none so deaf, none so blind

mens group 1

We have a friend, well, actually he is Mr FD’s friend from university days, so he is an “old friend” in many ways. Over the years we have maintained the exchange of Christmas greetings and occasional visits. Now Mr FD and Friend are semi-retired and have more time to use social media and exchange media.

An issue has arisen in that friend, a baby boomer as we all are, has a very binary world focus. This was highlighted recently when on a recent current events panel program on television, a man asked a question about tax cuts and then had to suffer the arrows of the public media as his private life was trashed. He asked one very respectful question to a politician and the hounds went for his throat. Friend was one of the hounds.

It seems that the if you fail in anyway, you must be punished. Everyone must be held responsible for who they are and what they do. It doesn’t matter if you are mentally ill, intellectually impaired, been mentally and physically abused, a member of the Stolen Generation, or any of the myriad other issues that work against children from the minute they are conceived.

Once, Mr FD and I probably would have held a similar opinion, but through the years, education and life experiences we have completely walked away from such a binary paradigm. If generations of your family have been used and abused, if you have been born with foetal alcohol syndrome, if you grew up in abuse and violence, extreme family dysfunction and poverty, can it really be expected that you are going to make all the right decisions in life not to end up on welfare, homeless or with a substance abuse problem?

I am not saying that a murderer shouldn’t be imprisoned. I am asking that a wider lens than black and white be applied. Friend cannot entertain the position we hold and has taken to writing long editorial type sermons on social media casting against our personal views. We have taken the steps of blocking him, sadly.

Mr FD doesn’t have a large number of friends, but he has decided to part from this particular friend, for he finds his opinions and behaviour abhorrent. Obviously friend always had these views but due to the small amount of contact we were able to overlook or tolerate his views through politeness, but now that he airs them daily on social media, and within the inner friendship group, his racist, narrow minded mindset is fully revealed.

If you sit by and say, or do nothing, are you not saying that prejudice is all right? Does it not reinforce postures that destroy individuals and divides society? As I explain to my students if you stand by and do nothing, then you are part of the problem too.

Mr FD has told friend why he can no longer sanction his views, and of course friend then had to make some very personal attacks on Mr FD, even suggesting that Mr FD has severe mental issues (and we all know only I can say that!). Friend just can’t tolerate the idea that someone may not think he is the fountain of all knowledge and that his edicts are incontestable.

My point is, that no matter our age, or what stage of life, we need to reflect on our values and acknowledge that just because we were friends with someone one, doesn’t mean we will always remain so. I think it is important to know our values, to stand by them and to live our lives accordingly. I also refuse to give up hope that one day friend will experience empathy for those who have the harder road in life.

ANZAC DAY

ANZAC DAY

UNTOLD STORIES : Today is ANZAC day and as a nation we celebrate all Diggers! But did you know that over 1000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders fought for Australia in World War 1 – even though they couldn’t vote and were not recognised as citizens in their own country? Many who tried to enlist were rejected on the grounds of race – but for those that slipped through the net – they rode in the Light Horse, they climbed the slopes of Gallipoli, they fought and died in the trenches on the Western Front. And they would not have thought their sacrifice more than that of any other Digger. They all volunteered to put their lives on the line for their country.

Australia Day

Today is Australia Day, and I guess I should write something about that.

Today is Australia Day. On Friday night, someone graffitied Captain Cook’s cottage that has been so painstakingly taken apart and transported from its original Yorkshire site in England to the city of Melbourne.  Saturday morning I woke to read a text message from a colleague that referred to Muslims. It linked Australia Day, Muslims, naked Australian women and beer drinking Australian males in a manner that was racist towards Muslims, but also, and perhaps this did not occur to my colleague, beautifully illustrated the “ugly” Australian image that so brings on more than just my cultural cringe.

Cooks' Cottage graffitied

I am not sure what either action means ultimately, but at the very least it shows that there is a lot of anger out there. Australia Day seems to bring that out in our hordes.

Australia Day when I was a child was largely ignored, except for a few communities where, if they had access to a beach, or a creek bank would dress up in replica British uniforms and before 1967 when we started thinking that hey, the indigenous actually do have some rights,  force some unlucky local indigenous to play startled and welcoming conscripts to the British Empire as Governor Phillip claimed the east coast of Australia for King and Country.

For a while after that, during the seventies and the division caused by the Vietnam War, I think we tried to forget Australia Day, except for the holiday part. Don’t ever try to part an Australian from their right to a public holiday. Not if you don’t want your kangaroo tied down, mate!

Then we wrestled the America’s Cup (yachting) from the Americans and somehow there was a gradual revival in the big day.

Every year, we are reminded by actions such as the graffiti that many indigenous people call our national day, a day of mourning, or for mourning. Who could blame them? The wide open country is yours, your culture is flourishing, your civilisation quite sophisticated, and along sails a flotilla of boats stacked with smelly, criminals, the great unwanted of the British elites, and illiterate soldiers to take away your world as you know it.  Disfranchised is the new black.

A couple of years ago, there were race riots, but not between white and indigenous, but with some of our more recently arrived immigrants, the newly disfranchised.  The news showed bare chested Aussie males wearing rubber thongs on tanned feet, Australian flags draped over their shoulders having a stoush with various ethnic groups on a city beach.  Add alcohol as it always is, and violence erupted.

What I remember most is feeling intensely ashamed of who and what, we as a nation are. We brand ourselves as multicultural, one of the “best experiments” in multicultural; as if we could return to “before” if the lab results weren’t favourable .  Or better still, develop one multicoloured pill and accept each other in the morning.

So, this Australia Day, as I wait to watch the evening news to see how it unfolded. I can only hope that this year the ugly Australian will not dominate. This year, I hope that we can progress in accepting each other, tolerating each other, learning about each other, and being a true multicultural nation. Though with Indonesia lining war ships up along their sovereign ocean borders to fend off those refugee boats that we Australians voted to turn back to Indonesia, where they also do not belong, I doubt that much will change.

And my colleague’s email? I would have hoped that they knew me well enough to know that I wouldn’t find that so humorous. Obviously, they don’t, or they didn’t read the hate and the harm in the context.  My action has been to ignore it. No LOLs.  It is a response that ever since has left me feeling less like the good guy. Does my not saying something actually seem like a form of acceptance, or agreement? But then again, if I say something, I could harm a very important work relationship. It is like that story that goes something like, “they came for the village next to mine, and I did nothing, they came for my neighbour and I did nothing, and then they came for me…” Where do I draw my line – for me or the other guy?

Am I nothing but an ugly, or at the very least, a weak, Australian as well?