I commented on the same phenomenon in a post two years ago. I named the abortion activist Terry Bellamak (American), the Green MP Ricardo Menendez-March (Mexican), migrant activist Guled Mire (Somalian) and our old friend, chief human rights commissioner Paul Hunt (British).
Since then there’s been a slight reshuffle of the names. Mire seems to have gone quiet and Bellamak has dropped out of sight, presumably because she achieved her goal of making New Zealand one of the most hazardous countries in the world in which to be an unborn child. Job done.
But there are two new entries on the list. One is Eliana Rubashkyn, the former Ukrainian/Colombian refugee who became a hero of the woke Left by assaulting Posie Parker in Albert Park last weekend. It was Rubashkyn – last seen taking admiring selfies of herself on a flight to New York on Thursday – who inspired Tuesday's comment on this blog.
The other is Shaneel Lal (Fijian), who was instrumental in whipping up the hysteria that led to the violent protest, verging on a riot, against Parker. Lal has emerged as the voice of the LGTBQIA+ cultists – except that he/she rejects those initials because they don’t capture his/her “precolonial, indigenous queerness”. For Lal, it seems there are not enough letters in the alphabet to encompass all the variants of sexuality that queer people might identify with. He/she even goes so far as to claim that the + symbol “privileges white identities”. Seriously.
My commenter also cited Golriz Ghahraman, who came to New Zealand with her family as refugees from Iran. The common factor shared by nearly all these people is that they left – or in some cases fled – violent, corrupt, unstable or oppressive (sometimes all four) societies and were given the chance to make a new life in a country that was none of these things. So why does it seem to be their first instinct to repay the favour by complaining about all the things that are supposedly wrong here and agitating for change? It’s like a house guest coming to stay, then demanding that you re-arrange the furniture.
In the 1970s, at the height of the Vietnam War protest era in the US, there was a celebrated bumper sticker: “America: Love it or leave it”. It was a response to the rise of the counter-culture and it was scorned by liberals (me included) as the pathetic cry of rednecks and reactionaries. Now I’m inclined to think the slogan made a legitimate point.
In my post two years ago, I wrote: “As immigration has ramped up, so New Zealand has become home to an increasing number of activists, political aspirants, bureaucrats and academics from countries whose values and mindsets are often dissimilar to ours.
“They arrive with attitudes moulded and fixed in societies that are, in some cases, thoroughly f**ked up (Somalia and Mexico, for example, though some might say that description also applies to the US) and which can teach us nothing about freedom, wellbeing or human dignity. But that doesn’t prevent these recent arrivals from insinuating themselves into positions of prominence and influence here, stridently finding fault with the way we do things and demanding that New Zealand – an exemplar of liberal democracy and a country respected worldwide for its human rights credentials – reshape itself to conform to their radical ideological prescriptions.
“Logically, immigrants are drawn to New Zealand because they recognise this as a country where they can live in peace, own their own homes, get a university degree, enjoy freedom of speech, vote for the politicians of their choice in free and fair elections, practise their religion without let or hindrance and enjoy the protection of the rule of law.
“This doesn’t mean they shouldn’t avail themselves of the rights available to native-born New Zealanders: the right to stand for public office, to lobby for political causes, to join political parties, to phone talkback shows and write letters to the editor.
Of course anyone who expresses such views risks being condemned as xenophobic, racist or a cis male oppressor, if not all three. Sure enough, someone on Twitter claimed I was arguing that the longer someone’s ancestors had been in New Zealand, the more rights they should have. But I didn’t say that and I don’t think it. I was simply arguing that newcomers should have some regard for those who were here before them (which applies to colonisers' attitudes to Maori too). Call it courtesy, if you like.
The tweeter went on to claim I had said that no one had been in New Zealand longer than my Pakeha ancestors – a total fabrication.
Significantly, no attempt was made in the subsequent thread to engage with my point. I suspect the reason Twitter is so popular with the woke Left is that its enforced brevity encourages puerile name-calling but spares tweeters the burden of having to develop a coherent argument,
The person who posted that tweet came from Sri Lanka, a country that was torn apart by a brutal 26-year civil war and remains a basket case. The first person to applaud her comment about me was Giovanni Tiso, a Marxist from Italy.
For the record, I absolutely believe it’s a good thing that New Zealand opened its doors to people from Sri Lanka – and for that matter from Iran, Mexico, Colombia, Somalia, Fiji, China, India and all the other cultures that have made New Zealand a more colourful, vibrant society than the one I grew up in.
I wholly support immigration from religiously and ethnically diverse countries, with the one proviso that it needs to be carefully managed so as to avoid destabilising the host society. Europe has shown us what can happen when large groups of disaffected migrants congregate in ghettoes.
This doesn’t mean we should want immigrants to assimilate to the point where they become submerged, as was expected of non-British migrants (including my own forebears) until well into the 20th century. Most New Zealanders welcome and applaud the cultural diversity introduced by the liberal immigration policies of the past few decades.
But it’s not too much to expect that immigrants respect the values and institutions of the country that has adopted them, as most do. Those values include, but are not restricted to, freedom of speech and the rule of law (we’re looking at you, Eliana Rubashkyn), equal rights for all and no special treatment on the basis of race, religion or sexual identity (which is what Shaneel Lal and his/her fellow cultists seem to be agitating for, as far as one can tell).
That’s the way we do things here. It’s why this country is seen as a sanctuary by people fleeing despotic regimes. To paraphrase the headline on my 2021 blog post, why move to a new and infinitely better country if your first instinct is to change it?
Footnote: Shaneel Lal was named Young New Zealander of the Year in the Kiwibank-sponsored New Zealander of the Year awards last night, reportedly for his/her role in getting conversion therapy banned. I wonder if Kiwibank is having second thoughts after Lal's role in last weekend's shameful tumult.