The Unspoken Moral Questions of Identity
Myself against my brother. Myself and my brother against my cousin. Myself, my brother and my cousin against the foreigner.
— Arab proverb.
At the heart of the English character lay a fund of kindliness. Though in the mass rough and often cruel, and passionately addicted to barbarous sports like bull-baiting and cock-fighting, they led the world in humanitarian endeavour.
— Arthur Bryant
Good manners is the art of making those people easy with whom we converse. Whoever makes the fewest people uneasy is the best bred in the room.
— Jonathan Swift
Persecution, then, gives rise to a peculiar technique of writing, and therewith to a peculiar type of literature, in which the truth about all crucial things is presented exclusively between the lines.
— Leo Strauss
Increasingly I find that our National Day, “Australia Day”, is losing its meaning. The explanations of what it means to have “Australian Identity” seem so facile, amorphous and abstract: “freedom”, “democracy”, “mateship”, “a fair go”. What does any of that even mean? No one ever explains it. Increasingly, I am instructed that all the things I would normally associate with culture and identity – religious practice, manners, customs, folklore, music, song etc. – have strictly nothing to do with Australian identity. The government, the media and (of all things) the lamb industry go to great lengths to tell me that culture is irrelevant to being Australian. So that leaves me with a passport, an economy and a (porous) border.
Late last year a scandal broke concerning comments made by our Immigration Minister. The reaction to these comments was mostly typical, but also included some unexpected developments. It made me think about where we are headed so far as our concept of identity is concerned.
Like any Paleoconservative, I believe that identity and hierarchy are concepts endemic to the human condition. We are tribal creatures, and our tribal realities will always be with us. We register the notion of family and kin. We have a concept of ethnic identity. Only a kind of ideological reprogramming can alter that – and even then, it will ultimately fail to smother what nature has made us.
I think that the debate and discussion aroused by this scandal has revealed some of the unspoken moral questions that are arising in this country concerning identity – especially among Anglo-Australians. Times are changing but as Mike and the Mechanics sang, “There’s a rumor on the corner / But it’s always been denied / ‘Cause they don’t want you any wiser / You’re just toein’ the party line”. That rumour is that Anglo-Australia is starting to ask questions about where it fits in with the multicultural experiment that has become Australia’s social landscape.
I live in, and have lived in for most of my life, an area best described as an “ethnic ghetto”, which seems to be the case for the majority of the outer suburbs in our major cities. It has given me a front row seat in this social experiment. I will draw upon anecdotes in this discussion, as well as documented facts, because those anecdotes reveal important stories. Many of the concerns for Anglo-Australia simply aren’t documented or recorded. it is all part of the “memory hole” built by the politico-media machine.
Now it is time to “set the scene” for our discussion.
Setting the Scene
Given that even politicians trying to speak honestly for once have their words edited to fit the progressive narrative, readers are advised to consult in full the allegedly controversial comments made by the minister in the following discussion. Space does not permit the extensive citation I would prefer, but thankfully we have footnotes.
On Thursday 17 November 2016, the Federal Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton appeared on The Bolt Report, screened via Sky News. Bolt put a series of very direct questions to Dutton – it would be fair to say that Bolt probed and pushed, because he wanted Dutton to address a quite specific issue. Dutton’s answer caused consternation. Rather than editorialise – I’ll share the highlights verbatim:
ANDREW BOLT: Peter Dutton, thank you so much for joining me. What do you make of the huge crime wave in Melbourne involving youths and young men of African descent, many of them Sudanese?
PETER DUTTON: Well Andrew in fact I’ve been in Melbourne for most of this week and Jason Wood and other Members have bought to my attention, over a period of time now, the crime wave, the fact people are being followed home and their cars stolen as a result of break and enters and keys being stolen. […] My Department’s been doing some work with the Victorian Police to try and identify people of poor character, where we might be able to cancel those visas and that work continues, but look, this is a real concern for Victorians. […]
AB: Look, no doubt there, the law and order issue is very big, lack of policing very big and I have noticed that you’ve thrown out, or intend to throw out some people back to Africa. But this is reacting afterwards and I’m just wondering; Malcolm Fraser got the Lebanese refugee programme wrong, opened the door to people that his Immigration Minister at the time said do not. Did we make another mistake with the Sudanese refugee programme?
