I wrote previously about the differences between covert and overt racial prejudice, and how it is unhealthy to bottle prejudice up. I also sense that more and more the Australian “way of life” is being muffled by an undertone of suppressed political correctness, that ironically stifles debate about the true meaning and benefits of multiculturalism. Every Australia Day, the topic of racism comes to the fore, polarising the nation between those who embrace, and those who feel threatened by ethnic diversity.
Sadly, I think it is fair to conclude that the majority of Australians are racially intolerant, some more vocally so than others. The cause is attributed to Australian cultural identity, that is completely separate from any religious doctrine. This contrasts, and rapidly conflicts with other cultural identities that blend culture and religion into a seamless ethos. The binding of a religious identity into Australian identity is “tolerated” as ethnic diversity in Australia, but only just, and in a manner that typically irks the average secular ockker.
In Australia, the textbook definition of racial tolerance conflicts with the streetwise reality.
Aside from the inability to engage in any rational or intelligent discussion, it also seems to me that some Australian’s are so insecure in their own identity that they have to fear the identities of others in order to compensate. Today’s example comes courtesy of former cricketer Rodney Hogg. For the sake of his future career prospects Hogg had the decency to apologise for his remark that “Allah is a shit” , however the lame excuse that this was a poor attempt at humour does not cut it. In typical Hogg style, it was just poor form.
I find the visible signs of Australian “culture” such as the beach, surf, outback pub, cricket, vegemite, tim tams, beer, and barbie to be iconic enough, but they do not deliver any values beyond that of a perfunctionary symbol. They are signs that are interpreted to deliver value statements such as a “fair go”, a laid back lifestyle, mateship, and she’ll be right. However I then question, of what purpose such ideas contribute as cultural virtues.
Australia has to find its place in the world with a stronger identity. At the moment we are a nation without a purpose. We remain a colony of the Commonwealth, a quarry of the Asia pacific, a backwater stretch of suburbia linked by endless dessert.
So what should Australia be? My starting point would be to attempt to build a genuinely egalitarian culture that lost its racist undertone. Recreating Aboriginal communities and sharing pride in the indigenous heritage of Australia would be a good starting point. Australia offers the world the outback experience, the mining and resources market, the science of biodiversity, and a unique contribution to the arts. Leveraging this more into the identification of Australiana would contribute more to global recognition of Australia than the current gift of “chill and relax”.
Before we progress pride in an egalitarian Australia, we need to correct the perception of Australia by cleanising our society of racism. You don’t have to move very far to see open racism in the streets of Australia. Take for example this bus shelter on Alexander Drive. Michael Sutherland is an outstanding Member of Parliament who has engaged with the local Jewish community. He recently placed banners near Jewish localities wishing members of the Jewish community happy Chanukah. One of his regular billboards was recently defaced, the vandalism projecting an image that he is a mouthpiece of the Jewish community.
Australian’s don’t like being told that racism is rife in our community, but do need to hear it. We are too dismissive of unsocial behaviour that is built on the basis of racial prejudice. Just ask a migrant of any creed about their experiences in the workplace and beyond. Ask the children of those migrant’s about their experience in the school playground and even moreso about the dismissive way in which racist behaviour is often dealt with.
We are one, we are many, and we are Australian. We can all take greater pride in that when we make it a societal value that Australia will tolerate many things, but that racial prejudice is something that we will not tolerate.