Sunday, August 05, 2018

The "colonies" are not a threat to you. They're protection for us

Aw man, I was taking a break from blogging. See, I'm writing a memoir. I know I haven't done much, but "O.J. Simpson wrote a memoir, and the jury said he didn't do anything at all"1. Anyway, I have no delusions about getting it published; I'm just going to whack the thing online when it's done, and I'm not going to tie anyone up and force them to read it, and I could, cause I went to the gym a few months back, and even had a little go on one of the weight machines, and I think I'm still pretty pumped.

But I thought I'd post a little something about how Andrew Bolt is wrong. Of course we knew that already. But earlier this week Australia's most urbane and dashing far right bigot posted some racist tosh about how immigrants form colonies and refuse to assimilate, and I got to thinking about other colonies, and why people choose to live there to get away from the likes of Andrew Bolt. 

Yesterday, child in tow, I set off to pick out some paint colours for the bathroom (that beige is hideous). Ah, what could be more Australian than Bunnings on a Saturday! The crowds, the cupcake stall, the sausages. But what was perhaps a little less typical at this Bunnings, a Bunnings in Sydney's Inner West, possibly the most left-leaning area in Australia, was the number of same sex couples holding hands, exchanging kisses after finally agreeing on a light shade, and causing extended queues to look at paint colours (gay men take paint colours very seriously). They are able to do this because the inner west is largely a safe place to be openly gay, a place where gay people can live their lives without fear. And so there are lots of same sex attracted people and couples who choose to live here. I wonder if Andrew Bolt would call this a gay colony?

Columnists like Bolt, and here in Sydney scribes such as Miranda Devine and Piers Akerman, love to denigrate people who live in the inner city and inner west as luvvies, elites, out of touch, wanting to destroy Australian values of merit and hard work - which is a touch ironic, seeing as Piers Akerman, with all the charm of something a cane toad coughed up, has nonetheless managed to secure for both his daughters plum roles at News Ltd, while Devine, who is so anti elite she went to one of Australia's poshest girls' schools then an elite college at the University of Sydney, but is nonetheless not so much close to crazy as pulled up behind crazy yelling "back off arsehole, I saw this spot first!". No mind. When they're not fawning over Trump or whining about plastic bags, hating on the supposed inner city elite is rich, deep pasture for their small and shallow minds. 

Why do they think we live here? Why do queer and alternative people who've never quite fit in flock to the inner west? I mean sure it's the second hand bookshops and small bars and cafes with a choice of almond, hazelnut or tumeric milk. But it's also because we know there's other queer and alternative people here, and we can be safe. Some of us simply didn't feel safe where we came from - the regional areas and outer suburbs - and that's somewhat to blame on the hatred and at times violence stirred up by those who rail against the "rainbow agenda", the "extreme feminists", columnists like Akerman and Devine who pushed for the Marriage equality referendum regardless of the pain it would cause and who denied that pain when it inevitably happened. There's safety in numbers, so we come here where we can feel safe, and connected to others like us. 

When I walk down the street here, and see the rainbow flags hanging from windows and STOP ADANI stickers on cars, I know I am among my people. For many people, residing here means the right to live free of vilification and attack for being who they are. At a time when far right hatred is ratcheting up across the Western world, of course that's more important than ever. When we are under attack, of course we want to bunker down with others like us. But now the same bigots who helped create the conditions that made us feel unsafe in the first place are now furious that people are forming inner city elites and ethnic colonies. Andrew Bolt is furious:

Immigration is becoming colonisation, turning this country from a home into a hotel. We are clustering into tribes that live apart from each other and often do not even speak the same language in the street.

In Sydney’s Lakemba, nearly two-thirds of all residents are Muslim and nearly 70 per cent were born overseas. In Melbourne’s Springvale, one in four residents speaks Vietnamese at home. Another 10 per cent come from China or Cambodia. In Sydney’s Fairfield, one in four residents were born in Vietnam, Cambodia or China.

 In Sydney’s Five Dock, long after the heyday of immigration from Europe, one in seven residents still speaks Italian at home. In Melbourne’s North Caulfield, 41 per cent of residents are Jews, including hundreds who have lately fled South Africa. Dandenong now has an official Little Indian Cultural Precinct, with 33 Indian businesses.

Such colonising will increasingly be our future as we gain a critical mass of born-overseas migrants.

When racism in Australia seems to be getting more extreme and blatant - with no one in authority doing anything to stop it - of course migrants are going to want to be with others of their own race or faith. They can work and contribute to Australia whilst still enjoying the customs, traditions, foods and cultures they're familiar with - and there's the safety in numbers thing again. If men with payos or women in hijabs can feel a bit safer from attack walking down the street in their own communities, of course it's just human nature to want that.

These colonies will be our future, then, not because people don't want to be Australians, but because certain Australians don't want to accept a modern Australia in all of its fabulous diversity. There's no rainbow agenda in Newtown or Islamist plot in Lakemba aiming to take over the country. It's just people living their lives in the face of certain people who seek to make those lives harder.

1. P.J. O'Rourke, 2001 The CEO of the Sofa.