Three superpowers in three weeks.

The Australian government has managed to upset three superpowers in the space of three weeks. Comments from the prime minister and senior minsters or staff have provoked negative responses from China, India and the United States, and the results could be very harmful to Australia.

China.

The threat of war. Senior government figures provoked China with comments about imminent armed conflict. Former Liberal minister Christopher Pyne, Senator Jim Molan, Home Affairs secretary Mike Pezzullo, and even Defence Minister Peter Dutton made comments suggesting Australia is already, or will soon be, engaged in some form of direct conflict with China. In contrast, an article by Ewen Levick appeared in Australian Defence Magazine in March this year entitled:

War with China is not inevitable.

Average Aussies don’t know who to believe. They also might not understand the true motivation behind the comments, but China does, and Australia’s largest trading partner has already responded the best way it knows how – economically.

India

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that Australian citizens attempting to return to Australia from the COVID-19 hotspot of India could be issued massive fines or sent to jail. Many Australian citizens were born in India, have family in India and hold dual citizenship between the two countries. Australian citizens have access to Australia’s health system, and could be treated in Australia after completing mandatory quarantine, but they are being forced to remain in a country in the middle of a crisis, and are placing more pressure on India’s overburdened health system. This has not just angered Aussies in India and back home, but upset the government of India, which is battling to bring the crisis under control.

The United States

The Australian government set itself at odds with The USA when it refused to follow plans to reduce carbon emissions and protect the natural environment. New US president Joe Biden has publicly stated an ambition to actively reduce carbon emissions in the US in the near future, but Australia has refused to match these efforts. One specific policy which will harm Australia is the carbon tariff. The tariff, or fee, will be imposed on any goods being imported into the United States which have not been produced using more environmentally-friendly methods. Goods that are produced using fossil fuels will thus be worth less, and those businesses will lose money. The European Union is proposing a similar plan.

Ironically, this will adversely affect traditional Coalition voters, whose businesses will suffer due to the tariffs. Australia, rightly or wrongly, has a very close relationships with the United States, and cannot afford to alienate the superpower.

Upsetting other nations is inevitable in international diplomacy. Upsetting other nations is also justified if those nations are acting in a way that clearly contravenes the interests or the accepted values of the nation making the comments. China, for example, needs to be called out for its actions in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Xinjiang. In this case, however, the comments are calculated, but careless, and are deliberately designed to appease specific sectors of the Australian population.

China. Anti-China comments appeal to the racists. Australia is a racist country, and anti-Chinese racism has existed since the gold rush in the 1860s. The Liberal National Party coalition taps into this anti-China sentiment because it is dependant on the votes of the country’s racist underbelly. Warning Australians of the threat of war is also a convenient way to justify enormous spending on defence, and observant commentators noticed that the comments were made close to ANZAC Day, which commemorates fallen Aussie soldiers and is the nation’s most sacred day. Ironically, however, the public comments about China have adversely affected trade with China and this severely disadvantages Australian producers of beef, wheat and wine, who would normally vote for the Coalition.

The USA. The prime minister rejected the US proposal in order to appease the fossil fuel industry. Australians are now cognisant that the fossil fuel industry owns the Coalition.

India. Racism, or damage control? Threatening to imprison Australian citizens returning from an Asian country is clearly racist, but the proposal could also be an attempt to save face. COVID-19 quarantine is ultimately a federal government responsibility in Australia, and it has been handled very poorly. The COVID-19 vaccine rollout has been even worse. Many Australians are staring to see through the government’s COVID-19 publicity stunts, so the threat to fine or imprison citizens could be an attempt to appear tough and decisive on border control and biosecurity.

Some of the Australians trapped in India have no Indian heritage. They are cricketers, chasing big money in the lucrative Indian cricket competition. A few of the cricketers have criticised the government’s stance. Will the words of some Aussie sports heroes be enough to the change the government’s stance?

For a government that is nothing but publicity, photo opportunities and marketing, this is a massive public relations faux pas. Will it persuade Australians to stop voting for the Coalition at upcoming elections?

Image: Aditya Joshi

ANZAC Day is an ideal time to denounce right-wing extremism.

Will Scott Morrison denounce right-wing extremism on ANZAC Day?

Will the Prime Minister of Australia use his national address on April 25 to publicly denounce the rise of right-wing extremism in the country and make a strong statement that the racist ideology is not welcome in a democratic country? The prime minster’s speech writers will fill his public statements with phrases about ‘protecting our way of life’ ‘laying down their lives for our freedom’, upholding ‘Australian values’ and ‘defending democracy’, as well as encouraging us all to ensure we never live through another war. He might even pretend to cry again. But will he denounce one factor which contributes to war?

Why do it on ANZAC Day?

ANZAC Day recognises the sacrifices, suffering and deaths of individual soldiers from Australia and New Zealand since WWI. It also reminds all of us to do whatever we can to prevent war in the future, and this includes preventing right-wing extremism and excessive nationalism from becoming entrenched and accepted.

