Wednesday, December 14, 2005

who is australian and who gets to decide?

it seems to be in a position of power in this country, you have to be an australian. preferably a white, male, middle-class or wealthy australian. but for the purposes of this rant, a white australian it seems is at the top of the heap. for there is a heap. let’s not pretend that there is no hierarchy of colour and race in this country, or in any other country. when I lived in japan, I found I was residing in the most racist country I had ever experienced. that’s pretty funny thinking about it now, because until then I’d only lived here. but also in japan, I experienced the most amazing acts of generosity and kindness from japanese people. so you see, before you start thinking one way too much, something else happens to trip you up and change your mind. this is what happens when stereotypes are challenged.

it is human nature to fear what is different or strange. what we don’t understand makes us afraid. some people are willing to step out of their comfort zones, and it’s these people who can make a difference, by even the simplest act as a smile given freely to someone walking towards you on the footpath; someone who might have a black face, be wearing a scarf over their head, be in a wheelchair, look like a druggie, mentally ill, old etc. someone who is different to me. or you. hell, there are even differences between the sexes. sometimes I think how can we hope to ever all get along?

I have the perspective of a white anglo-australian woman. that is why the previous paragraph used those particular examples of the Other. if was walking with a stick, or deaf, then my in-group would be other people the same as me, and the outgroup would be that hearing woman walking towards me on the footpath, or the able-bodied man.

what’s important to realise is that we are all individual and we all want the same things: love, freedom, shelter, peace, preservation of family, education, good health, enough money to live, no suffering. what’s also important to realise is that difference of culture, ethnicity, language, nationality is a value to society, one that must be encouraged and tolerated.

what is happening is a symptom of the current situation in the world – we have moved so far backwards, away from the principles of democracy, back towards nations where the people are scared, feel they have no power, are encouraged by media and politicians to be scared.

because when we are scared, they can control us more easily.

read that sentence again. it is truth, right there. a universal truth.

they can control us more easily when we are scared.

I am uncomfortable describing myself as an australian these days for several reasons. one is that is does not give enough information. for someone who is aware of and sympathetic to the indigenous populations in this country, it’s like a joke to claim that I am a “real” australian, though I am about the third generation on one side from england, and possibly a couple more from the other side, england and scotland. but in the aussie mob bigot minds, that heritage is the most acceptable one. after that would come western european, american, canadian etc. then would come eastern european, then I guess it gets murky. everyone probably has their own feelings about african countries, asian countries and the middle east. show me a nation that doesn’t have their own spin on the world in this way. show me a nation that doesn’t have prejudices both for and against ethnic groups within the borders. but according to the yobs with flags on Sunday, I am a real australian because my forebears came from england and scotland. these are acceptable countries. according to the lebanese, I would be an aussie girl, but that can be derogatory. visit the site, woglife and immerse yourself in some of the discourse – it’s heady stuff. i was visiting it a few months ago as part of my study and while extremely boganish, everyone was friendly and helpful. there were definite divisions along the lines of wog/not wog or skip. [actually this is the page they have up today as a response to the violence in sydney. i can't see any other pages, maybe they got pulled down cause there was bad, hothead talk.]

the other reason I feel uncomfortable is because since john howard came to power and created or allowed to happen a fucking huge list of shameful things, I have felt embarrassed to be australian. five years ago I was joking with friends and family about moving to new zealand. but only half joking, as I despaired time and time again about what was happening in this country. and that was even before all the rest has happened. think about what has gone down in the last five years. there will be a list forthcoming.

I lived in japan and found out what it was like to not be part of the dominant group in society. I was different and strange, and experienced acts of racism and discrimination. while japan believes itself to be racially homogenous, there are other ethnic groups who suffer terrible discrimination in education and industry. this made me realise that it is all a matter of where you stand. in turkey there is also a hierarchy. as there is here. and people who say it’s not true are ignorant, or in denial. I’m not saying it’s right that there is, just that there is.

this little blogging group here, I have the feeling we are all from similar ethnic backgrounds. [another pet hate, when people think that white is free from ethnicity. that white is the norm and all other groups are judged against it. I have an ethnicity and I am white. it’s just semantics I guess, but now we are talking about it, people need to know how to use the language properly.]

I bet there are blogging circles out there that are made up of indian, asian, middle-eastern bloggers. wouldn’t it be good to have some sort of dialogue, open up the communication?

in fact right now I am going off to search for some other communities, who identify in different ways. will report back later. hopefully I can bring back a taste of the world, with some different new voices.

everyone I have read condemns what happened in sydney. there is an embarrassment and a shame on the part of other white anglo-saxon/celtic australians. we are embarrassed that people supposedly from our backgrounds could behave like this. we don’t like to think that we could produce such people. but we can and do. this sort of behaviour is not exclusive to certain ethnic groups. it’s a human thing. we have the capacity to be the most cruel and despicable, and the most selfless and loving and giving. only we can heal ourselves.

but there are two sides to this. it’s too easy to say the lebanese have been completely at fault here. show me a group of humans who just wander the earth looking for trouble, without provocation, without reason. without a history or grievances or frustrations or stresses or social problems or power issues that just look for trouble. I don’t believe it. and the media are feeding us another lie if they can’t keep balance on this.


Magical_M said...

well said MG


BEVIS said...

Here here, Melby. I am disgusted and scared by what has happened in Sydney this past week or so.

Not because I feel that "my race" should be above it, but that "my global community" should be above it. (And yes, it's so close to home and such large-scale hatred - the likes of which we've never seen before except on TV in footage from other countries - is making it all-the-more scary.)

I agree with WogLife's message. We all need to actually take a stand to STOP this violence (rather than shrinking back in fear of it and staying silent) and show that the violence is simply hatred on the rampage.

We need to make it clear that we won't accept it. It has to stop and not re-occur.

Wifey and I are headed to Sydney for Christmas and frankly I don't want to be anywhere near the place.

Stupid, I know. But human.

LadyCracker said...


sublime-ation said...

Fuckin rockin post MG

Dxxxx said...

i couldn't have said it any better. So I won't.


Ego Cogito said...

I find it disgusting that in so many parts of the world, and now here in Australia, race and ethnicity have, not only clouded, but overcome people’s moral judgments of the basics of right and wrong.