It’s no surprise that there dwell among us packs of males, whose feelings about women are so conflicted that while outwardly conducting apparently reasonable relationships with females close to them, they display the most base hostility to women they perceive as different, and in some way dangerous.
It also comes as no surprise that this hostility is expressed in sexual terms. Our breasts and our genitals serve as a focus for the fear and hatred felt towards us by some men, all of whom have mothers, some of whom have wives and female lovers, many of whom have daughters and sisters. Our body shapes and our faces are also the focus for this hatred, and our physical characteristics are almost always the first object of complaint when such a man feels himself provoked by something we have or have not done.
What ought to really terrify us, apart from the frequently repressed fear of going about our daily lives amongst these marauding packs, fear we must repress or we’ll never get out of our front doors, is that some of them will likely soon form the government of this country.
The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has served as a lightening rod for woman hatred , but anyone who thinks it’s only about her needs to think again. Any one of us who crosses any one of those men will be treated in exactly the same way, because that is what they do. They have no idea how to do anything else, and they don’t care to find out.
These men, and the women who support them, will have control over an array of legislation that directly affects women in terms of our reproductive health, and child care, for example. If the ALP defeat is as catastrophic as is forecast, there will be little in place to curb their enthusiasm for controlling our lives. We must not have men who hate us and the women who support them, wielding such power over us. Read this piece, by Lenore Taylor, on the possibilities.
This is Tony Abbott’s statement on abortion
If the last few days of ugliness have shown us anything, it’s that there are men who hate women and women who will make excuses for them, fast heading into a situation where they will have an alarming degree of control over our bodies and our lives.
I know there are men who are disgusted and repulsed by the attitudes and actions of some of their fellows. You have to speak up. This is not just a problem for women. Anything you can do and say. Whenever you can do and say it.
It is a bizarre and isolating feeling, to live in a body that can be so vilified simply because it is female. The slurs may be directed against Ms Gillard in these latest instances, but they threaten every woman. Everyone needs to take a stand against those men who need to belittle women, in order to feel good about themselves. It isn’t fun. It isn’t just a joke. It’s a sick and perverted masculinity.
I’m guessing just about everyone is familiar with the recent events surrounding Sydney Swans player Adam Goodes, a young girl who insulted him with a racist slur, the subsequent involvement of Eddie McGuire, and the public debate on racism that has dominated media and social media ever since.
The following are some writings on the topic I found worth reading.
Helen Razer’s piece in Crikey, titled “I am racist and so are you” in which she alleges that anyone white in this country is racist and ought to own it.
Jeff Sparrow’s piece in Overland, an interesting rebuttal to the claim “we’re all racist.”
Blogger Dragonista’s piece “Entitlement should not disqualify me” and the follow-up. It’s important to read the comments as Dragonista engages with Luke Pearson, who explains why Indigenous people can become very weary of explaining their situation to white fellas.
Luke Pearson’s blog in response to Dragonista and others who share her position.
David Horton’s piece “Bone of Contention” in which he recalls some background relevant to the present.
There are of course hundreds of other pieces throughout both social and mainstream media.
A few days ago I wrote aboutprivilege and imagination, in which I argued that the current passion for “checking your privilege” could be more usefully replaced by using one’s imagination, and walking a few steps in the shoes of the other to see how that feels. Checking my privilege rather keeps it all about me, while using my imagination to envisage another’s experience makes it all about them.
I’m of the view that race is a social construct, yet another of the many ways in which some human beings categorize other human beings in order to dehumanise them, to the degree that they don’t have to be considered as equals and worthy of the same considerations as the dominant group. Racism has much in common with sexism. Both allow the dominant group to maintain a sense of superiority by measuring themselves against the perceived failings and allegedly inherent weaknesses of the others. Both allow the dominant group to maintain a sense of entitlement and privilege, because they feel superior to the others.
In both cases, the dominant group will be extremely reluctant to either examine or relinquish any of its entitlements and privileges.
It struck me as I ploughed through the at times strident, accusatory, smug, ignorant, enlightened, sorrowful, angry, bored, pissed off, exasperated, exhausted and exhausting commentary of the last week, that the discussion of racism itself had quickly evolved into a battlefield on which combatants fought for the high moral ground, casting opponents as “racists,” “privileged,” “entitled,” or in some instances, just plain “white,” the latter used as a racial insult, if we stick to the strict definition of that term.
