There’s not much in the news to cheer one up these days. However, I guess even a bit of serious irritation is a change from down right depressing. What could have irritated me so?
According to an article in The Age, Hannah Pool from the UK’s Evening Standard has decided after a stay of some few days in Sydney five years ago that “Sydney [is] racist, sexist and deeply backward.” She further says that Australia is homogenous and its national mood is smug. She backs up this view by citing the recent anti-Semitic comments by Mel Gibson and the anti-Muslim comment by Dean Jones which have been widely reported in world-wide news. Well, obviously she’s done some really deep research there.
This kind of attitude really gets my goat. In every country and in every city there are ignorant people who are afraid of difference. I was wandering around in a city in Japan when the Japanese equivalent of the One Nation party drove past in a car with a megaphone, booming out slogans against gaijin and their filthy excesses. Immediately after they had passed, a man came up to me to apologise, embarrassed that I had heard such opinions. I told him that every county has stupid people like that, and I certainly wasn’t going to draw any negative conclusions about Japan from the incident.
I have lived for a number of years in England, and was constantly having to face the accusation that because I was Australian, I was a racist. One person expressed this opinion, and then a day later told me I shouldn’t go to the off-licence down the road because it was run by a “Paki” (no irony or self-awareness there at all).
Another girl accused me: “You do horrible things to Aborigines in Australia!” I said that the history there was certainly not great, but on a personal level, I had never done a horrible thing to an indigenous person. I then explained that part of the problem was that colonial Australia got its attitudes straight out of Britain, so essentially, Australian racism was just a reflection of British racism. I then asked her what she had to say about Maralinga.
“What?” she asked. “What’s that?”
“You know, where the Poms tested nuclear bombs on Aboriginal traditional lands, what about that?” I asked.
“I’ve never heard of that; I don’t think it happened,” was the mature response. Score one to the Legal Eagle.
Actually, from what I observed, the level of racism in England was pretty much the same as here. I saw anti-Semitism, anti-Indian and Pakistani sentiment, anti-Asian sentiment, anti-Scottish/Welsh/Irish sentiment…you name it, I saw it. But I don’t conclude from that that all English are racist, or that England is a racist country. Far from it. I take people as I find them, and don’t make gross generalisations about them just because they come from a certain country or background. Isn’t that what tolerance is all about? This silly journalist has just proven that she’s the kind of person who draws a generalisation about a nation of people from a brief interaction and two newspaper articles. Hang on a minute…isn’t that racist?