FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Picking Hatreds in Oz

by BINOY KAMPMARK

The play Hate, written with sparkling venom by Stephen Sewell, is a bitter, corrosive account of a wealthy Australian rural family.  The family is political, the scheming father John Gleason, a believer of hate – for it is hate that built the country, hate that oiled its system of plunder, its cavernous mines and finally, hate that that led to patricide.  That, the audience is assured, is the raison d’être of Australian existence – to have built hospices of misery upon massacres and worship the material, to have no oratory, only vicious demagoguery. To be, all in all, conquistadors without even poetic sense.  (No, there is no Cortez awed by an Indian civilization comparable, if not superior to his own.)

What then, of the suspicions, dare we say hatreds, being paraded in Australia by the Dutch right-wing politician Kurt Wilders, who is doing what all politicians wish for in their careers: speaking on a lecture circuit. Wilders is strumming the tunes many Australians, at least of a certain demographic, wish to hear.  This, after all, was Gleason’s country – at least after it was viciously appropriated.

At his Wednesday address to the conservative Q Society of Australia group at the La Mirage reception centre in Somerton in Melbourne’s North, the Prophet Muhammad was singled out for special treatment.  For Wilders, he was a savage leader of robbers who cut and plundered their way through Medina.  Islam remains less a religion than “a dangerous and totalitarian ideology”.  Australia’s soldiers were praised for showing mettle against such fanatics.  A person called Inez, attending the address by Wilders, feared the introduction of Sharia law policed by bearded fanatics.

The reaction from various politicians and activists in Australia appeared on cue.  West Australian Premier Colin Barnett barred the intrepid Dutchman from government buildings.  “I don’t want him here.” Protestors such as Nadia Shamsuddin see Wilders as a still target, regarding his “promotion of oppression and racism” as “appalling in a civilized world” (Sydney Morning Herald, Feb 19).  Raj Rao, Shamsuddin’s husband, suggested that the Koran praised one message: “peace and submission to God.”

But Wilders’ brazen rhetoric is an echo of Australian suspicions.  There is even a sense that the Dutch populist has misread the climate, coming to a country with one of the most inventively paranoid border control mechanisms in the world. Here, the poets do not legislate.

Wilders is a magnet for hypocrisy, the mad man who provides ample distraction for those who actually implement the spirit of his recommendations.  The figure himself is barely to blame.  He feels he has struck gold, finding quarries that will keep him in Dutch politics for a long time to come.  A bigot is simply a person who doesn’t change the question.  He is unimaginative but consistent.  His opponents are, however, unimaginative and inconsistent.  They ignore the fact that Australian governments have, since the 1990s, adopted a brutal policy that certainly targets cultures and religions by suggestion, incarcerating boat arrivals without charge while they are quarantined and “processed”, preferably offshore.  The excision legislation never states religion or culture as sources of discrimination, merely the means of arrival as improper.  Arrive by plane with the papers, or don’t arrive at all.

Wilders simply gives voice to a pre-existing sentiment.  And he has fans who, unlike those functionaries in the Labor government, say what they believe.  The Liberal senator Cory Bernardi, a fine confection of homophobic and racial fears, has come out in full support of Wilders, beating the tom toms for a man he feels is being unjustly treated.  The bug bear here is Islamic fundamentalism.  “These fundamentalists are the same people who want to kill Wilders and establish Sharia law under a global Caliphate because Muhammad commanded them to back in the 7th century. And yet, it is Widlers who is characterised as an extremist” (Sydney Morning Herald, Feb 21).

The point an otherwise insensible Bernardi is making is that people are picking and choosing their hatreds from the carousel of goodies.  Some are deemed better than others.  The Saudi Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, a man on record as calling Jews “apes and pigs” will speak at the Australian Islamic Peace Conference in March without fanfare.  He, no doubt, will find himself most welcome in Australian government buildings.