It’s quite a thing, to besmirch another as a “racist.” It probably isn’t something that ought to be done lightly. I’ve wondered how hurling around that word as a contemptuous insult furthers the debate at all. It’s not likely to make anyone stop and think about their views, quite the opposite, it’s likely to cause anger, resentment and a hardening of the heart.
Again, I believe the answer is imagination:
When you visualised a man or a woman carefully…when you saw the lines at the corners of the eyes, the shape of the mouth, how the hair grew, it was impossible to hate. Hate was just a failure of imagination. Grahame Greene
Greene echoes philosopher Emmanuel Levinas’ beliefs about the power of the face, and the ethical responsibility we all have to honour the face of the Other, no matter how different from one’s own. The responsibility we have to recognise and respect our common vulnerability as human beings, and to refrain from exploiting that vulnerability. To look fully at another’s face, to really see it, immediately places one in a more respectful relation to the other than the cursory, unseeing glance.
I ended the week feeling a great deal of admiration for the man at the centre of the storm, Adam Goodes. I’m not in the least interested in football, but as the rest of my household watched the Swans game I couldn’t help but observe Goodes rise above the slings and arrows of his week and immerse himself, fully focused, in his task.
This debate on the othering of some groups by more powerful groups is perhaps the most important debate there is. Racism, sexism, homophobia, hatred: discrimination of any kind, is a failure of imagination.
How do we teach that?
Both the ALP and LNP have, since the Howard government adopted Pauline Hanson’s racist rhetoric and made it politically mainstream again, steadily escalated the implementation of cruel and inhuman policies towards asylum seekers who arrive here by boat.
Hanson gave voice to a dark side of Australian culture. Howard saw the votes in it, and legitimised its claims to entitlement. I don’t know if the voters who support the illegal punishment of those seeking asylum in great enough numbers for both major parties to capitulate to their demands, ever actually think about the human beings in whose mental destruction they are callously colluding. I doubt it.
Our politicians despicably wilful refusal to uphold our responsibilities to those seeking asylum, as we agreed to do when we signed and later ratified the UN Convention, makes a mockery of that Convention and our obligations to honour it. If we had any guts at all, we would withdraw. As it stands, by continuing to offer asylum to those fleeing persecution we issue an open invitation. We proclaim ourselves to the world as a site of sanctuary. When we are most definitely not, as it is defined by the Convention.
There has been no political leader in this country willing or able to contest the obscene politicisation of a global human tragedy. Even a prime minister with a vagina won’t do it, indeed, under her government things have become increasingly worse. Despite vagina, Prime Minister Gillard has fully embraced the discourse of the importunate other, taking every opportunity to reassure Australians that she will not permit “foreigners” to take our jobs. Despite vagina and anti misogynist rhetoric, Ms Gillard has presided over the vile and ongoing detention of women and children fleeing persecution.
Is it possible to be a feminist today in Australia and lock up women and children fleeing persecution? There’s a question for Tony Jones and his all-girl Qanda. There’s a question for “All About Women.”
Every day some public figure in parliament or the media, refers to”illegals” and variations thereof, in their deliberate positioning of boat arrivals as criminals who must be dealt with far more severely than any other criminal. Even murderers know how long they are to be incarcerated. Boat arrivals do not.
Billions of tax payer dollars have been channelled towards these indefinite incarcerations, despite the irrefutable fact that the majority of boat arrivals are found to be refugees, and entitled to stay in this country. Those who are not are quite rightly sent back to where they came from. Unfortunately, some are wrongly sent back to where they came from, and when they arrive they are subjected to torture and death.
As long as there are votes in criminalising and dehumanising asylum seekers who arrive by boat, politicians will continue with these practices. This is one example of the evils of democracy. When the majority demand the torment of others in order that they may persuade themselves they are safe from threat, then the majority will have its way.
There is something fundamentally flawed, not to mention abhorrent, in the belief that the worse we treat those who arrive by boat, the more likely we are to discourage people from attempting the journey. We do not have the right to treat badly those who are only responding to our open invitation, and yet we continue to claim that right and to act on it.
