Thursday, 3 April 2008

Immigration

This is suddenly a hot issue in New Zealand again after another shit for brains politician desperate for votes made some comments about mini-Chinas and mini-Hong Kongs being formed throughout the country. Being an immigrant myself (though often not immediately identified as one because I'm not Arab or Indian or Asian) I can't help but write my own thoughts on the matter.

I won't even mention the many comments radically against immigration for the simple reason that people who make those sort of comments usually bring nothing of value to the discussion and seem to have no real justification other than their own racist feelings. If you don't want to be living with other cultures then you should know that the 21st century is probably going to be too much for you to handle, buddy. There, I said it.

But I have also heard comments along the lines of "I have nothing against immigration as long as immigrants adapt to the local culture and don't settle in their own communities and start opening shops and changing the look of suburbs, etc."

Well a country can choose whether or not to let immigrants in, but it cannot dictate what people do once they are in. Some immigrants will adapt and slowly cut their links to the homeland. Some will refuse to immerse themselves into the local culture and will form closed communities. And then there's all the rest in between. I like to think I lean towards the former but that's really just a personal choice of trying to get as much as I can from other cultures at the cost of my own.

Ultimately people are just trying to fit in wherever they can and if isolated communities of immigrants are such a problem then maybe we should think about why is it that they are being formed in the first place. Could it be the case that immigrants are not feeling welcome so they need to turn to people of their own culture who are more likely to accept them?

What's more, what's so wrong about forming small ghettos and communities anyways? Surely New Zealanders who go abroad try to find each other and stay in touch. It gives people a sense of belonging and helps them feel at home in a strange land. In fact, all white immigrants tend to form their own communities in New Zealand as well, they are just not as noticed because a) there's probably not as many of them, and b) they're western so it's like they are "one of us".

I hardly ever hear a word about South American immigrants either. I know for a fact that there is a large Brazilian community in Auckland for instance, and it is at least as isolated as any Chinese community out there (I know some Brazilians who have lived here for years and can hardly speak any English. My opinion? It's their loss.) I wonder if they don't get noticed because their eyes and noses and skin colour look very much western so you don't get to see packs of Brazilians roaming up and down Queen St even though there are many.

Also, why is it that we never hear anyone complain about immigrants when ordering the curry of the day at the local café or when filling their supermarket trolleys with ethnic food without even realising it? Or when immigrants win us medals at the Olympics? Or when our best mate is an immigrant, or their parents are?

Just to get a little perspective, can anyone in New Zealand really consider themselves to be "locals" in the first place? After all weren't Europeans immigrants on this land not too long ago? Back then weren't Maori the locals and the European the ones who started to spread, create their own ghettos and disseminate their culture?

One could argue that citizens of developing countries are less likely to have reservations about immigration because we're the ones doing it now. But maybe it's because we have been hit by several waves of immigration for hundreds of years and we've come to appreciate it.

New Zealanders should try and realise how lucky they are to live in such a culturally diverse place and reap all the social and economic benefits that come with it. Enough with the go-back-to-where-you-came-from crap, how come I never got that?

Can you imagine how incredibly boring the world would be without the cultural mix?

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