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

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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Dennis Argall's degrees were in anthropology and defence studies. his governmental work in foreign, defence and domestic departments and for the Australian parliament. His overseas postings included Beijing as ambassador, and Washington. He regrets the extent of his personal experience with disability but it has perhaps sharpened his desire that the future be a better country.

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

  1. Avatar Jocelyn Pixley says:

    Looking just at Australian bigotry, never forget John Howard tried to censor the ‘black arm-band’ view of history. Thanks for reminding us of asylum seekers’ vicious treatment, and Morrison’s deep ignorance of the really obvious historical detail, perhaps fostered by his faulty assumption that Howard’s censorship had worked. And as in the USA, a large amount of white people joined the Black Lives Matter protests. It was Australian-based and more in solidarity with American protests than copying the terrible US reasons. Britain and other countries were the same: there’s evil bigotry everywhere.

  2. Avatar Anthony Pun says:

    There is significant change in Canberra’s attitude towards independent organisations like China Matters when it was reported that this organisation has been defunded (Sun Herald 14Jun2020) in an article by Ellen Whinnett. I though CM was a bit on the US side – surprised! We are still stuck in deeper!!
    China Matters regards the article in the Sunday Telegraph and other News Limited newspapers as “….an unwarranted attack on our reputation. The article includes defamatory insinuations that are offensive to the Board of Directors of China Matters and our wider supporter circle, as well as the management”. Interesting times we live in and I wonder who is next on the chopping board.”

  3. Avatar Jim KABLE says:

    This is good thinking Dennis. I read widely – think deeply – and I am uncomfortable with the demonising of everything to do with China – even this evening’s 4-Corners took up the cudgel…And then there is the Secretive Case being prosecuted against Bernard COLLAERY and Witness K – clearly secret to protect former LNP bigwigs re the spy-bugging of the Timor L’Este chamber where negotiations were ongoing and by means of which Australia in the form of the then LNP government stole billions of dollars worth of undersea gas rightfully within the ownership of that country. And Black Deaths in Custody – ongoing here. The attacks on the ABC – the ongoing victimisation/torture of asylum-seekers. The skulduggery underway by that Dutton fellow. Mathias Cormann and his own ignorance of Indigenous Australia – the ignorance of a PM who can say that slavery never existed in this land (despite his attempts at track-covering since). How about we don’t follow the finger being pointed at China so much and instead follow the many fingers pointing back at ourselves.

  4. Avatar Dennis Argall says:

    Or does yi bai zi mean one hundred identities?

  5. Avatar Barney Zwartz says:

    I’ve commented several times here about how important P&I is to me as a counter-balance to mainstream news. It has influenced my thinking towards a better balance quite often.
    This article too makes some important points. But I find the following paragraph astounding: “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.”
    Long patience? Our fault? What planet do you live on in which trying to buy MPs, trying to take over universities, constant cyber attacks, harassing ethnic Chinese Australians and much more is all acceptable and in which our weak and muted response is bullying? The 40-kilogram weakling pounding away at a gorilla? To me, Dennis’ attitude is a slave mentality: they are bigger and stronger, and we had better suck up to them as best we can. It ruined an otherwise thoughtful article for me. I’d far rather Hamilton’s belligerence than this craven sycophancy.

    • Avatar Dennis Argall says:

      Barney as noted I will endeavour to produce an essay on realities in China, but will be avoiding in that essay being caught in this War of the Wickeds.

      As regards comparative interventions in Australia, I just urge you to research and reflect on the distortion of Australian public life by multitude United States interventions, over decades, through politician trips, organisation subsidy, placement of US heavies in Australian research institutions and the long long history of belting alternative views of the US alliance.

    • Avatar Peter Martina says:

      Barney. I don’t think it’s all our fault either but we are not without fault. We need to protect our interests but we need to do it effectively. It’s not a choice between megaphone diplomacy/ goading China and rolling over and coping it. There are other, more effective, ways to get our view across. The current state of Australia-China relations shows that what we’re doing is not working and it’s simply not good enough for Our government to put all the blame on China. We currently have zero influence in China and even if that is all the fault of the evil Chinese it is still in our interests to make the relationship work. Are we going to find a way to protect our interests and improve the relationship or just keep making the same mistakes?