PD: Well Andrew I guess it’s still an open question in terms of what percentage of a particular community, in this case the Sudanese community, is doing the wrong thing. Is it at the margins, given the number of people that have come in? The other interesting aspect – and we see this in the foreign fighters – we end up looking at people from second and third generations. So the original people that have arrived here, that have sought refuge for example, have done well, they’ve worked hard, they’ve educated their children, and it’s the second or third generation that’s going off to fight and so we need to have a proper look at what has gone wrong – and clearly something has gone wrong, when you have this level of concentrated violence and gang type activity, it is a particular issue – but I think we need to put it into perspective in terms of what the rest of the community is doing by way of contribution. But we do review the programme each year. […] So look, we can continue to have a look at it. […]
AB: Look, again, I couldn’t disagree with you on the law and order issue and the weakness of the Andrews Government, but the point really is, there shouldn’t be […] with a lot of these cases, I often ask, you know, who let them in? And they shouldn’t be posing a problem in the first place. The crime rate among this community is way above the norm; police are now admitting this. I’m just wondering whether we have been factoring in, in our past refugee intakes, even in our immigration intakes, the difference that culture makes in determining whether one cohort of people is going to struggle to fit in or whether another will take to it like a duck to water. Have we done that sufficiently in the past, in your opinion?
PD: Well clearly, Andrew, if there is a particular problem that people can point to within a certain community, and if we’re talking about a significant number of people within that community who are doing the wrong thing, then clearly mistakes have been made in the past and the reality is that Malcolm Fraser did make mistakes in bringing some people in, in the 1970s – we’re seeing that today and we need to be honest in having that discussion, there was a mistake made – and if it can be demonstrated that we have a significant proportion of a particular community – we’re talking about the Sudanese community in this instance – then we need to work out what’s gone wrong.1
What we see the Immigration Minister addressing here, after some prompting, is the question of whether the government should be specific in terms of its review of the immigration programme. He clearly seems amenable to the idea that if a certain community is found – as an aggregate – to represent a problem to Australian civil society then immigration from such a community should be either restricted or halted. I dare say, that the majority of Australian voters would agree with him. I think he knows that too, and that’s exactly why he felt every confidence in saying it. I think Andrew Bolt also knew that too – and that’s why he had every confidence to press the minister on the point.
Noting that Victoria was suffering under a crime wave that everyone knew was linked to Sudanese gangs, there was little public reaction. A government Commission into settlement needs had prompted the interview so the Labor Party Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten felt obliged to comment and only suggested that there was mismanagement on the part of the Minister’s government. There was certainly no attack launched upon the Minister with accusations of “racism”.2
However, the storm was just brewing and the thunder was about to clap. Driven by political opportunism – and obviously aware of the existing tensions within Australian society, fueled by intense ethnic ghettoisation – the Labor Opposition pounced on Dutton in Parliament and drew further comment from him.
The following Monday, Dutton was pressed about his interview, during Question Time. Labor was looking for a moment they could seize upon. Bill Shorten fired the question: “Which people from which country should not have been allowed into Australia when Mr Fraser was Prime Minister?” Then – snap! – the trap clamped shut. Dutton had released the trigger with his reply:
The advice I have is that out of the last 33 people who have been charged with terrorist-related offences in this country, 22 of those people are from second and third generation Lebanese-Muslim background.3
The outcry began immediately and with fury. Bill Shorten said that, on the basis of the “disgraceful” comments, that the Prime Minister needed to “show some leadership” and “pull his Immigration Minister into line.”4
Anyone observing this with an ounce of political experience could see that this was an exercise in deliberate baiting by the Opposition to ensure that they could apply pressure to the Government and hopefully win over some votes. At the very least it was designed to solidify the Australian Labor Party as the ‘obvious’ choice for immigrant families who had gained suffrage.
The reaction of the Australian Lebanese Muslim Association was predictable. It’s president, Samier Dandan retorting:
Mr Dutton’s comments are baseless, unfounded and uninformed […] The Australian Lebanese community is not political fodder. Mr Dutton is accountable for his divisive rhetoric and we would remind him that he and his government’s responsibility is to preserve our successful multicultural country […] Let us not beat around the bush here, what Mr Dutton said was racist, what he implied was racist, and the lack of outrage in Parliament reflects on the racism underscoring much of how we talk about minorities in Australia.5
Putting any notion of facts aside – the Progressives in the media didn’t hold back in using this episode for their advantage. Andrew Street (who described the election of Trump as a “coming hate storm”) issued the following ultimatum to the Prime Minister:
Either he makes clear that ethnic profiling to condemn entire groups of citizens has no place in Australian discourse, or he confirms – by his silence or otherwise – that Dutton makes a good point and scapegoating ethnic groups is a perfectly reasonable thing for an Australian government to do.6
Andrew has given the game away here, because his point is essentially that we cannot have the discussion. He desires totschweigtaktik. Our capacity to engage in such discourse must be purged down the memory hole in order that we may achieve our mundane, moral perfection at the altar of liberalism.
The President of the Uniting Church in Australia, Stuart McMillan, decried with:
Mr Dutton’s remarks unfairly stigmatise one migrant community and serve only to promote division and undermine our vibrant multicultural society […] We need to name that for what it is – racism.7
Despite allegedly worshipping at an altar of supramundane concerns, Mr McMillan echoes the same knee-jerk virtue signalling of the secular liberal. He shares their enthusiasm for shutting down any discussion, regardless of what facts might be involved, or what the long term repercussions are for the wider community. In other words he eschews prudence for moral expediency.
