Tuesday 5 November 2019

Australia the platypus

Australia, the flying platypus

That hoary old Malaysian racist Mahathir is at it again. Here he is speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald:
"Whatever white Australians might think of it, the fact is geographically they are more in the Asian region than in Europe. They can try and sustain their culture, their language, but the inflow of Asians into Australia will certainly change the character and distribution of population in Australia. And in the future, they are going to be more Asian than European."
Now that all seems fine and dandy (or not, as you will), but it strikes me as racist. To suggest that the thing that determines how and what you are is the continent you come from - and the implied ethnicity - not the content and character of the country you go to. Emigrants to Australia tend to buy in to the culture, to the ways and means of Australia. That sure seems to me to be the case with all of the folks of Asian background living in Australia that I know.

And when I lived in China I wore Chinese clothes, spoke the language and started becoming Chinese. If I’d stayed for a generation I’d have been more Chinese than Australian, no doubt, kids brought up there would be Chinese not “white Australian”, which is what makes the Mahathir comment racist. (He’s also a shocking anti-Semite, but that’s another thing).

And look at this Asianness he talks about from the perspective here in Hong Kong. Where young migrant-age demonstrators, who are ethnically Chinese, identify not as Chinese, but as Hongkongers and the values they aspire to are the rule of law, universal suffrage, freedoms of speech, of press, of religion and so on. They fly the Stars and Stripes and the Union Jack (not that there’s nothing wrong with that). Not what Mahathir would take for “Asian” I imagine.

So I agree with Peter Hartcher: in Australia, with a population increasingly coming from the continent of Asia, and becoming part of Australia’s multicultural melting pot, we are an odd, unique hybrid, like the platypus.
…the metaphor for Australia today, prosperous and multicultural and enjoying the best of all possible worlds, is …the platypus. A unique creature, with features of a mammal and a bird, combining features of each, and perfectly adapted to its ecology.