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Multiculturalism - the dissimilation of Australian values

The consequential problems of maximising immigration intake and associated encouragement of multiculturalism should not be a race issue, but they are unavoidably about displacement of those already here and the unjust pressures of 'dissimilation' (...causing the loss or abandonment of culture or cultural characteristics of a people, society) If Australian's by birth should feel pushed aside by the current flood from immigration, consider what 220 years of colonisation has aflicted Australia's Aboriginal peoples!

If the Australian dominant culture accepts its legimate sovereignty out of historic invasion by armed attrition then these days should Australian-descendants and new borns accept as legimate sovereignty right those arrived through mass immigration? What if the new arrivals outnumber the indigenous and with birth rights? Do sheer numbers mean they have the numbers to overrule and shape Australia?

I could use a specific ethnic example, but then my argument could be dismissed as racist, and I am not. So let me use the example of a non-human invasive species, a species of bird, the Common Myna and the adverse impact it has caused to native birds.

"Common Mynas were brought to Melbourne in 1862 to control insect pests in market gardens, but even though they were not successful at this, they were taken from Melbourne to many other places in Australia, including north Queensland, where it was thought they would control insect pests of sugar cane. Cane Toads were introduced to Queensland for the same reason and have also become pests. Common Mynas have established feral populations in many parts of the world.

Common Mynas can be an economic problem because they damage fruit and grain crops and their noise and smell can be annoying where they are in large numbers.

Perhaps the Common Myna’s most serious “crime” is that it competes aggressively with native wildlife for nesting hollows. Mynas reduce biodiversity by fighting for hollows with native birds like Rosellas, destroying their eggs and chicks and stopping them from breeding. Mynas are capable of evicting even large birds such as Kookaburras and Dollar Birds from their nests. They also evict small mammals, like Sugar Gliders from hollows – which commonly means a death sentence for the Gliders because they have nowhere else to go. It is not uncommon for groups of mynas to mob other birds and mammals like possums.

In the ACT and some other places in Australia Mynas have invaded woodland habitats. There is not much woodland left in Australia and this additional threat to native wildlife can be a serious problem for biodiversity conservation.

Feral Common Mynas are a serious problem for biodiversity conservation in many countries other than Australia. In the year 2000, Common Mynas were listed by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) as one of the World’s 100 Worst Invasive Species

Ironically, Common Mynas have not been formally recognised as a problem by conservation agencies in Australia, except in the ACT, where the ACT Government has directed resources to seeking solutions."[SOURCE: Australia National University].

"The Common Myna is an omnivorous open woodland bird with a strong territorial instinct, the Myna has adapted extremely well to urban environments. The Myna has been introduced in many other parts of the world and its distribution range is on the increase to an extent that in 2000 the IUCN Species Survival Commission (IUCN) declared it as one of the just three birds among the World's 100 worst invasive species. It is a serious threat to the ecologies of Australia.

"The common myna thrives in urban and suburban environments; in Canberra, for instance, 110 common mynas were released between 1968 and 1971. By 1991, common myna population density in Canberra averaged 15 birds per square kilometer. Only three years later, a second study found an average population density of 75 birds per square kilometre in the same area.

"In Australia, the Common Myna is an invasive pest. They are now often the predominant bird in urban areas all along the East coast. Currently, common myna populations in Australia are concentrated along the eastern coast around Sydney and its surrounding suburbs." They have also spread into urban Victoria and Queensland.

Compared to native hollow-nesting species, the common myna is extremely aggressive, and breeding males will actively defend areas ranging up to 0.83 hectares in size. This aggressiveness has enabled the common myna to displace many breeding pairs of native hollow-nesters, thereby reducing their reproductive success. In particular, the reproduction rates of native hollow-nesting parrots in the bush land of eastern Australia have been reduced by up to 80% by the common myna. It is known to maintain up to two roosts simultaneously, and both male and female common mynas will fiercely protect both roosts at all times, leading to further exclusion of native birds."Source: Wikipedia

So these species of birds displace native bird colonies and are quick to colonise.

Displacement is the key problem associated with the Common Myna. It is also the key problem that emerges when migrants CHOOSE not to acculturate into their new country, but instead CHOOSE to maintain their existing culture, language, customs, traditions and values. When mass immigration policy stops at the airport, cultural pluralism naturally establishes. It is primitive understandable self-preservation. The larger the immigrant group, the more dominant and more likely to cluster geographically together, establish a distinct territory, change their surroundings and recreate familiarities of the old country. Locals become outnumbered, see their amenity and cultural environment altering. The locality becomes a Chinatown, a Spanish Quarter, a Little Lebanon, a synagogue is built, a islamic school is built, the burkha walks the streets of say Wagga Wagga, the local mayor who has Iranian ancestry then calls for sharia law to be introduced. This is an extreme example, but it highlights what unchecked cultural pluralism can lead to. It can lead to deculturation of the native species.