I don’t know where this will end. Asylum seekers are not going away. Boats aren’t going to stop. I don’t know how much more cruelly we can treat boat arrivals, in the vain hope that desperate people will lose their desperation and stay where they are. The rich world must find decent ways to deal with the increasing encroachment of the persecuted on its privilege. We cannot continue to incarcerate them. We cannot continue to drive them out of their minds. We cannot continue to waste the resourcefulness and courage boat arrivals offer our society. We cannot continue to pour billions of dollars into brutalising women and children. We cannot continue capitulating to the ignorant fears of Australians who can’t be bothered thinking this through, and who just want someone to make it all go way and promise them they’ll be forever safe from difference.
We can’t, and we must not.
While politicians of various bents have found it expedient to weep in the Parliament these last days, what is absent in the asylum seeker policy brawl is an indication that the majority of them have any understanding at all of the desperation that drives the global movements of refugees.
And it is a global movement and we must eventually accept that we are not the only developed country stateless peoples look to for refuge, and indeed, we are so un-beleagured as to make us the laughing stock of nations whose borders are crossed by thousands of asylum seekers every week.
What I’m about to write about desperation may be unsettling, and may act as a trigger for some people. It is my experience of desperation, and it’s an experience that gives me the authority to speak on the topic.
As a young girl, from the age of about seven, I lived in very dangerous circumstances. I was beaten with hose pipes, fishing rods and my stepfather’s bare hands. I was tied up, always after I’d been ordered to remove my clothes. On many occasions until I was fifteen, I was threatened with death by this man who wielded a loaded gun that he fired into cushions. I was regularely absent from school because of my injuries.
I was first raped when I was ten. These rapes continued at regular intervals until I was fifteen. I cannot talk about these rapes more than to state their occurrence.
My stepfather was a doctor, and he performed various medical procedures on me in the surgery that was attached to our house. I cannot talk about these.
He also photographed me, posed and naked from the age of ten.
There’s nothing to be gained for either me or my readers in attempting descriptions of these events, and I am barely able to write this much. I am trembling. I am sweating. I am weeping. My heartbeat is loud and irregular. I feel nauseous. My body hurts everywhere. The pain in my head is appalling.
During those years I told at least seven adults what was happening to me. Every one of them sent me back. Every time I arrived home I was beaten, tied up, threatened with death if I did it again, and raped. I never stopped telling people, even though I knew the next telling might cost me my life. In retrospect this seems to me something of a miracle. I love my young self, I love her with all of my heart, for her determination to help herself survive, for her willingness to risk death in the attempt to have her life.
So what does this have to do with asylum seekers? As Judith Lewis Herman wrote in the introduction to her book “Trauma and Recovery: From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror:”
This is a book about restoring connections…it is a book about commonalities: between rape survivors and combat veterans, between battered women and political prisoners, between the survivors of vast concentration camps created by tyrants who rule nations and the survivors of small, hidden concentration camps created by tyrants who rule their homes…
One of the things we have in common, those of us who survive the small, hidden concentration camps, and those of us who survive political terror, is our experience of desperation. Desperate to escape. Desperate to live. Desperate to experience the ordinary. Desperate to feel we can sleep safely in our beds at night, whether we fear the invasion of soldiers, or the stealthy night time visits of the rapacious stepfather. Desperate to be allowed to eat and drink. Desperate to live like a human being, untrammelled by the kind of primitive terror that reduces everything to a question of day to day survival.
The will, not just to live but to live a decent life, is inexpressibly powerful. Death can seem preferable to suffering the tyrannies of the imposed will of another, tyrannies that strip one of all integrity. This much I know. I know it with the full authority of my experience, and my survival.
One does not have to suffer in order to appreciate desperation. One does not have to experience prolonged terror and coercive methods of control. What is required for understanding is emotional intelligence and imagination. The majority of our politicians would seem to be seriously lacking both. Instead they appear to be, in the words of philosopher Martha Nussbaum …people whose imaginations are blunted, who simply refuse the acknowledgement of humanity.
The odious tears of the sentimental who weep for the cameras yet support policies that will condemn the desperate to even more desperation, are deeply offensive to me as a survivor. Your emotions count for less than nothing, when deterrence is your only answer to desperation.