This chorus of critical voices is brought into harmony by a common fallacy. I call it “the individual and aggregate distinction”.
The Individual and Aggregate Distinction
One of the major problems with the type of reaction and commentary that we see from those seeking to cry “racist”, is that they confuse individual and aggregate. Whenever an attempt is made to discuss a problem within any demographic (except for racism and homophobia in white Westerners) the endeavour is halted by a litany of “positive examples” and a kind of virtue signalling that dares the critic to continue in the face of the example of an heroic individual. When they do this however it, is a rhetorical sleight of hand. When seeking to measure the aggregate effect of any particular demographic on the surrounding society, one is not denying the existence or potential existence of exceptions, eccentrics or even large pockets of difference. It could easily be the case that an aggregate effect is mostly the result of a definitive minority within the demographic. However, to argue against the reality of aggregate effect, by pointing out obvious contrary examples via individuals of virtue, is in fact, not to argue at all. Doing such points out the exception that proves the rule. How many times do the self-righteous want to hold up Deng Adut in the face of crime statistics about Sudanese youth?8
The typical cry of “racist” in the face of these concerns about “problematic demographics” comes from a place where the same intellectual exercise isn’t being performed as those they criticise. Those investigating the aggregate effect of a demographic are trying to ascertain a truth, a concrete reality about shared existence in a given space. Those who resist by holding up individual example are usually making an emotive statement designed to silence more serious discussion through an act of shaming. They are inviting those who seek to investigate aggregate effect to condemn a particular virtuous individual. They hold the example above the head of the examiner like a hysterical mother would a photo of her deceased child at a criminal trial for its murder. It is pure virtue status signalling for them, and an attempt at introducing totschweigtaktik upon their enemies.
The truth is – there is such a thing as aggregate effect that defies the character and nature of any given individual or cluster of individuals. This is something that human beings recognise freely as part of our shared nature. In other contexts people have no problem with speaking in generalities that represent aggregate patterns of behaviour. If one were to say “Asians value education” or “Lebanese have strong family values” or “Pacific Islanders are very musical people”; you would find yourself in a room full of positive head-nodding. You may even be praised for your understanding of and sensitivity for “diversity”. Suddenly the temptation to bring forth individual examples that break down the notion of aggregate behaviour cease. In fact – if you were to do so, you would run the risk of being “a bit of a racist”.
We have to face the reality that individual and aggregate are two different things. The only relationship between the two is that aggregates are of course made up of individuals. Aggregate is the effect of many individuals who could vary wildly in their behaviour and attitude.
Aggregate is a useful measure for things such as community well-being, the success of integration or the failure of cultural policies. The measure of culture itself is an aggregate. It cannot be measured via individuals, although individuals can be held up as particular examples of cultural phenomena. To deliberately swap between individual and aggregate as the “locus of proof” for cultural phenomena is a rhetorical device designed to shield utopic liberal projects of social engineering from reasonable criticism. When we cite a famous example of a cultural phenomenon, we do so to illustrate an idea, not to prove the generalisation or the “rule”. So we may cite Lord Alfred Tennyson as an example of the a Nineteenth Century artist’s struggle with spiritual doubt, but an analysis of his poetry hardly disproves a proposition of Victorian Era piety.
With the matter of ethnic politics – we should be extremely cautious of those who seek to quickly hide behind this rhetorical device, because it is not a device designed to seek the truth. It is a rhetorical device designed to guide the mind away from the issue at hand and protect an emotional prejudice. It is in fact, a kind of rhetorical induction – because it is designed to negate generalisation by eroding such through the weight of specific example. Those measuring aggregate effect tend to do so by direct example of aggregate result as opposed to labouring over individual exceptions. I am sure that Deng Adut is a competent lawyer, that he has overcome tremendous adversity and demonstrated great personal strength. He is probably a really nice fellow – he seems to be on television. This doesn’t impact on the reality of Sudanese crime statistics. Their measure is independent of Deng Adut, save for any increase in acquittal rate he may achieve among his own community (with whom he has a close relationship in his legal practice).
The desperate need to virtue signal and appease “feelings” by providing cover explanations such as “marginalisation” and “poverty” don’t really play a part in any honest exercise of this nature, because such matters relate to cause not effect. The typical liberal social justice warrior seems to think that if he can link poverty or marginalisation to any demographic being put under scrutiny, then the exercise of identifying that particular demographic is negated. It simply isn’t. Such matters pertain to cause not the discovery of aggregate effect.
the rhetorical attempt to link the vocabulary of aggregation with moral infraction is just pure dysphemism. Its modus operandi lies closer to “hate speech” than the object of its derision.
The Politics of Levantine Identity in Australia
The outcry over Dutton’s comments rest against a background of the perceived division between Muslim and Christian Lebanese as welfare statist or business oriented voters respectively. Many people who spoke out against Dutton and labelled the Immigration Minister a “racist” had clear ties to his political opposition and were playing up to their own perceived audience.
