Sunday, June 16, 2013

Who Cares What The Irish Think?

Following on from my last post, it's been a quite horrifying week in Australian politics and the media - and the rest of the world is beginning to notice. Last night I shared the shame and the outrage felt by most of us over what is happening in Australia on seeing this article from the Irish Times on how the media's treatment of PM Gillard shows the alarming extent to which sexism is tolerated here. Sometimes it takes the views of an outsider to see ourselves as we really are, and the situation in Australia at the moment, reflected from overseas, is worse than we could have imagined.

The shame was felt by most but not all, including a few feminists, such as Jane Caro. I first admired Ms Caro's work on the TV show The Gruen Transfer, and followed her on Twitter after agreeing with a lot of what she had to say on education funding and feminism. But I was rather shocked and appalled to see this interaction overnight:



(That's me with the smashing hair and the lack of an "n" on the end of decision). So, Ms Caro will dismiss the views of everyone from Ireland, based on a law that most people don't even agree with. Isn't that sounding suspiciously like...racism? Look that's not a criticism I throw out lightly. As I pointed out to Ms Caro, imagine the work of an Australian writer on gay rights being dismissed because our law forbids same sex marriage? (I received no reply). Or it being said that Australians have no right to comment on cruelty to children, anywhere, because of our shameful policy of locking children in detention. To summarily dismiss the views of everyone from Ireland based on an antiquated law (which did indeed lead to a horrifying tragedy, the death Savita Halappanavar) seems grossly unfair.

Ireland is, it shouldn't need saying, a diverse nation with people covering the full spectrum of opinions. And I think why Ms Caro's words stung is it points to an undercurrent of racism against the Irish I've felt my whole life. "Racism? What? I love the Irish", everyone says. They love the Irish, with their Guinness and story telling and oh-so-cute accents. It's a patronising kind of love, like you'd feel for an adorable child. The Irish are just so cute, with their pub music and tempers and fondness for alcohol and antiquated laws. We can't take them seriously though, on the grown up issues. They just do what their church tells them, dear lambs, and have no place in debate. Think I'm kidding? It's happened my whole life; I'll be at a meeting or a party, having a normal, grown up conversation, and someone will detect a hint of accent. "Where are you from?" they ask, I say I was born in Ireland, and next thing I'm being asked in a silly accent about the gift of the gab and being offered Guinness, even though I don't much care for the stuff and would be drinking it already if I wanted some. (And the next person who says "to be sure, to be sure" is going to get it in the kidneys). No wonder in recent years, when asked "Do I hear an accent?" I just shrug and say "must just be your imagination". I'm denying my heritage cause I'm sick of dealing with this crap.

Considering the other, endemic forms of racism in Australia I know I, and the Irish is general, haven't got much to complain about. But still, it was rather startling to see this from someone who no doubt considers themselves progressive. I just don't think any degree of racism is okay.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Australia, Let's Call The Whole Thing Off

I hadn't intended to return to posting yet - I've still got exams ahead - but my head is swirling with disbelief and shame over the week we have just endured in Australian politics. Well, I say I've endured it, but really it's Prime Minister Gillard who has had to put up with the worst, the disgusting, the puerile, the insults no one should have to endure. Now, as an actual socialist and bleeding heart lefty, I'm always amazed when Gillard is described as such, and not particularly fond of her as a politician. But look. No one should have to face what she has to in a daily basis - this week, the publication of a menu circulated at a Liberal party fundraiser describing her anatomy in the crudest terms, and being asked if her partner is gay, whether they actually have a sexual relationship, because he is - wait for it - a hairdresser. This, towards the Prime Minister in 2013. I'm sorry Australia, that's it. We can no longer be trusted with independent nationhood. We need to break up the country, sell our assets to pay repatriations to the Aboriginal owners of the land, make profuse apologies, and all quietly go seek asylum in other countries. We had a flourishing democracy, a robust economy, a free press, and we dribbled it away, took it for granted, abused it, and we don't deserve it any more.

Jokes aside - no matter how vulgar or sexist or plagiarised - I'm sure Gillard will cope. She's tough. Tough enough even to cope with the label of murderer. Following the tragic drownings of asylum seekers attempting to reach Australia by boat - and the horrifying decision by Australian officials to not attempt to retrieve the bodies - right wingers have been declaring Gillard/Labor/the Greens to murderers, responsible for the deaths by failing to "stop the boats". Presumably by their logic, if they hadn't been lured by Gillard's largess into making the fatal ocean trip to Australia, said asylum seekers would have gone on to live long, happy lives elsewhere. It's all B.S. of course. Those on the right don't care what happens to asylum seekers as long as they don't have to hear about it. Crocodile tears from the right over the deaths of people they would happily send back to die in their own countries, or in refugee camps in transit states - that is the new low in Australian politics. I'm not sure things can sink much lower, pardon my use of the word.

Gillard was also accused this week of playing the gender card by raising the topic abortion. I believe every person, male or female, who finds themselves facing an unwanted pregnancy should have the right to decide what happens to their own bodies. Abbott has sworn he will not meddle with abortion laws, declaring it to be a state matter and washing his hands of the matter. Well, maybe. First of all, here in NSW, abortion is still technically a crime, although the procedure is routinely carried out under legal loopholes, regarding the physical and mental health of the mother. Besides, funding for abortion under Medicare is a federal matter. Don't like having to pay through your taxes for what you consider murder? Well I don't really relish paying soldiers to go to Afghanistan to blow kids' heads off, or for doctors to strap down baby boys and gouge off their foreskins, or for Tony Abbott's hundreds of dollars per day in "expenses" whilst on charity bike rides. 

What I don't like either is the worry that if the contraception my husband and I rely on fails, I could be legally prevented from seeking to end a pregnancy that could cause great physical and mental harm, due to what some guy's god thinks, and the deals he strikes to get bills through parliament (never mind that my religious beliefs hold that life begins at birth, and that as life is sacred, an abortion must be performed if it is necessary to save the life of the mother). I don't want to have to rely on loopholes or permission being bestowed by a doctor - considering doctors ignored my begging for a cesarean for two weeks until my baby had grown, unnoticed, so large and so stuck they broke my ribs finally getting him out, I'll rely on my own decision, thanks. Abortion laws in Australia are already a mess, and I don't want things getting any worse. Australia already is a mess and I know things are going to get worse.