In the paper today there is a story titled "Liberal Party swats the WASP type with a more inclusive approach".
The story reports on a multicultural meeting organised by the Liberal Party in Melbourne last month:
TONY Abbott has declared the rebirth of a "more inclusive" Liberal Party which has ditched its WASP traditions as the Coalition fields a record number of ethnic candidates.I was curious to find out what Abbott said at the meeting and so looked up his speech. It's a shocker. I'll quote it later, but he is at pains to emphasise that migrants are better than natives.
With the opposition heavily favoured to win September's election, the next federal parliament is shaping as the most multicultural ever, with the Liberal Party fielding at least 21 candidates from diverse ethnic backgrounds...
Mr Abbott said such an event would have been unimaginable just a few years ago.
"The Liberal Party would have been reluctant to have explicitly reached out to recently arrived immigrants," Mr Abbott said.
"Because of our reputation for being a WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) party, a lot of newly arrived migrants would probably think the Liberal Party was not for them."
Why would he think this? The late cricket commentator Peter Roebuck explained why he believed immigrants were better than native born Australians this way:
It is debatable whether people born in this country should be allowed to vote. It is no achievement to emerge from a womb. They could just as well be in Winnipeg.
That view hasn't just been plucked from a hat. If you are a liberal who believes in the self-making, self-defining individual then it probably is true that immigrants are superior to natives. It is immigrants who have made a self-conscious choice to move to a particular country - it is an act of "self-making". The native born aren't such good liberal individualists - their identity is an inherited one.
And this view is even more pronounced amongst right-liberals. What matters to right-liberals is having the freedom and the opportunity to be self-made within the market. Therefore, having a positive view of your country means seeing it as a land of opportunity for all those wishing to "make themselves" within a free economy.
Therefore, those individuals who cross borders from countries with less opportunity to be self-made into a more advanced one will seem particularly virtuous - like an ideal type of right-liberal citizen. And the greater the leap the higher the virtue: to take a hazardous journey from poverty in a closed economy to opportunity in a more open one will seem like the ultimate, heart-warming act of self-making to a right-liberal.
You get a sense of such an outlook in some of the speeches of Ronald Reagan. He said once in support of high immigration:
...I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace, a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it and see it still...With all that in mind, consider what Abbott said in his Melbourne speech (abridged):
For a long time, I regret to say, our Liberal Party did not fully reflect the diversity of modern Australia...we were too slow to change and to accommodate the diversity, the richness, the multiculturalism of modern Australia. But we have well and truly changed and we have well and truly learnt a necessary lesson and I want to tell you that if all of our candidates are successful, by far the most common surname in the Liberal Party Room will be Nguyen.One thing I find particularly interesting is that Abbott is happy to give all the credit for Australia's security and prosperity to recent immigrants. In doing so he is throwing over his own pioneering ancestors. Why does he feel comfortable doing this? It's because in his mind the whole issue of ancestry and ethnic loyalty doesn't matter.
People who have come to this country from many parts of Asia; who have come, worked hard, prospered, succeeded and become first class Australians – that is the face and the name of modern Australia.
...I want to say how brave every single migrant to this country is, because every single one of you has done something that those who are native born have never done. You have been gutsy enough to take your future in your hands and to go to a country which is not yours and make it your own. Modern Australia is absolutely unimaginable without migration and migration ... has added a heroic dimension to our national life, because so many of the people who have come to this country have been fleeing persecution, have been leaving countries where the freedom, the justice, the prosperity and the solidarity that we take for granted are absent. So, you have added a heroic dimension to our national life.
...You have brought to this country a sense of family, a sense of enterprise and a sense of community. Almost every one of you have come to this country and you have worked hard, often in small business. You’ve built community amongst people from your own background and amongst the wider Australian community and you have cherished family. As a result of your hard work, our country has security, prosperity and liberty.
...I particularly respect and value the hard work and the skills that everyone brings to this country when they come to do a job from day one - in particular, those who come to this country as skilled migrants...they might come as temporary migrants originally, but they make the very best Australian citizens eventually. They are the most worthy, the most welcome parts of the Australian family...
What matters to him is the act of being self-made in the market. So it wouldn't register to him that he is losing anything in throwing over his own forebears.
In other words, it's not that he is hostile to those who do have such loyalties, and he even goes so far as to praise recent immigrants for having "built community amongst people from your own background". But for himself it doesn't matter.
That attitude is perhaps a little better for us than the current left-liberal one. It is likely to be a little more tolerant of our efforts to hold onto our own traditions.
The Anglo left-liberal attitude goes further than not registering or caring about an ethnic identity of their own. Instead it makes a white identity exceptional, by claiming that whiteness is at the source of human inequality (because it is held that whiteness was invented to justify unearned privilege and a racist oppression of others). In the left-liberal view an expression of European identity is treated not as a normal expression of identity but as an immoral assertion of supremacy.
But even if the right-liberal attitude is less hostile than the current left-liberal one, it is still blind - still oblivious - to the mainstream tradition. It is a mistake to think that someone like Abbott can represent us. If you think he is better than Gillard and therefore worth making the effort to vote for, then fine. But don't have illusions that it's possible to vote him in and then sit back while he puts things right. That just won't happen. If things are to improve it will because we ourselves work steadily toward goals of our own. It won't simply be gifted to us from above: we have to take it for ourselves.