Thursday, June 26, 2008


HEC’S attention has been briefly diverted from matters of importance – the rising cost of premium poppy seed for the feed box in The Cage being of primary concern – by yet another instance of Aussie foot in mouth disease.

Hot on the heels of manufactured outrage over the fact that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s youthful media flack, Lachlan Harris, hasn’t yet grown up and is rude to everyone – the little fellow is 28, however, and should have worked out how to get along with people by now – is the sad story of Boris Johnson’s new (and now ex) chief political adviser at City Hall in London.

James McGrath, who is 34, was appointed with much hoo-ha after Johnson won this year's election as Lord Mayor of London, the city which McGrath, according to a profile published in The Australian newspaper in May, considers to be the centre of the universe.

He is from Nambour in Queensland, Australia, which is certainly not the centre of the universe, or indeed of anything else. Those in doubt about the need the ambitious among the locals have to exit the place have only to check the origins of the said Kev and his sidekick Wayne (Swan), who also long ago migrated to regions more favourable to personal advancement.

McGrath’s mistake was to state the bleeding obvious: that if people from other places didn’t like what was happening in London, they could go elsewhere. Unfortunately for Mr McGrath, the people to whom this advice was publicly proffered were immigrants. Ergo, Mr McGrath committed a race-based sin in opening his mouth – indeed, even in thinking such dark thoughts.

Hector is an amiable fellow, for that matter an immigrant himself, and cares not a whit where other cockatoos of his acquaintance came from, what they look like, what they eat, how many other cockatoos they share their cage with and under what arrangements, or how they spend their time, provided it’s legal. Well, those black cockatoos from around Canberra way are a bit of a noisy nuisance; but hell, you make do, don’t you?

The trouble is that many simple truths have been firmly thrown into the dark pit of the ‘Don’t Mention the War’ file.

Today, the preferred view of the chatterers and activists who spend their time dreaming up imagined ills and then squawking about them is that if you’ve generously decided to bestow your favour upon some other country by migrating there, the polity you have thus blessed must immediately change to accommodate your desired outcomes.

That’s all nice and warm and touchy-feely. It’s also bullshit.

The real benefit to newcomers lies in the existing protection and opportunity that living in a democratic and well serviced place offers people – native or immigrant. Most immigrants (to anywhere) implicitly know that. They also know that no one owes them a living or has an obligation to change their own historic cultural precepts or belief systems on their account. They know that if you decide for whatever reason that you don’t like living in London (or Britain itself, or Australia or New Zealand or Canada or the United States or any other free society) then your option is clear: Don’t.

They know that if you seek change within a democratic system, you owe it to everyone to use the regular social and political mechanisms available to you, to argue for a different way; and they understand that it certainly won’t happen last week, is likely not to do so this week, and indeed may not happen at all.

They also know that the worst enemies of migrant populations are those from within their own ranks who make a living out of going on ‘We Want’ missions.

These are the noisy, selfish, self-important people poor chaps like Mr McGrath stumble over. He should have known that what he said would result in losing the fine view of London from his office that he so enthusiastically spruiked in print so recently. He should have known that his new boss, Boris the Bonker, having so lately secured office as Chief Star, Centre of the Universe, would cut him loose if he became an embarrassment.

If Mr McGrath, Falling Star, late of Nambour and London, didn’t know all that, he shouldn’t have got the job in the first place.

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