Monday, March 06, 2017

That Nordic beauty ideal again

It is an almost worldwide  form of racism and I have commented on it a couple of times before (here and here): There is a largely wordwide ideal of beauty and that ideal is Nordic. A more "incorrect" thing to note would be hard to imagine but the facts of the matter are there. One cartoonist put it rather cruelly as under:

Even Mrs Obama clearly likes the Nordic look.  All she can do towards it is to straighten her normal "nappy" mop of hair but she regularly does that. Other than that she has no Nordic attributes at all.  If her skin were white she would be seen as ugly.  She has received acceptance for political reasons only

Like it or not, the de facto worldwide standard of female beauty is Nordic -- narrow faces, fine features, white skin, blue eyes and blonde hair. Light brown hair instead of blond hair can squeak into the top standard and tanned white skin is OK but that is about the only variation accepted.

Even some Japanese ladies blond their hair.  To black males, a white wife is a trophy. 

We may deplore the Nordic standard but saying that people should adopt other standards for females that they like to look at is pissing into the wind.  It won't happen.  It will have zero influence. 

An episode in my life highlighted the prestige of the Nordic look. When my son was about 18 months old, we took him to Lone Pine Koala park here in Brisbane so that we could all see the Koalas.  And a lot of Japanese people go to Lone Pine to see the Koalas too.  And they come with cameras at the ready.  So when Jenny was wheeling Joey along in his stroller, that came to the attention of the Japanese.  With his paper-white skin, emerald-blue eyes and golden-blond hair he looked like an angel to them.  So Joey was as much photographed as were the Koalas.

And something that Americans and Indians will find familiar has recently become big in South Africa:  Skin bleaching.  Even where the Nordic ideal of very white skin is not available, any approach to it is seen as prestigious. Report below:

MEN and women in South Africa are turning to highly dangerous skin bleaching creams, in a desperate bid to whiten their skin and become “more successful”.

In an underground report, correspondent Tania Rashid takes viewers into the “illegal” yet booming trade of skin bleaching products.

Speaking to young men and women living in Johannesburg, the desire is simple — to create a look of “yellow bone” — which is slang for light-skinned black men and women.

While it is illegal to sell any products that claim to bleach or whiten skin in South Africa, the products are huge business.

Containing the chemical hydroquinone, the creams have been slammed and banned by dermatologists and scientists because they can lead to skin cancer and other potentially deadly skin conditions.

But the warnings do little to deter the alleged one in three men and women who use the cream across the country.

Jeff says having lighter skin is the secret to his success rate in picking up women.

“I have four numbers so far,” he boasts while on a night out, indicating that wouldn’t be the case if he had darker skin.

Part of the push is celebrities in South Africa — and around the world — turning to the bleaching creams to enhance their look.

Famous singer and rapper Mshoza, who is “an icon in South Africa” and has been using the creams for many years — says lightening her skin colour has completely changed her image, and re-energised her career.

“I can’t stop [young black girls] from doing it. They are already doing it,” she said. “I am always on the TV, I am on newspapers. They are bound to read and want to be like someone who is on TV.”

Mshoza’s manager, Xolile Sonamzi, said that celebrities need to look lighter to get more work, especially in South Africa. “It works better on screen,” he said. “It works better with make-up, and we’re selling an idealistic world out there. “In TV we have to sell a fake world. That’s our job.”

With some creams able to take skin shades three to four shades lighter, there are some variations that only allow for a slight change in colour. “It depends on how you want to look and what your goal is,” one of the women applying the product to Mshoza said.

Mshoza’s make-up artist, who is also a fan of skin bleaching, said the attention of having lighter skin is worth the risks the product may cause. “When you walk in the club and you’re yellow, people notice you,” she said.

“Yellow-bone, yellow-bone yeah she’s light skin ... you are more visible to people. And even though you go to interviews, and you’re slightly fair skinned, you will probably increase the chance of getting the job by 50 per cent. It’s got a huge impact on how people treat you.”

While stockists who sell the product can face prosecution, vendors continue to restock the product through import because of the cream’s popularity. But the problem is, as soon as the creams are confiscated, the vendors restock through import.


Job losses behind the decline in marriage?

Kay Hymowitz thinks not but it seems obvious to me that it would be one factor.  Many couples delay marriage and children until they are financially secure

Over the past 50 years the United States has, like Australia and other modern economies, experienced a dramatic rise in the percentage of single mother families. 

During the same period the number of manufacturing jobs in those countries has plummeted, a development that may well be contributing to the rise of populism in the West.