Excessive nationalism = war.

Excessive nationalism is a form of extremism. Hitler understood this very acutely, and labelled his party the National Socialist party. He also created a nationalism which was deliberately exclusive. He famously scapegoated Jewish people, and excluded them from notions of German identity, and excluded anyone else who did not conform to his party’s ideal of the pure Aryan race. Ironically, Hitler himself did not satisfy his own criteria for pure Aryan blood. Right-wing extremism caused World War II.

The ANZACs fought against the Hitler’s Nazis in WWII.

Recent media reports point to an increase in public declarations of excessive nationalism and growing support for Neo-Nazi ideology and activity in Australia. Neo-Nazi groups, emboldened by right-wing media and defenders of ‘free speech’, have been gathering in groups and happily publicising their existence across social media platforms. Swastikas have been spotted on people’s cars, their clothing, their skin and their social media accounts, and racially motivated attacks on innocent people are reported regularly.

Furthermore, Brenton Tarrant is Australian. Tarrant carried out the two terrorist attacks on mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2019, and Australia produced him. Tarrant grew up in Australia and is known to have followed various right-wing extremists groups on social media before he carried out the pre-meditated attacks. He also admitted that racial and religious intolerance motivated the attacks. New Zealand soldiers fought alongside Australian soldiers during the battles which are remembered on ANZAC Day. Is this how we repay their service?

The prime minster and his Liberal National Party coalition have yet to publicly criticise the extremism which provoked the massacres.

Will he do it?

No.

Morrison and the LNP need the Nazi vote. The conservative party’s new constituency includes right-wing extremists who believe in exclusive nationalism which excludes anyone who is not white, straight and Christian. The Nazi vote is even more important after the party and the prime minister failed disastrously to handle the 2019/2020 bushfire crisis, the abuse of women in parliament house and the COVID-19 vaccine roll out. Die hard coalition voters and right-wing extremists may well save the LNP from defeat at the next federal election. This is also the party which famously boasted about ‘Turning Back the Boats’ as the cornerstone of a racist immigration policy, and which has a disastrous record on Indigenous issues.

Should he do it?

Yes

Denouncing right-wing extremism close to ANZAC Day will carry more weight. War and the suffering of conflict are at the forefront of people’s thoughts. The desire to prevent another war is stronger during commemorative days, so denouncing the philosophy which led the world to war in the past is very appropriate on ANZAC Day. In addition, ANZAC Day has become more patriotic in recent years and right-wing extremists may be more likely to exploit the surge in patriotism to push their racist agenda, so the government should denounce this ideology strongly and publicly.

Image: http://www.abc.net.au

ANZAC Day is the one day of the year…

ANZAC Day is the one day of the year that many Australians show any genuine respect for Australian history. For the remaining 364 days, many remain ignorant, dismissive, racist, sexist and bigoted. These overtly patriotic Aussies access a deeply-hidden reverence on April 25 and demand that the remainder of the population display an equal amount of pride in the achievements of soldiers and the nation as a whole.

Respect Australian history!

Many Australians implore us all to respect the nation’s history on ANZAC Day during personal conversations, across social media, in the workplace and on the flagpole in front of their house. These same people exhibit very little interest in the stories of women, migrants and Aboriginal people and the part they played in the nation’s history. History for many Australians extends to accounts of WWI and WWII, the Gold Rush, Federation and the Explorers. The figures they credit with building the nation are Diggers (soldiers) farmers, sportspeople and Explorers – almost all of whom are Caucasian and male. All Australians recognise the part these people played in shaping the modern nation, but some realise that women, migrants and Aboriginal people also made a significant contribution to contemporary Australia, and deserve to be remembered.

The respectful mourners cling to the following tried and true phrases about the history of this nation:

Australia has no history

Proud, flag-waving patriots often bemoan the fact that Australia has no history. They perpetuate this idea with reference to the age-old cultures and structures of Europe or Asia and compare these to Australia’s comparative youth. There is one major flaw in this thinking; it completely dismisses the existence of Indigenous Australians, who continue the world’s oldest surviving culture.

It happened long ago, forget about it

When confronted with the truth of colonisation and the forceful dispossession of Indigenous people from their land, many Australians tell Aboriginal people that ‘it happened a long time ago’ and that everyone should ‘let it go’, ‘move on’ or ‘forget about it’. They issue the same response to stories of the Stolen Generation, The Aboriginal Day of Mourning’ and accounts of individual massacres of Aboriginal people across the nation. Interestingly, they refuse to forget about WWI even though that happened ‘a long time ago’.

They defend our way of life

We are told that Australia’s armed forces defend the nation. We are told that our armed services personnel ‘keep us safe’ and ‘protect our way of life’. The last time we were reminded of this our prime minister, Scott Morrison, even forced himself to cry for the cameras. Most of us believe these broad statements, out of patriotism or naivety. We fail to recognise that these statements are often used to justify support of the multi-million dollar defence industry, and to send young people to needless deaths. Armed forces play a part in defending the nation, but so do trade and diplomacy.

