Jazz club, 7th Ward.
“Do all dudes have one big testicle and one little tiny one?”
Hieronymus asked, hiking up his poodle skirt as we staggered
Down Main Street in our getup of wigs and pink bonnets
The night we sprayed NEGROPHOBIA all over the statue of Robert
E. Lee guarding the county courthouse, a symbol of the bondage
We had spent all of our All-the-Way Lives trying to subvert.
Hieronymus’s thighs shimmered like the wings of a teenage
Cockroach beneath his skirt as a bullhorn of sheriff verbs
Like Stop! Freeze! and Fire! outlined us. The town was outraged:
The red-blooded farm boys, the red-eyed bookworms of Harvard,
The housewives and secretaries, even a few liberals hoorayed
When they put us on trial. We were still wearing our lady ward-
Robes, Hieronymus and me, with our rope burns bandaged
And our wigs tilted at the angle of trouble. Everyone was at war
With what it meant to be alive. That’s why we refused to be banished,
And why when they set us on fire, there was light at our core.
Kenyan student Philip Maundu of Morehouse College, stands underneath a racially discriminatory real estate sign by Ted Russell
There are very few things that truly tear at and rend fissures into your soul. Very few things feel like that Nietzchean abyss, something we stare into that consumes a part of who we truly are. Something that robs of us an element of our humanity, our ability to choose; our ability to think freely. One of the benefits of the deferred power structure of a Democracy is we’re able to in some ways divest ourselves of the consequences of our electoral actions - we’re only one cog in a machine. We’re only one part of the whole and our own choices, our own vote that we chose to cast has, in the aggregate, no real impact. The small lies we tell ourselves even as we cast a vote do add up. There is some greater psychic toll and even if deferred the balance sheets must equal.
What we’ve seen slowly grow over the past few months is a second incarnation of the Pacific Solution. There are really no ifs, ands or buts to be made about it and any equivocation by ALP flacks and hacks is just that - rationalisation. Overturning this policy was a key plank of Kevin Rudd’s campaign in 2007. Ending the Pacific Solution and entering into a humane regime of onshore processing was the cheered endlessly by the ALP’s base. It is bordering on a Beckett play to see those who would have uproariously condemned the Pacific Solution from 2001 - 2010 now praising and upholding the current ALP Government as ‘courageous’ for reinstating a policy they swore to destroy. Many have called it pragmatism, pragmatism in the face of substantial loss of life on the seas as people have taken whatever means necessary to come to Australia. There is no escaping the death toll, hundreds have died trying to find a better life. The ‘pragmatic’ response though has been anything but. When a boat crashes on the rocks you don’t burn down the lighthouse.
There are thousands of displaced persons in Indonesia that the system is simply not working for. Were they guaranteed an orderly and efficient queue the ‘people smuggler’s business model’ would not exist. People smugglers exist out of necessity, they infect a vacuum where traditional routes simply are not working. The idea of waiting 5 years in Indonesia in squalid conditions with no guarantee that where you are staying tonight won’t be burned down by the police tomorrow tends to make people think about their options. If our politicians were serious about destroying the people smuggler’s ‘business model’ they’d provide a simple and easy alternative, but posturing is far more important than actually improving people’s lives I mean we’re talking about lives here and every extra second spent rationalising policy we’d have spat on 24 months ago is vital.
We have a moral obligation to fulfill our duties to those seeking asylum and we have the resources and people to help make that happen. It isn’t difficult to see that providing a safe, efficient and swift pathway from Indonesia to Australia is squaring the circle. The Pacific Solution worked inasmuch as it existed in a situation where diaspora wasn’t as prominent. Enacting a similar solution today is like treating septicemia with a betadine rub, it’s certainly not a panacea. With the consequences of our foreign policy and military expeditions overseas coming home to roost it’s time to decide as a society that we want a better and more humane solution. One better than TPVs which purely tell people to not get too used to safety. We need to provide a better path for families to come here. We owe it to the world.
