Sorry Dean: Australia is The Migration Nation

(This discussion begins in this post, you might want to read it first if you haven’t already).

Hi Alan, Thank you for the reply, however I believe you’ve read far more into my letter than anticipated thus gone off track somewhat and haven’t exactly answered my question. My problem isn’t so much to do with immigration itself but of the generous support provided by government and other organisations for new comers which is simply an unfair advantage. No wonder so many Australians are feeling disappointed and are opting out of society. I’m fully aware of the plight of the refugee, both my mother and father’s parents immigrated at the end of WW11. The story of my Grandmother escaping communist Hungary with the two oldest kids in tow and leaving the youngest one behind is a most harrowing story, never the less, all four grand parents made great contributions to the Australian economy by doing manual labour work. But here is the stark contrast, they didn’t so much care to own their own house, they just wanted a place to call home and to spend the weekend with family. You seem to disrespect this want for a basic lifestyle? We aren’t all movers and shakers my friend and all I ever wanted was a vocation of labour myself so why do I feel pressure by people like you? I’m now 48 and suffer a mental illness and if I were to be totally honest it has been bought on by these social aspects and the reality that so many people just want so much more than they really need. It’s easy for me to feel inadequate, even worthless but I’m sure my immigrant Grandparents wanted and indeed expected a better life for their grand children and I suspect that if they thought Australia would turn into the state we’re now in, I’d say they would of decided to live somewhere else or dare I say may even have decided Communism a better option. I’ll go as far as to say that I would not only like to see immigration cease until unemployment is at a more acceptable level, I’d like to see population restrictions that include birth restrictions in the country but no surprise to me, a Hospital in Sydney just recorded it’s highest birth rate in history, and who are these people breeding like Rabbits Alan? I’m after a lucky break, I won’t get it from government so where do I get? I’m at the stage that if I happened to come across some money I’d seriously contemplate moving back to my parent’s motherland, either Hungary or even Holland where I can enjoy medicating with Marijuana without being ostracised and persecuted. Time to help those homeless my friend. Thank you once again. Dean.

Hi Dean,

I don’t really want to have an ongoing debate with you over email because it seems a bit unfair: I’ve spent some of my career practicing professional writing and I get the sense you’d be much more comfortable speaking face-to-face. It’s a shame that Ceduna and Sydney are so far apart, or I’d suggest we meet for a beer and a chat. I hope we’d find that we have more in common with each other than either of us expect.

Thank you for telling me more about your life so far, who your grandparents are and some of the things that make life tough for you.

I should tell you a little about me in return.

You’re only a few years younger than me. My parents and grandparents were migrants too, although they all came to Australia from Scotland and England so it wasn’t as tough for them as it would have been for your grandparents. One of my grandads was a wealthy man’s gardener and the other was a taxi driver and handyman, so I’m not exactly descended from royalty or millionaires either.

Growing up, my family moved a lot. By the time I left home at 17 my family had lived in 28 houses and one boat. I attended several schools in a few different countries.

And that’s where I started to think about refugees and migrants, because I was a new arrival in a new school, a new sports team, trying to learn how to fit in and not be a target for bullies. I was a new migrant kid every 2–3 years, sometimes even less.

I learned in each new social group, the kids believed there was only one way to dress, one correct haircut, one Top 20 to listen to, one accent to have, one set of slang to use, etc. Anybody who was different was not only an outsider, they were inferior. They were hated, pitied, feared but never made welcome.

Because I was never an accepted member of any social group for long before my family packed up and moved again, I gradually started noticing that actually, none of these social groups was right: there actually wasn’t only “one true way” to look/sound/dress/behave. There were hundreds, just in my own limited experience, and thousands more in places I hadn’t been to yet. None of them were any better or worse than the next.

And then I began to observe that while each of these social groups looked and sounded very different, they all behaved the same. There was a leader, there was his second-in-command plus maybe a third-in-command. There was the Bully, the Thief, the Comedian, the Sportsman and the Stinky One. There would also always be The Prettiest Girl, her Best Friend, the Brainy Girl, the Tomboy, the Quiet Girl and the Inseparable Bitches.

Those roles in the group were much more important and universal than how they dressed and what they listened to. While all they could see was these trivial differences they thought were really important to their own identity, I could see how unimportant that was. What was important was how alike all these social groups actually were.

The colour of your skin, the language you speak, the Imaginary Sky Friend you believe in, how you dress and the place you come from are trivial. They aren’t permanent and they are in fact undergoing a process of constant change from one generation to the next.

What *is* really important is what we all have in common: the need for shelter, security, food, companionship, love, and freedom of self-expression within the laws the community we live in creates for itself.

In only two generations, your own family changed from patriotic Hungarians to true-blue Aussies. In the same two generations, my family changed from Scots and English misfits into true-blue Aussie misfits. Both our families became good for Australia in only one generation!

If that can happen in such a short time, then it’s got to be a mistake to judge people by where they come from. It’s got to be a mistake to say that only the people already in Australia matter; that those people who only recently became Australians don’t matter as much, and that those who would like to become Australians don’t matter at all.

Because underneath, we’re all exactly the same. We all deserve the same chance your grandparents were given: to become Australians and make a better life for our kids.

Without that as the core guiding principle of our nation, Australia is just some lines drawn on a map and a small number of people inside those lines desperately trying to stop time, make sure everybody looks and sounds and dresses like them. Trying to freeze themselves in time and space, though no matter what they do, time marches on, and the Earth continues on its journey around the sun.

Not all of us actually like to watch cricket or footy. Not all of us like a BBQ, a beer, or a meat pie with sauce. Not all of us love America, or hate Muslims, or think The Footy Show is funny.

But all of us – literally, all of us – are refugees, migrants, or the descendants of refugees and migrants in relatively recent history. If there’s any one thing which has done the most to shape what Australia is, that thing is migration.

Australia is The Migration Nation.

Please think about a couple of things you’ve told me about the history of your family. Think about what your grandparents might say about whether migrants deserve some help getting started in Australia. Think about how they might feel if, after everything they went through to start a better life for their family in Australia, you decided it was all a bit too hard and ran away to Amsterdam to get stoned.

alan

I’m Alan Jones, an EiR for startup accelerators, GP at M8 Ventures. Previously investor, founder, and early Yahoo PM. Opinions mine (but should also be yours).

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