Cultivating hatred: The impetus behind the Anning speech

A seed, in order to grow, must be nourished.  A farmer when cultivating crops puts in the hard yards.  The land must first be prepared, only then can he sow the seeds.  The seeds are then painstakingly cared for, watered devotedly. When the first leaves grow they are nourished with fertiliser.  Then finally, one day, after much effort and diligence, the fruits of their labour will appear.

Just as a seed needs to be nurtured and cultivated before it’s strong enough to emerge, so too does a publically proclaimed idea.   An idea articulated by a person in a position of power is seldom made in a void.  The groundwork must first be laid, and only when the climate is right can the seed sprout.

Much has been made of Senator Fraser Anning’s in recent days. In his maiden speech, he praised the White Australia policy, applauding the immigration program that actively discriminated in favour of Europeans.  He goes on to call for a complete ban on Muslim migration, demanding a plebiscite on which migrants are selected to enter Australia, clumsily calling this measure a “final solution”.   He ironically uses his divisive speech to argue that multiculturalism undermines social cohesion.

Criticism of the speech was unyielding, with both the government and the media showing overwhelming disapproval.  Ministers from both sides of politics condemned the speech in the strongest of terms.  Even Pauline Hanson, who rebuilt her political career on the back of Islamophobia was “appalled”.  Much of the criticism was over his poor choice of words, “the final solution”. An obvious error in judgement, but reading some of the statements you would think the disturbingly poor choice of words to be worse than an open call to discriminate against a minority group.

The question remains begging, how did Anning get it so wrong? How did he earn the disapproval of all sides of politics? What gave him the courage to display such open bigotry?   The answer seems clear. It was the hypocrites who made this possible – the phonies that secretly share his views but cautiously tread the water, careful not to overstep any boundaries, and all the while prompting these vile sentiments.

It was Howard, who sowed the seeds by making it easy for us to hate after his fabrications that refugees and Muslims are the types of people who throw their children overboard into raging waters for some perceived benefit.  Who after sending our army to war based on false intelligence, went on to belittle his mistake, describing it as embarrassing and by doing so relegating the loss of hundreds of thousands of innocent lives as a small blunder.

It was Turnball, who irrigated them in his famous phone call to Trump, where he reassured him that 80% of the refugees in a prospective refugee swap would be Christian, as if non-Christians, namely Muslims, were sub-human and born with an innate tendency towards violence.  Later stating in a national security address that “our success as a multicultural society is built on strong foundations, which include the confidence of the Australian people that their government and it alone, determines who comes to Australia.”

Finally, it was fertilised by Hanson who warned against Australia being “swamped by Muslims”, referring to Islam a disease we need to vaccinate ourselves against, and demonising Muslims whenever given the time of day.

Is it really surprising then, that an opportunist, would use this fertile ground to create a name for himself? Is it any wonder, with our history of arousing hatred and Islamophobia, that an elected official would have the audacity to call for a direct ban on a minority group? Whether Anning’s political career survives the aftermath remains to be seen. Nevertheless, the fruits will emerge and the crops will be ready for harvest, and I dread what this means for this country.




The Danger of Defending Violent Acts

Picture this: A 26-year-old king hits an 18-year-old.  It comes out of nowhere.  The punch is so forceful that the victim is left with a broken jaw and missing teeth.  After the first couple of days where people are critical, the narrative surrounding the transgressor begins to change.  “He is is beside himself,” it is said.  “Good people do bad things.” Some even go further, seemingly showing more sympathy for the culprit. The victim “will be uncomfortable for a week or two and then he’ll be fine”.  In contrast, “the guilt and the shame will live with [the culprit] for the rest of his life”.  Even the father of the victim weighs in,  showing concern for the offender’s welfare amid “this maelstrom which is pretty intense”.

This is precisely what has occurred very publically in Melbourne over the past few days.  The original incident occurred on the football field during an AFL match on Sunday, with West Coast player, Andrew Gaff, striking Fremantle youngster, Andrew Brayshaw. The story has dominated the media since the event and you’d almost have to be living under a rock in Melbourne to be unaware of it.