Anyone who has grown up in the South-West of Sydney knows that the Christian Lebanese historically, haven’t been shy about allocating any publicised misbehaviour of Lebanese to their compatriots. “I bet it was the Muslims” would not be a surprising interjection. In fact, I have observed locally that many Christians refuse to identify with their Islamic compatriots. One lady I spoke to recently was insisting that she was “Christian” and “Lebanese” as opposed to “Islamic” and an “Arab”. Some have even described their language to me as “Christian” as opposed to “Arabic”. In some cases I have observed Francophone Lebanese using French as opposed to Arabic for every day speech; opting for “merci” as opposed to “shukraan”. The identifiers are quite prominent. Rosary are very often hung from cars, and a rosary sticker – sometimes forming an outline of the map of Lebanon – adorns the rear window. There is no doubt about it – whether for their purposes or ours – the Christian Lebanese (of which there are several forms) as an aggregate project a differentiation vis-à-vis the Islamics of the same heritage.
The Islamics don’t seem to be as concerned with making this distinction – but that may be because the differences are often apparent. When they do identify – they tend to identify with Islam itself – with the Ummah – as opposed to a specifically national expression of ‘Lebanese Islam’. As far as ethnic identity is concerned, they see themselves as simply “Lebanese”. The term “Arab” conjures up a different image to them.
I wouldn’t be able to tell if I ran into a Druze unless they wore their round white hat with the red crown.
How did the Christian Lebanese react to this situation with Dutton?
The Reaction Less Measured
I don’t think it is a stretch to say that many, including Dutton, expected the bulk of the Lebanese community (which happens to be Christian) to get right behind him on this.
From within the Party, one of his fellow “conservatives”, Anthony Sukkar, certainly did. We also saw Ray Hadley spoon feeding Dutton positive air time on Sydney radio. Even the alleged “right-wing shock jock” was constrained to address the issue only within the paradigm of liberal vocabulary. They took calls from people who professed to being Middle East Christians, who confirmed the standard narrative.9
The only tension between Hadley and Dutton lay in the former’s assumption of the more distinctly Neoconservative position we associate with division between Lebanese themselves, whereas Dutton was shying away from any further risk. To Dutton’s credit however, he refused to back down from what he described as the accurate history of our immigration programme. A history that showed a “problem” with the arrangements surrounding what became known as the “Lebanese concession”. Both men were exuding a kind of liberal inclusive civics – similar to the U.S. idea of the proposition nation. As long as you “worked hard” and obeyed the law, we could all be Australians it would seem. No deeper cultural analysis was conducted. The word “contribution” was used as if payment of tax and spending money makes one both a good citizen and culturally compatible.
I am not so sure however, that their simple analysis (typical of the “right wing” commentary on this) tells the full story. I think there is a lot more going on that has a strong bearing on the long term identity of Australia. What many of the political Establishment didn’t consider, was whether, in the Lebanese mind, it was strictly their own Lebanese prerogative to make distinctions between factions of their fellow countrymen. Any such distinctions made by Anglo-Saxons would be considered impertinent.
What I have found, in the younger generation particularly, is a greater tendency to see an attack upon any Lebanese as simply an attack upon the Lebanese per se. The new generation takes a much more liberal approach, sometimes attributing any perceived differences between types of Lebanese to class differences that coincide with religious distinction. It is frequently said that most Islamic immigrants came from working class backgrounds. Perhaps the older generation sought “credit” with the Anglo-Saxons by extending some self-deprecation to the term Lebanese – provided that it was qualified by “Muslim”; whereas their children and subsequent generations had nothing to prove. Being born here, they take for granted their place as citizens and resent any challenge to it – especially by the Anglo-Saxon natives that they saw their parents (or grand-parents) “kowtowing” to. Perhaps they simply imbibed the liberalism along with all the other school children. Maybe they recognised in many second generation Lebanese of different faiths, a common experience of assertion of Levantine identity in an Anglophone country. Whatever the case, a tribal identity is being defined.
Given the way in which ethnic groups have been used as pawns in political deal making – used as “numbers” for branch-staking and also Electorate stacking – is it any wonder that sooner or later the said ethnic group will resent being “taken for granted”? Once they are well established and build wealth – they can start making demands of the political Establishment as opposed to being wide-eyed with promises of community trinkets by the same.
