Scott Morrison and the racist in the dark alley

So here’s something I’ve been thinking.

Scott Morrison has been saying all the right things in the last few days, both about the terrorist attack in Christchurch and about Anning’s disgusting remarks. He is clearly trying to distance himself from the overt racism of the far right. And this is heartening, as far as it goes. Frankly, if ScoMo has decided that trying to be unifying and bring Australians together is a better election strategy than racism and divisiveness, then I’m all for it. Words matter, and I’m in favour of anything that keeps our multicultural society safer.

Hell, perhaps this is ScoMo’s ‘come to Jesus’ moment – the moment when he sees where the kind of rhetoric he has been permitting leads, and decides to change. Even if it isn’t, I believe that he is quite sincere in his horror and revulsion at this event.

But here’s the thing.

This entire conversation is reminding me of the sorts of conversations we have after a woman is attacked and murdered when walking home at night, or by day, or wherever, by the stranger who comes from nowhere. And we are all shocked and we are horrified and we hold vigils and have conversations about how dangerous it is for a woman to walk alone at night. Because it is so much easier to think of rape and assault as something that is perpetrated by strangers in the dark than the fact that women are more likely to be attacked in their own homes and by people they know.

Fraser Anning is helping ScoMo and his mates quite a bit right now. He is giving them something truly despicable to point at, so that they can say ‘this is racism, and we reject it utterly’. And it is, and they should.

The thing is, though, Anning is that stranger in the dark alley. He and people like him are terrible, terrible people, and we absolutely need to stand against their overt racism – but we must not forget that for every attack by a stranger in the dark alley, there are dozens, hundreds, even, of attacks that we don’t see or don’t recognise, because they happen in private, or because they don’t fit our idea of what an attack looks like.

I think it’s important that we don’t let the government, or the media, or anyone else fool us into thinking that they are fighting against racism because they reject Anning and the acts of terrorists. That is the lowest of all possible bars (and I can’t help but noting that there are those still doing their best to limbo under it).

Pay attention to what else they say. Pay attention to the dog whistles about economic migrants and immigrants who don’t want to fit in. Pay attention to what sort of free speech is protected, and what sort is condemned.  Pay attention to who is allowed to be angry, to be outraged, to react in self-defense, to have their feelings hurt.

There are so many microagressions, so many everyday acts of racism, so many things that we ask people just to ignore to keep the peace, because ‘he doesn’t really mean it’, or ‘she was only joking’ or ‘it wasn’t that bad’.

And it’s true that these things aren’t as bad as murdering 51 people because of their religion, or even as bad as blaming those people for their own murder.  But, you know, something can be not as bad as the worst thing you can think of and still be not, actually, good.  It can, in fact, still be bloody terrible.

You can be less racist than Anning, and still be racist.

I think we ought to be demanding that our politicians do better than ‘not the actual worst’.  We’ve become accustomed to some pretty terrible rhetoric, and I think that’s dangerous – our standards have become so low that we feel faintly relieved that ‘at least’ Morrison referred to the killer as a terrorist.

(And I wasn’t even all that surprised when Dutton tried to claim that the Greens were just as bad as Anning.  Surely that ought to merit more than an eyeroll?)

We need to do better than this.  We need to demand that our leaders take responsibility for the racism and xenophobia that they have been enabling (or at best, turning a blind eye to, for the sake of votes).

But most of all we need to understand that racism doesn’t start with a man murdering people at prayer because he is a white supremacist. It starts with words, with small cruelties, with tiny acts of exclusion.  It starts with all the little things our society does to signal that it’s OK to be a little bit racist, it’s OK to think that people who come from somewhere else, or who worship differently from us might be a bit funny or a bit dangerous or a bit inferior.

And, after all, don’t we care about freedom of speech?

Fraser Anning has said terrible, racist things.  This is indisputable.  But we can’t afford to be distracted by him, or by arguments about the proper use of eggs vis-a-vis politicians of any stripe.