Did the ANZACS protect Australia?

ANZAC Day was created to recognise the sacrifices, hardships and deaths of soldiers in WWI, particularly in Gallipoli, Turkey. WWI never directly threatened Australia. Australians lost their lives protecting Great Britain. ANZAC Day also recognises Australia’s contribution to WWII, when we fought again for the British. Our own country was directly threatened in WWII when Japanese submarines entered Sydney harbour and their planes bombed Darwin. It is also argued that the fall of Singapore posed a subsequent threat to Australia, and that Australian soldiers suffered while defending the tiny nation. That said, most Australian armed forces personnel fought for Great Britain in WWII, in battles waged a long way from Australia. Did they protect Australia, or did they protect our relationship with our colonial masters?

Current ANZAC Day commemorations pay tribute to soldiers who have have worn the Australian uniform in any war, but all of these battles have occurred overseas, most often in service of The United States during their wars in Vietnam and the Middle East. The only extended battle that occurred on Australian soil was the battle between the British colonisers and Indigenous Australians, but the ANZAC Day commemorators don’t like to be reminded of this. They cling to another popular phrase associated with the history of the nation: Australia was settled, and not invaded.

Do Australians realise this historical truth, or are they too enamoured with the patriotism of ANZAC Day to accept the subtle and nuanced details of modern history?

The strength and depth of emotion prompted by ANZAC Day could be explained by a question:

What is Australian?

The problematic nature of Australian identity also explains the heightened reverence towards ANZAC Day. April 25 has become a quasi national day and surpassed January 26 in the minds of many Aussies, because Australia Day is problematic.

Many Australians continue to celebrate Australia Day with joy and pride, while Indigenous Australians refer to it as Invasion Day. The day itself raises the difficult question of what it means to be Australian. Is an Australian an Indigenous person? Is an Australian a Caucasian soldier, farmer or athlete, or is an Australian a migrant who could have been born anywhere in the world? Is it all of the above?

For many Australians, this question is too difficult to answer, or even to consider, so they impose their patriotism on ANZAC Day. Some keen observers have tracked the increasing patriotism associated with ANZAC Day, and fear it could overshadow the remembrance of fallen soldiers, for whom the day was created.

Don’t criticise ANZAC Day

ANZAC Day is sacred. ANZAC Day is off limits. Even this article is likely to be met with scorn and criticised as unpatriotic or an insult to fallen soldiers – most likely by the same people who carry bumper stickers reading:

Australia, if you don’t like it, fuck off!

Any questioning of any aspect of ANZAC Day is interpreted as an attack on the memories of fallen soldiers and their surviving families. These reactive, emotional responses exemplify the blind reverence for April 25 among a section of the Australian population, who show little to no interest in nuanced and varied accounts of Australian history for the remainder of the year.

Should we ignore ANZAC Day?

No

Absolutely not.

This article is in no way intended to diminish the sacrifices of individual soldiers, civilians and their families. It is not intended to brush aside the sufferings and horrors of war. It is designed to remind people that historical perspective should be exercised every day of the year, not just when commemorating war. It is also designed to remind all Australians that patriotism is a vital component of ANZAC Day celebrations but it should not overshadow the original purpose of the day; to pay respect to individual soldiers, and to do everything possible to make sure war never happens again.

Image: http://www.abc.net.au

Are you really surprised the British royal family is racist?

Harry and Meghan’s recent interview with Oprah Winfrey revealed shocking evidence of alleged racism within the British royal family. During the highly-anticipated re-branding exercise on US television, Meghan revealed that senior unnamed figures within the House of Windsor were deeply concerned that their child Archie would have dark skin. Furthermore, Archie’s complexion would apparently preclude him from certain privileges accorded other royal children.

Social media users and commentators were aghast at the revelation.

Are people genuinely surprised that such overt racism exists within the institution which drove the most wide-reaching colonisation of the modern era?

Racism is central to colonisation.

Britain took possession of more indigenous lands than any other European power. This is how English came to be the international language. Those lands were claimed in the name of the reigning King or Queen.

Terra Nullius

Terra Nullius is a salient example of manifested racism, and it was central to colonisation. Terra Nullius means ‘uninhabited land’, and this theory justified the invasion of many lands, including the nation now known as Australia. The premise of Terra Nullius is that the people who inhabited the lands when the British arrived were not people. Defining the original inhabitants in this way allowed the British to invade and steal land that they knew belonged to someone else.

Except the British knew they were people. They saw people in every land they reached. The British interacted with many of them, they established peaceful and constructive connections with some of them – initially. They knew they were people. However, their ingrained racial superiority and dismissal of the cultures of the indigenous people allowed them to plant the Union Jack on inhabited land throughout the world and to claim that land as their own.

