We may be stuck in our bigotry. Urgent change on many fronts needed

Jun 15, 2020

So much of our political mainstream has been based on bigotry and racist perspectives. We have always had the comfort of the US and UK accepting our attitudes on race. That no longer will be the case.

Fundamental changes are underway in the US and UK but Australian leaders seem stuck. The global shift of attitudes on race is unprecedented, positive and overdue. There seems to have been a collective brain click for (many) white people.

The Morrison government exemplifies not only recalcitrance but a fundamental inability to see. There are critical and urgent issues in the Black Lives Matter issues in Australia. But the wall erected for sensible medical reasons to demonstrations could have been averted if the government had the political nouse as well as moral comprehension to join the BLM side… not in the street but in grasping the issues with warmth and decency.

Instead the government is stuck on a rock defending the millions of dollars for the Cook memorial as also for the no-black-wars-please-we’re-white-and-fault-free War Memorial. We are in trouble with a naval base on Manus in PNG, largely because of issues of treatment of local people… with the elephant in the room, the history of refugee incarceration by Australia in Manus. Whoever imagined that we could do what we did on Manus without poisonous repercussions is, well, just part of a problem of being unaware.

The “I don’t want to deal with darkies” hidden mindset is present in the ludicrous mouth-first suggestion by Morrison that we should build supply chains with the Five Eyes. The realities of supply chains are elsewhere and complex and fast-evolving, as evident from this report in the Asia Times. Against that pragmatic reality, the incapacity of the government to wean from the US will entangle us more deeply in hatred of China as this interview by Asia Times with Steve Bannon suggests. We are of course still stuck with the US and UK in illegal wars in the middle east which are crumbling the wars and have created the demon ISIS, which we can blame for… oh, lots of things.

Race discrimination was central to Australian federation. We wanted separation from the mother country because of our hostility to the Anglo-Japanese trade treaty of 1894. The White Australia Policy aimed mainly at Chinese was central to Federation. There was nothing shy in Australian Prime Minister Billy Hughes blocking a Japanese proposal for a racial equality provision in the peace treaty with Germany after World War 1. We demanded ANZUS as the price for our signature of the peace treaty with Japan after World War 2. The pillars of Australia’s place in the world are based on racial discrimination. Those factors intertwine with our war histories. And the national cabinet meets without any sign of Australia’s racial diversity. Policy is us doing for them.

But now the UK is a racially diverse country, and we have to note that even the Johnson government is the most racially diverse in UK history.

Change in the US is fundamental. Frank Luntz, a Republican pollster wrote on 9 June that in his 35 years of polling he’d never seen opinion shift this fast or deeply.

If we continue to be ethically blind and regard issues of race in Australia as side matters we will soon be on the nose with those countries whom we have regarded as our white comfort mates.

Meanwhile, the ABC in its current How we got to now documentary series (title stolen from the US, see this) managed to end the first episode with a boogie-man rant against China, though nowhere in the long documentary did they interview an Australian China expert.

We now know, with China’s response after long patience, the cost of our prancing about in recent times making taunting remarks about China, remarks based on a curious 2017 ideological argument against ideology by John Garnaut, contorting history to say Stalin=Mao=Xi. Rebuttal of that requires a different essay. Here the point is to note that in the current angry responses to China it seems forgotten that we started the fight. School bully stuff.

We can see the tendency of people without the knowledge of history to grab at the glib. Or to make it up, like Morrison on slavery in Australia.

Before we can advance on any front we need both Government and Opposition to come out from Fortress COVID, not to run in the streets but to get the point: to shift from old mental mindsets which are inherently unethical, based on bad history, and poisonous for our future.

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