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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Westfield's Downtown Asiania Fleamarket

In the same small area, most without walls - let alone partitions, strewn amid the concourse around the busy escalators at Westfield's Auckland Downtown Shopping Centre on Customs Street are clustered the following collection of retailers:-
  • Lunch bar

  • Fishmongers/sushi

  • Cobblers/Key cutters

  • Chinese massage

  • Socks

  • Hairdressers

  • Juice bar

  • Supermarket

  • Nail polishers

  • Pharmacy

  • This is for all purposes a third world/Asian/peasant mess - the story of our modern colony: pouring in immigrants, squeezing them into an environment (reproducing an environment) that they thought they had escaped from, and all paying a foreign company for the privilege - while the local city council actively facilitates it by appropriating public space (that was right outside) for a bus depot and removing all the food carts that were once there.

    I find it disgusting. I find people being massaged in the open and in full view of the cobblers, the fishmongers and people buying socks - and let's be clear there is less than 10 metres between all of these units/stalls/areas - as disgusting, depressing. The hustle and bustle of a cramped, fire hazard Asian rabbit warren with zero personal space and privacy in an undignified frenzy coming to a Westfield mall near you.

    It is disappointing to me (and maybe even to Asian immigrants) to find in Auckland the adoption of some of the negative aspects of Asian norms. I would definitely put the cramming together of inappropriate stalls as one of these. This is not to say that an Asian immigrant thought up the floor lay-out: it could have been a Jewish/South African/English management decision that thought that Asians would be suitable for the task. The point is that these changes set precedents and allow a slide in standards to occur. Foreigners have different ideas and expectations: some change, some do not, some ideas we like and incorporate, some ideas we incorporate when we should not.

    I find the reeking stench of vinegar and fish sauce that wafts out onto the street from Chinese eateries to be offensive. But what can I do about that? I find the no-eye-contact behaviour that leads to shuffling, milling, swarming, queue-jumping and all manner of unnecessary congestion to be routinely infuriating. But what can I do about that? I find the spitting all over the footpath to be repellent. But what can I do about that? I find the active resistance to communicate in anything other than minimal broken/pidgin English to be grossly disrespectful. But what can I do about that? And then there's the driving habits... All of these problems will intensify if the levels of immigration remain constant - they will not abate. It is us who will abate. It is our own greed and incompetence that has created the ugly, cheap, soon-to-be-slums, worker-hostel-type "apartment buildings" all over the Auckland CBD and beyond. We have imported students instead of exporting our knowledge. It goes on and on; but I do think that it is the calibre of the immigrants rather than their nationality/ethnicity that is the central reason for failings. A sophisticated, educated and urbane Chinese is a light year away from the poorly dressed, family reunification type elderly/middle-aged, hoiking peasant who can't speak English having full-on megaphone arguments outside his $2 shop/diary like he was still in in Maosville, China.

    Chinese can be harsh on each other too, of course. Keith Ng's insights into the rorting of the education system at Victoria University of Wellington to pass substandard Asian students are as instructive as they are disturbing and deserve a much wider coverage than the blogosphere.

    The lefties do possess some powers of observation. This time a tale from Auckland University:

    "Asian people are REALLY bad at moving in crowds. You might have assumed, as I did, that being as there are huge crowds in cities around Asia, they would have a natural talent. But the direct opposite is true - Asian people have exceedingly bad crowd behaviour, and that is why the crowds get huge.

    While it is true many Western people are thoughtless in large crowds, I believe enough of us show the benevolent attitude that causes crowds to work that our crowds remain manageable."


    Well I put it mainly down to not making eye contact. I have bolded the bit with which I totally concur. I will also say that at Auckland University it was the huge swarms of Asians (in the Commerce papers) that insisted on stampeding their way into lecture theatres while people were trying to exit. And everyone else (non-Asians) who were behaving well and doing the rational thing of standing back while the people exit naturally join the queue of Asians jostling akwardly and unneccessarily towards the door because that is what crowds do. It takes just a few people to set a bad precedent and lower standards for everyone. Unfortunately it is more difficult to set a good example if the gap you leave for a person to exit is immediately taken up by a surging Asian horde intent on getting in first. Is this a manners issue - an intelligence issue? Like the spectre of the Chinese motorist seemingly in a world of their own and oblivious to the anarchy they are creating by attempting a four point u-turn in the middle of Queen St at midday in their 4WD (I wasn't the only one staring in utter disbelief at that one), it is our own inaction and (perhaps British?) hesitance to publicly rebuke that encourages the poor behaviour.

    A friend of mine used to think all this talk was racist slander until he moved into an apartment building occupied by mostly Asians on Queen St. Then I couldn't shut him up about how they would charge into the elevator without looking as soon as the door opened - meaning the people inside would have to fight their way past them to get out. Maybe it's a use-it-or-lose-it mentality? A resource-stripping mentality? A desperation/survival mentality honed through ages of civil unrest, war, famine and pestilence? Whatever the reason it has meant that we have had to either accomodate this behaviour or try to educate or police it back out of existence. For example the Auckland city council has had to put no fishing signs in Chinese at Western Springs to stop them catching eels. There was a case where some Asian fisherman were caught in a South Island canal with a net across it. These may be the more obvious breaches of rules that until now we did not have to inform people of actively because it was assumed we all knew the rules. With mass immigration from countries with nothing in common with us that assumption is over. The problem is that for every blatant regulatory infringement we stamp out there will be an annoying infringement of etiquette that may be even worse that we will be powerless to prevent - and in all likelihood "too nice"/"gutless" to have a meaningful and honest public discourse about how to solve it.