I think the time has come whereby the next generation actively resents being thought of as “our kind of migrant”, to be juxtaposed against the “other kind”. The time has now come, whereby the tribal interest that transcends the factions of intra-tribal politics, has meaning. The tribal interest has real, tangible power in this new society, and it is in its members’ interest to keep intra-tribal squabbles as their business. This was amply demonstrated by a television news report on the ABC that covered the response to Dutton’s comments. Antoinette Lattouf interviewed Talal Yassine and opened her segment with the statement: “Talal Yassine and I have things in common; we’re both the children of Lebanese refugees welcomed into Australia in the 1970s.”10 She went on to provide a very sympathetic report (that omits Yassine’s intimacy with the Australian Labor Party) in concert with the liberal worldview outlined above. The intra-tribal differences dissolved. Indeed – the community has reached such size and pervasion that they can say with every confidence: “Myself against my brother. Myself and my brother against my cousin. Myself, my brother and my cousin against the foreigner”.
This of course doesn’t occur in a vacuum; the wider Anglo society is affected by this development (so perhaps, in a manner of speaking, it does happen in a vacuum). The problem is however, that the Anglo-Saxon refuses to acknowledge tribal realities, in particular his own tribe. The Anglo-Saxon creates a cultural vacuum that invites the formation of ghettoes and strong tribalism in others, because he refuses to have confidence in projecting his own cultural identity.
Anglo Tribal Realities
I spoke with an elderly Anglo-European couple in a South-Western suburb that had undergone a demographic transformation. I saw part of this transformation with my own eyes as it was the suburb I grew up in. It used to be the archetype Sydney Anglo Western suburb; the ruddy-faced butcher with saw dust floor, the elderly returned soldiers at the pub waiting for their wives to join them before heading off to lawn bowls. It actually had diversity – the Greeks ran the fish and chip shop, there was the obligatory Chinese restaurant (we in fact had two), and the Chinese doctor (actually – two; one for each restaurant) and an Indian doctor too. There were smatterings of Lebanese, Greek, Maltese, Italian and Pole. You could also find the odd Dutch and German and a light sprinkling of Balts who were close to their respective social clubs. The more exotic people were usually associated with the remnants of Empire: Hongkongese, Chinese Malaysians, Sri Lankans, Indians, Pakistanis, Fijians. They were eccentrics and blended with the dominant Anglo-Celtic diaspora to varying degrees of integration and remnant of accent. No one would have conceived of the area as any kind of “ghetto”, nor would have seen it as an area defined by the presence of any particular ethnic group or nationality. Its the way the area had been for decades – pretty much since it became urban and ceased to be farmland. When I was a young adult, residents still existed who could remember when the main street was a bullock track and the suburb a patchwork of paddocks. I remember one very elderly lady telling me how she was born in her home – getting to a hospital was not convenient, and most of her neighbours had been born at home too. There was no doubt plenty of collective experience to draw upon should anything untoward happen.
Today of course, the suburb is thoroughly Arabised and Islamicised. The dominant business is specialised Islamic clothing and almost all signs are written in Arabic script or transliterations of the same. One of the Chinese restaurants has survived, but has had to curb its menu to accommodate the cultural shift. Everything else has been Arabised.
The elderly couple had lived there for over 40 years and watched the area transform. I found my conversation with them edifying. They said that they lived peacefully and had nothing but friendliness from their neighbours who were either Arabs, Muslims or more often – both. They seemed to emphasise how they “didn’t get any trouble” – which to me, was an odd thing to say, because it suggested that at some subconscious level, they know that there is a lot of trouble in the neighbourhood (and there is if one looks at crime statistics). Their attitude was rationalised thus: “we go along with everything and people don’t give us any trouble – in fact they are really nice to us. We live in peace. At our age that’s what we want. We couldn’t ask for nicer neighbours”. So far it sounds like a great situation – what an advertisement for the benefits of cultural diversity. However, their presentation soon gave way to profound insecurities.
When I asked about the problems that the area was famous for – drug deals, groups of young men intimidating people, loud obnoxious social gatherings that are inconsiderate of people around them, rubbish dumping in the street, youths using domestic streets as bedrooms – they confirmed that this all went on, much of it outside of their front window. In fact, I saw the evidence whilst talking to them; random piles of dumped rubbish, obnoxious youths yelling comments from cars. It never used to be like this of course – it only came with the demographic transformation. Did they find this offensive? As it turned out – they did. They had no qualms about acknowledging that the area had been transformed – and transformed for the worse. They didn’t like any of the changes brought about by the neighbourhood transformation. They felt like foreigners, they were regularly intimidated outside their own home, even their “good” neighbours held wild festivities that would make the windows and walls shake until the small hours of the morning. So why do they seem to have such a “positive” appraisal of their environment which seems to be described entirely in terms of how they get on with the neighbours?
What I heard was the language of insecurity in the face of displacement and fear. “Yes”, I was told “We are bothered by all these things. But there’s nothing we can do is there? They are dominant. We can’t say anything. But we find that if we just put up with it, they treat us like royalty” (emphasis added).
