone WtaFNCfaBoNZG would at least make us look clever by using sound logic and good reasoning.

An arsehole? That would depend on the point made: there are a few things we do wrong here while spending a lot of money lying about it to the markets.

Posted by tussock : 7/28/2006 11:57:00 PM

But Brash isn't talking about criminals or supporters of violent extremism - he's talking about people with views no different from what we tolerate from other New Zealanders (and frequently identical to them, except for external branding). So what justification do we have for keeping one out while tolerating the other, and how does this fit with brash's "one law for all" mantra?

We already have an obligation to New Zealand citizens which we don't to foreigners, which is why we don't deport National Front members but we didn't allow David Irving to come here. Anyway, what you say seems to imply that all forms of diversity are equally beneficial for New Zealand. I don't agree with this. It makes sense to pick and choose the sorts of people who are likely to be most beneficial to New Zealand. Take for example, democratic beliefs. A small number of people who prefer to live under a theocracy or fascist-style government won't have much effect on NZ, but given enough critical mass it will. A minority can have a significant effect on a country's political system if they are well-organised. Given the choice between 100,000 Exclusive Brethren coming to NZ or 100,000 people with democratic beliefs similar to your own, would you not have a preference?

Posted by Peter : 7/29/2006 02:50:00 PM

What Brash wants to say, but doesn't dare to, is that Muslims should not allowed into New Zealand. He's trying to take a leaf out of Aussie politicians' books on that issue.

Still, maybe there is a point to keeping religious loonies out of the country. These people are after all the sworn enemies of tolerance, freedom and democracy, and have little respect for those who don't agree with them (yes, I know, I'll burn in hell for having said this).

So let's see, apart from Muslims, we'll bar Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Beck and other Scientology nutjobs; a huge amount of US southern baptists; Falun Gong for mucking up the trade with China; and what about the catholics? They're not very tolerant when it comes to the freedom to watch Da Vinci Code are they?

Posted by Juha : 7/29/2006 03:30:00 PM

On the face of it Brash is saying something worth saying. I just wish I knew what he was REALLY trying to say...and to who. Whenever he says this sort of thing, different people hear very different things. The liberal left hear him bashing immigrants, and the illiberal NZF contingent...hear him bashing immigrants as well.

Yet I have to agree with the fundamental point he makes about some immigrant whose belief system would have them actively subvert almost all the value notions that most Kiwi's do hold. And yes he IS talking about fundamentalists. I know he has Muslim fanatics in mind, but the net would equally extend to the bigotted nut-jobs who infest the fringes of all faiths. Sadly Islam has a bigger and more dangerous fringe at this time in history than any other.

Those of you who know me will have figured out by now that I have an active belief in God. The form it takes changes as I grow and understand more. I refrain from imposing my beliefs on others, except perhaps in the context of tossing ideas around from time to time. In the course of my religious life I have had reason to come into close contact with Islam in both it's sublime and degenerate aspects. As a result I fully support the position that as a nation we have the right to declare fundamentalist Islam (and by extension fundamental religionists of any stripe) as inimmicable to the New Zealand state, because these people ARE by their own conviction absolutely intolerant of other's.

Holding to a belief is one thing. Insisting that it is the ONLY belief and that it is your DUTY to enforce it on everyone around you is quite another.

Posted by Logix : 7/29/2006 04:01:00 PM

i/s's core challenge is for someone to explain how we could be justifed in imposing higher standards on immigrants - requiring them to be dyed-in-the-wool liberal democrats (whatever exactly that might involve) say - than we do of native born (we don't and shouldn't exile or exterminate the illiberal or undemocratic natives). Peter (and maybe Logix) has made a start in that direction.... but the important thing to keep in mind is that a natives/immigrants asymmetry of this kind is completely normal so that we *know* there *are* justfications of the relevant sort.

Compare: almost anyone gets to have and keep their own kid if they want to (you have to be seriously criminal for the state to take it away from you against your wishes.). If you want to adopt however, you have to meet very high standards.... immigrants to parent-land have to meet much higher standards than natives. Maybe even a majority of natural parents couldn't adopt their very own kid, and it's certainly logically possible that this could be so.