I don’t want to be part of a society that tells kids too young to be charged by our own legal system that they’ll die behind bars because ASIO said so. I don’t want to watch a young mind that should be free to create, to explore and to engage with what is the pure magic of childhood slowly crunch through that moral calculus. I don’t want to be a part of a society that has to tell a woman who will never breathe free air because of this system that her only child hung himself because the empty promises of the next life offered the potential of freedom they had been so coldly denied in this one. I don’t think my soul can take it. I’m certainly not sure what material the constitutions of those that rule us are made of, but it seems that their consciences are deeply ensconced inside something impermeable even to the blood and suffering of their fellow humans.
I can’t stop crying
I think the notable lack of appetite for news stories in which white frustration is vented by firing bullets into brown bodies is not because that passtime is viewed as eccentric but because we think it’s on the way out. Stories that exemplify this are viewed with the same relieved disinterest as communist party politics in Russia, c. 1991. Perversely, the fact that we believe we can ignore shame, ignominy and collective guilt to death is the very thing that nurtures despicable fringes everywhere.
The finite westwards distance which had previously permitted Americans to flee the status quo is long run out. A fact that bends our continuing flight into a cycle.
These sentences have a shake in them, a tremor, a flashback. There are so many words I can’t arrange on this screen because lips that would speak them are sewn shut.
To come this far, for an extraordinary rendition to purgatory.
We wait, for the blood to flow. Wait for hunger strikes. Wait for riots to start, for beds to burn, for a man to jump from the roof, for a body to hang from bedsheets. Wait for first words from babies that never come, because their whole family is mute with depression and trauma. Over and over and over again.
The siege of waiting.
Here is my essay on racism.
And may you walk on air by Vanessa Huang
In memory of Shaima Alawadi
What of the way of this world
wild and wavering?
I imagine Fatima’s
you, the silent scream/ of an illegitimate voice
and the terror words knotted
in such rigorous execution.
When you’re returned to Najaf and we’re left
with neighbors in close-knit ceremony
eyes gaping, mouths staring
the sounds of El Cajon’s ghostcattle carry
and we are
still at war.
I rest in knowing
All wars are useless to the dead
as breath grasps
alarm of this ordinary
the iron’s tired grip:
What of this frozen hand,
child lost in shatter
beneath the troped silence?
After Adrienne Rich’s “Implosions” and Costanza Knight’s “And They Would Walk on the Air, Like Climbin’ on a Gate” (image above, from Costanza Knight’s website), with language borrowed from Rich’s “Cartographies of Silence.”
‘Straya Day mate.
The Australia Day Tent Embassy Protest - was one of the Nation’s gravest political security threats? A bit of an over reaction? A media beat up perhaps? Or was there something deeper going on….
The protests were sparked by comments made by the Opposition Leader Tony Abbott that those at the Tent Embassy “move on” after celebrating its 40th anniversary. Some 200 activists from the Embassy traveled to a nearby ceremony honouring emergency service workers, which was attended by both Abbott and Prime Minister Gillard. After several minutes of chants and window banging, the Prime Minister’s security team decide to bundle both Gillard and Abbott out of the ceremony, where Gillard tripped and lost a shoe in the drama. Both leaders were put into cars, allowing for their departure.
It didn’t take long for the moral panic to begin. The protests were “violent” and a “shame” on the Nation, lead by an “angry mob”. Countless column inches were taken up with estimates of how far the protests had sent back the cause of reconciliation. Was it 5 years? 10 years? 20 years? Some went even further. David Penberthy called for the closure of the Tent Embassy, as did Menzies House, apparently seeing no conflict between that and their defence of the free speech rights of Andrew Bolt last year. Speaking of Bolt, he saw fit to use the protests as an excuse to call an end to reconciliation altogether. As Amber Jamieson noted in Crikey almost every major paper led with the image of a clearly frightened Gillard in the arms of personal security accompanied by headlines like “Prime Threat” or the offensive appropriation “Sorry Day” (I’ll come back to that). Laurie Oakes seized on a handful of vile comments to label all those involved in the Tent Embassy as “morons”. Meanwhile, Bob Carr had my favourite piece, seemingly having a brain haemorrhage and going on a bizarre red-baiting rant:
Anyway here we have again the bankruptcy of the old Leftist approach: throw a demo. Every time some respectable body does this – the ACTU or Unions NSW or a pro-refugee group – the same thing happens: on the street the extremists take over. The Trots love a blue, “the worse things are the better they are” and by radicalizing everyone and breaking heads it all hastens the World October, onto revolution, comrades.
