Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go Back on the Train

I don't know if anyone waded all the way through my extremely long, unwieldy reflections on the "political correctness" debate last year. Near the end of the post, I said that "the lashing out at PC-ness... seems like a desire to head back to a different kind of conformity" citing "the strong distrust of difference which has long lurked darkly beneath New Zealand's celebrated egalitarianism".

To illustrate my point, I quoted an incident described in Michael King's history of New Zealand:

"...[he recounts] an incident that occurred on a Wellington tram in the 1950s. Standing in the aisle, a young Hungarian New Zealander was carrying on a conversation with his father, in Hungarian. Suddenly, a man leapt up from one of the seats, punched him to the ground, and shouted 'speak English, damn you!'. "

Amusing tale of an insularity long past, right? Now we really are an open-minded, tolerant, cosmopolitan bunch; citizens of the world, gobling up cultural influences like fusion cuisine. We're certainly better than ignorant midwestern Americans or those redneck Aussies. Right?

OK, so read this.

It's hard to know whether to laugh or cry.

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