On the one hand, I admire these comments. On the surface, showing empathy to one who is clearly suffering is to be valued. By defending him they were trying to help alleviate his shame and anguish, exacerbated by the barrage of criticism he faced in the immediate aftermath. I particularly admire Brayshaw’s self-less father who was willing to overlook the wrong done to his son and reach out to a young man in pain. However, given that this episode is not a private matter and played in the public arena, it goes beyond personal views.

The fact is, as some legal experts have implied, if this had occurred anywhere other than the football field, criminal charges would be laid. “I’ve had people go to jail for less,” stated prominent lawyer, Tom Percy.  There would be no media coverage surrounding the culprit’s remorse.  There would be no character references and statements highlighting the importance of separating the act from the person.  There certainly wouldn’t be any words of support from the victim’s father.

It’s not only the double standards that are of concern.  More troubling, is the effect that this saga will have on society at large.  What is the underlying message are we sending the community when sympathies are almost more aligned with the culprit? What are we saying about violence when it is suggested that the violent action should be separated from the person?  And most importantly, how will this impact on the rates of potentially deadly king hits and violence episodes towards women when we emphasise that good people can do bad things?

Andrew Gaff is not merely a man who made a mistake.  Andrew Gaff is a role model and a hero to many.  When prominent individuals defend him after such a violent act, whether they are aware of it or not, they become defenders of all those who commit violent acts.  Maybe he is a good man and maybe the guilt will eat away at him for the rest of his life, but this is much bigger than the apparent suffering of one man.  The defense of Andrew Gaff can potentially contribute to the suffering of countless others, and people need to consider this before making these public statements of support.





When Leaders Betray

Recently in Melbourne, we have heard much about Sudanese gangs. As the new boogeyman, we are encouraged to fear them.  Australia’s minister for immigration, Peter Dutton,  has publically stated that Victorian’s are too scared to go out due to of a fear of African gangs.  Unfortunately, it didn’t end there.

As leader of this country, I thought that Prime Minister Turnball would take a more measured approach.  Being the head of the liberal party I didn’t expect him to completely dismiss his minister. What I did expect though, was that maybe, just maybe, he would try to be a little more responsible.  Maybe he would provide some context and tone it down a little in an attempt to maintain social cohesion.  I was wrong.

After a warning by the Victorian equal opportunity and human rights commissioner, Kristen Hilton, against “racially divisive statements” the government didn’t back down.  Turnball defended his minister, claiming that “there is a real concern about Victorian gangs” and going on to say that “you’d have to be walking around with your hands over your ears in Melbourne not to hear it”.

As a Victorian who evidently walks around with her hands over her ears, I can honestly say that I have never actually come across anybody who expressed any fear towards Sudanese migrants.  Personally, the only fear I’ve felt towards Sudanese migrants has been that of their prowess on the football field.  What I have seen, however, is a lot of eye rolling and frustration towards a government who are dealing with this issue recklessly.

Even if there is a small minority who genuinely feel this fear, this needs to be dealt with appropriately.  Instead of allaying their fears this government has preferred to capitalise on them.  Instead of decreasing the tensions they have elected to fuel them.  Instead of leading responsibly they have chosen to betray those they are meant to represent.

Last week a 14-year-old Sudanese boy walking home from school was viciously attacked.  He was stabbed twice for no other reason than his African heritage, an attack which the media has chosen to largely ignore.  Where are racially divisive headlines when the victim is of African heritage?  Where is the hysteria and hyperbole? Where are the inflammatory government statements?  Sadly this boy was not only a victim of a cowardly attack, this boy was also a victim of the betrayal of his leaders.

Leaders are those who set the standard. Good leaders promote unity and cohesion among those they represent.  Bad leaders create discord and unrest.  Turnball and Dutton, you both have blood on your hands.