While I respect Dr Wadan Narsey's professional opinion (FT 14/8), I think he may have been guilty of some artistic licence. In order to create some balance in his story, I think he greatly overplayed the alleged "tunnel vision" of the SDL so as not to make the evident and empirical tunnel vision of the interim regime, which seem too bad in comparison. Or perhaps he did it to help the interim regime, see how badly even political moderates such as him perceive it these days.Whatever the case, the damaging and costly tunnel vision of the interim regime is qualitatively different from the election-promise-keeping fidelity of the SDL party, which may seem like tunnel vision at first blush.
So there is no need for the interim regime to continue with its present course and tactics, since they are not achieving anything (except more divisiveness, rancour, corruption and financial liability).
By contrast, the SDL was and is required by common sense and fidelity to keep our promises to our electorate. That is not to say that compromise and moderation were not possible.
But those must be handled astutely and carefully and doubly so when you are required to deal with someone as wily and devious as the multi-party Cabinet. We also need to develop and show a lot more political maturity than the interim regime and its supporters have been able to demonstrate so far.
For instance, Dr Putnam of Harvard, an American expert on civic engagement, (2000 cited in Diversity 2007), found that social capital in the form of neighbourhood friendship and political involvement have been diminished by race/ethnic diversity in communities.
This research proves the obvious societal point that people are tribal and gravitate toward those who look like them.
Which confirms the often cited advice from former prime minister Laisenia Qarase that "race is a fact of life".
So the sooner the interim regime grows up and accepts this, the sooner we'll be able to deal with it rationally and representatively.
MP Lami Open
Mere Samisoni's flawed quotes of US Academic, Robert Putnam, received a stern rebuke in a correspondence to Fiji Sun Letters to the Editor column.
Last updated 8/30/2007 9:08:00 AM
would like to clear the air about some assertions made by a politician in Fiji on the issue of racial and ethnic diversity.
Recent citation by a leading figure of scholar Robert Putnam's work leads to drawing erroneous conclusions, demonstrates the writer's desire to misinform public debate, and should be considered highly irresponsible.
Putnam's latest work is part of his ongoing research on the decline of American civic life since the 1970s - a period of time that encapsulates great social change, the decline of industrial America, rise in immigration, and remarkable shifts in technology.
His latest discoveries are politically charged precisely because they can be misused. Ms Samisoni does just that, shape the debate in a manner that supports conclusions backing her political vision.
To protect his work from such misuse, Putnam offers the following warning to his readers:
“It would be unfortunate if a politically correct progressivism were to deny the reality of the challenge to social solidarity posed by diversity,”.
And at the same time, “It would be equally unfortunate if an a historical and ethnocentric conservatism were to deny that addressing that challenge is both feasible and desirable.”
It is this latter group that Ms Samisoni and her cohorts fall into. Of course, they don't seek to avoid addressing the issue. Their intention is to garner support for their narrow vision of possible solutions.
Race is a reality of life, especially as identity increasingly becomes a growing fault line for conflict in the 21st century. Only informed debate can help bring us to the solutions, which harness diversity as a strength.
Nothing in Putnam's work suggests that diversity has to be a burden. If anything, it is meant to show us that to truly make our differences our strengths. Much work remains to be done.
Who is this academic called Dr Robert Putnam, which Samisoni erroneously quotes? National Public Radio interviews the man himself, in the context of cultural diversity. Diversity Magazine argues in one article that Putnam's views on the effects of cultural diversity have been mis-understood. It's also the same article which Mere Samisoni cited in her 'Letter to the Editor'.
It was one thing, bordering on reprehensible for Mere Samisoni to plagiarize excerpts of Diversity magazine's article, that quoted Dr Putnam's research. But it is another matter, when this research is blatantly sliced and diced to support an ethno-nationalistic viewpoint in Fiji. This wilfull act raises serious and rational questions, regarding the very integrity of the Ex-Officio from Lami Open.
The following excerpt is the article from Diversity Magazine. The sentence in bold font, represents the words lifted by Mere Samisoni:
Today's Wall Street Journal editorial page argues that research from Harvard professor Dr. Robert Putnam proves "The Death of Diversity." That's not what Dr. Putnam said. In a study that has received significant media attention, he found that social capital in the form of neighborhood friendships and political involvement has been diminished by racial/ethnic diversity in communities.
Dr. Putnam's research is solid and proves the obvious societal point that people are tribal and gravitate toward those who look like them. But a thorough examination of his study shows that he finds in the long run that immigration and diversity immensely benefit U.S. society both economically and socially. In reference to business, Dr. Putnam states unequivocally that most studies of work groups "find that diversity fosters creativity" and that there is "powerfully summarized evidence that diversity (especially intellectual diversity) produces much better, faster problem-solving."
