I was planning to write this article during the ‘Karen the Environmentalist’ debacle, when the government was mocked for painting a picture of a ‘radical’ environmentalist who lived in forest camps and dabbled in direct action. I found it particularly funny because it described maybe a quarter of my university friends, and Karen’s exit from radical environmentalism would be commonly referred to as ‘selling out’. But I was a bit dismayed that very few people focused on the more nefarious content in the deradicalisation guide, the fact that it was designed primarily to target Muslim extremists. Two of the four case studies were clearly to do with Muslims (Jay and Khazaal). Without going into an extended analysis of the text, it’s interesting how Erin the Racist was able to self-direct herself out of white supremacy into moderate acceptable racism, and Karen the Radical Environmentalist profited off her values, while Jay the Muslim Extremist needed to have it beaten out of him with jail, while Khazaal, for all we know, is still rotting in prison. It really highlights the different approaches the state has to ‘radicalisation’, depending on the demographic it comes from.
But then the Parramatta shooting happened, and I thought it’d be best to wait a while before presenting a contrary view to the mainstream take on radicals. There was also a certain peace before the storm, when Turnbull came out saying we needed unity and no one should target Muslims for this crime. But after a day or so, the onslaught of press and political hatred rained down on Muslims, as well as numerous raids on suspected terrorist houses (most released without charge) and the policing of the school Farhad Jabar used to go to, including the arrest of one of his schoolmates for inflammatory social media postings.
And, while it’s sad that I must do this, here’s a disclaimer: I don’t support the actions of Farhad Jabar, and normally I wouldn’t feel the need to have to say this. But as this is a public article, I feel like I need to make it clear that I’m not a supporter of his, or any Islamist group, or any terrorist group, etc.
A few days ago, Tracie Aylmer wrote “Protesting for protesting sake?” for The Australian Independent Media Network. Having attended the 5th of April protest at Villawood Detention Centre, her second after March in March, Aylmer was astounded by the level of disrespect and violence shown towards the police. Her accusation was that protesters were there to clash with police, and that we should have been more like the Mothers for Asylum Seekers (MFAS): “gentle and caring ladies, who deserved respect.”
The main problem with the article is that it reeks of pacifist liberalism. I have no issue with MFAS and the work they do inside detention centres; people contribute in different ways, and they certainly do more work on the inside than I could hope to do. But I do have an issue with the author (who apparently isn’t part of MFAS but defends them as model dissenters) arguing that passivity is the best form of action, and publicly throwing the protesters under the bus by claiming they were violent.
I won’t focus too much on the racial and exoticising elements of her article, droning on about how she really like Hazaras because they are “peaceful” and “gentle” and “refuse to fight back”, as if fighting back is a vice and being slaughtered is a virtue, and as if this is even true with Hazara militias in various places around Afghanistan and Pakistan (but thank you for your evaluation of different ethnic groups, white saviour.) Her caricature of the defenceless Hazara victim parallels her analysis of protest: that people should not fight back, that people should stand still and get mowed down so white Christian mothers can weep for you.
Some people – conservatives and libertarians – have problems with those who oppose the Commission of Audit’s – and, very soon, the Abbott Government’s – proposal to charge $6 (or $5, there seems to be confusion amongst the news networks about what it is) to see your general practitioner: or, GP. This FAQ aims to answer some of their political challenges masked as innocent questions.
Before we begin, the main reason given in order to support this scheme is to cut ‘unnecessary’ GP visits i.e. disincentivise people from going to the GP for non-serious issues, and therefore ‘better target’ people who really need medical attention, as reported in the Daily Telegraph. In other words, lines are too long and we need to deter people away from misuse.
For anyone that knows me, you know that I believe the University of Sydney Union is a joke. It’s a joke because of what it does, what it fails to do, and how it is organised. But you pay around $100 a year to fund it, and it’s the self-declared centre of student life, and you realise it has a $20 million budget, and that it’s the first non-academic thing most students see when they first enter university, and it’s not so funny anymore.
Four years after starting University, and what was once an organisation I admired for its bars and student societies and democratic control is now what I am most disappointed in after finishing my studies and facing graduation. What follows is a list of my frustrations with the Union.
This is an edited version of a comment I made in the USYD Ethnocultural and People of Colour Collective regarding the debate between class/materialist politics and identity politics following a blog post by Tim Scriven. In order to respect collective autonomy, I have edited out mentions of other people in the group and their comments. Other things that have changed include the statistics for the gay marriage/minimum wage polls, which are based off a David Sirota article, that were slightly inaccurate the first time around.
I believe quite strongly in class struggle. I don’t think the analysis of class struggle as the primary struggle is one that says workers are more important than other oppressed groups, but rather, that oppression will not completely end until the class distinction between the bourgeoisie and proletariat is eradicated. Class politics is not opposed to intersectionality, because nothing in class politics denies that oppressions can overlap. Class, after all, is not an identity (even though Marx talks about ‘class consciousness’) but a mode of existence and a stratification in society. You can’t self-identify as proletariat or bourgeoisie – it is just something you are based on your positioning within society and capitalist means of production. It’s partially why I don’t think the term ‘low SES’ is that useful. I’ve read a lot of articles on the issue of class that came in after Marx, and the argument is that for class struggle to win, you need the liberation – or at least, the beginning of the liberation – of women, queer people, people of colour, people with disabilities, etc. However, the opposite is not true: there can be leaps forward for women within the capitalist state while maintaining the oppression of other groups.