Now there are various strands behind this policy about children and there's no reason to expect exactly the same strands in the national-immigrant case.... but the very idea of an asymmetry of the sort that i/s claims to find unfathomable is fine, and is arguably essential. (I assume, for example, that everyone thinks it's OK to have a policy favoring immigrants with more wealth and/or skills than most let alone all NZ-ers have, hence that no one's seriously tempted to object to such policies by saying: "Well, are you prepared to exile/exterminate the native poor or unskilled?")

As usual, then, Brash probably is a bit of a dummy, but those who come to bury him are no better and are arguably much worse.

Posted by stephen glaister : 7/29/2006 04:22:00 PM

> So let's see, apart from Muslims, we'll bar Tom Cruise, John Travolta...

Tom and John have a lot of taxable money so I think the good we can do with that might balance out the bad of having them telling people about their space alien past.
Falun Gong on the otherhand are 'space cadettes' WITHOUT money (on the whole).

Posted by Genius : 7/29/2006 05:31:00 PM

About 90% of the Muslims in NZ are either from Fiji, Singapore, Malaysia or Indonesia; there are a few Turks running kebab shops, but hardly any Moslems from Africa, Middle East or central Asia - the ones that are here are mostly teaching engineering, running our hospitals or denists plus the few refugees from Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq - but even here many of the Iraqis around town are not Moslem any way, but Assyrian Christians or Arab Christians.... So Brash isn't really saying anything at all if all he is saying is that National would keep immigrants from those places down - they are down and always have been.

Most likely it is just National trying to do what Bill English did in 2002 when National promised to disenfranchise those on Maori electoral roll i.e. try and make it a "defining" issue for National - divide and rule type stuff.

All this racial divide and rule rubbish might work in the U.S. where they have an 18th Century First Past The Post electoral system, but it won't work deliver a National-led government under MMP.

Good thing too really because racial divide and rule always ends up inflaming conflict and violence and ultimately war..."To initiate a war of aggression is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole." - judges in the Nuremberg trial of the Nazi leadership.

Posted by Anonymous : 7/29/2006 07:11:00 PM

One reason it is very difficult to have a productive debate on immigration is because those who stand for multiculturalism are incredibly jealous in their defence of it. Don Brash suggests, very moderately, that it's possible have too much diversity and is pounced on because, I guess, some people feel that any questioning of this fundamental tenet of multiculturalism is a slippery slope leading directly to a White New Zealand policy. I don't think it needs to, and the fact that Don Brash is married to a Singaporean lady ought to be evidence that he's not uncomfortable with different cultures to his own. The problem is, I feel, that i/s has taken an extreme stance. It's not necessary to be a radical multiculturalist, or elevate "diversity" to a status where it's always a good thing for its own sake, in order not to be a bigot.

Posted by Peter : 7/30/2006 06:35:00 PM

Peter: I sympathize with your complaint (if not with all of your tactics, e.g., I wouldn't want to draw too many conclusions from someone's biography myself) but overall you really give i/s far too much credit.

Consider again the following (incredibly rude!) tirade:

Except that diversity isn't a foreign substance introduced into the body politic by immigration - its something that comes from every single one of us. While recent immigrants are one example of diversity, the vast majority of it is entirely internal, stemming from the different ways we lead our lives. Saying that we should only have "a certain amount of diversity" is saying that the life choices of New Zealanders - be they personal, religious, political, sexual or social - should be constrained to conform to some mythical "mainstream", so that old farts like Don Brash aren't confronted with the fact that people don't really think or worship or eat or fuck like them any more. This isn't "liberal", and it sure as hell isn't "tolerant".

To begin to see the core equivocation this rests on imagine someone - "hippy-Brash" - calling for *greater* diversity:

In most respects, it’s a question of quantity and of balance. Conformity/Uniformity is a bit like red meat: a certain amount is good for one’s health; too much too quickly can be thoroughly bad.

All of i/s's umbrage -and her twisting of an apparently sensible view about immigration into a poisonous attack on actual NZ-ers choices - still goes through:

"The vast majority of conformity/uniformity is entirely internal, stemming from the ways that NZ-ers freely choose to live out their lives, which, as it happens, mainly follow just a few basic patterns. Saying that we should have 'more diversity' is saying that the life choices of NZers... should be constrained to be more dissimilar - spread apart more - than they actually are to fit some mythical ideal of perfect-distributedness/there-not-being-a mainstream-of-NZ-life so that that old farts like Hippy-Brash aren't confronted with the fact that people like to live mainly in just a few basic ways, with those broadly like themselves, and to inhabit mainly the high-consensus and highly intelligible and transparent communities that such relative lack of diversity facilitates. This isn't 'liberal', and it sure as hell isn't 'tolerant'."