And ethnic tensions in urban Australia have indeed increased as a consequence of federal flood gate immigration without an overriding population policy. Australian governments continue to abrogate their responsibility for social assimilation and social cohesion flow on needs of immigration. The 2005 Cronulla racial riots and the recent attacks on Indian students in Melbourne and Sydney are harbingers of ethnic unrest that could escalate if the underlying root causes are not addressed.

This is not to say that members of distinct groups within a society should not be allowed to maintain and celebrate their different cultures or cultural identities. This is not to say that a society should not extend tolerance to distinct ethnic and religious groups in order to promote social cohesion. And do we continue to marginalise the traditional Australians, who were here first, to third world status?

So is it appropriate that immigrants within a larger society maintain their unique cultural identities. Many third world countries have maintained cultural pluralism under a 'caste' system. None has worked without ethnic tension and periodically descending into civil unrest as a direct consequence. The issue is do doubt complex, but cannot be ignored.
The dominant culture can't have its cake and eat it too! If enough Chinese, Indians or Lilliputians or whomever immigrate, they may become eventually the dominant culture in Australia.

Multiculturalism theory seeks the ideal of promoting acceptance of various cultural divisions for the sake of diversity, as if being likened to the ideals of biodiversity. Good will to all men etc, etc. Wonderful in theory!

An so immigration is embraced and like the United States, Australia becomes a 'melting pot' for many diverse culture, races and religions all living harmoniously. Heterogeneous societies become more homogeneous - a utopian love fest! Until someone wants special treatment and cries accusations of minority discrimination!

Whereas 'cultural assimilation' or 'immigrant assimilation' is the adoption by an individual/immigrant of some or all aspects of a dominant culture, typically by quarantining immigrants to ensure comparable socioeconomic status, reducing spatial concentration of any one group, local language attainment, and through intermarriage.

But what is Australia's dominant culture. How do we define it. What are its core principles and values? Do we want to preserve it? Such core issues require broad public debate to clarify and crystalise, before Australia can move from multiculturalism to immigration assimilation, if indeed it is prepared to.

Until this important debate is brought to the mainstream, Australia's record unchecked and unsupported immigration risks exacerbating costs on our triple bottom line and steady dissimilation.

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Comments

Firstly, I think the moral and practical issue is not 'justice' between the different peoples here - born or imported - but justice to the land, which is what nurtures us and gives us independence from each other as well as uniting us. If we pay attention to the particularities of this country and its regions first, we will be in harmony.

Secondly, for a society to function democratically there has to be self-governance. Those living here have to have precedence over those who may one day come here. It is problematic when governments pretend to make policies for international social justice, since they are actually elected to make policies for their constituents. It is also problematic when governments impose a 'multicultural' policy on us if that deprives us of the primacy of identifying together with this actual land that nurtures us.

I think that most people confuse 'culture' with 'symbol' in this ... um... debate.
A culture is something that grows out of a particular soil and environment. It reflects the local environment. That is what makes it special. So, people who live in cold places - such as eskimos - would wear furs and live in igloos. They would speak an Innuit language which would probably take on regional clan-based specifics.

If those eskimos emigrated to the Northern Territory in Australia, one would not expect them to try to build igloos out of ice blocks and wear thick furs. They would probably continue to speak Innuit but that innuit would probably lose its regional specificity as they fraternised with other immigrant innuits from different regions, and the Northern Territory Innuits would probably begin to speak English, since that is the principle common language in the NT.

Maybe the Innuit families, every Christmas, to remind themselves of where they came from, would, in the absence of ice, build a Christmas igloo on the beach out of polystyrene. Maybe they would wear some partial furry hat as well, since the full eskimo regalia would be unbearable. They might eat something to remind them of their origins - imported whale strips or some such -and they might exchange snowy Xmas cards and sing Innuit Xmas carols.

Now, I would maintain that the polystyrene and the snowy Xmas cards (and even the idea of Xmas in December) are only symbols (parts to represent a greater thing). The real Innuit culture still requires Innuit traditional territory with snow and ice.

I don't say that there could never be an Innuit Australian culture, but that would not be an Innuit culture; it would be something that grew up in response to the Australian conditions and the Innuit symbols, i.e. culture divorced from its material source or from its real function in time and space. Thus you might find that, in 20 years, a thriving Innuit NT community had developed where the idea of little round houses built out of polystyrene caught on and become some part of permanent NT culture for beach houses. Maybe some of the Innuit songs would become a part of NT childrens' repertoire with choruses in N.T. Wagiman (aboriginal language).

