I was going to write about this sooner but following the completition – for the most part anyway – of the site’s design I decided to go for a full format and in the process have been busy, as well as loosing internet for the better part of the day. Anyway.
There’s plenty of news reports around – CNN, BBC, Forbes (problems grow to Adelaide & Perth), The Age (mostly AP reports); hell, Google News has 1000+ stories on it – so it’s pretty much reached international incident status [aside: this is what it takes for Australia to get on the news? sheesh]. Each report has its own spin, as the media is wont to have, inevitably, but these are the facts that i’ve gathered so far:
- 2 Lifegaurds get bashed by a gang of “youths with Arab or Middle Eastern appearance” (all of which have now been arrested by the way).
- A week of simmering tensions ensue, with much anger at the supposed “attack on the Australian way of life”, since lifegaurds are an integral part of the Aussie beach culture.
- Sunday: Rally of “white” Australians in Cronulla – a prominent beach suburb with a overwhelming majority of Australian residents, generally above average economic profile. Majority of ‘rally’ participants are from other parts of Sydney as Cronulla is easily accessible by train, young, and fuelled by alcohol. Rally quickly turns ugly as people with non-“white” skin are attacked simply for being in the area. Police step in and riot ensues. Ambulance attacked while treating on the victims of the mob.
- Sunday night, Monday night – gangs of “Arab youths” go to suburbs of Cronulla and Maroubra – a similar suburb, but further north and closer to the city. Cars smashed and various other incidents of violent vandalism. A number of arrests made.
That’s the bare facts of events. I missed the events of the first day in detail because I was out for a dinner (lovely at that, but perhaps inappropriate in this post). From what I gather though, there’s no doubt that the so-called rally was pretty much something designed to have the effect it did – to inflame the situation and push it to breaking point.
I used to live in Sydney, 5 years ago. I will be living there from next year. Both of these things make this incident very relevant to me. I’ve never seen racisim on the scale that was shown Sunday, but it’s something that to some extent doesn’t surprise me. The school that I went to had a large number of Lebanese – “Lebs” – and they made no pains to hide their gangish nature. If one is attacked, you can bet your bottom dollar the group will react with punitive force. It was widely known that you shouldn’t “mess” with the lebs, because quite frankly the result was writ large. But I never felt uncomfortable around Lebs. They were a nice bunch of people; I played basketball with them daily. You just didn’t want to get the group pissed off – but then, the same could be said of any large interconnected community with a beligerent element to it. The people I was threatened by were Aussies – no generalisation here, that’s just how it was. Some of my best friends were Aussies, but that stands apart from the belligerent aussies who saw me as the weaker prey who didn’t have a gang at his back. It never became too serious, but suffice to say enough was exchanged.
So when I see this kind of riot, I shake my head. I know exactly the type of people that would go there. Little Matty Ryan I can bet was in the front of that line, the damned runt. Today on SBS News there was an interview with a representative of the “Australia First” party, a direct descendent if there ever was oneof the One Nation party and its leader Pauline Hanson that divided opinion so many years before. They’ve admitted that they gathered people to participate in this racist riot that abuses the Australian flag as a symbol – wrapping themselves in it much like Hanson’s images for the One Nation party. That is what truly, truly sickens me.
The Lebanese – or whoever is responding with vandalism and petty, random destruction – are also at fault for their response to the riot, but the escalation is laid at the feet of the dickheads who decided they’d have a bit of a lark and attack anyone whos skin wasn’t white. One of the dicks interviewed on TV said he was a “third generation” Australian and he wouldn’t stand for the muslims [fact: Lebanon is majority Christian] spoling his country – what, does that somehow validate your action, that your family has been here longer than the other guy? Bullshit.
I’d say the majority of Aussies are tolerant and great people, but there’s a not-insignificant portion that would be called rednecks in America and neo-nazis in Germany. Racism and xenophobia thinly veiled by supposedly nationalistic motivations accompanied by a lack of education, money and job are tempramental mixes at best. The politicians will make a stand here, but it’s going to be a rough ride to the finish until the dickheads on both sides either get a grip or get arrested.