In Australia, the Aboriginal people were classified as Flora and Fauna. Yes, people were relegated to the status of plants and animals, and the British royal family was entirely complicit in this action. It was not until 1967 that Aboriginal people were classified as humans, after non-Aboriginal Australians voted in favour of changing the classification during a referendum.

The British royal family encouraged, supported and funded the colonisation of other people’s lands in the South Pacific, South-Eastern Africa, the Caribbean, the sub-continent, South-East Asia and North America. Racism thrived in the royal family during the era of colonisation, and it thrives to this day, in the form of Prince Philip.

The ageing husband of the Queen, and Harry’s grandfather, is famous for his outrageously racist comments, such as:

“If you stay here much longer, you will go home with slitty eyes.” Said to a British student in China in 1986.

“You managed not to get eaten then?” Said to someone who had just hiked across Papua New Guinea.

“How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to pass the test?” Said to a Scottish driving instructor in 1995.

“Do you still throw spears at each other?” The Prince to Aboriginal Elder William Brin in Queensland, 2002.

These comments cannot simply be dismissed as the ravings of an unbalanced old man, because he was quite young when he uttered some of them.

The British royal family has a long history of racism, and the justification it used to invade and colonise the lands of indigenous people throughout the world proves the existence of racism.

Harry, Meghan, Oprah and the rest of the world should not be surpirsed.

Senior figures within the royal family were apparently deeply concerned that Archie’s skin would be dark, but at least it proves that he is not inbred.

Companies reject offer to partner with Australia’s Liberal National Party.

Numerous companies have rejected offers to link with Australia’s federal coalition after discovering that the party intended to use their brands to promote a message of whiteness.

Companies selling products as diverse as toothpaste, electronics, food, cosmetics and laundry powder received offers of brand partnerships from the Liberal National Party (LNP) and other parties, but quickly and adamantly rejected them on ethical grounds.

Companies such as Buttercup, Civant, Skin Doctor, Colgate, Oral B, Harvey Norman and Persil were approached, but quickly and emphatically declined the offer.

Whiter skin

The LNP approached a number of companies in the cosmetics industry whose products promise to whiten a user’s skin.

“Many of our members received an offer to team up with the federal coalition,” read a statement from the cosmetics industry.

“The LNP wanted to align themselves with products such as Meladerm, White Lucent cream and Skin Doctor Whitening Cream, all of which promise optimal whitening of a user’s skin. The coalition were desparate to associate themselves with products which could make the Australian population whiter.”

“Our industry emphatically declined the offer and asked the coalition to never contact us in the future.”

White Thick, Mighty Soft

Buttercup claims the company was approached by the Prime Minister himself. Scott Morrison was reportedly excited to create a marketing campaign around the bread called White Thick.

“Mr Morrison sought a brand affiliation with the White Thick loaf,” explained Buttercup.

“He said it created positive associations with whiteness, and that the word Thick describes their intellectual approach to government, as well as the physical stature of Craig Kelly and George Christensen, and close ally Clive Palmer.”

The PM apparently also liked the phrase Mighty Soft because it reflects the LNP’s acquiescence to Rupert Murdoch and the fossil fuel industry, and their fear of the extreme right wing voters they work so hard to appease.

White Goods

Morrison also made overtures to companies such as Harvey Norman, Bing Lee and The Good Guys, because they sell white goods.

While Gerry Harvey is said to have shown some interest, the directors of Bing Lee and The Good Guys swiftly declined the offer.

“We were amazed the PM would make such an offer to a company named after a Chinese-Australian family, but then Mr Morrison told us he always thought Bing Lee was named after a former Aussie fast bowler. When he recovered from his shock, he told us the party was very interested in companies who were able to merge the words ‘White’ and ‘Good’ – he thought that was quite clever.”

Another white goods retailer told the LNP,

“No. You’re not the good guys!”

Laundry company Persil also attracted the attention of the current ruling party.

“The LNP were very keen to adopt our famous slogan “Whiter than White” because they said it embodies their core ideology and their vision for Australia. We rejected their offer because we simply produce laundry detergent and that has nothing to do with race or politics.”

Separate whites and colours

Many more laundry brands have since come forward with reports of overtures from the LNP, as well as other fringe parties and candidates such as Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party.

“Essentially they were excited by the habit of separating whites from colours, and they said this is a practice they would like to see adopted in Australian society in general. They claimed that mixing whites and colours forces colours to leak and stain the whites, therefore ruining the white ones forever.”

“We reminded the party representatives that separating whites and colours in broader society is the definition of apartheid – and they reacted with horror at the use of that word, claiming that the Australian government has never used that word to describe its policies. They didn’t deny the existence of apartheid in Australia, just the word itself.”

“Semantics aside, our industry made it very clear to Mr Morrison and his colleagues that this is a marketing strategy we would never endorse.”

Whiter smiles

Whiter smiles are something the LNP would also like to see, not just within its own membership, but in Australian society in general, according to the oral care industry.

