I’m living in Australia at the moment, but I’m not an Australian. There’s always been too much about the country that makes me feel like I don’t want to join it, or identify with it.
There’s the racism, in particular.
I’m not talking about the stuff where someone is making conversation and asks a person who is black or Asian, “Where are you from?” Because there’s a possible sub-text of, “If you’re not white, you’re not from here” about it. But it can also be a well-meaning but under-informed person who means, “I think you look fantastic! Where do they make more people like you?”
My point is, it’s always a clueless question to ask, and sometimes there might be a negative racist meaning to it, and sometimes there might not be. But my sympathies aren’t always with the person taking offence. A little bit of polite person-to-person education goes a lot further, and does more good, than all the offence-taking in the world.
Anyway, when I say Australia is a racist country I’m not talking about that kind of thing.
Rather, it’s about the deliberatively, knowingly genocidal history of what has been done to the Aboriginal people. And the incredible, shockingly callous endorsement of that genocide by a fuck of a lot of Australians, once you get them in private. They don’t even need to have a drink in their hand. The day after I arrived in Australia, some quite wealthy, educated guy said to me, “oh, Abos: they should have put out more poisoned flour sacks.”
Then I was in a Post Office and I saw a police notice. They wanted to know if the public had seen some offender. The ad said, “non-Australian appearance”. What that meant was that he wasn’t white. Then I was talking to a cop, who said it was a pity we’d moved out of the old days when they’d just take Aboriginal young men down to the station and “give them a bit of a flogging”. He was a young cop. By “the old days”, he’d mean “about five years ago”.
It’s about the fact that life expectancy for Aboriginal people in their own country is fifteen years less than any other statistical group. Fifteen fucking years.
And so on. And their media is run almost entirely by Rupert Murdoch, and leans so far to the right it’s lying on its side. And “lying” is the word. “Bullying of people who dare to speak out” are also the right words to describe Australia’s craven, contemptible media.
So I don’t love Australia. I love many Australians, and like a lot of others. But the vibe of the place: No, I don’t love that.
Now a group of right-wing nutters and church-ridden homophobes are trying to stop marriage equality from coming to Australia. They’d decided to put the issue to a postal survey, which is calculated to favour the group most opposed to gay marriage, that is, the over-65s, while cutting out the group – just about everyone 30 and under – who most favour gay marriage.
Knowing that no one in that group uses postal mail, or checks their letter box, any more. It’s a “survey” where the homophobes get to have their thumb on one side of the scales.
So … I’m going to have to become an Australian citizen. Not because I love a sun-burned country. The truth is that I don’t. But I approve of love, and if people want to marry the person they love, I’m not going to let a bunch of heartless bigots keep them from having that right.
In the end I couldn’t do it.
I can’t join a country that does to its indigenous peoples, and to refugees, what Australia does.
So I let same sex marriage win without me.
The Government did its best to bias it in favour of the lunatics on the Christian Right, which includes more than half the current government, but polls started to make it obvious that the goodies were going to defeat the bigots by a humiliating margin. So I don’t feel too bad. But I hope Australia sorts out its racism problem. Soon.