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Ethical Quandary: Maintaining a society's ethnic character ... None
Old 02-18-2012, 09:16 AM   #1
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Is it morally permissible for a heterogeneous society to adopt policies intended to maintain the ethnic character of the society?


Let's leave aside the ethnic mono-cultures like Japan and Korea, and focus on already diverse places like the US and Australia - diverse, but predominantly Western European in numbers and culture. Is it OK to advocate the maintenance of the population's ethnic balances, or does that cross some invisible line of "racism per se"?

It seems a topical question - Israel, Australia and the US have no choice but to address it, or "facts on the ground" will address it for them, decisively. If Japan and Korea get the ethical green light for such practices, why not everyone?
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Old 02-18-2012, 12:59 PM   #2
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I wouldn't say it's "racism per se." If people want to segregate themselves from others, and it's for positive reasons like cultural pride instead of negative reasons like racism and discrimination against others, they should do so. It might even have a positive effect on international relations if people could stick with a specific group they identified with instead of having to deal with invariable clashes between conflicting ideologies.
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Old 02-18-2012, 01:56 PM   #3
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Immoral implies there's an agreed value system or a system in which someone is actively hurt. I don't see that in the OP's question. All it takes for one who wants to maintain their homogenous state is to argue that they percieve it as top priority. If you swap ethical homogenity with something we tend to see as important (for an example - children), we also see that it's not the defence of the homogenous system that is at fault. It's very moral to defend something that you believe is important.

But we can argue that they are morons defending something that isn't really all that important (provided we disagree with them). In short - it's their priorities we can question, but not their action to defend it.

In short, they're not immoral to defend ethical homogenity.
They're idiots.
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Old 02-18-2012, 08:29 PM   #4
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Ethnic character is a construct. Like most cultural norms, it is a concept that has become hegemonic at some point in time and is now perceived to be natural. When can ethnicity ever be pure anyhow? Knowing my own family's background--as multiethnic as you can get in the middle of Europe after 600 years of movement--i question the value of the category "ethnic".
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Old 02-18-2012, 10:06 PM   #5
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Thanks to each of you for these thoughtful replies. Let's look at each of them, in turn - starting with our newest poster of the clutch -

  Originally Posted by Simurgh
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Ethnic character is a construct. Like most cultural norms, it is a concept that has become hegemonic at some point in time and is now perceived to be natural. When can ethnicity ever be pure anyhow? Knowing my own family's background--as multiethnic as you can get in the middle of Europe after 600 years of movement--i question the value of the category "ethnic".

Welcome to Forum, Sim - wish my 7th post had risen to the level of yours.

Decided to use the term "ethnicity" instead of "race" for practical reasons - there are only 3 races, right? Technically, ethnic Europeans can't be guilty of "racism" against Hispanics of Mexican origin, since they are both considered "White". To have a discussion that reflects reality we have to slice it into smaller segments; thus - ethnicity, and here we can distinguish between Hispanics and Europeans, and between ethnic Jews and Arabs - though both of them are classified as "White" as well.

You make a factually accurate point that each of us (European-origin types) is highly likely to be of mixed origin, if we look back deep enough into family history. But that misses the point - none of us may be pure of origin, but each of us has a genetic and cultural background which shapes us into a broadly identifiable "ethnicity", don't we? That's the real world, as it exists, isn't it?

We can get lost in debate forever discussing the theoretical distinctions, if any, between (European) "Whites" and Mexicans - but we all know what we're talking about, don't we?

  Originally Posted by Equinox
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I wouldn't say it's "racism per se." If people want to segregate themselves from others, and it's for positive reasons like cultural pride instead of negative reasons like racism and discrimination against others, they should do so. It might even have a positive effect on international relations if people could stick with a specific group they identified with instead of having to deal with invariable clashes between conflicting ideologies.