    This phenomenon is not limited to Asians either. How many lessons about ethnic equality and respect do some of our European, South African and Australian immigrants need? How many lessons on gender equality do Muslims need? Was it not the boat loads of British immigrants who stampeded over Maori rules and order and then had the temerity to validate every ghastly violation to the point of war, looting, rape and murder with the imprimatur of Majestic authority? How many generations of immigrants who know nothing of the history of our nation have stood on it's threshold and promised to (as one Asian put it) "grow this country up." ? Into what? Another colony? Another outpost for their prejudices? To grow us into another form of them? To reinforce the everyones-an-immigrant myth? To value the outsider instead of the native? To mortgage our future to those for whom this country will never be home and to change our country so it will never seem like home to us anymore?

    Our house is flooding and the government keeps running the tap. New Zealand started as a speculative foreign venture based on perpetual immigration and permanently increasing land prices. The class of people that grew wealthy on that premise have held political power from day one. We need to change that definition, that purpose, that economic model, that social agenda, that political regime of the past if we are to become fully independent.

    And finally, *breathes out, removes armband and walks off torchlit podium* on the positive side on Easter Monday it was (from my limited ring-around) the "Kiwi" cafes that were extorting a 15% surcharge - while the Thai(?) run place had a modest note in the window saying they would have nothing to do with it. We could learn something from people like them.

    10 Comments:

    At 20/4/06 5:57 pm, Blogger stephen said...

    "a Jewish/South African/English management decision"

    On behalf of New Zealand's mostly well-assimilated Jews, let me say: leave us out of it, pal. In any case a second's thought would have told you that if it's Westfield, then Australians ultimately are responsible.

     
    At 20/4/06 6:05 pm, Blogger stephen said...

    And by way of PS - do you even read your own stuff? Your pious call for "lessons about ethnic equality and respect" does not sit well with the hatred of loud voices and vinegar.

     
    At 20/4/06 8:26 pm, Anonymous RR said...

    Westfield founder Frank Lowey is Jewish, apparantly a Holocaust survivor too. I imagine he's only incidentally Australian. W-F is HQ'd in Perth, home to probably the largest concentration of Boks anywhere, outside of SA. The chances of any decision within that corporation being made by a either a Jew or a South African are fairly bloody high.

     
    At 20/4/06 11:12 pm, Blogger Cactus Kate said...

    I reckon it's not over until you get a shop selling dried fish in there.

    Then it's time to get a one way ticket out of NZ.

     
    At 21/4/06 6:01 am, Blogger STC said...

    Wow.

    WOW!

    We need to change that definition, that purpose, that economic model, that social agenda, that political regime of the past if we are to become fully independent

    That was pretty rocking.

    Man, we have got to meet up sometime!

    aotearoa.guy@gmail.com or nao@auckland.ac.nz

     
    At 21/4/06 4:19 pm, Blogger t selwyn said...

    Stephen:
    Is one of "New Zealand's mostly well-assimilated Jews" who purports to speak for them being particularly hypersensitive?

    ""lessons about ethnic equality and respect" does not sit well with the hatred of loud voices and vinegar." - Many people will probably be drawing the same wrong idea. I make the distinction between ethnic and cultural: my criticism of the latter is distinct from my neutrality about the former. Some people prefer to say nothing about things that they find offensive - we are not such people. As the recent arrivals are deviating from our norms is it not our duty to correct them? How long do we tolerate the new flatmate stinking the place out and shouting? You can sit there with clenched teeth if you want, then skulk off and call it "vile racism" or you can do something more constructive than implying that we have to put up with every new form of imported bad habits.

     
    At 22/4/06 1:13 pm, Blogger peterquixote said...

    yous medal of courage is ready, over at pq, the minter used golden stoled from spain, the ribbon is copied from upham medal,
    recoloured,

     
    At 23/4/06 1:51 pm, Blogger stephen said...

    Tim, the implication that Jews are not New Zealanders rankles, as does the idea that insensitivity to the locals is the fault of the Jews. I don't think it's oversensitive of me to feel a little hurt by that.

     
    At 23/4/06 5:28 pm, Blogger t selwyn said...

    Stephen:
    "the implication that Jews are not New Zealanders rankles" - Firstly, the implication is entirely of your own creation, and secondly: are all Jews New Zealanders?
    "the idea that insensitivity to the locals is the fault of the Jews" - I was not addressing the issue of occupied Palestine, I was talking about one example of a shopping mall in Auckland. You've only got one in the trifecta - your attempt to extrapolate anything approaching a criticism of "the Jews" (as you put it) above and beyond any other people is unfounded. Auckland's greatest Mayor and visionary was a Jewish immigrant from Sheffield (Sir Dove Meyer Robinson).

     
    At 26/4/06 12:37 pm, Blogger stef said...

    Asians just don't see you... if you aren't part of their social circle you don't exist. I was getting of the subway the other day and this women tried to push all of us getting off in so she should get on. It wasn't to a kid behind her pointed to the people that she stopped.

    But it's an easy habit to pick up. I can push and shove with the best of them now... though it's bound to get me into trouble back in new zealand.

     

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