Experts, most notably the sociologist William Julius Wilson, have speculated that there is a significant connection between the two trends, though firm proof has been elusive.

When Work Disappears: Manufacturing and the Falling Marriage-Market Value of Men, a new paper from David Autor, one of America's leading labor economists, appears to find strong, if not definitive evidence, that Wilson was right: manufacturing jobs disappeared. The authors concentrate on the trade shocks cause by outsourcing to China -- which led more women to decide to go it alone.

Autor and his colleagues compare local labour markets where those shocks were especially powerful with similar less affected areas.  The shocks were associated with lower wages and more distress for men under 40.  Perhaps more surprisingly, those areas saw a decrease in fertility but a rise in single mother families and child poverty.

Autor's paper has plenty of other findings of interest to policy makers.  To take just two examples, there is a close correlation between trade shocks and substance abuse and incarceration among young men, and though trade shocks affect earnings for both women and men, men lose ground relative to women, making them less "marriageable."

The authors avoid any claim that manufacturing decline is "the sole or primary driver of these trends." They are right to do so. Non-marital births, particularly among blacks and Hispanics, were reaching record highs in the United States long before manufacturers began to move their factories to China.

And it's unlikely that outsourcing can account for the rise in "multi-partner fertility," that is parents who have children with multiple partners. By further destabilizing children's lives, it's a related and arguably bigger problem than single mother households per se.  It also suggests something more than economics is needed to explain the disappearance of stable families among lower income populations.

None of that stopped Fox News from headlining their article on the study: "Trump's Jobs Plan Could Lead to a Marriage Boom." I wouldn't count on it.


Prejudice against Tasmanians?

Interstate rivalry is mostly a jocular affair in Australia but Tasmanians do seem to have a tendency to be more bothered by it than they should

INFERIORITY complex? Has political correctness spread from race, colour and gender to geography?  Yes, I choked on my organic, certified GM-free muesli with soy last week when I saw the front-page headline in the River City press: “Bullied for being Tasmanian”.

It was the story of an accountant working in Perth who was given a bad time for being from Tasmania.  “I was regularly the butt of office jokes,” he was reported as saying. “Jokes right to my face about me buying lunch from Subway, that I liked Hungry Jack’s, [about] my jumper, my mug [and] that I came from Tasmania.”

Well, in that order, initially I wondered if the bullying might have been more to do with his diet, the jumper and the mug, rather than state of origin.

Anyway he sued his accounting firm, one of the nation’s largest, and it stumped up $120,000 in damages, which should easily cover the cost of his relocation to the gentler confines of Tasmania.

I don’t know how bad the bullying was but I do know that if I had $120,000 for every time in my long career on the big island someone made a joke about me coming from Tasmania, I would now be spending winters in my beachside mansion at Byron.

As one of my bosses once told me when I was pitching a story about my home state: “Charlie, no one gives a rat’s about your crumb-bum, two-headed, inbred little island. There’s not a ratings point in the place.” I didn’t invoke section 18C but I did look annoyed.

“Maaate,” he cajoled. “Don’t go spiralling off with your nightie on fire back down to your rellies in Black Bob’s Country. Why don’t you just get a seat up the front on the next plane to New York? You can interview Hugh Jackman and stay at the Ritz Carlton.”

Well, that must have been $120,000 worth. Tassie was defended and honour was satisfied.

Maybe we are a touch thin-skinned in Tasmania. We grow up in a remote and protected little green bubble where bad things rarely happen – unless you are a marsupial. But when they happen to us, boy, do we remember them.

During recent reminiscing about the 1967 bushfires, a local historian worried that publishing too much detail might be traumatic for those who survived the ordeal.

Very down-home Tasmanian, I thought. Even historians are anxious about bringing up the past.

More than 40 years after the ship hit the span, we still close down the Tasman Bridge whenever a carrier sails under it.

Actuaries tell me the chance of it happening again is a more remote chance than winning a TattsLotto jackpot. But where optimists might say, “Well, someone’s got to win”, Tasmanians will likely say, “Well, someone’s got to lose.”

I get it. Growing up here, I too am a glass-half-empty kind of bloke. I expect the worst. That way, I am rarely disappointed.

I hardly dare mention Port Arthur, except that it so well represents the Tasmanian quandary of whether to remember or forget. I think there is good reason to forever consign the random half-witted maniac killer of April 1996 into outer-darkness and never again mention his name.

On the other hand, there is every reason for remembering the stark horrors of the penal settlement. It is a vital part of our history and the convict system has defined who we are, and is still in play in the high-handed attitude of the authorities in our daily lives.