Must have been pretty bad right? The black hordes attacking our first female Prime Minister like a scene out of The Birth Of A Nation, right?
Well eyewitness accounts come across quite different to those of the commentariat. Melbourne based writer Wil Wallace was able to interview Embassy activist Sam Castro, who gave a very different account of the days events:
The morning started with speeches being made at the Tent Embassy on a range of subjects until one person stood up and explained to the crowd that Tony Abbott had remarked to the media that he believed the Tent Embassy was no longer relevant and should be packed up and moved on; information had just come through that Tony Abbott was at The Lobby, a restaurant near the Old Parliament House, and the suggestion was made that the group should go there and ask Abbott to talk to the crowd and explain himself.
A contingent of about 100 protesters made their way up the road to The Lobby and surrounded it. Though they were loud and noisy they were non-violent. Security blocked the protesters from getting close to the restaurant for a while but it didn’t take long for a few protesters to break the line and soon the rest had gotten close up against the restaurant’s walls. As the walls of The Lobby are made of glass the protesters could look in and see Mr Abbott and the others pretending not to hear them and, after about ten or fifteen minutes Julia Gillard’s white jacket was recognised and the protesters realised that she was in there along with Mr Abbott.
The conduct of the police and security team is also notably different in Castro’s account:
As more protesters made their way to the restaurant, the riot police charged out the doors, practically dragging Ms Gillard along, while the onlookers began to shout “where are you going?” and “why won’t you talk to us?” As the cars drove off, some people threw plastic water bottles and water at the cars.
At this point things began to get fairly nasty; one protester was knocked into the rose bushes and one gigantic cop started brandishing a can of tear gas or capsicum spray (reports differ on this point) in people’s faces and shoved Sam, another girl and a female photo-journalist in the head.
This account is supported by-and-large by another Embassy attendee, Amy McQuire, who detailed her experience in Crikey, as well as organiser Mark McMurtie. Writing in The New Matilda, Ben Eltham noted that 3AW’s reporter on the scene, Michael Pachi, reported that the “violence” was in fact most loud chanting, whilst participants again reiterated that they only wanted Abbott to make a speech to the crowd. While these claims are obviously subjective, the authors at least have the benefit of actually having been there, something not shared by Penberthy, Bolt, Oakes or Carr.
On top of these accounts is the video of the event. Judging by footage provide by NineMSN, it’s pretty obvious that no protestor ever came close to either leader, and that the only civilians that did were those involved in the media.
Whilst protestors were banging on the restaurant windows, this video shows that it was still far short of anything violent.
Indeed, the only video evidence of physical violence is that committed by the Police, as was claimed by the eyewitnesses mentioned above. Footage shows police inciting and threatening demonstrators and the media, punching protestors and repeatedly ignoring complaints of abuse.
Considering all of this, it’s difficult to see how the protestors formed a credible threat to either Gillard or Abbott. After all, not a single person was arrested at the protest, and as of yet, no one has been charged with any crime. That says a lot about the nature of the demonstration, especially when you consider 20 people were arrested during the crackdown on Occupy Melbourne, which was no where near any National leader.
The reaction to the Tent Embassy protest, by Gillard, Abbott, the Police and the Media provides a uniquely raw glimpse at how the powerful view and treat Aboriginal Australians. Firstly, serious questions have to be asked about why neither Gillard nor Abbott made any attempt to address the crowd. After all, that’s what Anthony Albanese did when a 500-strong crowd (i.e. well over twice the size of the Tent Embassy protest) confronted him outside his Marrackville office in September 2011 over his comments about the Convoy of No Confidence.