Companies such as Oral B and Colgate Palmolive were contacted on the basis that their products keep things white, and that whiteness represents the epitome of teeth. The oral care industry was also swift in rejecting the branding offer and sternly rejected any associations with the undertones of white supremacy within the current Australian government.

“We did, however, remind Mr Morrison of the importance of flossing and brushing daily, especially if he wants to maintain his famous smirk.”

Image: http://www.gettyimages.com.au

Australia’s biggest fear.

Australia is afraid. It is home to the world’s deadliest snakes, to poisonous marine stingers and deadly crocodiles. It suffers through annual floods, fires and cyclones, and dangerous spiders lurk in its undergrowth. But something else terrifies Australia: History.

Australians are afraid of their own history. A deep fear of acknowledging its past paralyses Australia and prevents the majority of its citizens from making public statements about the colonisation of the land and the suffering of Aboriginal people.

Politicians are afraid to acknowldge the truth of Australian history.

The current Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, is afraid. In 2020, he publicly declared that there was no slavery in Australia. He later qualified the statement with obfuscation in order to extricate himself from a PR disaster, but he never acknowledged that slavery did exist in Australia.

On a separate occasion, the PM dismissed the suffering of indigenous Australians when he said,

“You know, when those 12 ships turned up in Sydney, it wasn’t a particularly flash day for the people on those vessels either.”

He was referring to the First Fleet, which carried colonisers from Great Britain and began the dispossession of Aboriginal land in 1788. There were only 11 ships.

Scott Morrison is not stupid. He attended an academically-selective high school and he holds university qualifications. He is also a master of marketing (many Australians argue that’s all he is). Morrison knows the consequences of telling the truth. He knows he has to appease the ignorant, racist, lowly-educated constituency which keeps him and his party in power.

Slavery occured in Australia. It was called ‘Blackbirding’ in some places, and called ‘education’ in others – it was never called slavery.

Blackbirding lured indigenous Australians and people from islands north of Australia to the mainland with the promise of work and high wages. Upon arrival at the farm, the workers were not paid for their work, were treated horrendously, forced to work in stifling tropical heat and horrible conditions, and were prevented from leaving or returning to their homelands.

When indigenous children were stolen from their families, they were ‘educated’ in the ways of the white man then sent to work for white families. Girls were normally set to work as domestic servants, while boys were forced to be farmhands. They were not paid. This is slavery.

Wave Hill walk-off

Another example of exploitation led to the Wave Hill walk-off. Some Australians learned about it in their history classes, some learned about it through the Paul Kelly song: From Little Things Big Things Grow.

The original inhabitants of Wave Hill, the Gurindji people, sustained the vast cattle station. In return, children under 12 were forced to work, accommodation and rations were inadequate, Aboriginal women were sexually abused and forced into prostitution for rations and clothing. There was no safe drinking water, nor sanitation or rubbish removal. In August, 1966, the Gurindji walked off under the leadership of Vincent Lingiari.

Furthermore, many indigenous Australians are still trying to recoup unpaid wages to this day.

The Prime Minister is not the only politician with a selective memory. The current opposition leader, Anthony Albanese, recently omitted a crucial paragraph from a speech about indigenous Australian soldiers. Albanese recognised the indigenous Australians who have fought in many wars for Australia, but it was later discovered he had omitted the following paragraph:

“A continent for which their ancestors had fought so desperately during the frontier wars-wars we have not yet learned to speak of so loudly.”

Albanese was happy to mention overseas wars, but left out the paragraph about the war on Australian soil between British colonisers and indigenous people. He left out the paragraph which concedes that Australians do not talk about colonisation – do not talk about the truth of our history.

Why have we not yet learned to speak of it so loudly?

Albanese’s office later claimed the omission was unintentional. Maybe it was, or maybe Albanese and the Labor party also feel desperate to appease the racist majority-especially since a federal election is expected this year. Thus, the current leaders of both of Australia’s major parties have failed to publicly acknowledge the truth of Australians history.

The national broadcaster is also afraid. The Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) initially referred to January 26 as Invasion Day and not Australia Day in 2021. The label Invasion Day recognises the colonisation of the land, as opposed to the peaceful settlement myth perpetuated in some history books. The ABC soon removed Invasion Day from all official publications and replaced the term with Australia Day.

History is political

Politicians determine the curriculum taught to Australian school students. Until recently, Aussie school kids learned that Aboriginal people were ‘primitive’ and ‘savages’. That they were simply ‘nomads’ who wandered the continent living hand-to-mouth, devoid of science, culture or technology. Students were also taught that Australia was ‘settled’ and not ‘invaded’, that the British were ‘settlers’ and not ‘colonisers’.

Textbooks soften the truth. Many Australians learned that indigenous people died in large numbers due to the introduction of disease for which they had no immune system, and not as a result of murder. Many politicians fought, and continue to fight, to keep this version of history in the school curriculum, and while the teaching material has changed, it is not always becoming more truthful.

