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Proactive policies protect future generations

In his Valedictory Speech to Parliament on July 24, 2014 (serialised in our August 1 and 15 issues) retiring MP Dr Rajen Prasad dealt with a number of issues ranging from immigration and diversity to families and the role of lawmakers.

However, the questions that he raised about planning for the future generations or lack of it, deserves debate in every home, friends’ circle and community gatherings.

As an intellectual and policymaker with more than 40 years of experience in public life in various capacities, Dr Prasad wants all New Zealanders to examine the reasons for our failure to establishing a system that addresses the challenges of raising good children and grooming them to be successful and useful men and women of tomorrow. He is concerned, rightly so, that despite witnessing cases of dysfunctional families and children dropping out of schools and therefore the society, we have been silent watchers. As he rightly asked, “Why is it that despite knowing about cases early, we are unable to avoid the disaster that was predicted, but are happy to pick up the pieces at a later stage?”

Referring to ‘Diversity’ in his speech, Dr Prasad has rightly said that it is not limited to cuisine and the fine arts. Although he did not elaborate, he must have implied that we continue to do lip service by stating, “We celebrate Diversity,” without positive action aimed towards actually achieving it.

Changing demography

New Zealand’s demography is changing fast, embracing more than 125 different nationalities (may be more), each of them classified as ‘Indian,’ ‘Pakistani,’ ‘Samoan,’ ‘Tongan,’ ‘Fijian,’ ‘European’ and ‘South African,’ to mention a few. It is time that all of us are classified as ‘New Zealanders’ without a prefix.

Dr Prasad’s Guest Editorial that appeared in our May 15, 2011 issue analysed the issue at greater length. He said that ‘Diversity’ directly enables New Zealand to maintain and enhance its way of life and provide the environment demanded by citizens of an advanced market economy and a respected global player like New Zealand.

“Most fair-thinking New Zealanders place a high value on our ethnic diversity. It has given them access to new experiences, products, and relationships that enrich their lives enormously. In return, they have contributed to the never-ending patterns of acculturation through the ages, which will continue well into the future,” he said.

According to Dr Prasad, while we all need to engage more as a society to fulfil the many promises of a culturally diverse society, no one wants to go back to the mono-culturalism of the past, except a few who do not understand the value of being a global citizen.

Multiculturalism confused

Racism is also often mixed with the concept of multiculturalism, which, according to some here and in the rest of the Western world, a fizzy doctrine.

In Britain, it is now a truism among all mainstream politicians that it is a multicultural society; that minority traditions should be respected; and that difference should be celebrated rather than deprecated. Anyone who argues for compulsory assimilation by immigrants is dismissed as a xenophobe or worse.

Social policy reflects this multiculturalist attitude. To be sure, its implementation in New Zealand and elsewhere has sometimes been warped by racism, but in general, it has tried to enable our ethnic minorities to live and be educated, as they like. Muslim schools, for instance, can get state funding, just as Christian ones can; nobody disputes (as they do in France) the right of Muslim girls to wear headscarves in schools.

For some, multiculturalism is a problematic creed. It is generally assumed multiculturalism is the opposite of assimilation. But for a society to be truly multicultural, some degree of assimilatory mixing is necessary; otherwise communities end up living not together but separately, divided rather than harmonious.

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