I would love to believe that this is the moment when our society and our politicians look inside themselves and reject racism once and for all. But I’ll need more than a denunciation of Anning to be convinced.

~~~~~

Disclaimer: I’m white.  I have no direct experience of racism, nor have I devoted significant time to studying it.  So this analogy might be terribly flawed.  I welcome comments from those who are more knowledgeable.  (But bear in mind that all comments are screened, and I’m not always online and available to unscreen them.)

Christchurch

I don’t know what to say about the events in Christchurch.  I simply can’t fathom this level of violence, and of hatred, and of cruelty.

For myself, I am not a New Zealander, and I am not a Muslim, so this is not my tragedy – but like many Australians, I tend to think of New Zealanders as our (generally much nicer and more civilised) neighbours, and as a Christian, of course Muslims are my brothers and sisters – we are all people of faith, who are doing our best to live that faith in the world, and I think there is more that unites us than there is that separates us.

So I am thinking of and praying for my Muslim brothers and sisters today, and particularly for those who lost their lives or who lost loved ones in this attack.

And I am thinking of and praying for for all those who lost their sense of safety and of home today, because that’s the nasty aftertaste (and, really, the goal) of this sort of attack – it is intended to terrorise, and to intimidate, and make people feel unwelcome.  It isn’t just the immediate victims who suffer.

I’m so sorry for your loss, and that it was a countryman of mine who caused it.  And that people who look like me have said and done things that make this worse.

Allah yerhamon – may God grant them rest.

~~~~~~~~

There has been a lot of political commentary around this.  Some people have said some very important things, which deserve to be heard.  (Others have said some shockingly awful things which I am not going to link to, because most of these people are exactly the sort of people from whom one would expect terrible things, so we don’t actually need to go and read which particularly terrible thing they said this time.)

Below, I’ve linked to three statements which I think are worth reading / listening to, if you haven’t seen them.  But if you are completely saturated by this news – and honestly, I wouldn’t blame you, I’m going to switch off social media after this and go do something constructive – I invite you to scroll down a bit further, because I’ve made a bit of a list of things you might consider doing to help support / show solidarity with our Muslim friends and neighbours.  Feel free to add your own comments (and if you are Muslim and reading this, and there is something that you would really like people to be doing right now, please comment and I’ll add it as soon as I can).

~~~~

A statement by Jacinda Arden, Prime Minister of New Zealand

Many of those who will have been directly affected by this shooting may be migrants to New Zealand, they may even be refugees here.

They have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home. They are us.

The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not. They have no place in New Zealand.”

(You can read a transcript of her speech here, or click on the link above to watch her statement.)

~~~~

A statement from Waleed Aly, journalist and host of The Project

But of all the things I could say tonight, that I’m gutted and I’m scared and I feel overcome with utter hopelessness, the most dishonest thing, the most dishonest thing would be to say that I’m shocked. I’m simply not.

There’s nothing about what happened in Christchurch today that shocked me. I wasn’t shocked when six people were shot to death at a mosque in Quebec City two years ago. I wasn’t shocked when a man drove a van into Finsbury Park mosque in London about six months later and I wasn’t shocked when 11 Jews were shot dead in a Pittsburgh synagogue late last year or when nine Christians were killed at a church in Charleston. If we’re honest, we’ll know this has been coming.

(A transcript of his speech can be found here, but if you are able to watch the video, I’d recommend it – I found it very moving.)

~~~~

Journalist Osman Faruqi wrote an excellent series of tweets about the way journalism covers far right activism – the start of the thread is here. (You shouldn’t need a Twitter account to access it).  And this Tweet, shortly after the news broke, was heartbreaking to me.

~~~~~

Things you can do

  • If you are in Victoria, Australia, tomorrow is Victorian Mosque Open Day. I’d encourage you to go along and visit your local Mosque – there is a list of participating venues at the link above – and say hello.
  • There are two fundraising appeals for victims and families of victims.  I gather both sites are crashing a lot because of the number of people trying to donate, so you may want to try both of them, or be a bit patient and try again in a day or two.
    • The New Zealand Council of Victim Support Groups has set up a  fundraiser on Give A Little.
    • The New Zealand Islamic Information Centre has set up a fundraiser on Launch Good.
    • If you are in New Zealand and are eligible to donate, now would be a good time to give blood, but I imagine you know that.
    • Also if you are in New Zealand, Restoring Family Links is a website set up to help people who might have been victims of the shootings and their families to find each other (and just to check in to let others know that they are alive).
    • If people in your life say terrible, racist things, call them on it (especially if you, personally, are white, and thus more likely to be taken seriously on the subject).  Even if they are joking.  They may not mean it, but not everyone listening to them will know that, and people who think that those around them share their views are significantly more likely to act on them.
    • If the politicians in your life say terrible racist things, call them on it… no, but seriously.  We all know the election is coming soon.  Write to your local MP, to your local Senators, to Bill Shorten and to Scott Morrison, and make it clear that you are not going to vote for a party that enables and supports racism or Islamophobia.  And if they haven’t denounced yesterday’s events, demand that they do.
    • Getup now has a petition to end scaremongering and bigotry in politics. Signing it couldn’t hurt.
  • Look after yourself and others.  There is a good article here on coping with traumatic news.  Read it, act on it, share it.