Not only that, but there will always be an underclass of any oppressed group while capitalism still exists. There may be more female parliamentarians, quotas may be achieved for boards, etc. but that will just widen the gap between working class women and bourgeois women. Until class is abolished, the place of women within capitalism will not be abolished: the role of unpaid domestic labour, the role of the mother. That’s why so many modern socialists incorporate gender politics into class; even old socialists like Emma Goldman were renowned for being materialist feminists. There is not much point in making sure that women enter the ruling class, because that just changes the demographics of your oppressor rather than substantially liberating the oppressed. To put it another way: why does it matter if there are more female police when ultimately they’ll still be brutalising the working class while propping up systems of oppression, including the patriarchy? Same with class and race, and the politics of imperialism and fascism as functions of capitalism. Crises of capitalism lead to the Nazi Party – just one example of the connection between economic and racism. Another is warfare, a product of capitalism and the competition between states. War creates the nationalism that generates racist scaremongering.
I wrote a Facebook status about this, but I wanted to say more but couldn’t really in the context of a…status.
I’m not going to pretend I’m a hardcore activist, that I’ve been to all the rallies or spend all my time organising. But I consider myself someone who cares about the world and what happens in it, and that I want to change the things that happen to negatively affect our lives.
Which is why, in the aftermath of any action like the strikes, I feel so down – when reading the comments from people who mock or criticise or condemn us when we just want to make the world better.
I can understand why people would be upset by being yelled at, or being blocked at a picket line. That isn’t what makes me sad.
It is how, after putting our bodies on the line, coming face to face with violence, being spit on by the media, fighting against people and corporations with billions of dollars, taking action, organising with others, showing solidarity with others, defending each other, there are still people who will do anything to put us down.
Thank you for motivating me to write on my blog again. I didn’t think it would take over-the-top racism on national television to make me angry enough to revisit this, but clearly it did.
Before you mention it, I should note that there have been multiple responses to this bullshit ‘news story’ on a shopping centre in Castle Hill giving space to Asian-targeted shops in the mainstream media already. Some of these were local pieces that rebutted, well, every claim you made of ASIANS TAKING OVER, including this piece by the Hills Shire Times. In fact, you did your own response to your story which you started off by dichotomising “suburban mall” and “Asian supermarket”. But more of that later.
Once again, thank you for making me so angry. It’s a cathartic experience that justifies ignoring oncoming assessments.
I finally watched the Q&A episode with Turnbull about refugees. The debate around asylum seekers is so flawed it is ridiculous. Watching the show was like watching two intelligent politicians headbutt each other to prove who was the manliest, only to step back every now and again to make witty quips to show they weren’t just brain-dead apes. The refugee debate has become hijacked by partisanship, but not in the way the ALP and the Liberals would like you to believe. No, it isn’t just an issue of the ALP needing to win the Malaysia Solution and the Liberals needing to win Howard’s Solution (‘Pacific’), it’s an issue of winning the debate to say No! to foreigners, No! to refugees, and No! to immigration. You see this pervasive in the union movement with anti-foreigner sentiment.
Anyway, this bullshit about border control has gotten the public so fixated on being anti-boats that I’m starting to doubt the future of an Australia where something positive like same-sex marriage can get support but something like on-shore processing can’t. Perhaps we need more celebrities. Here are a few points I just don’t understand are actually bought in to by the mainstream press / voters:
As anyone who will be reading a blog written by a hack and publicised on Twitter and Facebook will probably know, the USU Board recently approved of a club called ‘LifeChoice’ that aims to (1) “promote the dignity of human life from conception till natural death”, (2) “foster discussion on the issues of abortion and euthanasia”, and (3) “provide information about alternatives to abortion and euthanasia”. The club is also, in order to achieve its aims, planning on “regular small group discussion on life issues aimed at group members” as well as “the holding of public fora on issues related to our aims aimed at the university community at large”. (All quotes taken from the ‘LifeChoice Sydney Constitution’)
In other words, an anti-choice – or, what people called inaccurately pro-life – group (although I feel as though many people haven’t focused on the equally-sinister-goal of opposing euthanasia. Both issues are issues of bodily autonomy).
But enough of that – there is enough very accurate and very meaningful material floating around the social networks about why this is disgraceful, a lot of it written by people who have more right to talk about it, i.e. women and male-identifying people who can become pregnant. What I want to focus on is the ‘purpose’ of the USU, or University of Sydney Union. A lot of debate has invoked things like ‘free speech’, ‘diversity’, ‘safety’, ‘progressive politics’, etc. I think the purpose of the USU has been called into question, and what role it has in the university, and also why it seemingly allows any club to exist on campus. Obviously this will be tied into the LifeChoice issue too.
I’m going to keep this short: shut up about factions and independents. A lot of the USU campaigning cycle, as well as post-USU commentary, has gone back into the faction vs. independent debate, with a lot of vitriol directed both ways. I think both sides have a point, but both sides sometimes seem to be talking over each other without speaking on the same level. I’m going to explore this mess. Often I’m caught in between factions and independents, and it is kind of annoying. For full disclosure, I’m a member of the grassroots left at Sydney University, but you probably knew that if you’re reading a blogpost about student politics written by me. This is me trying to find consensus (hah!) between both sides of the campaign, and why I have issues about well pretty much everything to do with student politics.