Give and take by Trevor Plumbly
Most countries in the so-called ‘free world’ are attempting to absorb as many refugees as their social framework can cope with, but the urgency and the increase in numbers poses problems for all concerned.
Most established residents are fairly comfortable with their lot and generally complacent about freedom of expression, education and religious choice. Refugees or migrants, on the other hand, understandably find it difficult to adjust to highly liberal societies and to what we regard as basic rights. Small wonder, then, that a ‘them and us’ scenario could develop unless we re-educate everyone to the necessity of social tolerance.
The word ‘culture’ seems to have been high-jacked so that it has become a defence weapon for anyone feeling discriminated against by virtue of race, colour or creed. All that’s needed is to add ‘inappropriate’, or ‘insensitive’ and common sense seems to retreat. Those terms might give a nice academic excuse for divisiveness, but surely, if we’re going to place a high value on ‘culture’, let’s at least apply it to the arts instead of social apartheid. Blessedly, immigrants bring different beliefs and customs that add a healthy diversity to communities, but some of the more deep rooted strictures don’t fit in an open society framework; among other things, our laws require full face identification in given circumstances and recognise the rights of children in a far broader fashion, thus we need clearly defined, acceptable boundaries.
One for all
We all seem to shy away once religion enters the debate. Entrenched religious belief has, I feel, got a lot to answer for. Surely it’s time for educational authorities to get rid of religion-based instruction in schools altogether. Education should be confined to broadening minds rather than directing them down a selected emotional path. The law doesn’t seem to shrink from dithering either. Here in NZ, the benefits of a Maori based judicial system are constantly discussed; to me that process is a recipe for disaster and plainly unjust. In the light of the recent increase in immigrants and refugees, it’s a good time to remind everyone that regardless of ethnicity, religious beliefs or perceived grievances, historical or otherwise, the standards of law and punishment must apply equally. Tinkering with that concept is simply inviting more confusion and eventual unrest.