Then there is the question of whether the actions of police and security were even necessary. It is difficult to claim the protestors represented any clear physical threat to either Gillard or Abbott. The threat was at least no greater then the aforementioned Albanese protest, or another recent action against Immigration Minister Chris Bowen by Refugee adovcates. Neither protest attracted any where near the amount of Police attention as did the Tent Embassy action.
But then again, it’s not like the Police have the best relationship with the Aboriginal people. Earlier this month saw the death of Terrance Daniel Briscoe, a 28 year old Aboriginal man, within Police custody in an Alice Spring gaol. The official reason given by the Police, that Briscoe had sustained a head injury prior to being locked up, amounts to little more than gross negligence on the part of the Police. Sadly, Briscoe is just one of almost 300 Aboriginal persons who have died in custody the deaths in custody Royal Commission in 1991. As Igna Ting has reported in Crikey, deaths in custody have risen by 50% since 1991 despite some $400 million dollars being allocated to implementing (some) recommendations of the Royal Commission. Between 2000 and 2009, Indigenous incarceration rates increased by 50%, whilst non-Indigenous rates increased by 5%. The proportion of Indigenous people in prison system has nearly doubled since 1991, going from 14% to 26%, whilst remaining just 3% of the population. Indeed, based on the raw statistics, Australia imprisons Aboriginal men at 5 times the rate Apartheid South Africa gaoled Black men.
And this brings me to my main point. In almost all the coverage of the Tent Embassy protest, there has been a deafening silence about the social context it undeniably exists in. The fact is that the Aboriginal people have faced historical and systematic racism that continues to have consequences and is still well and truly alive. Is it really a surprised that this occurred on Australia Day? Despite the best efforts of nationalistic apologists, it still marks the day of the initial invasion of the Aboriginal people, sparking well over a century of attempted genocide and assimilation, all for the cause of starting a massive penal state. That might just be a little offensive.
Similarly, little was said about the present day attacks on the Aboriginal people, the clearest example being the bipartisan Northern Territory Intervention. Started in 2007, the Intervention consists of a serious of policies implemented in 73 remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. There is little evidence to suggest these policy have helped these communities at all, but are more likely to have driven the people further in poverty and stigma.
Efforts to build housing has been notoriously slow, with up to half the funds eaten up by administration. Even with the program beginning to get on track, it is unlikely the Government will meet is occupancy rate (9.3 people per dwelling) without massive waste.
Social funding is being concentrated into “growth hubs”, effectively forcing people off their land despite the known health and social benefits of living on one’s homeland. School attendance has decreased in proscribed areas due to poor facilities and abolition of bilingual education, and despite the use of punitive welfare measures.
On top of these failures comes income quarantine. Those receiving welfare payments automatically have 50% of their income withheld and placed onto a “BasicsCard”, which can be used to purchase necessities at selected stores. The evidence suggests that the BasicsCard has had no effect on consumption patterns of food, soft drink or cigarettes. The cards can only be used in major supermarkets, hence many locally owned small shops have gone bust, whilst forcing people to travel long distances at great costs to shop in the larger towns. There is also evidence to suggest that people are pressured and humiliated into accepting the BasicsCard when they no longer have to. A study of Aboriginal women using the BasicsCard found people were generally confused about why they had been put under income quarantine, that they felt a loss of “respect and dignity”, that they believed Centrelink staff often had paternalist views of Aboriginal People and that many women had stopped reporting abuse out of fear of further quarantining. Income quarantine also uses massive amounts of funds that could be used for social services, with estimates that its administration costs almost 9 times the amount spent on aiding the unemployed find a job.