Apartheid

Apartheid existed in Australia. Most Australians don’t know, or don’t want to admit, that this is true. The incident at Moree pool proves the existence of apartheid. Aboriginal people were officially excluded from the public swimming pool in the rural NSW town of Moree. Summer gets very hot in Moree. A group of Aboriginal activists visited the town in 1965 and attempted to enter the pool with local indigenous children. Three hours of debate and tension followed, during which fights broke out and non-Aboriginal locals threw eggs at protestors.

Moree Council eventually rescinded the by-law and Aboriginal people were allowed to swim at the pool. Aussies are happy to criticise South Africa for its apartheid, but are largely reluctant to admit its existence in Australia. Or, as one white South African once told me,

“South Africa is not the only country with apartheid, the mistake they made was giving it a name.”

Why is Australia so afraid of its history?

Why are so many Australians afraid to tell the truth about their past?

Racism.

Australia is a racist country, and the worst of this racism is directed at indigenous people. Racism justified the invasion of Australia by the British. The notion of Terra Nullius, or uninhabited land, justified the dispossession of the land from the original inhabitants. If no one lives here, they believed, then it can’t be stolen – it belonged to no one. Terra Nullius is supported by notions of cultural and racial superiority. The colonisers saw people on the land. They interacted with them. However, they claimed the land was uninhabited because it was devoid of structure and buildings which in European minds constituted habitation.

Racism is not going away. News outlets carried images of a large group of Caucasian Australian men celebrating their membership of a neo-Nazi group on Australia Day weekend this year. Many citizens and even elected politicians have publicly declared their support for Trump and his rhetoric. Fringe political parties with a platform of racism and bigotry, such as Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, are winning more votes in elections – which is why mainstream parties are so keen to appease the racists.

Lies

Australians are also fed lies about the consequences of telling the truth. Australians have been convinced that officially acknowledging the truth will cost them their homes, as indigenous people will make endless land rights claims and take back possession of suburbs throughout the nation.

Image:www.worldatlas.com

Defenders of free speech are destroying free speech.

The very people who decry the loss of free speech in modern society are destroying the ability of people to speak freely. Extremist views stifle reasoned discussions on important social issues and this prevents problems from being properly addressed or solved.

Extreme commentators at both ends of the political spectrum complain that their opinions and right to free speech are being quelled in modern society, while their own words stigmatise anyone who attempts to raise legitimate questions regarding a contentious issue.

Free speech crusaders throw around phrases such as ‘political correctness’ and ‘cancel culture’ and complain that they’re “…not allowed to say anything anymore.” They claim that the ‘thought police’ are denying them their right to express a personal opinion. In most cases, however, those opinions are blatantly racist and are often disguised as humour and casual racism which is borne of ignorance, and is deeply hurtful.

It was never right to be racist, it was just more accepted.

Immigration

Immigration is a perfect example of the death of free speech at the hands of extreme commentators. Extremists have hijacked the issue, and anyone else who attempts to publicly discuss the topic runs the risk of being branded as a racist or a bigot.

Donald Trump used racism. He famously promised to stop Muslims from entering the United States and to build a wall to stop Latinos entering the country, and these views contributed greatly to his election victory in 2016. He expressed the views that many extremists held in the United States, and he discussed immigration as a threat to the USA, to white Americans and to American values and their way of life.

Extremists have equated immigration with racism and xenophobia.

It is consequently difficult for anyone to raise the issue of immigration in the United States and other countries. Anyone who questions current immigration policies, for whatever reason, will be labelled a racist or a bigot. But mature, intelligent and measured discussions about immigration need to take place. Leaders and citizens need to ask how many people can safely live in a particular area. People need to ask if a landmass has enough resources to support a certain number of people, taking into consideration birth and death rates, existing infrastructure, employment opportunities and other factors which determine the success of immigration policies. These discussions are made difficult or impossible due to the hijacking of the issue by ignorant extremists.

Donald Trump is also famous for shutting down discussions with people who opposed his views. There is no better example of killing free speech.

LGBTQI+

The LGBTQI+ community also bear the brunt of intolerance and hateful speech. Issues such as gender fluidity, trans culture and same-sex marriage draw endless commentary from free speech crusaders, and prevent issues from being discussed.

Same-sex marriage is a contentious issue. Every country which has raised the prospect of legalising same-sex marriage, including those which succeeded, endured a divisive debate on the issue, and the defenders of free speech once again destroyed free speech.

Two prominent Australians weighed into the debate in Australia. Tennis legend Margaret Court and footballer Israel Folau exercised their right to free speech but consequently tarnished the debate. Court and Folau opposed same-sex marriage, and declared this publicly. This in itself was not a problem. However, they supported their views with statements claiming that all gay people will go to hell, that same-sex attraction is the work of the devil and that same-sex marriage is a dangerous threat to the social fabric and the family unit.

Anyone else who expressed opposition to same-sex marriage was accused of sharing the views of Court and Folau. Anyone should be allowed to express an opposition to same-sex marriage, but that is difficult to do when the likes of Court and Folau dominate the topic.

