Saturday, July 06, 2002

I have an unprovable and unpopular theory that when John Howard announced in the lead up to the 2001 Federal election that "We will decide who comes to this country and on what terms" that people responded less out of your actual racist antipathy to 'dangerous foreigners' than out of a sense of relief that someone had at last said something that put the country first. In other words, after nearly thirty years of being told that due to the 'forces of globalisation' we had to privatise government services, sell off public assets, deregulate banking and every other industry, reduce worker entitlements in order to remain 'competitive'', integrate ourselves into international institutions like the WTO which by their nature undermine our own control over economic and social policy - in other words, having lived through nearly thirty years of neo-liberal reforms that were constantly presented to people as not only desirable, despite the obvious pain they caused, but also as 'inevitable' and for which they was 'no alternative', people were hanging out for someone to say, hey, what happens in our country matters and what's more, I'm going to act as if it did. Howard's famous phrase filled the bill nicely. Of course it is unfortunate that it wasn't about globalisation and did in fact tap into some of the nastier elements of racist Australia, but I reckon to read it entirely as some sort of racist backlash and harking back to 'white Australia' is a pathetic oversimplification.

What's more, it let's the rabid 'globalisation' touts off the hook way too lightly.

I can present only limited evidence for this of course, though I reckon once you start to give it some thought, there is some logical force to it.

Anyway, sort of related is this note from my sister-in-law, which should be vaguely encouraging for all those, like Hilary McPhee, who are in serious hand-wringing mode.

(Incidentally, it seems to me there are a whole lot of lefty intellectuals (like Don Watson and Hilary McPhee) suddenly popping up now who are lamenting Australia's 'move to the right' and the lost 'moment' of multicultural tolerance who in fact never acknowledged said 'moment' and in fact, throughout the entire 'moment' continued to chastise Australia and Australians on the same terms that intellectuals have since 1901. In other words, having never conceded any progress in these matters when in fact we were living through such progress, they now, in hindsight, seek to claim, say, the early eighties to the early nineties as some sort of 'golden age' from which we have strayed. So having never acknowledged it at the time, they now back-construct that period in order to use it as a weapon with which to hit Australians over the head and so continue with the usual game of superior disdain for yer 'average Australian'. Neat trick.)

Anyway, here's the little note my sister-in-law passed on:

"One more anecdote - I went to Circus Oz last night, at the Town Hall.
It was as it always is. The interesting thing is that, at the end,
one of the performers invited the audience to put money in a bucket
for refugee support groups. A cheer went up and - honestly - the
people holding buckets were mobbed. Instead of rushing out the door,
the audience headed straight for the collectors - they pushed and
shoved to put their money in a bucket. I've never seen anything like
it. Remarkable."