Are these people still practising the Innuit culture? Some might argue that, because they are Innuit, whatever they do is part of Innuit culture - that seems to be the logic behind the definition of culture as symbols rather than real interaction with an environment. So what part of what the Innuits do in the NT is Australian?

I would suggest that the polystyrene beach houses are Australian culture, with an Innuit influence. If they last it is because they work in this environment. What if a family of NT Innuits were to emigrate to Alaska and build polystyrene igloos? Would that work? Would those be Innuit houses with an Australian influence or would they be International polystyrene houses?

I think that it is fine for people to keep their symbols but it is crazy to keep symbols if they interfere with your healthy interaction with the environment. It is psychotic to behave as if you are living in a snowy igloo when you actually dwell in a humpy. Having Xmas cards with snow on them in December and eggs in Autumn in Australia is actually a pretty mad and empty thing to do. Consider that the Easter eggs symbolise the coming of Spring with new life, but in Australia, we break open eggs at near the beginning of winter. What are we doing? We are engaging in some artefactual activity which actually obscures the very nature of our true environment, depriving us of skills, insights and connection. Same with white Xmases, when we really should be thinking about bushfires. Those Easter and Xmas festivals served a purpose in their original environment, but they actually get in the way of all Australians by obscuring the need to plan for seasonal changes.

I don't know about you, but the Xmas I celebrate isn't Christian. It's more a family day where you eat cold colations, and exchange cards with Australian animals on them. The practise of giving chocolate bilbies at Easter is a response to something we need to think about here. Of course it would make even more sense to have Easter in Spring and maybe call it Bilby day or something.

If you were a Christian, then I would still suggest the cold collation and bilby route. Peace on earth is a political value that adapts to different climates.

Our northern hemisphere styled symbols of Winter in our summer and Spring in our Autumn are dysfunctional. Humans, because of language, are able to carry complex symbols for long distances. However they do not survive if they assign the old symbols more importance than the real landscape, climate and biota around them, failing to get in touch with the land that is their new mother now.

As our slow, sprawling rivers dry up due to the stress of demands made on them for northern hemisphere productivity and our thin soils blow away as we plough them and our native plants and animals die as we over fertilise them, how many of us will continue not to see our land as it really is? If we keep burning our forests because we believe that aboriginals once did this, instead of adapting to the reality that we need to try to make the forests moister to foster repair of climate, isn't helpful.

Culture is also a vehicle of power and social organisation. It can be imported and exported like some strange harness to be worn in a new place to keep people in a position and doing things that they would naturally have done in the place where the harness was made. The way our governments talk down to us and tell us that whatever we have learned about Australia has no more importance than polystyrene igloos and chocolate eggs, is a way of making us wear a kind of frankenstein suite made up of bits and pieces from other places, other times. Politically it is as if Australians have been held captive to a virtual reality, continually resubscribed by our government, medias and churches, which control us with a 'reality' manufactured from bits, inculcated in us in school, church and via the media.

It is a struggle to communicate about important things in this Frankenstein culture because it doesn't really work. It doesn't reflect the local reality in a coherent way.

We have been educated to behave like low class serfs who act as if this life is some kind of bizarre test where we are to recite silly catechisms and seek advice from self-appointed priests and take our laws from unpleasant politicians who want to make us subservient to a growth economy. We struggle to have real lives, real interaction with our land. Our cities and supermarkets are anonymous international artificial environments. Many of us own nothing, just exist from payment to payment, job to job in this anonymous prosthetic cultural desert.

Even the Australian Aboriginal culture has been skillfully marketed down to displaced corroborees and inscrutable face-painting and mandatory bushfires as the bill of exchange for real dancing within real societies each forged by its own unique real landscape.

The Frankenstein culture is an existential blind deaf and dumb alley that not only produces a degraded, impoverished environment subjugated to the demands of overpopulated cities alienated from nature, but it also produces an impoverished, disempowered people, who, not knowing their land, do not know each other. We risk being a captive herd guided as we are by exiguous symbols of distant places and times long past that belonged to other people.

Our culture should be guided foremost by our mutual experiences of our local reality - not by tv, not by politicians' slogans, not by distant people, places, things.