    • “I’ve commented several times here about how important P&I is to me as a counter-balance to mainstream news. It has influenced my thinking towards a better balance quite often.
      To me, Dennis’ attitude is a slave mentality: they are bigger and stronger, and we had better suck up to them as best we can. It ruined an otherwise thoughtful article for me. I’d far rather Hamilton’s belligerence than this craven sycophancy.”
      Dear Barney
      I am glad you have been a regular reader of P&I but I am say to note even someone like you who appear to have an open mind, can still easily be influenced by the half truth from the likes of John Garnaut and Clive Hamilton. I wonder have you personally been to China especially last 10 years. How much freedom, culture , material wealth, exchanges, free travel around the world that Chinese peoples are enjoying ? Independent polls showed most the trusted Government by their peoples in the world today is in China. They must have done something right through learning the hard work .
      My very respected Ambassador Dennis Argall is just stating the truth with his vast knowledge and experience. Thank you Ambassador.
      Much criticism and demonization against China left, right and centre are half truth if not lies. Unfortunately many innocent and ignorant Australians are being “brain washed” by our massed media, the Murdoch, The Nine Entertainment , The Australian, SMH, The Age and sadly even the ABC. You can’t blame the people as these are powerful tools with day in day out propaganda. I used to read their very substantiated independent opinion pieces but I cannot trust them anymore.
      I relies wise minds like Dennis Argall to fill the gaps in P&I and other more independent media.
      Cold war propaganda can be very powerful. Once you hold up the devil word ” Communist” China and CCP”, the lies seem to be able to turn into truth and gospel in many innocent ignorant people. Similar effect can happen in any society like the Hitler in Germany, Stalin in Russia, Mao in China, North Korea and many other countries in the world where bad governance and government reign. Western countries are not immunised from such viruses. We have CIA in US, McCarthyism, M16 in UK; ASIO in Australia(Gough Whitlam era). They used propaganda to justify their hidden agenda and excuses to start hatred, divided peoples and ignite riots and ended in horrible wars in their colonisations of one way or another.
      Modern China especially last 10 years, has changed a lot as I visited China regularly. I have friends and relatives in China. They have what equivalent of meritocratic representative democracy in CCP now. They are learning a lot from other so-called democratic countries around the world since opening up last 40 years. They knew that they have made a lot of serious mistakes through the experimentation of ” communism” and caused a lot of sufferings and hardship to their peoples. They are not going back their old “communism way”. They are not exporting them either. They just want peaceful development so that their peoples can live even better . They are heading the Singapore way may be.
      If there are real evidence of subverting foreign governments as accused by US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada etc, let them show us the real evidence and present them to our parliaments for peoples to judge but not suspicion upon suspicion in the styles of Garnaut and Hamilton.
      I am not here to defend China in any way but just hope that we can go back to peaceful negotiation, diplomacy and rebuild an even better Australia China Relations that will benefit both peoples and nations. Confrontations only create losers and no winners.
      Australia is a lucky country but why can’t we be more smart and independent?

  6. Avatar Yi Bai Zi says:

    Haven’t heard about John Garnaut for a while now but Clive Hamilton was selling his book on ABC this morning. His ‘insights’ into his (Clive Hamilton’s) Chinese that he revealed on the segment was cringeworthy, so was ABC’s sycophantic hosts. In fact, the whole morning show appeared to be directed by Channel 9, which of course is now running a distraction / attack Dan Andrews campaign. More manipulation and deceit. Appeased and abetted by the ABC that my taxes pay for.

    Once I was blind but now I see
    It’s time to defund the ABC.

    • Clive Hamilton has a big gaping blind spot when it comes to any suggestion that the US is far more of a rogue state (and worse under Trump) than China ever was (and is now). I have read his incredibly biased book in which he basically rejects that there is any need for criticism of the US. He’s the darling of the SMH that maintains a vicious agenda in attacking China over any matter, sometimes with 3-4 stories featured in the newspaper every day that are used to demonise China and Chinese people in general. (Apart from Gladys Liu). Sometimes I have alleged as to whether they are not funded by the CIA to write such ongoing vilification. We have seen this sort of Psyops action take place before in South America and Vietnam for example to manufacture consent for certain political outcomes. No other country ever attracts such ongoing tirades is the newspapers. Racism is encouraged in the readers comments. I wonder if it is not trying to force the case for war with China.

      I read today that the Melbourne Age newspaper (also owned by 9 Entertainment) has attracted inhouse criticism: “close to 70 journalists say pressure is being put on reporters to ‘produce certain angles’ and masthead is in danger”. It can hardly be said now that they follow their motto: “independent always” . For anyone following where Fairfax’s newspaper have gone since being purchased by Nine this is not a surprise [1].

      The purchase from Fairfax has also been accompanied by a many journalists leaving and being replaced by ex-News Corp journalists as well [2].

      [1]. https://www.theguardian.com/media/2020/jun/14/journalists-at-the-age-express-alarm-over-increasing-politicisation-and-loss-of-independence

      [2]. https://www.crikey.com.au/2019/10/30/nine-fairfax-news-corp-journalists/

    • Avatar Richard England says:

      +1

    • Avatar Dennis Argall says:

      Baizi, I share your mournful spirit, but I don’t think we should aim to defund the ABC. Somehow instead try to get them to learn more fact and avoid propagation of hysteria.

      • Avatar Wayne Fyffe says:

        To Dennis Argall and insightful commenters on his important contribution here: I’m relieved and thankful there are thoughtful and thought provoking kindred spirits “out there”, and that I’m not completely alone. Listening to the seemingly often unhinged and unbalanced Sinophobia almost daily given inordinate voice to on “Our ABC”, I often do feel alone.

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