Lost in the slick façade of the “save the refugee” ads and the two and throw of the political war zone known as Parliament House, is the legitimacy of the suffering that these human beings have been forced to endure. The long-standing debate as to whether the various governments are legally responsible for the lives of those who are fleeing death and destruction in search of some sort of humanity becomes obsolete. We are in the mists of a global capitulation, the world is turning and the people are making their voices heard. These scenes are but a mere reflection of the instability and civil unrest, which is being replicated across the globe. The people are disgruntled but the politicians aren’t listening, that’s why people like Kanye West are taking every opportunity afforded to them to speak against and shine the spotlight of understanding and compassion. The endless protests are merely a manifestation of the anger, frustration and civil disillusionment with their nations. This disillusionment gives rise to nationalist movements as well as social justice movements. Australia is currently in the infancy stages of both after a lull on both fronts but now race is the central focal point of much debate.
I attended protests and these are my observations:
Having attended the July 18th of August, anti-racism protests in Melbourne followed by the Bendigo protests on the 29th of August the issue of racism, national identity and the cultural shaping of Australia as we descend into what is already a globalised society.
The first ever protest I had ever attended and what can only be described as an eye opening experience and the perfect place to pop my protest cherry. I had arrived just after 10am and the scene was that of quaint, peaceful conversation and in depth discussion, regarding how organisations such as the United Patriots Front & Reclaim were able to develop and manifest their own hate driven ideologies disguised as pro-nationalist agenda. The only difference between this gathering of people and any other, was that the police who numbered in their hundreds, supported by horses and helicopters had descended upon the city and had cordoned off the most prominent streets intersecting Victoria’s Parliament House. The sight was something to behold, a moment in history for the great state of Victoria, which I as a Melbournian felt very proud of. The unification of various cultures and creeds to represent an entire states moral and ethical values. I’m thankful that such a mindless agenda had struggled to embed itself amongst the wider Australian public. As the day progressed the tensions rose and the heavy smell of pepper spray filled the marvellous Melbourne afternoon, the peaceful nature of the protests was exacerbated and turned hostile by the police attempts to disperse the growing crowd of protestors.
The vile hate, misinformation and uneducated context of the speeches was clear, as only a handful of Reclaim Australia supporters made the brave trek to show their faces at such a heinous event. As I reflect on these events within the global context such organisations are rearing their ugly heads across the globe.
The Cultural Mosaic:
As the displaced human being situation escalates and spirals out of control, the need for the disenfranchised people to have some sort of identity to attach themselves grows. The rise of the nationalist identity isn’t a modern phenomena, Australia is built on the white Australia policy. A system of racial vilification and Aryan imperialism, which is part of the ever-evolving story of Australia. Michael Billig (1995) coins the term ‘Banal Nationalism’, where by he describes an unconscious sense of nationalism, which is reinforced via the media and social rituals (Fozdar, Wilding & Hawkins 2012).
A great example of this is Andrew Bolt’s conversation with Steve Price on 2GB; here’s an excerpt.
He uses the term assimilate which is completely out of context when discussing Australia, as this great nation has been re-marketed as a Multicultural hub, rather than a society which expects the assimilation of its immigrant communities. Fozdar, Wildling and Hawkins (2012, Pg. 82-83) describe assimilation as “ethnic minorities and indigenous groups will (and should) lose their distinctive character… immigrants are expected to give up their distinctive cultural, linguistic and social characteristics and become indistinguishable from the majority population”. The marketing campaign introduced to reshape the ideological image of Australia that was intended to create a sense of welcoming was the slogan of multiculturalism. Fozdar, Wildling and Hawkins (2012, Pg. 84) describe multiculturalism/pluralism as “encouraging ethnic and cultural diversity and the maintenance of separate ethnic identities… individuals develop their sense of identity through embeddedness in a vibrant cultural community, and that such identities are an important part of an individuals grounding”. This blurring of the key concepts and terminologies by such prominent members of our communities reinforces this idea of Banal Nationalism by certain sections of the media. This misdirection of ideologies creates a contradiction of the Australian identity while leaving many citizens with a blurred understanding of what it actually means to be Australian.
This current and ever growing trend of nationalism is clearly represented by the increased presence of organisations such as Reclaim Australia and their supporter base. The flow of Southern Cross tattoos and crowds bathed in a sea of Australian flags show the necessity for unity amongst the wider Australian community. However when a countries flag is used as a defining symbol of segregation and exclusion, the flag itself loses the very symbolic capital it was created to produce.
From the time of the settlers and the introduction of the white Australia policy the country has experienced an ideological split, which has exacerbated the cultural divide that is sewn into the seams of this nation. Dipesh Chakrabarty in Provincializing Europe made a very interesting connection between the fear of losing culture and language by early European settlers. He draws comparisons with the historic migration of skilled and unskilled settlers during the colonisation’s, which have now created a sense of foreboding amongst their current generations (Chakrabarty 2008). The idea that the sins of the father will be paid for by the child is clearly a psychological representation of a manifestation of long-term guilt held by the descendants of the early settlers. Could the unification of white Australia against the threat of the perceived Muslim invasion be such a manifestation?
(Fintan Magee – Spirit of Australian Settlement)
Fozdar, F, Wilding, R & Harkins, M 2012, Race and ethnic relations, Oxford, Australia
Chakrabarty, D 2008, Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference, Princeton University Press, NJ.
SBS – Andrew Bolt
Melbourne Protests –
Tree of Life –
Spirit of Australian Settlement –