Can of worms, isn't it, when you start to look behind a policy and seek to determine its morality on the basis of the subjective intent of the framers of the policy? Japan has a policy of encouraging the migration to Japan of ethnic Japanese from South America and elsewhere - but nobody else. In assessing the morality of that policy, are we going to have to psychoanalyze the Japanese people and try to see if the motivation was justifiable (your view) "conflict avoidance" or unjustifiable "racial pride/superiority"?

IMO, we're not going to get anywhere, in this discussion or IRL, if subjective intent plays a decisive role. Policies, as a practical matter, can only be judged "at face value", on their intrinsic ethical merits and without regard to the intent of those who enact them.

  Originally Posted by Purgatid
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Immoral implies there's an agreed value system or a system in which someone is actively hurt. I don't see that in the OP's question.

Well, it is there - someone does stand to be hurt; that's the essence of the entire debate. The issue concerns the ethics of exclusion - and exclusion is presumed here to be a detriment to those excluded. The point of the OP was to raise this question - can such exclusionary policies be morally justified?

  Originally Posted by Purgatid
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All it takes for one who wants to maintain their homogenous state is to argue that they perceive it as top priority. If you swap ethical homogeneity with something we tend to see as important (for an example - children), we also see that it's not the defense of the homogenous system that is at fault. It's very moral to defend something that you believe is important.

But we can argue that they are morons defending something that isn't really all that important (provided we disagree with them). In short - it's their priorities we can question, but not their action to defend it.

In short, they're not immoral to defend ethical homogeneity.
They're idiots.

So the people of Australia who, in the past (and maybe in the future), adopted a policy known as "White Australia", may have been "idiots" (your term) for making that decision, but their morality in doing so should not be called into question - do I have it right?

It's really not a theoretical question, Purgatid. If the gates were opened, at least double the number of current citizens of Australia would migrate to there in just one year, from places so populated that their loss would scarcely register in the countries of origin. Substantially none of these waiting migrants has an ethnic profile that matches the existing profile of the Australian population. The character of Australia would be irrevocably changed almost overnight. Can Australia morally say - "No, stay out!" - to these people, while permitting "White" Irish fleeing the financial calamity of their homeland to settle?

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Old 02-19-2012, 10:10 PM   #6
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  Originally Posted by MrFox
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Is it morally permissible for a heterogeneous society to adopt policies intended to maintain the ethnic character of the society?

Tying to promote one's own survival is obviously morally permissable. And either one can or one can't; possession is 9/10ths of the law.

In the specific case of the US, though, the ethnic character we're talking about is Western Civilization. The moral arguments for maintaining that (e.g. democracy, human rights, multiculturalism itself, gender equality, private property, technology, free trade, etc.) are considerably stronger than for preserving just any old 'ethnic character.' Or by ethnic did you mean racial?

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Old 02-19-2012, 10:45 PM   #7
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  Originally Posted by Paul Siraisi
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Tying to promote one's own survival is obviously morally permissable. And either one can or one can't; possession is 9/10ths of the law.

In the specific case of the US, though, the ethnic character we're talking about is Western Civilization. The moral arguments for maintaining that (e.g. democracy, human rights, multiculturalism itself, gender equality, private property, technology, free trade, etc.) are considerably stronger than for preserving just any old 'ethnic character.' Or by ethnic did you mean racial?

As I'm using the term "ethnic" here it refers to both racial and cultural attributes; which is the common usage of the term, as I understand it. When Koreans - North or South - seek to preserve the ethnicity of their society they aren't always meaning multiculturalism or democratic values or anything else we in the West would regard as virtuous.

The purpose of this thread wasn't to try to value one society's virtues in comparison to others. Rather, it was to ask whether any society can ethically decide to preserve its existing racial, ethnic and cultural identity by excluding others who don't fit that profile.

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Old 02-20-2012, 01:27 AM   #8
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  Originally Posted by MrFox
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The purpose of this thread wasn't to try to value one society's virtues in comparison to others. Rather, it was to ask whether any society can ethically decide to preserve its existing racial, ethnic and cultural identity by excluding others who don't fit that profile.

