Nationalism and Racism in Australia
"Personally, I think it is only the beginning."
"We have witnessed this weekend amongst the worst violence that I have ever seen in my policing service of 40 years," Police Commissioner Ken Moroney said. "Never in my working life did I ever imagine a mob, a drunken mob, turning on a woman, an innocent woman, who happened to stray into their path."
What gets me is how quickly the media describes the native Australian mob as "white supremacists" yet we never read the phrase "Islamic supremacist." Are the Aussies rioting really white supremacists or are they just anti-Lebanese / anti-Arab / anti-Muslim? Did these so-called white supremacists attack all non-whites? Or did they just attack people of Arab descent, which in this case means Lebanese immigrants? Is this a "race riot" or is it a local backlash against a particular group of immigrants? The crowd chanted "F--- off, Lebs!" Sure it's ugly, but to my ears that is anti-Lebanese and anti-immigrant but not the same as chanting "white power."
Yes, there were skinheads and neo-Nazis involved, hundreds of them. But I don't believe that the crowd of 5000 were all or mostly white supremacists. I don't believe these people share the ideology of white supremacism in the sense that they believe all non-whites are biologically inferior to whites. They aren't attacking Chinese or other non-white ethnic groups, at least in the reporting I've seen. I suspect most of these people are Australian nationalists. Hence, "the mob started singing Waltzing Matilda" and chanted "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie ... Oi, Oi, Oi". Nationalism is entirely different from white supremacism. The media and government elites may find that repugent. You might think that's ugly and repulsive. But nationalism and white supremacism are very different ideas, attitudes and motivations. By labeling the problem as racism the authorities will go about proposing the wrong solution to the wrong problem.
A race riot is only solved by changing the subject who holds that belief since the victims cannot change their race. But nationalist riot is solved both by adjusting the attitudes of the nationalists (the ubiquitous calls for 'tolerance') and by changing the attitudes of the victims, in this case the Lebanese immigrants. They cannot change their race but they can become Australian in their values and behaviors. Listen to the Aussies. Are these the rants of neo-Nazis who hate all non-whites? Or do they have specific grievances with members of a particular ethnic community?
"I've got a four-year-old girl and a boy who's 11, and they see these bastards come here and stand around the sea baths 'cos their women have got to swim in clothes and stuff, or they see them saying filthy things to our girls."
"Look, these Lebs are coming here and giving us shit and we're not going to take it any more."
"We crew here. You flew here." (Variations include "We grew here. You flew here.")
The Lebanese "come here, they disrespect the women, they disrespect the beach. They just, they just leave a lot of hate here." "It wasn't until two lifeguards got beaten up that everybody said, you know what? And I'm sorry for the language, but fuck this."
Listen to "friends and long term local residents Sue and Marilyn." Speaking of the Lebanese: "The thing that scares me is what is Australia going to be in 50 years time? I've got a 10-year old grandson, and what is it going to be like for him, unless they can change the law, and I don't think that'll ever happen now. I mean, they've got no respect. They've got no respect for any of our laws."
Listen to State Liberal MP for Cronulla, Malcolm Kerr: "Well, there's been a history of trouble of these gangs basically insulting, abusing people. That's turned to violence on a number of occasions, and then you had last Sunday, where a couple of lifesavers were injured. ... People have been abused, spat on, insulted, ... So there has been that level of antisocial activity, that level of bad behaviour, and I think the population are now finding that intolerable."
So, Cronulla is a hotbed of racism? Listen to the local Turkish kebab shop owner. "The problem is I think they (the Lebanese immigrants) come in groups, just to… these locals feel uncomfortable, because they start teasing the girls and this, that. I think it's not very right, because I've been here six years, never had a racial problem, they never called me racist or you're Turk, what you doing here, this that. I was happy with here."
"Hamish Fitzsimmons: So as a person of Turkish descent, you've never had any trouble at all?"
"Halouk: No, no, not at all."
The Australian government and media will paint this as an outbreak of Aussie racism and label the thousands of rioters and their tens of thousands of supporters as Nazis. No one will dare ask about the root causes. No one will try to address the concerns of the non-Nazis in the crows because the official line will be that they were all Nazis. Meanwhile the Arab attacks and counter-Attacks will be portrayed as a legitimate response by a victimized community. At best this defers the problem for the future, when it will be much worse.
The Age gets close to the real issues. "The questions to be asked of political leaders, and law-enforcement chiefs, are these: how was it that community relations in Sydney's south degenerated to the point where young toughs of Middle Eastern origin felt entitled to harass girls on the Cronulla beachfront, only to beat unconscious a volunteer lifesaver who sought to restore some decorum? " ...
"Clearly, there has been much anxiety and tension in this part of Sydney for some years. Allegations in 2001 that Lebanese youths had specifically targeted Anglo-Australian girls for gang rape became a white-hot issue after a local Islamic leader argued the young women ought to accept some blame for their attitudes and dress sense."
I think the riots and attacks have much less to do race than with what the Aussies consider to be acceptable public behavior, especially toward women, and how the Lebanese act. The "Lebs" don't act Australian. The Aussie resent being told to tolerate people who act intolerably. The Aussies resent having to change their behavior to accommodate people who won't accept the community standards. Sound familiar?