Trans athletes also provoke strong debate. Should people who are born male be allowed to play sport with and against females – if they identify as female, or if they have physically transitioned to female? This is a complex debate including issues of fairness and safety, and any decision must be made after a mature, evidence-based and open discussion. This discussion is impossible to conduct when some people label trans people as the devil’s work, an abomination, a disgrace and subhuman. When such hateful views are expressed freely, reasonable people cannot express their views on the topic, for fear of being associated with the bigots.

Gender-neutral language also divides the population. Gender fluid people prefer to use the words ‘they’ instead of ‘he’ or ‘she’ and ‘them’ instead ‘him’ and ‘her’. A problem arises because they and them are plural pronouns, but they’re being used in a singular context – to refer to one person.

Linguists will point out that this is grammatically incorrect and confusing, while bigots will claim that is is outrageous, unnecessary…and worse. As a result, can anyone oppose the use of ‘they’ and ‘them’ to refer to individuals, without being labelled homophobic or transphobic?

Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the threat to free speech at the hands of those who claim to defend it. Anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists abound online and express views contrary to expert medical advice. Extreme bloggers and social media influencers, celebrities and even elected politicians are expressing wild and unfounded theories about the pandemic, while defending their views as free speech. In reality, they are putting human lives at risk.

Free speech is a foundation of democracy and an open society. It must be defended. It must also be conducted with evidence, acceptance of opposing views and reason.

Image: Christian Bruehner

It’s Australia, so speak English.

You’ve heard this phrase before. You might even agree with it. But before you admonish someone in Australia for speaking a language other than English, consider this – English is not the official language of Australia.

That’s right. Australia has no official language, despite the fact that English has been the language of government, education and communication in the country since colonisation about 250 years ago.

This might surprise a lot of people – including Australians. It might also disappoint a lot of Australians, especially the bigots. Intolerant Australians love to remind migrants, international students, tourists and anyone else speaking a language other than English that everyone must speak English – or leave.

These people launch into verbal, or even physical, attacks on public transport when they overhear someone speaking a language other than English. They flood social media and internet forums with posts demanding the use of English to the exclusion of any other language. They even get elected to parliament. They forget, however, that they themselves have failed to master the Queen’s English.

We could remind them that English is only the lingua franca – but lingua franca is a ‘foreign’ phrase. We could remind them that English is the de facto language, but de facto is also a ‘foreign’ phrase.

Please explain…

We could explain why English is not the official language. In most part because one of the 200 or so indigenous languages would also have to be installed as an official language, and that is far too many to choose from. Aussie racists wouldn’t stand for an Aboriginal language being an official language, because their racism is directed most vehemently at Aboriginal people.

Ironically, English is also not the official language of the United Kingdom, which includes England. Thus, English is not the official language in the land of its birth. It does not hold this status because Welsh is the official language of Wales, which is part of the UK. How would Brits feel about Welsh being installed as the official language of the UK?

Furthermore, English is not the official language of the United States. If one country does bigotry well, it’s the US of A. They elected a serial racist to the White House because he promised to build a wall to keep out Spanish speakers and to ban Muslims from entering the country. How would they react if they knew that English is not their official language? How would they grapple with terms like lingua franca and de facto?

Staunch nationalists from Australia, as well as their counterparts in the USA and the UK, might also frown at the news that English itself is a mongrel language, which blends Anglo-Saxon, Norman, Germanic, Latin, Gaelic and Scandinavian influences into one lingua franca.

Image: http://www.worldatlas.com

Wogs vs. Aussies.

“Righto boys, it’s a bit wet outside, so do you wanna play basketball or indoor soccer?”

“Basketball, soccer, basketball…” the sporting options were parried back and forth until Cameron, the captain of the A-grade Rugby team and thus favourite for future school captain, muttered his decree.

“Soccer”

“Ok boys, Grella and Kalac, can you get the goals?” directed Mr Brosnan, as he went to collect the ball.

“Oi, it’s Wogs vs Aussies boys,” declared Cameron, and the students dutifully arranged themselves into a team of Caucasian students and a team of ‘ethnic’ students, as they had done so many times before. Mr Brosnan pursed his lips around the whistle before deciding that Yr.10 boys could referee themselves, and as long as no one broke any bones he could enjoy a coffee on the side line.

“Blakey, go up front,”

“Yeah, you’re our White Wog,” joked Woods, “at least someone on our team knows how to play soccer.”

With that, I took up my customary position at centre forward and hoped that my fellow Aussies would this time secure enough possession and open space to provide me with a realistic chance of slotting that ball past Kalac in the goals.

We’d never beaten the wogs in soccer, indoor or outdoor, and even though I was pleased with my exalted status among the cool white kids and rugby heroes of the school, I still felt the pressure to earn this status by scoring goals.

