#auspol #ausmedia #racism
July 15, 2013
Sam de Brito
After the Adam Goodes/Eddie McGuire fiasco kicked off last month, I heard the return of one of my favourite White Person Excuses: “I didn’t kill any Aborigines or take their land, what’s it got to do with me?”
It’s kinda sweet Aussies have retained this live-and-let-live attitude because it’s one that’d see you in a teensy bit of trouble in thousands of different parts of the world.
As of this moment, Australia and the good ole’ bustling Arctic are the only two places where there’s not some kind of ongoing territorial dispute between a national or sub-national entity.
The majority of these disputes are non-violent but most of them are also old; older than tall ships, muskets and keeping Indigenous Australians in pet collars.
It seems to be a universal human trait – when someone steals your land and kills your relatives, you remember it for a long, long time.
The Middle East and Balkans are handy reminders of the elephantine memories people have for atrocities committed against their forebears.
History is not linear in many cultures: the repression of the Hazara people – who often end up on Australian naval vessels as refugees from Afghanistan – dates back to them sharing too much blood with the Mongols, who killed everybody they could get their hands on in Afghanistan and Persia 800 years ago.
Of course, in places like Syria, Sudan, Mali, Pakistan, Iraq and Egypt, things are even more heated and what you did or did not do makes as little difference as what your great-grandparents did or did not do.
There are vicious square-ups happening in those countries right at this moment dating back hundreds of years and in others (thanks to the Shiite/Sunni divide) over a thousand.
So, whenever I hear “what’s it got to do with me?”, I suggest we’re kind of a special case here in Australia because …
1. We’ve no shared borders with expansionist neighbours with whom we have long-standing bad blood and …
2. We reduced the Indigenous population to a numerical minority that struggles to insist we rethink history from their point of view.
Of course, the other side of the “what’s it’s got to do with me”? coin is our shared human heritage.
You might just as well ask “what does electricity have to do with me?” as you open your fridge. Or agriculture? Or aspirin? Or numbers and letters?
Every newborn inherits an immense body of knowledge, delivered via a struggle that’s dragged humanity up the ladder from supernatural to legendary and now scientific explanations of the world and, frankly, that’s also got nothing to do with you.
You didn’t invent democracy, currency, navigation, hygiene, law and order or shower heads – but you benefit from them every day.
It’s simple humility to respect the debt we owe billions of great minds, soldiers and civilians for where we are now in history.
It’s also common decency to recognise that with the good, we also should accept responsibility for the bad.
When that comes to Indigenous Australians, a humble acknowledgement of past injustices is a nice place to start.
Nathan Pollock, obsessive user of Second Life believes that all Aborigines should have been shot by the
Thanks Nathan. As you posted your views so publicly, you won’t mind us sharing them with a wider audience.
Visit the halfwit here. Not much to see other than the fact that he has lost touch with reality and lives his life playing a video game in which he features as a young tanned and toned surfer teen.
John Atherton joins the elite club of those featured more than once on our website. See more of him here:
(Unconfirmed Norris Electrical contact details)
Imagine if Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt could be thrown in prison and charged money for vomiting venomous racist bile in public. Seriously. I don’t mean this in an ‘imagine if you were invisible and could fly’ kind of way. Nor in the sense of: ‘imagine if Ryan Gosling begged for you to be with him but you turned him down in favour of being a lesbian mother with Portia di Rossi.’ I mean this in the sense that [insert sonorous BBC news voice here] the NSW Parliament is conducting an inquiry into racial anti-vilification laws which impose criminal penalties for hate speech. Specifically, section 20D of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act is for ‘serious racial vilification’ and carries a penalty of $5,500 dollars and 6 months in jail if you’re found to have incited ‘hatred’, ‘serious contempt’ or ‘severe ridicule’ of a person or a group or to have threatened physical harm. Since the law’s inception in 1989 there have been 27 complaints referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions but not one has been prosecuted. The legal requirements are too stringent. The Inquiry may look at revising the requirements to make it easier to sue. [Now stop reading in BBC voice or it will become distracting.]
Already the announcement has sparked the usual Cassandra like murmurings of free speech advocates wringing their hands and making terrible prophecies: Pestilence! Death of democracy! Gagging of political dissidents! Voltaire is quoted with promiscuous glee: I may not like what he has to say, but I’ll defend to the death Alan Jones’ right to call Lebanese people ‘vermin and mongrels’. Democracy needs free speech. And in the free marketplace of ideas, the truth will always triumph.