By the 1880s, there was a movement abroad to destroy all trace of the place and so remove the “convict stain”.

When it comes to the inconvenient past, we could take advice from grand old Persian poet Omar Khayyam;

“The moving finger writes, and having writ,

Moves on; nor all thy Piety nor Wit

Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line

Nor all they tears wash out a Word of it.”


The immigration issue in Australia heating up

The populist tide now surges towards a truly big target — Australia’s immigration intake, which was lauded by Donald Trump this week as a model — with the anti-immigration arguments based around city congestion, housing affordability, centralisation problems and the Muslim integration issue.

Tony Abbott has called for reduced immigration in recognition this is now the de facto stance of much of the conservative Right. Pauline Hanson wants a halt to further immigration. Liberal defector Cory Bernardi has called for the intake to be halved on economic grounds and expresses alarm about Muslim immigration. And Trump is invoked at nearly every stage of this political campaign.

There is a rich field of grievance for exploitation and Hanson is its most lethal manipulator. “High immigration is only beneficial to multinationals, banks and big business seeking a larger market while everyday Australians suffer from this massive intake,” she said in her maiden speech in the Senate. “Our city roads have become parking lots. Schools are bursting at the seams. Our aged and sick are left behind to fend for themselves. I call for a halt to further immigration and for government to look after our aged, the sick and the helpless.”

There is now intense competition between the Turnbull government and Shorten opposition over cracking down on the 457 visa system for temporary foreign workers. Bill Shorten flirts with his own version of Trump’s populist America-first mantra, saying he believes in “buy Australian, build Australian, employ Australian”.

Trump has made the attack on illegal migrants and Muslim immigration central to his presidency. In Britain, the absence of border controls was pivotal to the Brexit result, while migrant numbers and controls will be critical in the European elections, notably in France.

Australia’s situation is conspicuously different to that of both the US and Europe but it is idle to think such sentiments will not resound here. The immigrant issue or “big Australia” bogy lurks permanently below the surface, waiting to be unleashed.

Yet the foundations of Australia’s immigration policy, built over decades of trial and error, are far superior to that of nearly every other developed nation. Immigration Minister Peter Dutton tells Inquirer: “My approach as minister has been to return to and restore the Howard values and approach to immigration. This means we don’t have to apologise for seeking the best people from around the world to come to this country, and there are currently about 65 million people looking to migrate. We don’t need to be embarrassed about this.

“The objectives of our program are to employ Australians first but commit to skilled migration based on integrity and public confidence in the scheme. That means a hard-nosed approach. The immigration program is not some feel-good exercise. Our goal is to bring to this country people who will work, earn, contribute, educate their children and learn English.”

The principles are entrenched: strong border protection based on zero tolerance for asylum-seekers by boat; a lawful entry program geared heavily to the economy and labour market; separate principles for permanent and temporary entry; and a settlement philosophy geared to integration and embrace of Australian norms despite the radical wing of the multicultural lobby seeking to undermine this.

The test, however, is surely coming. In his speech nine days ago, Abbott drew the nexus between immigration and housing affordability, saying: “If we end the ‘big is best’ thinking of the federal Treasury and scaled back immigration (at least until housing starts and infrastructure have caught up), we can take the pressure off home prices.”

He warned that Australia had “land in abundance” but “Sydney’s house prices are close to Hong Kong’s”. The risk is obvious: linking house prices and immigration will become a media fashion and populist cause.

It is idle to pretend there is no relationship between immigra­tion, as it fuels demand, and house prices, but to justify major changes to the migrant intake on the basis of housing prices (as opposed to other demand and supply factors) lacks any sense of proportion.

The anti-immigration wave moves in cycles. Recall that when Julia Gillard became prime minister she launched a cynical Hansonite assault, exploiting Kevin Rudd’s blunder in calling for a big Australia. Gillard repudiated this notion, saying it was “time to reconsider whether our growth model was right” and declaring that our “clean beaches and precious open spaces” must be protected. It was a focus group project.

As part of his current tactics to fight for Australian workers, Shorten accuses some companies of exploitation and says nurses, carpenters, cooks, childhood educators, electricians and motor mechanics are missing out because “too many work visas are being used as a low-cost substitute for employing an Australian”. It slots perfectly into the crackdown demanded by the trade unions.