Australian society has always had its shallow roots in some form of populism, with a tincture of agrarian socialism thrown in. The image of the wealthy land, verdant even in a hostile environment, was always suggestive – an island mentality was just as easily transformed into a fortress one.  Plunderers have their pecking order, first in best dressed.  It might have been the fears of Japanese encroachments – those of Alfred Deakin in the early 20th century, the discussion about “improper” east European Jews arriving after World War II, or the “Asian immigration” debate of the 1980s.  In the 1990s and the first decade of the new millennium, the potential thieves and fellow plunderers, assumed different forms, wearing hijabs, and bashing another religious text. The currency of hatred never depreciates in a remorseless environment of plunder and acquisition.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

 

 

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 01, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Four Morning Ducks
June 30, 2016
Richard Moser
Clinton and Trump, Fear and Fascism
Pepe Escobar
The Three Harpies are Back!
Ramzy Baroud
Searching for a ‘Responsible Adult’: ‘Is Brexit Good for Israel?’
Dave Lindorff
What is Bernie Up To?
Thomas Barker
Saving Labour From Blairism: the Dangers of Confining the Debate to Existing Members
Jan Oberg
Why is NATO So Irrational Today?
John Stauber
The Debate We Need: Gary Johnson vs Jill Stein
Steve Horn
Obama Administration Approved Over 1,500 Offshore Fracking Permits
Rob Hager
Supreme Court Legalizes Influence Peddling: McDonnell v. United States
Norman Pollack
Economic Nationalism vs. Globalization: Janus-Faced Monopoly Capital
Binoy Kampmark
Railroaded by the Supreme Court: the US Problem with Immigration
Howard Lisnoff
Of Kiddie Crusades and Disregarding the First Amendment in a Public Space
Vijay Prashad
Economic Liberalization Ignores India’s Rural Misery
Caroline Hurley
We Are All Syrians
June 29, 2016
Diana Johnstone
European Unification Divides Europeans: How Forcing People Together Tears Them Apart
Andrew Smolski
To My Less-Evilism Haters: A Rejoinder to Halle and Chomsky
Jeffrey St. Clair
Noam Chomsky, John Halle and a Confederacy of Lampreys: a Note on Lesser Evil Voting
David Rosen
Birth-Control Wars: Two Centuries of Struggle
Sheldon Richman
Brexit: What Kind of Dependence Now?
Yves Engler
“Canadian” Corporate Capitalism
Lawrence Davidson
Return to the Gilded Age: Paul Ryan’s Deregulated Dystopia
Priti Gulati Cox
All That Glitters is Feardom: Whatever Happens, Don’t Blame Jill Stein
Franklin Lamb
About the Accusation that Syrian and Russian Troops are Looting Palmyra
Binoy Kampmark
Texas, Abortion and the US Supreme Court
Anhvinh Doanvo
Justice Thomas’s Abortion Dissent Tolerates Discrimination
Victor Grossman
Brexit Pro and Con: the View From Germany
Manuel E. Yepe
Brazil: the Southern Giant Will Have to Fight
Rivera Sun
The Nonviolent History of American Independence
Adjoa Agyeiwaa
Is Western Aid Destroying Nigeria’s Future?
Jesse Jackson
What Clinton Should Learn From Brexit
Mel Gurtov
Is Brexit the End of the World?
June 28, 2016
Jonathan Cook
The Neoliberal Prison: Brexit Hysteria and the Liberal Mind
Paul Street
Bernie, Bakken, and Electoral Delusion: Letting Rich Guys Ruin Iowa and the World
Anthony DiMaggio
Fatally Flawed: the Bi-Partisan Travesty of American Health Care Reform
Mike King
The “Free State of Jones” in Trump’s America: Freedom Beyond White Imagination
Antonis Vradis
Stop Shedding Tears for the EU Monster: Brexit, the View From the Peloponnese
Omar Kassem
The End of the Atlantic Project: Slamming the Brakes on the Neoliberal Order
Binoy Kampmark
Brexit and the Neoliberal Revolt Against Jeremy Corbyn
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Alabama Democratic Primary Proves New York Times’ Nate Cohn Wrong about Exit Polling
Ruth Hopkins
Save Bear Butte: Mecca of the Lakota
Celestino Gusmao
Time to End Impunity for Suharto’’s Crimes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste
Thomas Knapp
SCOTUS: Amply Serving Law Enforcement’s Interests versus Society’s
Manuel E. Yepe
Capitalism is the Opposite of Democracy
Winslow Myers
Up Against the Wall
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail