Posts tagged with “Australia”

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Prized and Reviled: Parenting choices are important

Yesterday, the Labor Government chose to cut special welfare payments to single parents. For those who began receiving payments after 2006 – or who stopped receiving payments at any point after 2006 and later went back onto them – they’ve already been forced onto the dole, but yesterday marked the day that all single parents were forced onto it. I think it’s important to note that yes, on the very same day Julia Gillard made her now world-famous speech attacking Tony Abbott for his personal misogyny, her government was directly attacking single parents, the majority of which of course are women. Hmm, that is some true genuine anti-sexism there.

In this context, this is a great blog post by a single mother, talking about just how difficult it is to get by financially when this is the situation you’re in. It’s so worth a read, just do it, okay.

One of the women I work with is pregnant, and she’s trying to work as much as she can now to save up money to have something to fall back on when she can’t work any more. It seems hard enough to me to sustain yourself and live independently when part-time, casual work is all you can get, let alone sustain a dependent, too — or more than one! It just sounds like a nightmarish situation, and of course there needs to be better childcare, no discrimination when it comes to jobs and housing, and more fucking money going towards people who need it — but oh no, our government “can’t” manage that because their priorities are corporate profits, not people’s welfare. Shame.

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Attacks on Africans in Israel

Over the past two or three weeks, there's been a lot of stuff written about the intense racism against, and violent attacks on, African refugees in Israel. One thing that's notable about these attacks is that Israeli leaders, like Netanyahu and Interior Minister Eli Yishai, have enthusiastically spouted racist justifications for the attacks. In my own country, Australia, there's also a huge amount of racist violence – I could point to the spate of attacks on Indian students not many years ago as a good example – and of course, our politicians try to underplay their significance and deny they're racially motivated and so on and so forth. Sometimes a right-wing backbencher will slip up and make the kind of hideous comment that you know more senior people are just itching to say, but nonetheless, even in as racist a country as Australia, comments like the following are reserved for the far right:

If we don't stop their entry, the problem that currently stands at 60,000 could grow to 600,000, and that threatens our existence as a Jewish and democratic state. This phenomenon is very grave and threatens the social fabric of society, our national security and our national identity. — Binyamin Netanyahu, quoted here

The migrants are giving birth to hundreds of thousands, and the Zionist dream is dying. — Eli Yishai, quoted here

...well, to be fair, I guess Australia has no equivalent of a "Zionist dream". However, just to follow that up, I can't resist adding this quote that you could hear from the mouth of almost any mainstream Australian politician:

Most of those people arriving here are Muslims who think the country doesn't belong to us, the white man. — Eli Yishai, quoted here

Wow, damn those people who think this country we conquered and ethnically cleansed doesn't rightfully belong to us!!! What's the deal with that?!

No, seriously though – and echoing a lot of the thoughts already put out there about this spate of attacks – this violence is not some kind of aberration, or bewildering occurrence in the great and glorious land of Israel. This violence is the natural product of the Zionist project. The State of Israel was created out of the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, who (and whose descendants) Israel has pledged never to allow to return. It's a state whose very premise is that it is the Jewish state. Yes, it has a non-Jewish minority, and this minority is routinely referred to as a "demographic timebomb", a threat to "the Jewish character of the state" by virtue of their gentileness. Sounds like a racist state to me!

As many of the articles about this have mentioned, Israelis view their nation-state as a kind of fortress under siege, but what they fear is not necessarily confrontation... it's that people might live there who are racially "other" from them.

An article by Michael Warschawski made an interesting point in this vein; that is, African refugees are being demonised with much the same rhetoric used against the Palestinians. They are all "infiltrators"; a dichotomy between "us" and "them" is clearly drawn. On the other hand you have what Eli Yishai described as "the white man", and on the other everyone else, the "infiltrators".

As Warschawski also mentioned, it's not just non-Jews who constitute the "other" here; it can also be non-European Jews, "non-white" Jews. The base of Eli Yishai's very own party, Shas, is among these non-European Jews who, feeling hard done by in this racist society, took pride in that at least they ranked higher than the Palestinians. I would also point to Israel's treatment of Ethiopian Jews, about which I read a little months ago. Not only do Ethiopian Jews experience discrimination in areas like employment, housing and so on – which is bad enough! – but considering Israeli fears of a "demographic timebomb" it's also significant that Ethiopian women in Israel are being put onto a form of birth control that is long-lasting, with well-known adverse consequences. As it also describes, the Israeli state has a history of trying to limit the births even of non-European Jews, reflecting the kind of obsession with racial purity that is at the heart of this state.

Settler-colonial states, like Israel and Australia, are founded with racism at their core – and particularly in a state like Israel, in which anti-racist struggles have been fewer and weaker, this kind of hideous racism is natural. There's a reason we call Israel an apartheid state; perhaps it's not genuinely the only one remaining, but it's probably the most extreme.

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I don’t think silence in the face of unfairness leads to greater equality.

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The Age: Indonesia's radical shift

The Age is pretty well-known as Melbourne's premier liberal newspaper, champion of all those who believe (whether they're honest about it or not) in "the white man's burden". (Or the white woman's, sometimes. Here in the enlightened paragon of progress that is the West, we don't discriminate!) This article, about attempts to prevent Lady Gaga from performing in Indonesia, is a perfect example of this.

What it seeks to do – and incredibly unsubtly – is create some kind of dichotomy between laidback, friendly and welcoming Indonesians (who all embrace Western influence and commercialism with open arms, of course) and the one or three % who have views which most people consider extreme. And of these radicals, it makes sure to stress that:

...the new radicals are the fully funded creatures of Saudi Arabia's own attempt to project power. They are spurred by a familiar anti-Western sentiment and the fantasy of creating an Islamic caliphate.

...never mind that Saudi Arabia is, oh, one of the United States's closest allies in the Middle East, and approximately as devoted to commercialism as one could imagine. No! We all know that Saudi Arabia is oppressive and therefore anti-Western, goddamnit!

And in counterposition to them, there is Lady Gaga, unashamedly described by Bachelard in the following way:

Lady Gaga may not see herself this way, but she is an expression of America's incredible ability to project soft power. Inviting and provocative, she promotes Western values of individual liberty and commerce using sex appeal and pop hooks. She's bisexual, beloved of the gay community and performs virtually nude.

Firstly, there is the typically liberal correlation between commerce (capitalism!) and liberty. Secondly, there is the fact that Bachelard reckons that America wants to use its power to "promote Western values of individual liberty", which I'm sure is a fine thing to tell all the civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan – and anywhere else the US has bombed the crap out of – whose individual liberty to live the United States prized very highly as it massacred them in warzones or killed them with drones. And hey, if the prison at Guantánamo Bay is not a symbol of liberty, I just don't know what is.

I disagree with trying to prevent Lady Gaga performing, but I disagree much more with the idea that the West should be imposing "its" will on anyone, not even in the name of "Western values" which – let's be honest! – are not particularly "Western" at all. What little individual liberty we enjoy in the West today took a hard-fought battle against these very same states who try to use it as an excuse to dominate other states. Furthermore, for the vast majority of us it remains so illusory! We need incomes, we need to survive; we get locked into routines and structures and obligations we resent, just like ordinary people anywhere else.

All in all, this piece is a miserable attempt to justify narratives of Western superiority, the source of our supposed authority to dominate the world. And in promoting this mantra once again, The Age could be commended for its consistency, but not for anything much else.


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