The fact that a lot of my friends were on the ‘other’ team didn’t really occur to me – in Sydney in the early 1990s this kind of casual racial division was just a bit of fun – or a quicker way of picking teams. To be honest, I never questioned it. The casual racism was buried underneath the testosterone fuelled atmosphere of a PE lesson at a school whose reputation was built firmly on sporting prowess.

Just then, I caught a glimpse of Eldridge and for the first time ever, I felt a morsel of his inner conflict. The product of a white father and Thai mother, he seemed to hesitate in assigning himself to the Wogs or the Aussies, as he had never done before. I was forced to consider whether his increasing maturity and self-awareness, which descends upon every teenager, had prompted him to examine his own identity more deeply. I mulled this over in my mind until Maxwell screamed,

“Ello, go to fullback, hurry up” and Eldridge’s search for identity was put on hold.

At that, Mr Brosnan glanced up from his coffee cup and blew the whistle, we were off.

Bresciano fed the ball to Postecolglou who nutmegged Johnson before skirting around the burly prop and flicking the ball across to Vidmar. The little magician weaved his way past Woods, Maxwell and O’Sullivan before stepping over the ball and completely bamboozling Stevens in goal.

1-0

“Orale pues joven, que golazo!!!!!,” exclaimed Ortega, as Vidmar thrust his shirt over his head and celebrated his goal with arms outstretched.

Ortega himself had dabbled in Rugby, which apparently made him less of a wog, but he still had an ‘ethnic’ surname and spoke in tongues when feeling excited or cheeky. He hadn’t quite reached the status of Aussie – a wog who was so Australianised they cease to be a wog.

Perhaps it was his father’s single silent protest which set back Ortega’s entry into the mainstream. At an official school function, Ortega Senior refused to stand for the toast to the Queen, because the memories of the Falklands War were still far too real. We didn’t realise this of course, and only learned once young Ortega gave us a short history lesson.

I remember thinking, at least he has a reason for remaining seated. I only stood up because the teachers told me to, and I know my classmates didn’t truly know or care why we toasted the British royal family. We also didn’t know or care why we called wogs wogs.

“Come on boys, what’s goin’ on?”, admonished Johnson, “let’s smash ‘em, they’re not that good.”

Bresciano this time fed the ball to Popovic who directed a lovely through ball past two awestruck Aussies and towards Santos. Santos plodded toward the ball and took a massive air swing before falling on his back side. The debating champion attempted to shrug off the failure with self-deprecating laughter, before Fallon asked,

“How are you so bad at soccer Santos, you’re a wog?” and the Aussies enjoyed a chuckle.

Should I laugh? Is Santos truly shrugging this off as friendly banter?  Did these ‘harmless jokes’ seep beneath the skin when the boys got home? When Wogs vs. Aussies was transferred to the Rugby field, my incompetence, and that of Cleary and Stevens, was not linked to our skin colour or racial background.

Cleary was teased that he was hopeless despite being built like a prop, and everyone accepted that Stevens was allowed to ‘suck at Rugby’ because he was an academic genius and computer whiz. That’s also why he was always forced to play keeper.

Me, I was just ‘too skinny for Rugby’. So skinny in fact that my Aussie teammates told me how they wished I could be a wog for a day because they’d love to tackle me and drive me into the turf.

“He is a wog, he’s good at soccer,” they’d say, but their jokes didn’t cut through me like they did the real wogs. Even if I was a wog for a day, it was only a day. I could still return to the White Side and survive the school playground in relative anonymity.

In the meantime, the little master had stepped and swerved his way past the Aussie defenders for another easy goal.

2-0

Mr Brosnan sipped his coffee contentedly while the teenage boys battled for football supremacy. My blustering teammates took advantage of the game’s self-regulation and ‘tackled’ some of the wogs so fiercely that they took possession and managed to feed me the ball. I dodged Rossi and swivelled past Zelic before placing it into the back of the net.

7- 1

My teammates went wild and hurled insults at the wogs with such passion that you’d think they’d won the World Cup. Guys, it’s only one goal. But apparently a goal for the Aussies was worth more than a goal for a wog.

A few more stern challenges and violent toe pokes succeeded in advancing the ball towards Kalac in goal, and a blind thundering kick from Taylor smashed into the hands of Kalac and out the other end.

7 – 2

“Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole,” sang my teammates and I joined them heartily. We were mounting the greatest comeback in the history of world sport and it deserved extravagant celebration. Then the tone of the chanting changed. The universal football chant was distorted with derision and mockery and was peppered with random ‘foreign’ words the Aussies had learned from their multi-cultural classmates. It was as if my teammates had appropriated this ‘ethnic’ chant and were ridiculing it to put the wogs back in their place despite the scoreboard.

Maybe this silently enraged the wogs, and they responded with an all-out assault on our goal. Poor old Stevens was sent diving and gaping for thin air as Vidmar, Bresciano, Arzani et al scored goal after goal.

“Righto boys,” called Mr Brosnan, “time to get changed.”

The massacre had ended.

12 – 2

Yet again, the wogs won, on the field at least.

Image: Pascal Swier