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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