The NT Intervention has sparked a serious and significant declines in the living standards in the prescribed Aboriginal communities. Under the intervention suicide and self harm, incarceration and child removal have all increased. Is it any wonder that the Intervention is opposed by Elders across the Northern Territory as well as the United Nations. Yet despite all of the failures associated with the Intervention and the stigma it breeds, the Government is committed to see it last for at least another decade under the “Stronger Futures” name. Indeed, income quarantining is planned to be rolled out around the country.
I mention these things because they must be acknowledged to understand what happened on Australia Day. The Aboriginal community continues to suffer the consequences from historical dispossession. Dispossession from the land, their culture, their wages and their families. Hence we have “the gap”, the massive disparity that exists between Indigenous and non-Indigenous persons in terms of wealth, education and health.
But the social context goes further than that. What the Northern Territory Intervention shows is that attempts to “assimilate” the Aboriginal people continues until this day. As a consequence, the racist and paternalist attitudes that justify policy responses like the Intervention are legitimised, strengthened and reproduced. This is especially the case when elements of the media are so explicitly racist. Take Mark Knight’s cartoon in the Herald Sun the day after the Tent Embassy protest, which uses genocide as a punchline. Or the aforementioned “Sorry Day” headlines; because losing your shoe is apparently on par with remembering the thousands of children stolen from their families. Both things are fine if you think the suffering of people based on their race is funny and/or insignificant.
That’s the key for understanding what happened this Australia Day. The harsh truth is that those in power, be they the Police, the Media, or Politicians, have consistently and actively disadvantaged the Aboriginal people ever since “settlement” in 1788. That’s why the Tent Embassy still exists. It’s also why Tony Abbott’s comments were so offensive and able to arouse such fury so easily, because 40 years after the first Tent Embassy, Government’s (and their megaphones in the Media) are content with rolling out policies that do so much damage to Aboriginal communities.
In such a context, is it any wonder that the protestors would be so angry and maybe, sorta, kinda actually didn’t at all harm our Nation’s leading Politicians? The fact that an action where protestors attacked no one and caused no property damage yet can still be labelled as violent displays a distinct authortarian political outlook on the world. While the commentariat cries crocodile tears for the state of the Nation’s political dialogue and the “dignity of the Office”, we should remember that these same centres of power have shown little to no respect for the Aboriginal people.
I’m glad Neil wrote this, because I am disgusted and furious about the reactions to the Tent Embassy protest. People who think that Aboriginal people have no right to be angry and should all “behave” so they don’t alienate us from their cause. The conservative tongue clackers (especially those that dare call themselves left or progressive, what a joke) are not helpful to any cause but that of white assimilation and watered down rights that are centuries overdue.
Neil clearly demonstrates here why people have a right to be angry and how little has changed for the better. Why shouldn’t some Aboriginal people be extremist about their rights? Let’s remember that in other countries, extremist means actions like suicide bombings. Instead we have an epidemic of Indigenous suicide and a small protest being called a riot.
I want our leaders to cower and be afraid, because no matter how many protests we have, nothing changes for the better. There are also a lot of people up in arms about the Australian flag being burnt. Really, if you’re more upset about a flag being burnt than you are about the injustices Neil has outlined above, you are someone I wouldn’t even piss on if you were on fire.
This made my Invasion Day.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard dragged away from a restaurant by security after protestors from the Aboriginal Tent Embassy gathered and banged on the glass walls, yelling “shame” and “racist”. This was in response to comments by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott that the Tent Embassy should close. He actually said, “I think a lot has changed for the better since then…I think it probably is time to move on from that.”
This year is the 40th Anniversary of the Tent Embassy. Another “Australia Day” passes without acknowledgement of invasion, colonialism, genocide, massacres or frontier wars. A government that upholds systems of apartheid in jails and income quarantining and the Northern Territory Intervention; and deaths in custody; and forcing people to move off their homelands; and education and health inequalities, and dying languages and schools where children learn only english; and mining companies stealing and raping land and telling traditional owners they should work on their stolen land to end a so called “welfare mentality”. Happy fucking Australia Day. We still don’t have a treaty and Indigenous peoples never ceded sovereignty. We are not a post-colonial country.