In Canada, race and ethnicity are protected grounds under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in our constitution, meaning government is prohibited from discriminating against people on those grounds. Unless. Unless the discrimination is judged to be within "reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society".

So in Canada, the government would be hard-pressed to explain any such ethnic maintenance policy. Now, you asked if any society could ethically undertake such a policy. Presumably most countries constitutions do not specifically exclude ethnicism... I think it comes down to the particular society's ethics, doesn't it? Racism may be against my ethics, but that says nothing about your ethics or some other society's ethics. If that society wants to have racist policies, I think that is entirely within their purview. Outsiders can criticise (and should, in my opinion), but racism of this sort (as opposed to, say, apartheid, genocide) doesn't rise to the level of unanymity of outrage that would justify external intervention. If we don't like countries having racist policies, we have a wide array of diplomatic and economic levers at our disposal to exert some pressure.

Is it against my ethics?; yes. Is it unethical period?; no.

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Old 02-20-2012, 02:12 AM   #9
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Thanks for this ^^ post, Dude - would like to take it bit-by-bit, as you maybe lost me part way through.

  Originally Posted by envirodude
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In Canada, race and ethnicity are protected grounds under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in our constitution, meaning government is prohibited from discriminating against people on those grounds.

This thread deals with would-be immigrants. This is a class of persons commonly understood to be outside the protections of a constitution governing relations between citizens and the state. In the US at least, the permissible grounds to bar an immigrant's entry are far more broad and discretionary than anything that would be tolerated when the government deals with one of its citizens.

Any country is free, of course, to extend these citizens'-rights to non-citizen, would-be immigrants if it chooses do that in the context of immigration policy. It's another question altogether to ask - is every government morally obligated to do exactly that?

  Originally Posted by envirodude
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Unless. Unless the discrimination is judged to be within "reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society".

So in Canada, the government would be hard-pressed to explain any such ethnic maintenance policy.

Take this mean that Canada has interpreted its Constitution as prohibiting race or ethnicity based criteria in immigration policy. Wasn't always that way, was it?

  Originally Posted by envirodude
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Now, you asked if any society could ethically undertake such a policy. Presumably most countries constitutions do not specifically exclude ethnicism...

Most countries constitutions don't say anything at all about the permissible criteria for immigration. Again, we must be careful not to confuse the rights and protections of citizens under a constitution with the rights of would-be immigrants - who typically have none at all under such a document.

  Originally Posted by envirodude
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I think it comes down to the particular society's ethics, doesn't it? Racism may be against my ethics, but that says nothing about your ethics or some other society's ethics. If that society wants to have racist policies, I think that is entirely within their purview. Outsiders can criticise (and should, in my opinion), but racism of this sort (as opposed to, say, apartheid, genocide) doesn't rise to the level of unanymity of outrage that would justify external intervention. If we don't like countries having racist policies, we have a wide array of diplomatic and economic levers at our disposal to exert some pressure.

Well, I'm prepared to say that internal racial discrimination within a society is morally improper in virtually every situation - but that's not the issue. This is - does the immorality extend to racial/ethnic discrimination in immigration policy?

  Originally Posted by envirodude
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Is it against my ethics?; yes. Is it unethical period?; no.

Let's cut to the chase, Dude - Was it morally improper for Japan to allow the immigration of ethnic Japanese from South America to Japan, but disallow all others from that continent? Was it morally improper for Australia to have had a policy encouraging the immigration of "Whites" and discouraging all others?

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Old 02-20-2012, 04:37 AM   #10
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  Originally Posted by MrFox
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As I'm using the term "ethnic" here it refers to both racial and cultural attributes; which is the common usage of the term, as I understand it. When Koreans - North or South - seek to preserve the ethnicity of their society they aren't always meaning multiculturalism or democratic values or anything else we in the West would regard as virtuous.

The purpose of this thread wasn't to try to value one society's virtues in comparison to others. Rather, it was to ask whether any society can ethically decide to preserve its existing racial, ethnic and cultural identity by excluding others who don't fit that profile.