The leaders of this country are behaving as did those adults who sent me back to the dangerous hell that was my home. I do not think those people were evil. I think they didn’t want to become involved. I think they were incapable of imagining the circumstances I was attempting to escape. I think they wanted more than anything to maintain the equilibrium of their lives, and I was a child who could disturb that forever. They moved me on, out of their sight and mind. They were cowards.
The concept of a human right to ask for help and protection seems barely to exist in our world. Such requests are viewed as impositions, and those who make them, importunate. The implication of our treatment of asylum seekers is that they are sub-human, and that seeking asylum is a criminal offence. We deny any recognition of a priori suffering, and instead focus on maintaining an abstract construct of national sovereignty.
Those who denied me asylum did so to maintain their domestic sovereignty. They could not let me in, for fear of the ruptures dealing with my suffering would provoke.
I can never forget desperation. I can call it up in an instant. When I see it in another I have to respond. Try as I might, I find it very difficult not to despise those who wilfully close their ears and eyes and hearts to desperation. I have even wished it on them, that they walk a mile in the shoes of the desperate and know what it is to be turned away, when all you are asking is help to conduct a decent life.
Thank you for reading this. I give the last word to Emmanuel Levinas:
To shelter the other in one’s own land or home, to tolerate the presence of the land-less and homeless on the “ancestral soil” so jealously, so meanly loved – is that a criteria of humanness? Unquestionably so.
First, in the spirit of the season David Horton takes a good look at those whining reactionaries such as Barnaby Joyce who always get on their soapboxes at this time of the year and complain about the de-Xmassing of Xmas. The Watermelon Man’s posts invariably contain little gems of information that both delight and embiggen the brain, and this one is no exception. While you’re there, have a look at some of the other posts because Horton has one of the most unique and interesting voices in the blogosphere.
Then there’s this one, by Carey Moore. It’s a timely reminder that no matter how bizarre one might believe Tony Abbott to be, this is no time to get complacent about his chances of being the next PM. Titled “Busting a few Tony Abbott myths,” Carey unpacks five common assumptions made by Abbott haters that speak to the unlikely prospect that he’ll become our nation’s leader, and shows just how dangerous they could become if we allowed ourselves to be lulled by them.
One of the things I like about this time of the year is the enforced holiday. I like it that the country slows down for a couple of weeks, and that gives me permission to do the same. What the hell, it’s Xmas, I don’t have to…. fill in the blanks. For the next couple of weeks we can loaf about, kayak as much as we want to, sleep in, read crime novels, watch the Sopranos again from the very first series, listen to as much music as we want and slop around in our bathers and sarongs all day. Friends and family will come and go over the next few weeks, and the house has been made ready for easy hospitality.
So I may or may not put stuff up on Sheep!
Thank you so very much for visiting here, reading the blogs, commenting, and engaging with me. No Place for Sheep is approaching its first anniversary in a few days. We’ve had over 43,000 visits this year, and the National Library of Australia has suggested adding us to its digital archives, an honour indeed.
I’ve discovered I was born to blog, and I’ll be forever grateful to have lived in an era when this powerful means of self-expression is so readily available.
If you can, spare a thought for people doing it rough for whatever reason. Those of us free to enjoy this time of the year are among the earth’s most privileged inhabitants.
Be safe, be well, and love one another.
Newsnet 14 provides “world news for Europeans world-wide” So imagine my surprise this morning when I noticed that this post from Sheep on asylum seekers and Immigration Department Head, Andrew Metcalfe, was picked up overnight and featured on their blog.
I was especially surprised when I went to their About pages and discovered that their mission is to protect the interests of those of European descent around the world, interests they feel are neglected by the msm and I quote:
Africa is for Africans, Asia is for Asians, and European lands are for everyone…. This IS Genocide!…The goal of this site is to ensure our people have all the facts available on issues that affect our race. We encourage you to read and learn from every source possible, both our side and the opposition. After all you can’t make an educated decision without knowing all the facts.
Above all we believe that EVERY race has the right to self determination, EVEN OURS!
Well, what can I say. When you put it out there it’s anybody’s! I guess they’re using Sheep as an example of their opposition. I can only say I’m happy to contribute to the education of Europeans everywhere.