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Maxim Institute - real issues - No. 100


Maxim Institute - real issues - No. 100

Maxim Institute

real issues. this week: No. One Hundred 4 MARCH 2004

Contents: * Real Issues #100 - new discussion forum launched

* Minister re-thinks diversity concept

* Petitioners play on Once Were Warriors

* Maxim Forum 2004 - 'how diversity threatens unity'

Real Issues #100 - new discussion forum launched

Welcome to the 100th edition of Real Issues. As our weekly email has grown, so has the feedback as readers challenge or question the ideas presented. Today we launch a public discussion forum for wider debate. We believe it will help extend the free exchange of ideas. Please keep contributions respectful and considered.

With Real Issues we try to get behind the headlines and take a closer look at the current social and cultural issues. We want to consider the ideas informing public policy and debate and often ask if there is a better way. While you may not always agree, we seek to provide evidence supporting the ideas and principles that build Civil Society.

Real Issues has also sought to inform and motivate participation in the democratic process. This month we have encouraged people to stand for local school boards of trustees, along with asking concerned voters to sign the referendum to repeal the Prostitution Act.

Thank you for reading Real Issues. If you have friends, family or colleagues who might enjoy it, please forward on this edition and let them know that it's free.

Discuss this article in our on-line discussion forum: http://www.maxim.org.nz/discuss/?topic=100.1

Minister re-thinks diversity concept

Minister of Social Development, Steve Maharey, has come to a new realisation about the concept of diversity. On Tuesday Mr Maharey wrote in a NZ Herald article: "Throughout my academic and political career, I have been a strong advocate of accepting and celebrating diversity and promoted public policy that reflects this trend. But now I realise there is a limit to how far diversity can go without challenging the ties that bid a society together."

Mr Maharey refers to the argument advanced by Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam that greater diversity leads to less support for institutions like the welfare state. Mr Maharey has correctly identified questions of equity and equality as creating tension. The Prime Minister has suggested that we need to find a new balance point. The great challenge for our country is how we build nationhood in the context of an increasingly diverse mix of cultures and beliefs. A mix of cultures is one thing, the ideology of diversity is quite another.

The diversity ideology is appealing, not least because it is an avenue to political power for those who promote it. But it is also dangerous because it is superficially attractive to a society that has deep egalitarian values. On the surface, diversity promises to set things right for those who have been ill-treated by providing special rights for particular groups. But it will never deliver on that promise. Instead, it creates a state of permanent dependency on government privileges. It will breed worse inequities than any it might cure because it will create segments in society and erode mutual obligation. In the process 'diversity policy' will create permanent group resentments. But the question is, what are the building blocks of national unity?

The principles of democratic nationhood provide a common starting point. They are: a mutual obligation between individuals and the state (the social contract), citizenship; the relation that rises between the state and the individual when each is accountable to the other. National loyalty and respect for the rule of law are a natural consequence of that accountability. Equality before the law is essential, but it does not mean that everybody should be treated the same. e.g. not every citizen is eligible for superannuation. While the debate has forced this stock take for Steve Maharey and his colleagues, it is an issue for every citizen to consider.

To read an article on this issue by Maxim researcher Michael Reid click on: http://www.maxim.org.nz/ri/diversity.html

To read Mr Maharey's article visit: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/storydisplay.cfm?storyID=3552241

Discuss this article in our on-line discussion forum: http://www.maxim.org.nz/discuss/?topic=100.2

Petitioners play on Once Were Warriors

Campaigners trying to outlaw smacking are using the musical Once Were Warriors to gather support for a petition.

The musical, which follows Alan Duff's book more closely than the film, opened this week in Christchurch. It's the story of the effect of a violent man's behaviour, Jake Heke, on his wife and family. Patrons on leaving the musical are being asked to sign a petition in support of the repeal of section 59 of the Crimes Act, which permits parents to use reasonable force to discipline children.

This is both dishonest and a misuse of art. The musical is not about child discipline. Certainly there is a lot of violence in the film and children suffer, but there is no connection shown between smacking and violence.

It is irresponsible to take advantage of people coming out of a musical production very much about violence. Patrons are likely to be emotionally stirred and their critical judgement swayed by that.

As well as that, to shove a petition at theatre-goers violates the essential art of the musical. Art is a legitimate tool to order and shape public behaviour. But a novel, film or musical that preaches is poor art. The addition of the petition turns Once Were Warriors into a sermon. The petitioners are compromising the power and message of the musical for their own political purposes.

Discuss this article in our on-line discussion forum: http://www.maxim.org.nz/discuss/?topic=100.3

Maxim Forum 2004 - Political Correctness: end of an error? - The topic of international speaker Prof. Peter Wood's address to the forum could not be more timely: Weta Nationalism: how diversity threatens New Zealand's identity. Peter Wood is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Boston University and the author of Diversity: The Invention of a Concept.

The forum will be held in Christchurch, on 20 March, and in Auckland, on 27 March. An outstanding line-up of local and international speakers will explore the implications of political correctness on New Zealand society. Register now to ensure you don't miss out on this inspirational and challenging day.

For more information and to register online visit: http://www.maxim.org.nz/forum2004.html

For additional enquires call Mary Davidson tel. 09-627 3261.

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - Prof. Peter Wood

- Diversity seems to act like an acid that slowly dissolves cultural unity.

To subscribe send a blank email to: realissues@maxim.org.nz

Real Issues is a weekly email newsletter from the Maxim Institute. The focus is current New Zealand events with an attempt to provide insight into critical issues beyond what is usually presented in the media. This service is provided free of charge, although a donation to Maxim is appreciated. Items may be used for other purposes, such as teaching, research or civic action. If items are published elsewhere, Maxim should be acknowledged.

Key principles - The Building Blocks of Civil Society http://www.maxim.org.nz/main_pages/about_page/about_keyprinciples.html

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