So in other words, these people were cultural prisoners to a demographic that they actually didn’t like, that did make their lives a challenge and that (to use their words) dominated them. It truly did. So much so that they were grateful to have peace – because they knew how precarious having such peace was. They were entirely at the mercy of those around them – and they knew it. This really came home to me when one of them said “our neighbour told us (in reference to the local crime problems) don’t go to the police, just tell him and he’ll sort it out”. The implications of this went straight over their heads. To any normal observer, they would see this as a siege within the ghetto. They had apparently fortified their house with multiple layers of fences, security doors, bars and alarm systems. They are virtual prisoners to a foreign way of life – may as well be living abroad – and in this specific instance, they live under implied threat from local thugs and criminals. They knew no other life, they had become old, to face the reality was simply overwhelming – it was far better to live inside their shell (home) and conform. All the while of course, the neighbours busily ingratiate themselves to the “old people” whose large property is just begging for someone to make literally millions from a townhouse development. They may have peace but they certainly don’t have tranquility or serenity.
Later that same evening, I sat in the remaining Chinese restaurant with my young daughter. As I surveyed the pork stifled menu (apparently there had been serious altercations over tiny flecks of ham occasioning in the fried rice – so now, no one gets pork in the fried rice), I noticed that my daughter and I were the only Anglos seated in the restaurant. That’s not to say that the patronage was very diverse – because it wasn’t. It was a restaurant full of Arab families sporting obvious signs of Islamic faith, staff that were completely Chinese to the last man – and us. We stood out as an exotic feature. This was highlighted when one of the new locals walked past our table and said to his companion words to the effect of: “I thought I was caught in the 1970s for a moment”. Wow! the Progressive Revolutionaries will be so pleased because I was just marginalised! Seated in my own country, in the neighbourhood where I grew up, and my presence was so distinct that it drew sarcasm from the ‘natives’.
To me this was a clear sign of cultural displacement. I must say as robust as I am to being immersed in the exotic, I did not feel comfortable. The whole experience was quite foreign. I couldn’t even pretend to be immersed in something Chinese, because the food, utensils, style of serving – it had all been remodelled in order that the new demographic be accommodated. Neither Chinese, nor Gwai Lo – it had become such a strange combination of suburban bastardised Chinese food and Arabic table manners that at any minute I was expecting flat bread to be plonked in a basket in the middle of the table. The restaurant was anything but conducive to a relaxing meal – children running amok, harsh sounds being yelled across tables – or across the room … mobile phone conversations at times outnumbering the face to face ones … it wasn’t the quiet suburban dining experience I remember from childhood. There was no doubt about it – this was a completely foreign experience. Manners and mores completely at odds with my upbringing and everything I understand about my culture now dominated the scene. If I were to even remotely try and apply mine – it was obvious that it would degenerate into conflict very quickly. After all – how could I ever hope to be amicably received if my criticism of someone is to stop being who they are?
The fact that I felt this way didn’t make anyone around me inherently evil. They weren’t by definition “bad people”. I wasn’t surrounded by obvious thieves or thugs. We can presume that they were silently as condemnatory of terrorism as any Anglo-Australian would be. I was probably surrounded by some very morally upstanding people. If I had started choking on my wontons, I am sure that I would have had plenty of people coming to my aid in genuine concern for my wellbeing. I was probably dining with people who give selflessly, act charitably and love their neighbours as themselves. Does that mean therefore that the defect lies within me? Am I inherently defective in my feelings? Any progressive who could have read this far, would be now raising his hands in secular alleluia, as I reach the cusp of epiphany. Clearly I need to understand tolerance.
Unfortunately – I am a hopeless recidivist. I don’t think I need a lesson in tolerance at all, in fact, I think Progressives grossly misuse the notion of tolerance. You see, tolerance can’t exist in an atmosphere of endorsement. You don’t actually “tolerate” anything if you approve of or enjoy the subject of toleration in the first place. The word itself is derived from the Latin tolerare, which means to “endure” in the sense of surviving an ordeal. This is the problem Progressives have – they confuse tolerance and endorsement. They make this false assumption that you require tolerance if you do not enjoy or approve of something. On the contrary – you can only genuinely be said to be tolerating something if you exercise restraint or understanding whilst it gets on your nerves. I don’t need any lectures on tolerance – I exercise it generously every day. I notice however, that when it comes to tolerance of other cultures – Progressives lecture endorsement whilst distancing themselves from the phenomena by living in some of the whitest areas of the country. The ghetto free zones of the inner-city where a sprinkling of varied, English speaking migrants define the “diversity”, is their preferred abode. They wouldn’t dare immerse themselves totally in one of the migrant ghettoes of the outer suburbs … they might find that … ‘not to their taste.’
