A lot of the time when I mention that I have family in Australia I get the same response from people – ‘Oh, right, Australia is really racist isn’t it?’, which I find pretty hilarious coming from people who are ‘100%’ British.
In Australia the movement in solidarity with refugees is way stronger than it is here. Just the other day some activists did a massive action in Melbourne blocking a huge bridge, and demonstrations against detention centres regularly have thousands of people attending.
In other words, in a country with around a quarter of the population of the UK the movement against racism seems to be about 10 times bigger.
Of course, there are historical reasons for this. Australia is a settler-colony, or rather a ‘Commonwealth’ of six different former British settler-colonies. Genocide against the indigenous population was, and still is, brutal. The population of ‘Aboriginal’ Australians is only around 1% of the total population.
So Australian people can see the effects of this. Everyone knows the history of Australia, and everyone except fucking idiots can see that its racist and awful, that a historical injustice has been done that still hasn’t been redressed, so many non-indigenous people have solidarity with aboriginal people, and a general anti-racist mindset which also finds expression in solidarity with refugees.
Not only this, but many ‘white’ Australians are themselves victims of a historical injustice. Their ancestors were brought to Australia against their will.
People like to make jokes about this too. “Oh Australians are all criminals, arn’t they”. Hilarious.
Tens of thousands of working class British and Irish people systematically rounded up, separated from their families and sent to the other side of the world to do forced labour, simply because they attended political protests for their rights or because their local land-owners didn’t like them. Fucking hilarious.
And you know what? Their ancestors don’t have the right to live in the UK. I know white Australians who have had to put on fake accents to try and evade the authorities to avoid getting deported, and I know others who desperately want to come here, and even have children with UK citizens who aren’t able to just move here, despite the fact that this is where their ancestors came from. Bloody hilarious.
In the history of the British Empire there were many other examples of massive forced migrations of people to different parts of the planet. Everyone knows about the African slave-trade. Do people from Jamaica or other Carribean and American countries have the right to go to African countries or to the UK? No.
After the slave trade was ‘ended’ many plantation owners simply replaced their African slaves with indentured labourers from the Indian subcontinent, known as ‘Coolies’, who who basically just slaves who had signed a contract most of them could not read. Many African, Caribbean and other countries have populations of Indian-descended people for this reason. Do they have the right to go to India or to Britain? No.
So when I hear people who have never been to Australia saying everyone there is racist, when they come from the country that has caused all these problems, as well as many more, it seems a bit odd.
Of course if you judge Australia by what politicians and redneck stereotypes say then you will see it as a racist country. That’s basically how i used to look at the United States when I was a stupid teenager.
I basically used to judge America by what George W Bush said, assuming that everyone agreed with him. That was before I started actually educating myself about the radical political movements in US history, and contemporary struggles going on, and of course before I met American people and had proper conversations with them.
We all liked to feel smug, here in Western Europe, during George W Bush’s reign, that we were somehow better than these stupid Americans who were going around bombing people. We like to think how enlightened we were compared to them, even after Britain started bombing Afghanistan and Iraq.
It was like people in Britain thought that there was perhaps a problem with racism in this island once, long ago, but that it was all over now. The Specials and other ska-punk bands solved it all in the 80’s. Now its all a big multi-cultural paradise and the only exceptions are a few Jeremy Clarkson types and stupid politicians.
But guess what – those are the people the rest of the world sees. They see Britain, the former biggest Empire in the world, the cause of all these deep-seated racial problems all over the world due to their divide-and-rule policies, genocidal wars and forced mass-migrations, as a country which is not only NOT making up for any of that historical oppression, but which is STILL promoting imperialism and racism.
So if you don’t think that David Cameron or Jeremy Clarkson represent you, then don’t make assumptions about other countries based on the most right-wing bastards from those countries who happen to make it on to your TV.
In Australia people talk about trying to change the constitution to make sure that the historical debt to Aboriginal people is repaid. Sure, its a struggle that hasn’t been won yet and there are a lot of stupid rednecks in the way, but at least it’s on the progressive agenda.
What the fuck is on the progressive agenda here in the UK? Making slightly less cuts to public services? Electing an old Islington lefty fart who can’t even govern his own party and wants to govern one of the most powerful states in the world? Letting a handful more refugees come into the country, only because the current war in Syria is so unbelievably horrific that people feel sorry for them?
Something like a million people, which is more than 1% of the population of the UK – more than the percentage of the Australian population which is indigenous – are undocumented migrant workers in the UK, working for shitty wages of around two pounds an hour, in awful conditions, in constant risk of getting detained and deported.
Does the ‘progressive’ movement in the UK give a shit about this? Ed Milliband actually mentioned it a few times, which surprised me, but no actual Socialists, Anarchists or other radical progressives ever do.
This is the BIG RACIST ISSUE of the UK right now, apart from historical reparations for the crimes of the Empire. Who is talking about it? Who is going to do something about it?
The Asylum system is fucking stupid. It makes people lie. Most people, even if they come from a country where they are persecuted or where there is War, actually want to get a job in the UK, but they have to apply for asylum and pretend they don’t want to work. So then there are in the position of having to work in the informal economy- the black market, where there are no rights.
Of course there are lots of people who are really traumatised and don’t want to work too, and if it were up to me then they would be allowed to sit back and get loads of benefits, which is NOT what happens to most people.
But the thing is, people have still got family back home, so even if they ARE traumatised not only from the persecution and war they left behind, but also from all the crazy oppression they went through in all the countries they passed through to get from there to here, they STILL want to get a job to send some money home.
So even if you are an Asylum Seeker or a refugee you still should be allowed to work. Asylum seekers AREN’T ALLOWED TO WORK. Did you know that?
So there are at least a million people who either managed to get into the UK without getting caught by the authorities and who have to stay under the radar, or who have applied for Asylum just because its the only way they can get the right to stay here, and who are having to work without the authorities finding out, which is perhaps even more stressful than just being a straight-up undocumented migrant worker.
So here’s a radical ‘progressive’ idea: Equal Rights! What if all workers had the same rights, regardless of where they were born?
Wouldn’t that fit in with the Enlightenment ideas of Liberalism that supposedly our political system is based on? Wouldn’t that be something for ‘progressives’ to fight for?
Then maybe you could feel justified in calling other people racist.