2019 Federal Election Virtual Drinking Game

I had so many good intentions for this blog in 2019.  For example, I intended to do a proper write up of who wound up in the Victorian  Legislative Council, and indeed, I have started that post, and even continued that post… I just haven’t finished that post.  It’s been that sort of year.  I hope that I will do so soon, but I think I’d better not make any more promises on that score.

Anyway, with the Federal Election looming, it looks likely that we will be seeing some really ugly and stupid politics playing out over the next few months.  Which… will make the next few months not all that different from the last few months.

I was going to create a bingo game to solace us all in the toxic lead-up to this election, but when I shared some of my ideas for a bingo card with a friend he said “That’s not bingo, because all of those things are guaranteed to happen.”

And, while I don’t think he is *quite* right, there is a seed of truth in his remark.

(Certainly, at least one thing I planned to put on the bingo card has happened in the two days between me coming up with this idea and today.  So while I originally planned not to write this silly post until I had been good and finished my Victorian Election post, I’m putting this up now regardless, before every single thing on it has a chance to happen.)

Which is why I’m turning this into a drinking game.  Or rather, a virtual drinking game, because I don’t want to encourage irresponsible drinking and I think we will all be thoroughly potted if we follow the game plan below.  Mix up the virtual cocktail of your choice and start playing!

Alternatively, if you’d like this game to have some more meaning than our politics currently does, pick a charity – or indeed, a political party – that stands for something you hold dear, and pick a dollar or cent amount for sips, swigs and sculls.  Every time one of the items on the list comes up, put the appropriate amount into a piggy bank, and when the time is right, donate the amount you have raised.  Everyone wins!

(Well, except the Coalition, I hope.  And yes, this drinking game is just as partisan as everything else I write.)

Continue reading

National Holiday

I was born and live on Wurundjeri land.

That probably tells you everything you need to know about my views on Australia Day and whether we should change the date, but when did that ever stop me from writing a blog post?

I don’t actually know a lot about the history of this country before European settlers arrived (which was not, incidentally, on January 26, 1788.  Though apparently that *was* the date the French arrived at Botany Bay, so we should probably be putting snails, not snags, on the barbie, if barbecues are our thing…).

Continue reading

Apology to subscribers

Hi all,

I gather that whenever I add an old book review post to this site, you guys are getting an email.  I’ve checked with wordpress, and there doesn’t seem to be any way to switch this off from my end.  And I’m afraid I’m not even halfway through yet, so there is going to be a lot more Cate Speaks spam coming through your inbox in the next few days.

My best suggestion, if this is driving you mad, is that you unsubscribe for the next week or so, by which time I truly hope I will be done (I truly hope I will be done by the end of this week, frankly), or just keep an eye out for a post here wrapping up the Victorian Election, because that will be the sign that I’m done with adding historical book review posts.

Apologies for the inconvenience, I can imagine that this is very frustrating.

There ought to be a link in the bottom of your email that takes you to where you can unsubscribe – I’m not sure if you will find yourself subscribed to catespeaks.com or to catespeaks.wordpress.com, so if you can’t find your subscription to the first, check the second.

Edited to add: OK, I’m done for now.  At some later date, I’ll incorporate my Goodreads reviews, but there are far fewer of them, and I’ll give you a heads-up before I get started!  Thank you for your patience.

Another year over, and an announcement

Let’s start with the big announcement – Cate Speaks now has its own web address!  I have registered www.catespeaks.com as a domain, and have also bought a WordPress Plan which should make the ads on this website disappear.  This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and it has been made possible by your support through my Ko-fi.com account, so thank you for that.  You might want to update your bookmarks, but don’t worry too much if you don’t remember to do so – the domain maps from the WordPress site, so going to the old site should bring you straight here.