Of course every place has things in common with other places. We all breath the same atmosphere. Human cultures have their basic topologies and templates and a child born in one land will be moulded by the land and the human culture and language of that land, and it should not matter where that child's parents came from. And there is nothing wrong with knowing a second culture and another language, but only if you can still see the place where you are actually standing. I speak two languages and know two cultures and two lands, but when I am in this land, this culture has primacy, and when I am in that land, that culture has primacy, because the cultures come with the land and the society that inhabits that land; elsewhere they are just a memory or a translation.

Sheila Newman, population sociologist
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I thought the name of the bird pictured is more commonly called "Indian Myna"
There's a web-site devoted to this issue:
http://www.indianmynaaction.org.au/myna_identification.htm

Ilan, the Indian (Common) Myna as your reference confirms allows both names. Clearly though, 'Common Myna' is more appropriate because this bird species has now colonised many countries - it has become 'common'.

Also, the term,'Common Myna' as my metaphoric example for 'deculturation' is also more appropriate because it does not seek to target any specific ethicity. Instead, my message is to highlight the inherent problems of encouraging cultural pluralism (by any cultural group), not to target any one ethnic/cultural group. To do otherwise would be to divert to a quite different ethnic biased position, which is not my intent.

Perhaps you could add real value by commenting on the 'cultural pluralism' issue, rather than nit picking the example.

Do we have "skills shortages" of terrorists in Australia? With such a high rate of entries into Australia, it is impossible to effectively scrutinise everyone for security clearances before disembarking and settling here.

We are being forced into higher cost and higher density living without the basis of a homogeneous society, a monoculture that other high population nations have! Our governments want higher populations but also diversity. This won't work.

The media are interested more in their corporate sponsors and the real estate industries, so they have a conflict of interests in expressing such topics as immigration and population problems. It takes courage to question our immigration policies, and ironically Melbourne Labor MP Kelvin Thompson is in the Wills electorate where once Bob Hawke espoused multiculturalism so heavily.

However, Kelvin Thompson doesn't go far enough:our immigration numbers should not just be reduced, but should trickle to an end except for genuine refugees!

Once migrants were encouraged to assimilate to an Australian way of life, and then we had multiculturalism in which people settling here were encouraged to maintain their cultural identities, and we celebrated diversity.

Our rate of population growth will mean over 40 million by 2050. Already our agricultural output has been compromised by drought, decline in arable land, failing waterways and wetlands.

We are already multicultural and we have a lively "melting pot" of integration and cultural mixes. We don't need to prove it!

Sydney is full, Melbourne lacks water and is already bulging, Queensland is threatening wildlife habitat and coastlines and capital cities are struggling to supply housing and infrastructure. The evidence of being over a sustainable population level is already with us!

The only groups interested in maintaining our soaring levels of immigration are those with vested interests in producing customers for the property market, retail consumers and more employees in a tight market! These groups have power to manipulate government policies but no responsibilities in maintaining national security or social cohesion.

We need to see some holistic planning, not just ad-hoc policies on-the-run and "business as usual"!

What is almost certain is that the terrorist plot, if the accused are found guilty in a court, was not hatched in Somalia on the other side of the world as Prime Minister Rudd and the Murdoch newsmedia irresponsibly tired to imply.

This was acknowledged in the Australian's article "Militant Warlords combing diaspora for recruits at home” In the Australian of Thursday 6 August by Catherine Philp:

IF the Islamists arrested in Tuesday’s pre-dawn raids were plotting to storm Australian army bases, it is unlikely al-Shabaab told them to do it.

Further along, she writes:

What al-Shabaab cannot do is stop the foreign fighters it has radicalised in its training camps from returning home to attack domestic targets in the name of Islam.

Western intelligence agencies have repeatedly warned of the risk of returning ethnic Somalis doing just that. Al-Shabaab is keen to keep its foreign fighters committed to the Somali jihad. Their efforts are said to have greatly contributed to the Islamists’ recent military successes.

I would suggest there is a world of difference between this country being the target of a coordinated international terrorist campaign and a small group of deluded fools (5 at the last count) in this country attempting to launch a terrorist attack at their own initiative, that is, if they are found guilty of what they are charged with.

In comparison to the dangers we face every day including the death from road accidents, industrial accidents, natural disasters, the danger posed by terrorism a small group of deluded fools is small by comparisaon.

This is not to say that we should not be concerned about violence emanating from some sections of immigrant communities, or that terrorism or even outright war is not a possibilty in future, but for now, we need to be very suspicious when the newsmedia and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd seize upon such events as an excuse to take away even more of our democratic freedoms, given the almost uncountable assaults on the democratic rights of Australia that are happening almost daily, only some of which we are able to report upon on candobetter.org.

I have written quite a bit more of this on Larvatus Prodeo.