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.
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.