The Morality of Cultural Impasse
The problem here concerns the impasse of cultural difference and it is a problem to which adjustment depends radically upon whether you are just visiting or whether you are forced to live with it, cheek by jowl. Allow me to illustrate with another short anecdotal example. In my neck of the woods, consternation is often aroused by the Lebanese expression of celebration. Anglo-Saxons have parties and can be loud, but the general rule is “good fences make good neighbours”. Not so for the Levant – they are much more communal and less individualistic. When they have a party, the whole village has a party. So what to Anglos comes across as rude and unnecessarily obtrusive celebration, to them is an expression of life. To not include the whole “village” (neighbourhood) would be rude. If the Anglo decided that they were going to be “polite” and “have a word” with the neighbour about the over-the-top level of noise – their complaint would be anathema. They would actually be perceived as being a bit obnoxious for even bringing it up. The solution in the Lebanese mind would actually be to extend an invitation to join in the festivities. The continued protestations for quiet enjoyment of one’s own space on the part of the Anglo would come across as an unreasonable and uncharitable rebuff of good, neighbourly conduct. Meanwhile, the Anglo shakes his head at the sudden rise in passion and perceived aggression on the part of gesticulating party-thrower.
The ins-and-outs of the cultural misunderstandings in the above anecdotal example are obvious (especially when set out in such an abstract fashion) – but overcoming them easily only works when the incident is an occasional event. Besides – and lets be really honest here – isn’t the solution that most people have for this impasse (yes, I’m looking at you inner-city progressive) that the Anglo do as the old couple does in my earlier anecdote and just knuckle under to “keep the peace”? No one really expects the Levantine to “tone it down” do they?
The morality that operates in this discussion is interesting, because there is a difference between the moral concern that everyone is distracted by and the real concern which remains unarticulated.
Any debate about immigration or multiculturalism that centres upon a specific demographic quickly degenerates into assertions re what we can generalise about that demographic – and is usually resisted by an argument that we cannot generalise at all. The very act of doing such constitutes a moral transgression in and of itself.
Let us take a more considered look at what is taking place. It seems to me that no one is making the case that a particular ethnic group is “immoral” per se. At best, the argument would run that, as a consequence of having an area undergo demographic shift, in certain specific cases this results in an aggregate rise in anti-social or criminal activity. Such activity could be deemed immoral, but not the demographic itself
However, I don’t think one could say that what really bothers those feeling “displaced” concerns those matters. I am sure that phenomena do occur, such as changes in crime rate – these are obvious things because they are measured and monitored. They are also matters that concern near universal values. Murder, violence, assault, theft, insult, deceit – these are transgressions that cultures as disparate as Levantine (Islamic or Christian) and Anglo-Saxon have in common. Whether or not social problems seem to follow the demographic shift, and whether those problems are merely short term or are in fact long term, these are not the real issues. These are just the obvious issues.
The frustrated Anglo-Saxon clasps on to the obvious parameters of moral argument that he is allowed to make. He knows that he can legitimately make an argument about crime, violence and anti-social behaviour but these are in fact shared values. They also play easily into the rhetoric of aggregate and individual – because everyone knows that the numerical majority of any given group doesn’t conform to a criminal stereotype.
What the Anglo-Saxon really wants to argue as a moral value he can neither articulate nor properly conceive of. What he wants to be able to argue is that his displacement and cultural demise is an inherent moral wrong. It is his ability to be able to think and argue in these terms that the Progressive is most interested in stifling. Mind you, the apparatus for making such an argument is clearly within the Anglo-Saxon’s faculties, because he regularly applies such moral argument to Aboriginal people and countless other indigenous groups that are under existential threat. Provided the indigenous people in question don’t wreck the Progressive’s post-colonial narrative (who cares about Livonians, Manx and Wends?), then the morality of cultural space and displacement is allowed to play out in the mind.
This moral question is what addresses the feelings of the old couple I discussed earlier and more so, my experience in the restaurant. The question doesn’t require a moral evaluation of another culture such that judgement be made deeming it “good” or “bad”. The real question becomes is there cultural difference, and if so how do the differences affect my cultural space? At what point is my notion of “home” jeopardised? This moral question doesn’t throw moral responsibility onto the introduced culture at all – rather it throws moral responsibility onto the political and intellectual classes of Anglo-Australia. It is they who decided that they knew better than the wisdom of their ancestors. It shifts the focus onto those who decided that Australia was a worthy petri dish for social engineering experiments. This is the argument that I suspect Dutton was trying to have – but he was choked by the restrictions of liberal ideology and language to which he mistakenly thought he was obliged to conform.
Contrary to what a rabid Sans-Culotte with a handy roll of “racist” labels would say after reading this piece – I don’t have it in for Lebanese or Sudanese or anyone else. I don’t seek to change them or eliminate them from the face of the earth as some sort of blight. I happen to agree with the Immigration Minister in that there is a connection between past immigration programmes and current social problems – but that opinion doesn’t constitute or infer a judgement on any race. What I do seek to do is to protect and cultivate the Anglophone identity of my country because I see that as more than just heritage – it defines my space, it defines my home. Up until contemporary times – the fact that someone might be Lebanese or Chinese didn’t threaten that at all. If anything the eccentricity they brought appealed to my typical Anglo-Saxon curiosity and interest in the exotic – perhaps a cultural relic from being a seafaring people? I consider my concerns to be as much in the interest of the various people of non-Anglo-Saxon background that I have grown up with or consider thoroughly integrated into my society. I find those who seek to increase diversity as jeopardising their welfare in the name of abstract, liberal social experiments.
