black cat, white cat

Today, my blogpal, James Farmer was obviously happy that the anti-racism march in Melbourne had gone well. James was less than impressed with earlier race riots in Sydney.

I think James is right. There’s every reason to be scared. It’s sad and it’s bad. I’m far enough away, here in New Zealand, to have an opinion. Oh yes, a ‘how I had nothing to do with it but what I think about it anyway’ kind of opinion. It’s my blog, my opinion. If you don’t like it, click off. Or, better still, write your own blog, especially if you are an Australian. Get in closer and tell the stories the media is unwilling or unable to tell.

Group think and mobs are scary. Racism is ugly. The worst part (and the hardest part) is, none of us is immune. I think we’d all be liars if we haven’t thought or voiced an opinion of another person (usually not within their hearing) based on their ethnic origin. Typecasting, forcing people into our preconceived pictures of what the world should look like, and be like. We’ve all done ugly things in our past that on our best days, our clear thinking days, we wouldn’t do. Sadly, not every day is a clear thinking day.

I’m not trying to make excuses for the excesses in Cronulla, or anywhere else for that matter. It’s just that the contributing factors that combine to facilitate hateful actions are easier to exploit by individuals plumbing the worst aspects of human behaviour than to turn to the overall good of humanity.

It’s easy for fear and ignorance to join up with drugs, alcohol and high temperatures to turn neighbours against each other. Australia is a country, and Sydney is a city, with huge variation in incomes and future prospects. It wouldn’t be too difficult to miss some education, get stuck in a stinking dead-end job, know that the odds of winning lotto are next-to-zero and be fully aware that affording decent housing means an unobtainable mortgage that looks more like a phone number. Frustration would well up when images of the good life and the beautiful people continuously spew out of the tv. And so the one thing you can enjoy is a beer at the beach – something that’s just about hard wired in the Aussie genetic code. If you’re un- or under-employed in Aussie it’s not a fun place to be. It’s really easy to get the gnawing, grinding feeling in your gut, and you know you’ve done all the right things within your experience and your culture, and it should be ok, but it’s not.

And so, lashing out at anything is an answer. A dumb answer, maybe, on clear thinking days, but an answer. Because, maybe, with a tv camera and a moment of wit and grit you can become one of the beautiful people. And if not beautiful, then at least on tv. The guy James notes was not beautiful. But that is the reason why his image was there. Naked hatred, fear, lust, rage, and frustration bellowed in sound and body language. So what did he want?

Clearly, he wanted to be heard. I believe he wants to feel valued.

It doesn’t matter what our ethnic origins are, what our skin colour is, what our religion is, what we eat – everyone is different. I believe we are a culture of one, and this, for me, is the true value of blogging. The one thing I thing I think is universal to the utmost majority of humans is we want to feel valued. We want to feel needed, appreciated, listened to, and that we, as individuals, are of some value in ourselves.

I’m don’t think John and his government listen carefully enough to the people he represents. New laws make it more difficult to communicate with a government that’s not listening. Closing down a valve doesn’t reduce the pressure, it builds it. It’s correct to suggest, John, that the riots are not purely based on racism fueled by sun-ripened drugs and booze. It runs deeper than that.

You’ve got a huge number of young people born in the late 70s, 80s and 90s that you’re attempting to shut out. They’ve missed the post war booms. They haven’t had the same opportunities. They’ve not got the experience or the resource base of the baby boomers. They’re confronting intergenerational poverty. They’re working in boring roles in factories and offices where a machine could make them redundant tomorrow, and probably will. No matter what training or study they’ve done – if any – odds are it’ll be meaningless in five years or less. Whatever promises have been made, or alluded to, are shallow, hollow shells. They’re sick of the sham. They don’t give a rat’s arse about your politics or your grey-haired ambitions. They’re feeling undervalued, and unlistened to. They feel powerless.

Except for the things they can do. Power corrupts, so does powerlessness. They can get out their cellphones. They can get booze and drugs. And they can build on the pseudo-patriotism they get fed through the media. And in the absense of real opportunity and real role models, they will find some way of working out their frustrations, be it through vandalism of their bodies or their environment, or attacking people who look different.

I don’t think it will end easily and quietly. Bush fires can jump ahead, leaving areas untouched and seemingly safe. But the smouldering menace continues.

John, don’t minimise Carcass’s clarion call. Listen. While you can.

 

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