A similar debate raged last week in England over writer Julie Burchill’s breathtakingly transphobic article in defence of her gob-smackingly transphobic mate Suzanne Moore. Moore made a jibe at ‘Brazilian transvestites’ in an otherwise excellent essay on female anger. In so doing, Moore incurred the wrath of some ‘bullies’ standing up for transgender rights. I don’t want to repeat what Burchill said in defence of Moore, but suffice to say it was so horrendous that the Guardian removed it and released an apology. It was in flagrant breach of their anti-vilification policy. In their ping-pong game of hate, Moore hit back in defence of Burchill saying that she had been censored by ‘humourless, authoritarian morons.’ ‘How has the left ceded the word ‘freedom’ to the right?’ she brayed.
So how do we make sense of this seeming opposition between equality and free speech, especially given that we pinko lefty types tend to cherish both and have historically stood up for both. Perhaps it’s best to start with the fact that freedom of speech is not an unqualified right or an unqualified good. Your ‘freedom to’ say what you want can’t come at the expense of other people’s ‘freedom from’ fear, violence or hatred which may be incited by what you say. The left hasn’t given up on freedom. We just want to stretch it to include the most vulnerable members of our community.
Studies have consistently shown that hate speech is not just words, but that it usually precedes an attack. Sociologists Rowan Savage and Gordon Allport describe it as part of a continuum of violence where racial vilification can slide easily into violence or genocide. Hate speech makes violence possible and is also itself a form of violence. Law Professor Mari Matsuda has found that victims of vicious hate propaganda experience physical symptoms such as difficulties breathing, increased pulse-rate, nightmares and post-traumatic stress disorder. So, I would think, like any form of violence, hate speech should be subject to criminal sanctions, not just toothless symbolic legislation.
And what about the free marketplace of ideas? The idea that the truth will win out through rational debate while bad ideas will wither and die? The problem with these arguments is that they imagine that the marketplace affords everyone an equal right to speak and that every voice is equally loud. This is nothing more than a beautiful fiction. Unfortunately, very little can rival the booming flatulence of Alan Jones. Migrants or Aborigines don’t have the same access to public space.
And you have to wonder why free speech advocates are mostly concerned about the stifling of right-wing views. If people like Tony Abbott were genuinely concerned about free speech then surely they would campaign as fiercely for the protesters involved in the Palm Island riots as for powerful bigots.
We’ve had anti-vilification laws for over twenty years now and don’t appear to have spiralled into a totalitarian state governed by authoritarian morons. I think we need to stop debating whether the laws will gag democracy and start questioning why, in NSW for instance, they apply to homosexuals, ethnic minorities, transgender people and people with HIV but they don’t apply to women. Of the State and Federal Anti-discrimination Acts, only Tasmania condemns inciting hatred towards women through language such as whore or dyke. Is it because too much of what passes as ‘pub talk’ could constitute hate speech? Is it because it would release a flood of litigation around everything from pro-rape facebook pages to misogynistic shock jocks to sleazy uncles? Is it, ultimately, because we live in a society where violence against women is simply not taken seriously? I think it’s high time that Jones and Bolt were sent to the clanger, but for their misogyny as much as their racism.
Ian Shanahan Lecturer,
Department of Music
University of Western Sydney (Nepean)
PO Box 10
Kingswood NSW 2747
Phone (Home) – (02)9871 4282 ISD 61-2-9871 4282
Phone (Work) – (047)360 877 ISD 61-47-360 877
FAX (Work) – (047)360 166 ISD 61-47-360 166
(details lifted from public web page here)
From The Age
Tickler loses unfair dismissal bidJuly 6, 2004 – 5:05PM
The industrial umpire has rejected a claim of unfair dismissal by a university music teacher who was sacked for lifting up female students and tickling them.
Ian Leslie Shanahan, a part-time music teacher and composer, was sacked by the University of Western Sydney last year for serious misconduct.
A disciplinary committee found he had lifted female students onto his shoulders and tickled them on three occasions in August and September 2002.
He was also alleged to have smacked another student on the buttocks, and told her that “if things don’t work out between you and your fiance, you know where to come”.
The incidents followed several warnings by the university for Shanahan to “maintain a professional distance” from his students, and avoid “inappropriate behaviour”.
Shanahan disputed the committee’s ruling and went to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) demanding to be reinstated.
He denied “lifting and tickling” the students, and the smacking allegation.
But the AIRC this week upheld Shanahan’s dismissal, finding the evidence against him was compelling, and that “lifting and tickling female students” was improper conduct for a university lecturer.
“High standards are required of those in positions of trust,” AIRC senior deputy president Rob Cartwright said.
“Such conduct is, in my view, unacceptable and constitutes serious misconduct…”
He said the other findings of inappropriate conduct by Shanahan compounded the seriousness of his behaviour.
Citing evidence from Shanahan’s psychiatrist, senior deputy president Cartwright said the teacher’s inability to recall the incidents might be explained by a difficulty in recalling events during periods of hypomania.
However, he said he was not convinced this was the case.
Oh, how we feel for the Australian gene pool…