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How lucky can any one country be?
It is a tragic irony of Australian existence that a country -- a continent -- the size of Europe can be so much the same shore to shining shore.
Among its 23 million peoples there is seemingly very little difference one person from the other.
We speak the same language. Deploying the same accents. Follow the same sports. Watch the same TV channels.
We are Rupert Murdoch’s play things. Hell -- he’s one of ours.Local boy makes good.
The most monopolized media networks in the western world make sure that the political debate doesn’t drift too far to the left.. We may have a national broadcaster -- modeled on the BBC -- but that too is very much under threat today.
In this mix is the long standing national expectation that this is indeed ‘the lucky country’.
Aside from a comparatively buoyant economy sustained by the boom in mining and mineral prices, we have not known civil war, famine, political cataclysm, invasion or relentlessly bad cricket scores.
Stuck in the South Pacific -- a first world country surrounded by various foreign lands we seem blessed. Despite the turmoils to the north over the years, the mass slaughter of at least half a million communists next door in Indonesia in 65/66, the Vietnam War savagery, the long term genocide of the people of East Timor…Australia could go about its capitalistic business as though its marooned in fairyland.
The wee scattering of islands to the east in the South Pacific may be sinking under rising climate-change driven seas but all we see on our shoreline are sandy beaches and an excuse for a suntan.
This sense of containment has been fueled for over 200 years by the overbearing dominance of Anglo Celtic peeps as the root stock of the country’s existence. The keen attempt to wipe out the indigenous population may not have worked as it was intended but for most of its existence the country has had a White Australia policy.
Supposedly ‘we’ know who we are. As the Labor Party immigration minister quipped in the 40s, “Two Wongs don’t make a white’.
This sameness is sustained by xenophobia. Fear of the ‘Yellow Peril’ was utilized as a backbone of Australia’s foreign policy for decades. The nation ignored Asia and preferred to mix it with 'ole Blighty. If anything Asia was seen as a series of land masses that only served as potential stepping stones for godless communism.The domino effect dominated national consciousness.
To defend the land from the occupation of the REDS -- Vietnamese, Chinese, Indonesian or Malay -- Australia made a pact with the United States and the ongoing alliance has ensured that there is hardly a bang up shooting war worth fighting that Australian hasn’t got a hand in.
Our government cheer-squaded any and every US invasion. It garages its bases. And defers to its foreign policy interests.
When the country sought to top up its population in the post war years it begrudgingly allowed non English speaking Europeans into the place and later engineered the demographics under cover of the nationalist ideology of multiculturalism. And lo! folk started migrating here from all over. This shift didn't have anything to do with opening up the country to ‘huddled masses yearning to be free’ but it was a gesture to those markets --like Asia, the local bourgeoisie sought to draw their profits from.
Walking through the Central Business District of any Australian state capital today you’d think the place was some melting pot of all the world's peoples. In the street would be people of Chinese, Arab, Slavic, Maori, Italian...or whatever descent. You’d presume that fortress Australia -- the chronic isolationism of the country -- had been drowned in a melting pot of mixed ethnicity.
You’d be very much mistaken.
Australia is much more racist today than it has been for over 50 years. A conscious tag team exercise, sponsored by both the country’s Labor Party and the local Tories, has bought back a xenophobia under sponsorship of the War on Terror.
And in an irony of political manipulation there is a new push to base the national identity on its Anglo Celtic past rather than its ‘multicultural’ present.
Indeed if you were wondering what ever happened to the old South Africa with its apartheid habits and sharply divisive racism -- I tell you: it crossed the Indian Ocean and now resides in Australia.
This country may not have a crudely xenophobic racist outfit like UKIP rising in the polls. We don’t need it. The duopoly of the two main political parties -- the ALP and the LNP -- are doing a fine job of racist bashing and blaming by themselves.
If you check out Australia's standing on human rights -- according to the United Nations -- in the way the country incarcerates asylum seekers, manufacturers and treats ‘terror suspects’, or suppresses the aboriginal population -- we’re up there among some of the most autocratic countries on the planet.
Way to go Australia: Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!.
We’re not just good at sport, making Kylie Minogues or servicing Dame Edna Everidge with anecdotes...Australia has engineered a very nasty attack on civil liberties at a time when the true depth of austerity and economic downturn has not hit.
How smart is that? We have a boss class that thinks ahead.