When security escorts a woman
back to the register, you hear
other shoppers whispering
their speculations—the alarm’s
tone before plainclothes officers
flank her at the door, their hands
beckoning to come with them.
And does it matter that
you both are among the few
African Americans in a department
store that once forced Blacks
to shop in the basement, and where
Jim Crow banned your elders from
the dressing rooms? Can all
the civil rights marches and integration
keep you from flinching
at how one of your own
is handled—the officers
jerking their suspect around,
the woman shouting
for them to take their hands
off her. And afterwards,
will anything make this right
again—the gift cards
or the cashier’s apology
after waving the receipt,
explaining she forgot to
disarm the anti-theft device?
One of the most interesting aspects to the piece was a series of comparisons between Islamicphobic commentary and the old anti-Semitic writings found in the Nazi journal, Der Stuermer. The list was compiled by journalist Colm O Broin over at his blog, and is as follows:
Muslims/Jews have a religious duty to conquer the world.
”Islam understands its earthly mission to extend the law of Allah over the world by force.” Robert Spencer.
”Do you not know that the God of the Old Testament orders the Jews to consume and enslave the peoples of the earth?” Julius Streicher.
The Left enables Muslims/Jews.
“The principal organs of the Left…has consistently been warm and welcoming toward Islamic supremacism.” Robert Spencer.
”The communists pave the way for him (the Jew).” Julius Streicher.
Governments do nothing to stop Muslims/Jews.
“FDI* acts against the treason being committed by national, state, and local government officials…in their capitulation to the global jihad and Islamic supremacism.”(Freedom Defense Initiative, Robert Spencer/Pamela Geller organisation).
”The government allows the Jew to do as he pleases. The people expect action to be taken.” Julius Streicher.
Muslims/Jews cannot be trusted.
“When one is under pressure, one may lie in order to protect the religion, this is taught in the Qur’an.” Robert Spencer.
“We may lie and cheat Gentiles. In the Talmud it says: It is permitted for Jews to cheat Gentiles.” From The Toadstool, children’s book published by Julius Streicher.
Recognizing the true nature of Muslims/Jews can be difficult.
“There is no reliable way for American authorities to distinguish jihadists and potential jihadists from peaceful Muslims.” Robert Spencer.
”Just as it is often hard to tell a toadstool from an edible mushroom, so too it is often very hard to recognize the Jew as a swindler and criminal.” From The Toadstool, children’s book published by Julius Streicher.
The evidence against Muslims/Jews is in their holy books.
“What exactly is ‘hate speech’ about quoting Qur’an verses and then showing Muslim preachers using those verses to exhort people to commit acts of violence, as well as violent acts committed by Muslims inspired by those verses and others?” Robert Spencer.
“In Der Stuermer no editorial appeared, written by me or written by anyone of my main co-workers, in which I did not include quotations from the ancient history of the Jews, from the Old Testament, or from Jewish historical works of recent times.” Julius Streicher.
Islamic/Jewish texts encourage violence against non-believers.
“And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution is worse than slaughter… — 2:191.” Koranic verse quoted by Robert Spencer on Jihadwatch.org.
“And when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally: men and women and children, even the animals. (Deuteronomy 7:2.).” Biblical verse quoted by Julius Streicher in Der Stuermer.
Christianity is peaceful while Islam/Judaism is violent.
“There is no Muslim version of ‘love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you’ or ‘if anyone strikes you on the right cheek turn to him the other also’.”Robert Spencer.
“The Jew is not being taught, like we are, such texts as, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself’, or ‘If you are smitten on the left cheek, offer then your right one’.” Julius Streicher.
Muslims/Jews are uniquely violent.
“(Islam) is the only major world religion with a developed doctrine and tradition of warfare against unbelievers.” Robert Spencer.
“o other people in the world has such prophecies. No other people would dare to say that it was chosen to murder and destroy the other peoples and steal their possessions.” Julius Streicher.
Racism; same lunatic beliefs, just cut and paste the people.