Those who are wholly or in part from outside the Anglosphere, but who have committed themselves to an integrated and Anglophilic existence in this country, are the ones who find themselves most challenged by the perils of ghetto creating immigration practices fuelled by ideologies like multiculturalism. They find themselves slipping between two stools; neither part of the ghetto nor sitting as the comfortable eccentric they used to be, they come under scrutiny from both sides in the fight for cultural space. So much for the understanding the Progressives are supposed to exhibit towards “difference”.
I have always found it rich to be lectured to about respecting others by those who haven’t demonstrated respect for themselves. This is the situation I find myself in with today’s liberal Progressive, when he lectures (or rather yells at) me about immigration and social cohesion. So many of them have no interest or understanding of their own culture and heritage, but like all people, they do have a notion of “cultural space” and “home”. They will mistakenly accuse the less articulate or the artificially constrained of “racism” when they are innocently and naturally searching for a form of self-expression.
Most of the moral dilemmas that arose from the “Dutton-gate” scandal are red-herrings, rhetorical devices designed to stop more pertinent issues from being discussed. In particular, the morality of the deliberate cultural erasure of one of the founding cultures of our modern nation is a serious omission from the public square. The fact that the Anglo is unable to discuss his comprehension of “space” without being reprimanded is a clear example of a double standard within our zeitgeist. Even the Immigration Minister can’t properly articulate the parameters of such a discussion without checking his career’s pulse.
This failure on the part of our society’s political and social “elite” is a fight against the tribal nature of the human condition. No matter how much they may want to – you can’t change nature – she will always win. The Utopic liberal experiments will eventually have to give way to reaction. The form that such reaction takes is perhaps within our control. I am certain that if these “elites” do not engage with the moral questions that I have articulated here then maybe some of their worst nightmares will occur. However, they will have been the ones who created and nurtured them. They cannot complain (but I am sure they will) if that creature with sleek thighs and blank gaze slouches towards Bethlehem to be born.
– Luke Torrisi is a retired legal practitioner and now an academic researcher and host of Carpe Diem, Sydney’s only explicitly Traditionalist and Paleoconservative radio programme broadcasting on 88.9FM, between 8:00 to 10:00pm, Mondays. His contribution to last year’s Symposium (“transcendence: community, nation, civilisation; religious aspects of the present turmoil”) was titled “Politics, Transcendence, and the Corner Store”.
- Peter Dutton interviewed by Andrew Bolt, “The Bolt Report” Sky News (17 November 2016) as republished at the website of the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection (17 November 2016) <minister.border.gov.au> (accessed 4 February 2017).
- Tom McIlroy, “Peter Dutton Attacks Malcolm Fraser’s Refugee Legacy” The Sydney Morning Herald (online) (18 November 2016) <smh.com.au> (accessed 12 January 2017).
- Stephanie Anderson, “Peter Dutton Suggests Fraser Government Made Mistake By Re-settling Lebanese Refugees” ABC News (online) (22 November 2016) <abc.net.au> (12 January 2017).
- “‘What Mr. Dutton Said Was Racist’: Outrage Over Immigration Minister’s Comments” SBS News (online) (23 November 2016) <sbs.com.au> (accessed 12 January 2017).
- Andrew Street, “Malcolm Turnbull Must Condemn Peter Dutton’s Unacceptable Racism” The Sydney Morning Herald (online) (22 November 2016) <smh.com.au> (accessed 1 February 2017).
- “Dutton’s Racist Remarks Condemned” Crosslight (blog) (Uniting Church of Australia: Sydney and Tasmania Synod) (24 November 2016) <crosslight.org.au> (accessed 1 February 2017).
- For an illustration of such statistics, see: Sarah Farnsworth and Patrick White “Victoria Youth Crime: Statistics Raise Questions About Calls to Deport Youth Offenders” ABC News (online) (6 December 2016) <abc.news.com.au> (accessed 1 February 2017); Andrew Bolt “Who Let in the Sudanese? Amanda Vanstone” Herald Sun (online) (22 December 2016) <heraldsun.com.au> (accessed 1 February 2017).
- Peter Dutton interview by Ray Hadley, 2GB-4BC (radio) (24 November 2016) as republished at the website of the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection (24 November 2016) <minister.border.gov.au> (accessed 1 February 2017).
- ABC1 News (television broadcast) (c. 26 November 2016).
This article is to be cited according to the following convention:
Luke Torrisi, “The Unspoken Moral Question of Identity” SydneyTrads – Weblog of the Sydney Traditionalist Forum (11 February 2017) <sydneytrads.com/2017/02/11/2017-symposium-luke-torrisi/> (accessed [date]).