I think if you want to get to the bottom of this question you have to separate race, ethnicity, and culture. First of all, eliminate race entirely. There's no reason to think that different peoples whose ancestors may have split 10,000 years ago have anything in common. And secondly, recognize that ethnicity isn't just about genes, but cultural traditions. I don't seriously think that people with different genotypes have difficulty getting along...the issue is culture (for which genes can sometimes proxy.)

Now, Korean discrimination, the fact that they have different values from us is irrelevant. They have values, and their system works in its own logical way, so I would be hesitant to say that they are not virtuous. OTOH, many of the objects of their discrimination - like Japan - have the same values, which is a different issue. Their form of government became so efficient at the discrimination that they're using it for political targets. It's probably worth questioning whether that sort of discrimination is ethical. ...Bottom line, I don't see a problem with using exclusion to maintain certain social institutions...if that's really all that's going on. And it can sometimes be difficult to tell the difference.

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Old 02-20-2012, 04:57 AM   #11
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I offer the environmental argument for creating ethnic Indian reservations. Just as we seek to preserve genetic variation in a natural habitat, so we should do so with Man. So we can have Swedish reservations where the people are optimised huddle in caves and resist the cold. We can have different types of 'Jungle men' with malaria resistance. Perhaps the most distant genome from the European is that of the Bush men (san) of South Africa. Yet they are under threat from the more powerful tribes.

If we have decided it is morally correct to have Indian reservations, then it must be correct to have the same for other ethic identities. We are not only dealing with genetics here, we are dealing with culture. The reservations were also supposed to preserve a traditional way of life. Those individuals who do not wish it, are not compelled to stay and can join wider society.

There is the moral question of what to do about the children born on such reservations. They cannot select their place of birth. If we do not intervene, they will certainly be indoctrinated into whatever culture they were born. Thus, if born Amish, you would probably never develop your skills in electronics.
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Old 02-20-2012, 05:07 AM   #12
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  Originally Posted by Daoist
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*** I don't seriously think that people with different genotypes have difficulty getting along...the issue is culture (for which genes can sometimes proxy.)

Me either, but face it - genes are going to be the first filter through which potential immigrants are screened; culture will be on top of that. Ethical?

  Originally Posted by Daoist
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*** Their form of government became so efficient at the discrimination that they're using it for political targets. It's probably worth questioning whether that sort of discrimination is ethical. ...Bottom line, I don't see a problem with using exclusion to maintain certain social institutions...if that's really all that's going on. And it can sometimes be difficult to tell the difference.

If you would, please be so kind as to answer the questions that were put to The Dude -

  Originally Posted by MrFox
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Let's cut to the chase, Dude - Was it morally improper for Japan to allow the immigration of ethnic Japanese from South America to Japan, but disallow all others from that continent? Was it morally improper for Australia to have had a policy encouraging the immigration of "Whites" and discouraging all others?

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Old 02-20-2012, 07:05 AM   #13
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Im on the fence with this. On one hand the people of a woverign nation strike me as having a right to determine the character of their nation. A country club doesnt have to let everyone join, although i might be wrong about that, but the boy scouts have a bit of a selection process to decide who can join their little club. If the people of australia would like to give immigration preference to some countries and disclude others, that is their right. The irish and the australians share the common bond of being formerly joined together by the British empire.

On the other hand, policies intended to steer ethnic character of a nation are subject to people's perceptions and opinions. The english defense leage, and i forget the other one, are looking at the face of a nation that is rapidly changing, and believe that england should put the english people first. Its their land, the english have been in england since before god made dirt. why cant they act like a bunch of drunk slobs and scream at undesirable groups of foreigners to get out?

So, from that i would suspect that a society, or groups within a society, must tred carefully on this issue because it greatly depends on how they go about it and the "morally permissable" part depends on how well they can bullshit people into believing it.
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Old 02-20-2012, 07:43 AM   #14
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  Originally Posted by MrFox
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Me either, but face it - genes are going to be the first filter through which potential immigrants are screened; culture will be on top of that. Ethical?

