Saturday, 9 February 2013

Continental Mediterranean

I've just finished the highly regarded (and highly politically correct) Penguin History of New Zealand by Michael King. It's a book I wanted to read for a while now, and was simply waiting for a reasonably priced print version to come out, as the book was difficult to get hold of cheaply with direct shipping to Greece. The Maori and Pakeha (which, in the book, clearly implies 'British') histories are dealt with in depth, with only a very small fraction of the book dedicated to the immigration of the non-British.

The book talks about the creation of a mini-Europe on the other side of the world, which is interesting in light of the present problems in Europe, especially those pertaining to way Britain regards the Continent, and the referendum issue (in our out?). But the masses of non-British white people (ie Continental Europeans) who emigrated to New Zealand arrived after World War II (before that, there was only a trickle). They were clearly different from the British whites, as this telling writing informs us, written by a certain Dr Reuel Lochore, a highly educated arts and languages graduate, and a senior immigration officer in New Zealand in 1951, in reference to 'Continental immigrants':
'They lack discretion and tact. They revel in displays of emotionalism and self-pity, and fail to realise how we despise suck lack of self-control. On social occasions... they talk loudly and untiringly about their own affairs. Being bad listeners they cannot take a hint, nor sense an attitude, from what we leave unsaid.' 
In his role as an immgration officer, he also believed that:
'We must make new Britishers: by procreation, and by assimilation; by making suitable aliens into vectors of the British way of life.'
Of course, more than six decades have passed since these statements were issued, and New Zealand immigration policies are anything but racist. But how much has changed in the attitude of those 'Continentals'? Do they still lack discretion and tact? Do they still revel in emotionalism and self-pity? Do they lack self-control and talk loudly?

I think I've answered this in many ways though my blog. I will add a personal example that occurred as recently as a year ago. During a visit to London, we stayed at a Kiwi friend's home who's married to an Italian. When we arrived, it was quite late in the afternoon (more like early in the evening in the London way of dividing the day). My friend asked me if we wanted to get the kids ready for going to sleep (ie tea, bath, bed). Her husband was absolutely mortified.

"Ready for bed at 7pm? They're Mediterraneans! They go to bed at midnight!"

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