Are There Any Racists Here?
The recent hoon battles for the control of Cronulla beach have got a lot of reaction: is the Australian fair go mate' image a myth? Are we just a pack of rednecks at heart?
My take is middle of the road.
Of course there is an underlying racist element, and of course it's not just limited to a few yahoos with too much time and beer on their hands (remember 'One Nation'?).
Nor is it a recent phenomenon: Australian aboriginals know all too well the ethnic cleansing that has gone on for the past two hundred years (ranging from outright massacre and poisoned flour bags through to the 'stolen generation'). At a lower level, I remember the 'pommy bashing' that went on in the seventies, not all of which was good natured (whether it inspired or was inspired by 'The Adventures of Barry McKenzie' is a moot point)
Oh yes! Racism has always been here. The main difference between then and now lies in how that racism is nourished.
In the past, it was widespread and grass roots. It was not officially encouraged. (aboriginal massacres by graziers in the early nineteenth centuries were actively investigated by authorities, but were blocked by a conspiracy of silence).
Today, the general population is truly multicultural, and are able to live in tolerance. The average Australian is quite able to say 'Sorry!'. It is only a small group of malcontents who prefer to find a scapegoat for their woes.
Malcontents who find justification in the current government's xenophobia, which has been apparent for a long time:
- Starting in the mid nineties, when Pauline Hanson began her crusade against aboriginal welfare and foreign immigrants (to an approving silence),
- reaction to the Mabo decision, when Howard drew attention to the possibility of aboriginals claiming back everyone's back yard,
- continued deafness to appeals of atonement with the stolen generation,
- through to 2001, when attempts to thwart the entry of refugees reached near hysteria (the truth overboard incident)
- and now, in 2005, when anti-terror and anti-sedition laws encourage suspicion of moslems in general (ahem! Check out what Christian apocalypt sects would be capable of!! )
And I think, if asked, most would have a definite idea where it comes from. And it's not from the 'leb' down the street.