For Hanson, lower immigration is a crusade. She has generated huge support for immigration cuts from the conservative media bandwagon that promotes her. In her maiden speech Hanson said: “We have reached a population of 24 million this year, 17 years ahead of prediction. Governments have continually brought in high levels of immigration, so they say, to stimulate the economy. This is rubbish. The only stimulation that is happening is welfare handouts — many going to migrants unable to get jobs.”

Hanson’s campaign has a heavy religious bias. There is no doubt that Australia, like other Western nations, has a Muslim integration problem. But Hanson pushes this to intolerable extremes, saying: “Now we are in danger of being swamped by ­Muslims who bear a culture and ideology that is incompatible with our own.”

There is no point simply condemning Hanson. She has a misconceived response to one of the challenges of the age. Political progressives seem clueless about the extent to which ordinary Australians are worried about the ability of Muslims to integrate. The issue needs to be confronted, not denied, but banning Muslim immigration cannot be an answer for Australia.

In relation to the economic and housing impact of immigration, Reserve Bank governor Phil Lowe said recently: “I am fond of telling visitors 40 per cent of Australians were either born overseas or have a parent who was born overseas. I wouldn’t want to give up that kind of advantage just for property ­prices.”

It may be elitist but the point is valid. Immigration is pivotal to Australia’s economic and social success during the age of globalisation (and it’s not going to disappear despite Trump).

The relatively good news is that Australia is buttressed to some extent to meet the coming political onslaught. Our immigration program is even more geared than normal to economic and labour market needs. Net migration numbers (permanents plus temporaries) have been slashed by more than a third from their record high under Rudd. The 457 temporary worker visa program has been reduced and tightened under the Coalition.

Net overseas migration peaked at a huge 305,900 in the 12 months to March 2009. It became the zenith of the big Australia beloved by Rudd, who had genuine ambitions to build up Australia’s global weight. Since then, no prime minister has used the phrase, as the implications are too electorally risky.

In the current climate, any figure beyond 300,000 annually would be untenable in both economic and political terms. Officials looking back on that period are apt to use the phrase “out of control”. The peak was driven by student visa programs in which an education and migrant package could, in effect, be purchased together. Labor subsequently removed these concessions.

The net overseas migration figure (which counts people if they are onshore for 12 out of the previous 16 months) has fallen on a sustained basis to around 170,000 in 2014-15 with the current government using the working assumption of a 1 per cent annual increase to labour force growth, meaning numbers in the 160,000 to 2000,000 range.

Looking at the main component, the permanent immigration intake, the story has been a model of stability for a number of years. It sits at a 190,000 annual cap, extending from Labor’s final year through the entire Abbott-Turnbull period. This intake is high by our historical norms and high in per capita terms judged against other developed nations. To a large extent, this reflects Australia’s superior economic growth performance. Scott Morrison reminded us this week that Australia is growing faster than any of the G7 countries.

In his recent speech to the Australia-Canada Forum, Lowe said both nations had strong population growth for advanced industrial economies but that over the past decade Australia’s population growth had averaged 1.7 per cent compared with Canada at 1.1 per cent, though these rates were now coming closer together.

In relation to 457 visas, there has been a sharp downward trend since the peak that reflected Labor-initiated ambitions for foreign workers. Under Labor, the program expanded from about 70,000 to 110,000 in September 2013. Now Malcolm Turnbull and Dutton are hammering Shorten for his hypocrisy.

The current 457 numbers are running at 81,000.

“We are cleaning it (the 457 program) up because Labor made a mess of this migration program when they were in government,” Dutton says. “During the glory years of Rudd-Gillard-Rudd during which the Leader of the Opposition was the employment minister, the number of 457 visa, primary visa holders, went from 68,0000 to 110,000 people. This was at the time the Leader of the Opposition, the then employment minister, was saying to Australians that he was putting workers first.”

Shorten, in reply, has pointed to the resources boom as justification. The bigger point is that the politics are now pointing one way — limiting the number of 457 visas while still trying to cater for the demands of the economy.

Dutton says the government will run migration policy according “to the settings that are most effective”. This means “we can’t take people that don’t have the required skills or that can’t make the economic contribution we want”.

The feature of the program these days is the heavy bias to skills over family reunion compared with the pre-Howard era. For instance, in 2015-16 the family numbers were 57,400, compared with the skilled component running at 128,550.

“It was the Howard government that rightly set in place the fundamentals that exist today,” Dutton says. “They were abandoned during the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd period. But we have now returned to those principles.”

In the debate about immigration there are four benchmarks: the program has been a vital driver for economic growth; new migrants lower the age profile of the population; without ­migrants, the worker-retiree ratio would be worse; and migrants are vital in a connected world assisting our global networks.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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