It has been a big week.
Prompted by the upswell of international horror, grief and guilt following the Christchurch massacre, local politicians have denounced the killer in unambiguous terms. I added the word guilt, because at the moment you feel bad being an Australian. The more callous will cry bullshit to that, shrug it off and go back to whatever it is that callous people do (working in an industrial kitten-drowning facility, maybe) safe in the logic that “We aren’t to blame!” Those who have at least a little empathy will do something involving a hashtag to virtue-signal their one-ness with those in pain. And then there’s me, unable to divorce the actions of one Australian from the experience of being Australian, torn by the faces of the living, and with no words to console the dead.
I won’t repeat the shooter’s name, and wouldn’t waste 500 words on him except to suggest that an offensively large percentage of Australians probably had a quiet cheer when they heard the news. Americans have a big problem with racism, we know that, but at least you guys are two-hundred years further down the road toward something resembling an accord. Compare that to downunder, where Aboriginal Australians did not receive unrestricted voting rights until 1967, where they were discouraged from voting until 1983. While the US saw its first African-American congressman in 1870, it took Australia another 101 years to grudgingly allow the first Indigenous Australian into its federal Parliament. What American tourists don’t realise is that you can get on a Boeing (just not a 737 Max) at LAX, and travel almost a century back in time, just by paying us a visit. Of course, the only Indigenous Australian the average American will see is the bloke down at Circular Quay on the ‘didge who drives home in an Audi every night.
We hide our worst from the world — I alluded to this in an earlier post — but travel west far enough and we don’t even hide it. Don’t need to hide it, because almost everybody agrees: “Fucken Muslims!” Yet Islam doesn’t even rank in the top-five religions in this country. The Muslim population is growing a lot slower than our Chinese and south-east Asian populations; yet Muslims are the brunt of this nation’s hatemongers? Prime Minister Scott Morrison dribbled about eight posts on the Christchurch attack, but totally avoided using the ‘M’ word, preferring terms like ‘all New Zealanders’ and ‘all Kiwis’ which omit any acknowledgement that an Australian citizen committed a hate-crime specifically targeting Muslims. Contrast this to the apoplexy he suffers when a Muslim kills an Australian, naming and shaming the entire Australian Islamic community for allowing a terrorist to fester within its ranks. So, what hard words do you have for the people of Grafton, Prime Minister? That’s right, nothing.
Because the reality is that this country was founded on astonishing acts of terrorism. It was forcibly stolen from its rightful owners, with no recompense has ever been offered. Genocidal wars were fought in this country, with entire tribes of people wiped from the earth by white men’s guns, grog and gonnorhea. Our founding document itself is a racist manifesto: Thomas Barton our first PM, argued in favour of the first significant piece of legislation ever passed in this country (the infamous Immigration Restriction Bill, or ‘White Australia Policy’) by saying that “The doctrine of the equality of man was never meant to apply to the equality of the Englishman and the Chinaman … There is no racial equality. There is that basic inequality. These races are, in comparison with white races, unequal and inferior.”
We reserve our superior, sneering condemnation for right-wing troglodytes simpering and gnashing away in his odious little online echo-chambers, shitposting their lives away. But sometimes these creatures shed their skins and become something much worse; small comfort that the home-grown terrorist is identifiable by his tacti-cool vest and buzzcut hair. I know what to do with that guy: he gets the third eye he so richly deserves. What do I do with the neighbour, the workmate, the family member who reads the news of 50 dead in Christchurch and says, “They deserved it.” When it comes to the people like that, the truly unequal and inferior, smashing an egg against their heads just doesn’t seem to cut it, but I guess it’s a start.