Club Politique by Che Tibby

Metics Finito

So much to write about, so little time. In a nutshell what this series tried to do is reduce down the 100k words of my thesis into something palatable for everyday readers. As many of you may attest, the academic world is all about learning an entirely new language for whatever discipline you happen to be interested in. Unsurprisingly, that language is usually inaccessible to most.

I thought my thesis deserved a little more than that though. I'm sure it's a vanity, but I did try to pick a topic that would have application in everyday settings. The upshot is this idea of 'metics'. To recap, 'metic' is a classical Greek word for 'resident non-citizen'. In this day and age you'd just call them something boring like, 'permanent resident', but that just isn't catchy enough, and doesn't encapsulate the depth of the concept.

As a result I focussed in on the interaction of majority and minority identity groups, and worked from the assumption that differences of this type are completely normal. The academic world however tends to work from the premise that differences, especially within nation-states, are not normal and need to be 'fixed'. I never quite understood that line of thinking, so set out to look into ways of overturning it.

Tell you what, working against conventional wisdom is never easy. If my experience has been anything over the years it is that strength of conviction is always a good thing. All too often people will fall into line about an idea simply because the people around them are towing a 'party line' of sorts. Small but important failings of ideas and arguments are overlooked or just plain ignored because they don't fit with the truth people want to believe. Worse, people try to establish 'facts' and 'truth' in a world that constantly overturns old wisdoms.

It's always pissed me off that one.

Examples abound. 'The civilising mission' is a pet hate of mine. The barbarity practised under that title is too monstrous to convey to you in this short episode, but the literature expounding its failings is vast. The punishment, anger and inhumanity dished out to Australian Aboriginal people under that title makes my skin crawl and my stomach churn. That such a litany of crime can be ignored by a contemporary people, in favour of blanket dismissal under missives centring on the non-complicity of a nation entrenched on land still echoing generations of oppression, with preference falling to blame the victims of that oppression, is beyond my comprehension.

So what can a conscious man do under these circumstances? Write a little.

Within this blog the idea of metics was intended to show that any one of us is excluded from belonging to the majority at different times of our lives and for different reasons. Unless you're some sort of human chameleon you will sooner or later experience a situation in a place where you're the odd one out. And the way you handle that difference is important.

The truth of the matter is though that many people don't handle difference at all. The frequent attempt to blame 'multiculturalism' for issues of bigotry and prejudice is an example. Multiculturalism is in fact an assimilatory tool, not a tool for diversification. Diversity is in a way a by-product of the assimilation of minorities. But explain that to people obsessed with minimising difference? No way. Blank looks. Scared looks. Angry looks. And all as their processors try to accommodate that idea within their conventional wisdom about the 'Asian Invasion' (remember that scare campaign? The one that's now moved to 'uncivilised' Muslims?)

The difference that migrants feel is something that any one of us could experience at any time in our lives. Sure we won't feel it as an ongoing and oppressive presence the way some do, but that's no reason to assume there are degrees of acceptability within difference or prejudice.

Because of that danger of partial acceptability my thesis built a case for the normality of difference. It doesn't matter that a particular nationality is entrenched on a piece of land. What is important is the way that identity and difference is managed by the leadership of that territory. Conventional wisdoms are not enough to establish the parameters of important things like inter-cultural interaction, on either an individual or societal basis. And, I built on that argument by showing that inter-cultural systems can work well if the willpower and resolve to make them work exist.

And the alternative? I don't think there is one. The push for conformity and 'national unity' is really just a pressure for assimilation and minimisation of all difference, within a similarity based on conventional wisdoms.

Who wants to live in a world run by the unconscious? Ah well. We can all dream.

PS. And eat more duck. You think that bird flu is going away? I think not. Maybe just marshalling its numbers! Bet you're all glad you forked out all that $$ on Tamiflu...