I’ll be making one other change to this website, and that is to start adding book reviews, mostly retrospectively, but you can expect to hear a lot from me on this score in the months leading up to the Hugo Awards.  The reason for this addition is that I’ve been reviewing books in a number of different locations for a while, and felt like it would be a good idea to consolidate everything in the one spot.  (Nobody needs five separate blogs, a Facebook account, a Twitter account, and a Goodreads account.  It’s ridiculous.)  You might get a bit more silly poetry around here, too.  I seem to be in that sort of mood.  I’ll keep tagging everything as appropriate, so if you are just here for the politics, you can easily avoid the frivolity and lowbrow literary choices.

And that’s enough of that – let’s take a look at 2018.

Continue reading

Santa Claus is Coming to Nicaea

Remember how the subtitle for this blog is ‘Politics and Poetry’?  And it’s basically all politics?  Well, this is not really *good* poetry, but what is a girl to do when someone complains about the lack of Christmas Carols celebrating Saint Nicholas (that’s Santa Claus to you) punching Arius (the heretic) at the Council of Nicaea?

I admit, the scansion is less than perfect.  It’s difficult to fit any really sound theology into lines of 5 or 7 syllables.  (And unsound theology has similar numbers of syllables to good theology, as it turns out.)  Also, technically, the bit about the Creed is ahistorical, because that happened *because* of Arius, not before him.  But I suspect that anyone who cares enough to nitpick… is exactly the right audience for this.

(I promise I’ll get back to the Victorian State Election results soon.)

Continue reading

Victorian State Election 2018: Post-mortem Part 1

So it looks like Labor won that one, then.  Which is good, because the main narrative I’ve seen floating around the place has been that Victorians rejected the politics of fear and racism, and that Andrews won by being strong on policy and infrastructure (and, it must be said, on the back of four years of actually achieving a fair bit of what he set out to do).

Is this narrative true?  Well, partially, at least.  I’m sure the mess in Canberra didn’t help Matthew Guy any, though amusingly neither side of politics really wants to admit that – Labor, because it takes away from their victory, and the Liberals because then they’d have to admit to getting that wrong (which Mary Wooldridge very nearly did, in fact). But, while I’d love to think that my fellow Victorians are all highly-evolved individuals who are too intelligent to fall for a fear campaign and too kind to be motivated by racism, I suspect that this is not wholly the case.

Still, true or not, it’s a good narrative, and one that I hope will take root.  “Fear campaigns don’t win in this country” is an idea that I would like to become true.  I mean, wouldn’t it be lovely if everyone in politics went, right, OK, fear campaigns don’t work, let’s make the Federal election about policy instead of about racism and being mean to LGBTQI people.

Continue reading

Victorian State Election 2018: Election Eve

And so, here we are.   Tomorrow, millions of Victorians will get up, locate their nearest polling booth, and vote.  We will collect (or reject) How to Vote cards from the major parties and whatever random sprinkling of minor parties come our way; we will investigate the cake stall and secretly regret that we are too old and too heavy for the jumping castle; we will complain about the length of the lines and the ridiculous size of the ballot paper; and on the way out, we will probably succumb to the lure of the Democracy Sausage, or at least the veggie sausage or the egg and bacon roll.  (And woe betide the rebel who puts the onion on top of his sausage!)

And then we will go home, secure in the knowledge that we have voted and that our vote will be counted.

Here are three things I want you to remember tomorrow.

Continue reading

Victorian State Election 2018: Worth a thousand words?

Well, if I actually go back and count up everything I’ve written over the last few weeks, this election is clearly worth more like 83,000 words to me…

Which is a lot of writing – and also a lot of reading.

If you have been following me on this long, and sometimes disturbing, journey through Victoria’s political psyche, with its egos, ids, and superegos, I think you deserve a reward.

I’ve commented a few times over the course of these posts that it would be interesting to create wordclouds for some of these political parties.  Well, it turns out that http://www.wordclouds.com lets me do just that – and it even lets me choose the colours and shapes so that they can be themed with the parties in question!  So, herewith, for your delectation and delight, the political parties contesting the Victorian State Election – in pictorial form!

Continue reading