Well, if you're talking practicalities, then that's hardly talking ethics.

On a larger scale, though, you can talk about statistical truths, rather than the individual exceptions where someone's culture and genes might not match, so you can use these sorts of generalizations.

 
If you would, please be so kind as to answer the questions that were put to The Dude -

If Australia's discriminating on race, then yes, it's improper. With Japan, on the other hand, it seems plausible that the Argentinians could retain some Japanese cultural characteristics.

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Old 02-20-2012, 07:54 AM   #15
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Thanks for you post, INTroJect - we're square now. Some observations about your views:

  Originally Posted by INTroJect
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Im on the fence with this. *** If the people of australia would like to give immigration preference to some countries and disclude others, that is their right. The irish and the australians share the common bond of being formerly joined together by the British empire.

Yes, they both were former colonial subjects, though they embraced the Empire with rather different degrees of affection. More to the point, the Irish formed a significant part of the initial wave of settlers in Australia - they have a history together, a positive one. Fifty-times the ethnic Irish population of Australia are waiting at the ready in China, India and Indonesia to emigrate if the way is cleared. This would forever transform Oz into a third-word state, almost immediately, were it to occur; not so with allowing unrestricted Irish immigration.

Thanks for being (EDIT - almost) the first member to give a straight answer to one of the questions.

  Originally Posted by INTroJect
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On the other hand, policies intended to steer ethnic character of a nation are subject to people's perceptions and opinions. The english defense leage, and i forget the other one, are looking at the face of a nation that is rapidly changing, and believe that england should put the english people first. Its their land, the english have been in england since before god made dirt. why cant they act like a bunch of drunk slobs and scream at undesirable groups of foreigners to get out?

Good to get this out on the table, and out of the closet - racism, ignorance and bigotry are going to be the drivers of any such restrictive/discriminatory policy; no point in pretending otherwise. But so what? - no idea is responsible for the characters of those who assert it; policies should be judged on their own merits, unencumbered by other baggage. If exclusionary policies based on ethnicity are otherwise ethical, then racists can employ them just like anyone else.

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Old 02-20-2012, 08:33 AM   #16
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But i dont think its needs to be taken as a granted fact that australia will change as much as perceived. 10% of the people in living spain were not even born there, but the spaniards are no less spanish. Its not an unquestionable fact that a country taking in third world people will become third world. Australians would still be australians, just surrounded by a whole lot of nonaustralians.
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Old 02-20-2012, 08:54 AM   #17
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Yeah of course. Whites, in the most general terms, are the earths ethnic minority.

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Old 02-20-2012, 09:09 AM   #18
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  Originally Posted by INTroJect
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But i dont think its needs to be taken as a granted fact that australia will change as much as perceived. 10% of the people in living spain were not even born there, but the spaniards are no less spanish. Its not an unquestionable fact that a country taking in third world people will become third world. Australians would still be australians, just surrounded by a whole lot of nonaustralians.

INTro, we're talking 1-year immigration numbers greater than double the current population of Australia - substantially none of them White. Tell me that doesn't transform the society.

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Old 02-20-2012, 09:10 AM   #19
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  Originally Posted by MrFlaneur
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Yeah of course. Whites, in the most general terms, are the earths ethnic minority.

"We have 50 million Muslims in Europe. There are signs that Allah will grant Islam victory in Europe—without swords, without guns, without conquest—will turn it into a Muslim continent within a few decades." Muammar Gaddafi

Unfortunately, muslim isnt a race. I have seen whole lot of pasty-white europeans walking around in hijabs in recent years.

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Old 02-20-2012, 09:13 AM   #20
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1066 - Battle of Hastings, my old school namesake.

  Originally Posted by MrFlaneur
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Yeah of course. Whites, in the most general terms, are the earths ethnic minority.