So i/s's sort of tirade is always available, all it takes is a willingness to equivocate and to be uncharitable and vituperative.

What's the underlying equivocation? Well, there's, for lack of a better term, the liberal democratic ecosystem on the one hand and then there are actual runs of that system on the other hand. Views about immigration are views about the best inputs to that ecosystem and thence about the continued health and viability of that ecosystem. Views about how people within the ecosystem actually live are views about the particular run of the system you've got. Liberal democracy is characterized by a relatively high degree of equanimity about particular runs - for example whether people lead utterly diverse lives or fall into a few basic clusters of norms is for the most part equally fine by you. Tolerance of the illiberal and anti-democratic within is always hard, but you're committed to trying to practice it. And so on.

Sane liberal democrats can and should, however, be very protective of the liberal democratic ecosystem itself, in part because we all have our illiberal impulses still and who knows what adding, e.g., 100K theocrats to the mix might bring out in all of us...... but if you are an uncharitable and vituperative partisan then it's time to make your move!

If anyone says anything about the right inputs to the system - for example, that immigrants should at least like liberal democracy, and perhaps be comfortable with and approving of the basic highly internally diverse shape of our particular run of it - then immediately start slurring them as not much of a liberal democrat after all! Insist that they want to change the internal run of the system. Accuse them of intolerance of specific features of the actual run of the system you've got. Insist that *real* liberal democrats not only *don't* but actually *musn't* favor immigrants who agree with its principles let alone aspects of its particular outcomes. Insist that real liberal democrats are so macho about democratic process and social debate that they can and must take *anyone*, and that screening inputs to the system for compatibility with the basic ecosystem is for wimps, old farts, and racists. Impugn at your pleasure a completely general and intelligible asymmetry between natives and immigrants. Have fellow equivocators chime in darkly about Marcusian repression. You win. You're prepared to say, you *did* say anything.

Posted by stephen glaister : 7/30/2006 10:36:00 PM

The thing is, this is a straw man arguement. NZ does make its "bedrock values" clear tom immigrants as I pointed out above.

Tolerence, democracy, freedom are values that have to be accepted to become an NZ citizen. I think it is about time NZers had some education in citizenship. Don BRash even admits that NZ doesn't have a problem. So, er, WTF (other than to pick up NZ First votes)?

Posted by noddy : 7/31/2006 12:14:00 PM

NZ does make its "bedrock values" clear to immigrants as I pointed out above.

Perhaps so Noddy, but if you're i/s you must think that that's a big mistake, and that no such (even nominal or largely symbolic) filtering of immigrants is appropriate.

Tolerence, democracy, freedom are values that have to be accepted to become an NZ citizen.

Well, what a pack of fascists we are then if, as i/s says, (a) "toleration also applies to the intolerant. Social liberalism and the acceptance of personal and religious freedom and non-discrimination necessarily entails accepting those who disagree with those freedoms"; (b) Why the hell do people think any differently of new immigrants?; hence (c) tolerating (including at least not filtering out) the hideously intolerant at the level of new immigrants is also required.

So if i/s is right then everything you describe as currently occurring should be ended.

Don Brash even admits that NZ doesn't have a problem. So, er, WTF (other than to pick up NZ First votes)?

The speech was a kind of basic review of issues around immigration and its risks and rewards (and reasonably well handled for the most part - good on the churn rate problem for example - i.e., how NZ is stuck with a high immigration rate) not a detailed list of proposals. That's appropriate for a Leader isn't it?

You, Noddy, described Brash's speech as a "beat up" above, presumably accepting i/s's characterization of it as "bashing immigrants again". Why did you say/do that? There are a few bum notes and poorly worked examples in the speech... but beyond that it basically fits with what you say you like. i/s's response to Brash, however, is absolutely incompatible with what you claim to like (as well as being a logical nightmare as I've detailed above). I urge you to try to think this through some more.

Posted by stephen glaister : 7/31/2006 08:19:00 PM

This is funny: http://newzland.wordpress.com/2006/07/30/brash-draws-obvious-cheap-shot-with-bedrock-values-speech/

Posted by Anonymous : 8/03/2006 02:24:00 PM