As an Australian, it behoves me to venture an opinion on the "race riots" on Sydney beaches this week. I grew up on Sydney's beautiful sandy beaches then moved to the inner Western suburbs in my teens, I held a Sydney taxi driver's licence for 5 years and I think I have a pretty good feeling for what is going on down there.
While there have always been simmering tensions between the "surfies" and the "westies" in Sydney, it is impossible not to link these latest disturbances to the Howard government's relentless, fear-based, xenophobic, violent and illegal war-mongering. Indeed, our new anti-terror laws could even be used to prosecute those involved (more here).
The individuals involved are not just tanked up on alcohol - they have been fed a steady diet of adrenalin-pumping violence on their TV news screens for over two years, enhanced by expensive government advertising campaigns exhorting them to be alert and vigilant against a mysterious, unseen "enemy". Faced with this relentless fear-mongering, people naturally feel a primal need to DO SOMETHING - whether it is to fight their perceived "enemy", or fight the relentless stereotyping of themselves, their friends and their families. Sadly, I think riots like this are an inevitable consquence of a bogus war based on lies and simplistic xenophobia.
John Howard denies the linkage:
Yet the Howard government has successfully exploited an underlying current of racism in every one of the elections it has won. Australia is a worse society as a result, and we deserve the criticism of the international community.
"Violence, thuggery, loutish behaviour, smashing peoples' property, intimidating people - all of those things are breaches of the law and I don't think the actions should be given some kind of special status because they occur against the background of this or that," Mr Howard said.
This cartoon says it all, really:
Predictably, voices within the right-wing Murdoch press have quickly come out as apologists for the racists. Rather than stoking the flames, they should be apologizing for their own role in feeding the fire.
There's something else that I want to say here, and that is this: my family have been force-fed this same bullshit for the past few years. My kids see images of violence on the TV news night after night. They ask me about Iraq, Saddam, the war and Australia's involvement in it. My Mum is 63 and she frets about these things. It becomes personal, like it or not.
And always, it all goes back to the war and the original lies about the need for a pre-emptive invasion.