"We have 50 million Muslims in Europe. There are signs that Allah will grant Islam victory in Europe—without swords, without guns, without conquest—will turn it into a Muslim continent within a few decades." Muammar Gaddafi

Mr. F - sad to say, but I'm afraid - as you seem to be too - that it's already "Game Over" for Europe. You may well live to be nearly as much of an alien in Europe as I am in Thailand.

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Old 02-20-2012, 09:16 AM   #21
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  Originally Posted by MrFox
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INTro, we're talking 1-year immigration numbers greater than double the current population of Australia - substantially none of them White. Tell me that doesn't transform the society.

It might change the layout of the land of australia. Enormous cities would spring up in a short time period, think miami, but the australian people would stioo be australian. American cities have all types of concentrated communities in them; polish, italian, jewish, irish, dominican, puerto ame-ricans. If the australians dont care to blend in with the incomers, there will always be the australian part of town.

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Old 02-20-2012, 09:21 AM   #22
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  Originally Posted by INTroJect
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It might change the layout of the land of australia. Enormous cities would spring up in a short time period, think miami, but the australian people would stioo be australian. American cities have all types of concentrated communities in them; polish, italian, jewish, irish, dominican, puerto ame-ricans. If the australians dont care to blend in with the incomers, there will always be the australian part of town.

INTro, it comes down to this - the White Australian majority doesn't want to become a small minority in its own country.

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Old 02-20-2012, 09:23 AM   #23
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  Originally Posted by MrFox
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1066 - Battle of Hastings, my old school namesake.



Mr. F - sad to say, but I'm afraid - as you seem to be too - that it's already "Game Over" for Europe. You may well live to be nearly as much of an alien in Europe as I am in Thailand.

(Sorry about that other thing)

There is a strange thing happening over there in europe. I am finding the european converts to islam to be more rwdical than the very muslims who are immigrating there. Something is radicalizing the religion on that continent as i have even heard the children of muslim immigrants talking more islamish than i have ever expected.

---------- Post added 02-20-2012 at 09:32 AM ----------

  Originally Posted by MrFox
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INTro, it comes down to this - the White Australian majority doesn't want to become a small minority in its own country.

I do understand the concern, especially with this stupid democracy idea that what the 50.1% wants the 50.1% gets. If this is going to be the case - keep those icky people out. Get more ships out there patrolling the waters. Otherwise the australian people wiol find themselves with an incurable case of regulatory plundering from their new citizenship comrades.

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Old 02-20-2012, 10:13 AM   #24
Equinox
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  Originally Posted by MrFox
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Can of worms, isn't it, when you start to look behind a policy and seek to determine its morality on the basis of the subjective intent of the framers of the policy? Japan has a policy of encouraging the migration to Japan of ethnic Japanese from South America and elsewhere - but nobody else. In assessing the morality of that policy, are we going to have to psychoanalyze the Japanese people and try to see if the motivation was justifiable (your view) "conflict avoidance" or unjustifiable "racial pride/superiority"?

Nothing wrong with racial pride, as long as it's not discriminatory. And do you really think that the Japanese aren't going to be concerned about people who are related to them? Maybe conditions are bad in South America and Japan wants its own people to have better lives in Japan, or something. But the bottom line is that there's no arrogance, superiority, or discrimination going on as far as I can tell, so why worry about it?

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Old 02-20-2012, 10:25 AM   #25
MrFox
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  Originally Posted by Equinox
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Nothing wrong with racial pride, as long as it's not discriminatory. And do you really think that the Japanese aren't going to be concerned about people who are related to them? Maybe conditions are bad in South America and Japan wants its own people to have better lives in Japan, or something. But the bottom line is that there's no arrogance, superiority, or discrimination going on as far as I can tell, so why worry about it?

I don't worry about the motive of the population that enacts a discriminatory immigration policy. IMO it's irrelevant; the policy has to be judged on its own merits, and nothing else. If the policy is intrinsically OK, then even flat-out racists are free to employ it, as far as I'm concerned. Besides, "motive" can never be conclusively established in a situation like the one we're talking about here. This is a society at issue, not an individual or a small group - motives are going to be all over the lot.

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