The Wall Street Journal column, written by Daniel Henninger, deputy editor of the Journal's editorial page, is not the first newspaper or opinion writer to discuss Dr. Putnam's study since it came out in June. Here's what The Wall Street Journal wrote and our responses, based on a thorough examination of Dr. Putnam's research and DiversityInc's own research.
* WSJ writes: "Now comes word that diversity as an ideology may be dead, or not worth saving."
DiversityInc response: This is not what Dr. Putnam says in any way. He writes in the study: "Increased immigration and diversity are not only inevitable, but over the long run they are also desirable. Ethnic diversity is, on balance, an important social asset, as the history of my own country demonstrates."
* WSJ writes: "Colleagues and diversity advocates, disturbed at what was emerging from the study, suggested alternative explanations. Prof. Putnam and his team re-ran the data every which way from Sunday and the result was always the same: Diverse communities may be yeasty and even creative, but trust, altruism and community cooperation fail."
DiversityInc response: Again, the efficacy of Dr. Putnam's study and data is not in dispute. Dr. Putnam does not say that "trust, altruism and community cooperation fail" but that there needs to be a greater effort to create "shared identities."
He writes: "Successful immigrant societies create new forms of social solidarity ... by constructing new, more encompassing identities. Thus, the central challenge for modern, diversifying societies is to create a new, broader sense of 'we.'" He cites the historic way immigrants came to the United States, "hunkered down," and eventually changed the culture of the country itself as they became part of the mainstream.
* WSJ writes: "The 'antis' [anti-immigration proponents] believe the Putnam study hammers the final intellectual nail in the coffin of immigration and diversity."
DiversityInc response: This is exactly the opposite of what Dr. Putnam intends. He writes in the study: "The weight of the evidence suggests that the net effect of immigration is to increase national income ... In short, immigration and multicultural diversity have powerful advantages for both sending and receiving countries."
* WSJ writes: "The diversity ideologues deserve whatever ill tidings they get. They're the ones who weren't willing to persuade the public of diversity's merits, preferring to turn 'diversity' into a political and legal hammer to compel compliance."
DiversityInc response: As participation in The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity® survey shows, corporations recognize the business benefits of diversity and are increasingly using diversity as the competitive differentiator in their direct lines of business. This is not compliance; this is good business (317 companies participated last year, up more than 100 percent over the last three years).
* WSJ writes: "The first chart offered in the Putnam study depicts inexorably rising rates of immigration in many nations. The idea that the U.S. can wave into effect a 10-year 'time out' on immigration flows is as likely as King Canute commanding the tides to recede."
DiversityInc response: We agree that the flow of immigration is inevitable. It's also highly desirable since this nation is facing a serious gap in workers, and immigrants have driven 47 percent of U.S. work-force growth since 2000.
New immigrants and their children will account for 100 percent of U.S. work-force growth between 2010 and 2030, according to the Population Reference Bureau. For more on immigrants' crucial role in the U.S. economy, see the September 2007 issue of DiversityInc magazine, out soon.
About the Study
Dr. Putnam conducted his research in 2000 in conjunction with the U.S. Census Bureau. He had a sample size of about 30,000 people across the United States. People in 41 different communities from Los Angeles and Chicago to small towns and rural areas were surveyed and sorted into the same classifications used by the Census Bureau—non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, Hispanic and Asian. A national expert on civic engagement, Dr. Putnam's goal was to examine whether racial/ethnic diversity impacted social networks, which he believes are major indicators of civic well-being.
Dr. Putnam's research, published in the journal "Scandinavian Political Studies", found that all people living in racially mixed communities had a higher tendency to "hunker down" and become more isolated from their neighbors and the civic process. His research showed they volunteer less, work on community projects less often, and register to vote less.
Here are links to other news reports on the Dr. Putnam study and a synopsis of what they said:
NPR interviews Dr. Putnam, who explains what his study really means.
Syndicated columnist Clarence Page talks about the misconceptions over what Dr. Putnam said and his own experiences as a young black man in the military.
ABC News reports on the effort by anti-diversity people to wrongly use the Dr. Putnam study for their own advantage.
The Boston Globe takes a similar view and comes to the conclusion that diversity makes us all uncomfortable—and that isn't necessarily a bad thing.
An Orange County Register article says Dr. Putnam makes it abundantly clear that he found no evidence of "bad race relations, or ethnically defined group hostility."
For more on DiversityInc's examination of diversity studies, both good and bad, check out Debunking Diversity Studies.
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