Monday, 27 October 2008

assimilation is a bad idea

most nz'ers would have looked forward to this long weekend as a chance to have a break. not so for your faithful party workers. for us, it has been more time on the campaign trail, trying to ensure the best outcome for the upcoming elections.

yesterday was a pretty amazing day for me, in terms of cultural experiences. i spent some time with the sikh community at midday, seeing some of their religious rites. this community would have to be one of the most generous in the country, with the provision of a free lunch for all every sunday. of course their generosity goes well beyond that. they also have such a well-knit community, and they are very good at maintaining their language and customs.

from there, i went to the hamilton gardens where the dutch community were having a two-day festival, celebrating their culture. dutch migrants have a very interesting history here in nz, and the event this weekend just goes to prove that assimilation DOES NOT WORK.

when dutch migrants first came here, every effort was made to anglicise them. their names were often changed, they were discouraged from speaking their native language and were monitored by the government to ensure they weren't congregating too much. they were expected to lose all aspects of their own culture and fully adopt the pakeha culture of nz.

i've heard the children of these migrants speak about how it has felt to lose that culture and heritage. it has been deeply upsetting, and this weekend showed such a strong revival of dutch culture, it showed that these people are reclaiming their roots. there were displays of singing and dancing, as well as of dutch costumes. there was plenty of traditional food on sale, and yes, i bought a nice hefty chunk of gouda cheese.

i found the indonesian influence on dutch culture to be particularly interesting, especially manifested in some of the batik and prints used in traditional dutch costumes. it was just a wonderful occasion, and lovely to see people who were proud and confident. this is what a true multicultural society looks like: one where every part fits into the whole, but retains its distinct identity.

in the evening was another diwali function, this time at the founders theatre in hamilton. who can beat indians in a celebration full of colour and sound. bollywood and traditional dancing; singing and poetry. the colours were in contrast to some of the dutch costumes, which were quite muted in the more conservative parts of the netherlands. indians, on the other hand, love bright colours with lots of sparkle and sheen.

today was spent doing grunt work. i'm surprised that there are still so many unregistered voters out there, and we signed up a fair few today. these were people who were politically aware, in that they knew they didn't like john key and were keen to have a labour government, but just hadn't enrolled. and interesting where we're finding the labour support. i wouldn't have picked much support at the races (not that i went in to such a den of iniquity; i was leafletting out in the carpark!), but there was plenty to be found. less than two weeks to go, and i'm feeling pretty positive.

the minor party leaders' debate was good, although i missed the first half hour. the reason being that it was much more tightly controlled, and for the most part, you could actually hear what everyone was saying. it was the funniest thing watching rodney hide and tariana turia be so chummy, especially when their policies are so very far apart. i really wonder how the maori electorates are going to view that. not very positively, i would think, and i think ms turia should have been much clearer in stating that she did not agree with ACT policies.

she seemed to take comfort in the fact that a coalition agreement would soften a lot of ACT policies, but i very much doubt that they will be in government without having a major influence. the national party will be relying on them just as much as they'll need to rely on the maori party. the thought of the three of them with peter dunne trying to come together really is a scary thought.

i was going to write a post about the ethics of labour forming a government if they get less of the party vote than national, but that's been done too. very simply, if labour + progressives + greens get more party vote than national + ACT + united future, then the electorate has said they want a centre-left goverment. it would be immoral for any other government to rule the country.

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