Peters, You Can’t Shake Hands With a Clenched Fist

Published: Tue 12 Nov 2002 08:47 AM
Howard’s End: Peters, You Can’t Shake Hands With a Clenched Fist
This Scoop correspondent has a message for Winston Peters and all of his followers who support his divisive policies - you can't shake hands with a clenched fist. Maree Howard writes.
I was brought up to believe that acceptance of others, their looks, their behaviours, their belief's, brings you inner peace and tranquillity - instead of anger and resentment.
If you are a strictly politically correct person, tune out now - because I'm going to write words you obviously won't agree with.
It's Australia, circa the1950's.
The country, like New Zealand, was just starting to recover following the devastation of World War II that brought about the flotsam and jetsam of millions of dispossessed humanity in Europe.
Like many other countries Australia opened its doors to those people. Why? Because it needed to develop its infrastructure and to build its population. - the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme, the pipelines, the irrigation systems and all manner of huge capital works programs which helped make Australia what it is today.
Trouble was, at that time a lot of Australians were a pretty laid-back lot and didn't picture themselves as welders and other manual labourers. The young armed forces people had not long returned from the bitter struggles of war, were exhausted and looked forward to a well-deserved long rest and recuperation.
So what to do? Immigration.
Out came the "new Australians" in their tens of thousands, the Greeks, the Italians, the Slaves, the 10-pound Poms and so on. The Papadopolous, the Schrippa's, the Traina's the Chalecki's, the Smith's, the Jones.
My God, in Australia at that time, you would have thought the world was coming to an end. The Poms were OK, but for the others it must have been a nightmare because they were easily recognised, not by the looks, but by their lack of the English language
Bloody wogs, eyties, dago's were just some of the names they were regularly called.
‘They'll be takin' our jobs, stuffin' our shiela's or worse, marrying them, they're all bloody communists anyway, stone the crows they all fought for Hitler’, were just some of the colourful phrases.
But the immigrants, too, faced great difficulty in learning a new language and settling into and being accepted in a new country.
Imagine trying to understand "You're shout, mate" or "I'm in the bloody dog-house" or "She'll be right cobber" .
Or what about trying to understand what might be a lamington, or a pavlova or a bottle of grog. On the other hand, the Aussie's hadn't yet heard the word pizza or spaghetti bolognese or cannolloni.
But they came with their rag-bundles and battered suitcases and they helped to build that great country to what it is today.
They stood welding inside huge pipes in the middle of the desert in 40 degree temperatures for hour after hour with nothing on but a pair of shorts, a singlet, big boots and a simple handkerchief tied at each corner to cover their head.
They earned what was good money at the time and pretty soon they bought a little piece of urban Australia and on that they eventually built a humble home. There they lived and soon, Momma and Poppa came, and then sister and brother until finally the family was united.
But Momma and Poppa were peasant farmers back in the "old country" and they weren't satisfied just to be paid labourers in their new land. They wanted more.
So they bought a little piece of land and they tilled it by hand and grew small amounts of vegetables and fruits, the varieties of which, Australians had never seen.
And they took them to market on bicycles, by old battered car, or they walked with their produce on their back, or on their head, or they got there by any other means they could.
At these developing markets they met other kin-folk and they soon developed their small communities where they practised and kept alive their culture from the "old country."
They earned a few shillings (before decimal currency) and they saved, God how they saved, and they bought a little more land and then still a little more, and very soon they were fully-fledged market-gardeners or orchardists or wine makers. The young men eventually married and their children started school where they learnt the ways of Australia. The "foreign" accent was soon lost to the young and it became hard to detect any accent at all.
Well, that made it all the worse. The bloody wogs, the eyties, the dagos, were now seen to be taking over Australia. But still they worked. They stuck to themselves and why not - their's was far from the welcome they rightly deserved.
But I'm proud to say that over just a few years they did integrate and they did assimilate - and they became fully recognised and welcomed by the average Aussie.
They became naturalised Australians and for many that was the proudest moment of their lives - it meant acceptance where previously in war-torn Europe it was rejection.
It's still a great shame on Australia that it has not made its own indigenous population as welcome or as wanted.
But now, it's not uncommon in Australia to see on the election ballot paper or an MP with the name of Constantine Papadopolous. Or to hear the phrase "all you bloody wog's are the same" as nothing more than a term of endearment which is accepted and laughed about by both the "naturalised Australian" and the "genuine" Aussie.
The come-back from the "new Australian" will often go something like this: "There's nothing wrong with you Aussie's, you were hand-picked by some of the best judges in England." All in good fun with no offence meant, nor taken.
Sure there are still problems in pockets of every country, but that is no excuse to adopt a blanket hate-crime intolerance against certain people from certain ethnic races.
That's nothing more than the inverse logic of the Inquisition where if the witch drowned she was innocent, but if she survived she was guilty - either way she died.
So Mr Peters, I implore you, perhaps we are all in the gutter, but many of us are looking at the stars.

Next in Comment

Boris Johnson At Sea: Coronavirus Confusion In The UK
By: Binoy Kampmark
Foreign Correspondent: Rightwing Populism Will Make You Sick—Really
By: Reese Erlich
Dunne Speaks: Early Voting Is OK, If You Know Who To Vote For
By: Peter Dunne
Biodiversity: Where The World Is Making Progress – And Where It’s Not
By: The Conversation
On The Recession, And On Trump’s Current Chances Of Re-election
By: Gordon Campbell
Rogue Poll Or Not, All The Signs Point To A Tectonic Shift In New Zealand Politics
By: The Conversation
The Coronavirus Republic: Three Million Infections And Rising
By: Binoy Kampmark
Altars Of Hypocrisy: George Floyd, Protest And Black Face
By: Binoy Kampmark
View as: DESKTOP | MOBILE © Scoop Media