But Can They Find the Map of Tassie?

by matttbastard

Australia to introduce controversial loyalty citizenship test later this year for prospective immigrants:

They will be asked questions about history, institutions and culture – as well as committing to Australian social values focusing on “mateship”.

The aim of the test was to get “that balance between diversity and integration correct in future”, said Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews.

Critics believe the requirement of an English language exam discriminates against non-English speakers.


The prospective citizen will have to give a correct answer to 12 out of 20 questions – drawn from a total of about 200.

Some elements will almost certainly be beyond the knowledge of many ordinary Australians, says the BBC’s Nick Bryant in Sydney.

They include knowing the country’s first prime minister or when European settlers arrived in Australia – or what the opening line of the national anthem is. Another one could be related to the nation’s most important horse race.

Yeah, being aware that life Down Under comes to a grinding halt ’round Melbourne Cup time is certainly what I’d label essential knowledge if teh swarthy brown folks are to fully integrate into Australian society.

On a more serious note, despite the fervent denials of PM John Howard and other pols, there is a longstanding tradition of racism/nativism in Australian culture, and a majority of Australian citizens are all too aware of it. Therefore, this proposed citizenship test can’t be seen in a vacuum, and is almost certainly related to post-9/11 hysteria and resulting Australian anti-terror laws.

Beyond Australian borders, however, the test is just the latest example of what seems to be a growing permeation of xenophobia and nativism infecting much of the so-called ‘free world’ (a sentiment some have dismissed as universal and inevitable) in which a perceived influx of (non-white) immigrants are believed to be putting core Western values at risk (eg, the ‘Eurabia‘ theory). It reminds me of other recent similar loyalty citizenship tests containing sample questions that native-born citizens would be hard-pressed to answer, such as the proposed Hesse citizenship test in Germany (sample question: “Certain sports and athletes belong to the social and cultural image of the Federal Republic of Germany. Name three well-known German sporting personalities.”) or former UK PM Tony Blair’s call for ‘religious’ (read: Muslim) organizations to ‘prove’ their commitment to integration (especially the section pertaining to ‘mateship’, a concept which has in the past been associated with nativistic sentiment that has sometimes resulted in violent expression).

Once again I quote Gary Farber:

Schools need to thoroughly teach what freedom is actually made of, that it requires the rule of law, and how our laws have evolved, and why, and what injustices they’ve helped prevent, and why if America is to mean anything, it has to value these values.

And, of course, politicians also have to teach it. But that requires more bravery, and eloquence, than most possess.

Though in this instance Gary is referring specifically to the US, I believe his point holds true in a more universal sense for all so-called ‘free nations’, and highlights a broader issue: we have no right to expect those trying to take advantage of the freedoms supposedly offered by liberal democracies to know more about the minutia of a nation (let alone our essential values) than native-born citizens do. Nor should we allow an irrational fear of the other (or catastrophic events, such as the 7/7 bombings) to provoke a reactionary wholesale rejection of multiculturalism and its virtues.

Related: Voluntary homework for (native-born) Canadians: see if you could pass our citizenship test (no Googling allowed). Post your scores in comments.

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Corporate Exploitation.

by Isabel

The sexualization of children (specifically young girls) is everywhere these days. Bratz Dolls are the new Barbie. You can’t walk into a children’s clothing store these days without seeing tiny mini skirts and skimpy or just plain inappropriate tops, it seems. Even then-12-year-old Dakota Fanning, most recently the star of Charlotte’s Web, had a stint shilling for Marc Jacobs.

Melinda Tankard Reist is the founding director of Women’s Forum Australia and editor of its new report on women’s magazines, Faking It. In an interview with MercatorNet, she discusses the widespread treatment of young girls as sexual objects for the purposes of marketing, and about the necessity of creating a global movement of women and girl advocacy.

A few highlights:

MercatorNet: Most of us have seen the little girls in miniskirts, platforms and boob tubes; we have heard about the bralettes and g-strings designed for them, and the sexy Bratz Babyz dolls. But tell us about the magazines for young girls — are they really so bad?

Melinda Tankard Reist: An analysis of the three most popular magazines for young girls — Barbie Magazine, Total Girl and Disney Girl — showed that about 50 per cent of the content of the last two was sexualising material. For Barbie it was no less than 75 per cent. This is really bad because these magazines are aimed at girls from five or six years old and up. Around a third of girls aged six to 12 read one or more of them. The pages are full of advice on fashion, beauty and products. Lip gloss, perfumes, deoderants and hair styling products are promoted as must-haves for primary school girls. Along with this they can get “hot gossip”. Little girls are shown how to look and behave like pop stars, including how to do “sexy” dance moves.

One Barbie Magazine issue was touted as a “cute crush issue”, with images of teenage boys and men up to 30 years of age and comments such as “who’s your celeb dream date”. This can lead to girls being prepped for sexual advances from men. We know that this is happening to some girls who use social networking sites on the internet. Popular culture, including magazines, prepare them to be approached by men sexually and the internet provides the opportunity. An Australian, Jim Bell, who served time for child pornography offences, wrote an article justifying himself on precisely this ground. He said society allowed sexualised images of children in television, pop music and fashion, and the world of internet child porn merely completes the process. He had a point.

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