Australian culture: authoritarian, racist, increasingly mean

Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 1.16.31 pm

The racism directed at Adam Goodes is fuelled by and masks a broader issue – a pervasive, internalised authoritarianism that functions through a wide range of concepts such as ‘laid-back’, ‘easy-going’, ‘decent’, ‘tolerant’, ‘one of the boys’, ‘ordinary’ and ‘nice’.

Fail to bow down to or question any of these and trouble instantly heads your way – whatever your skin colour.

The unrelenting viciousness targeted at Goodes is because he defiantlygives it back’ to his tormentors, to those who know their place. It is all about place.

What went forth as racism has been returned with interest as ‘up yours’ to the ‘laid-back’, ‘easy-going’ minions of provincial domination.

In ‘giving it back’ to them, all the more provocatively because he is indigenous and at the top of his field, he is holding up a mirror before them, pointing out their servility and meanness of spirit, lack of spirit – drawing their hatred. He is reminding them of who they are.

Goodes has committed the greatest offence to Australian culture and broken its cardinal rule – he displays non-conformist spirit – the quality that should be most valued in a society.

If he retires from the AFL the ‘laid-back’, ‘easy-going’ minions will have got rid of that mirror and can sit down again in their seats and go back to the sleep their masters and all authoritarians wish on them.


1. Megan Levy, ’Swans star Adam Goodes always plays the victim: Alan Jones’, The Sydney Morning Herald 29.07.15

Radio shock jock Alan Jones has delivered a scathing assessment of Sydney Swans star Adam Goodes on national television, saying the champion footballer always “plays the victim” and needs to change his behaviour if he wants crowds to stop booing him at AFL games.

The 2GB presenter claimed crowds were reacting negatively to the 35-year-old because they simply didn’t like his behaviour, including his “spear throwing and the running in and doing a war dance and so on and provoking people”.

Jones insisted crowds had not forgotten when Goodes “humiliated” a 13-year-old girl who was in the crowd of an AFL match in 2013. The teenager was escorted from the MCG after calling Goodes an ape. She later apologised and claimed she did not know the word was a racist slur.

“You know, the man is always a victim,” Jones railed on Channel Seven’s Sunrise on Wednesday morning.

“Then he became Australian of the Year and tells us that we’re all racists. Every time he speaks, Australia is a racist nation.

“I mean, there are 71 Indigenous players. They are in rugby league, they are in rugby union. They are everywhere. They’re playing tennis, and people don’t boo them. They’re booing Adam Goodes because they don’t like him and they don’t like his behaviour.”

Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 1.17.16 pm

Jones had been asked for his opinion after it was revealed Goodes was considering retiring due to the negative influence the booing at games was starting to have on his teammates.

Goodes copped another torrent of abuse from a hostile away crowd on Sunday during the Swans’ match against West Coast at Domain Stadium. One person in the crowd allegedly yelled at Goodes to “get back to the zoo”.

Goodes’ teammate Lewis Jetta performed an Indigenous war dance and threw an imaginary spear at a section of the West Coast crowd in support of his friend.

Jones said the talk of retirement was “typical Adam Goodes”.Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 2.11.26 pm

“They [the booing crowds] just don’t like the fellow. And Adam Goodes can fix all this by changing his behaviour. But what’s he say today? ‘Oh, I’m going to leave. I may have to resign. I can’t hack it.’

“Ask the little 13-year-old girl how she handled that. She was paraded over the national media as a person who really had to apologise. She wrote a letter and apologised. I mean, the poor little thing, 13 years of age, disabled mother. I mean, give me a break.

“The bloke’s a rich Australian athlete. He humiliated a 13-year-old girl who didn’t even know what she was saying, and the public haven’t forgotten it. Someone’s got to ask the question: why are they booing Adam Goodes and not the other 70 Indigenous AFL players? Adam Goodes can fix this by changing his behaviour. He again today plays the victim.”

Sunrise co-presenter David Koch said crowds had a right to boo or applaud players, but not when it crossed the line into racial abuse.

He said the crowd member’s zoo insult was racist and ridiculous.

“He wouldn’t say that to a white man. He wouldn’t say to a white guy get back to the zoo,” Koch said.

Goodes did not train on Tuesday and has been given two days off.

Swans coach John Longmire said there was no expectation on Goodes, a dual Brownlow medallist, to declare his availability for the round 18 match against Adelaide at the SCG on Saturday.


2. Tim Dick, ‘Australia can show the US a thing or two in the lock-up stakes’, The Sydney Morning Herald 29.07.15

Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 1.18.12 pm

Barack Obama, with his mojo replenished, is set on fixing the American tragedy of black over-incarceration. When he’s done warming up, he should try the big league, Australia.

“The bottom line is that in too many places, black boys and black men, Latino boys and Latino men experience being treated differently under the law,” he told the NAACP in Philadelphia this month.

“A growing body of research shows that people of colour are more likely to be stopped, frisked, questioned, charged, detained. African Americans are more likely to be arrested. They are more likely to be sentenced to more time for the same crime.”

Are they what. Black men are far more likely to be imprisoned: the rate for black men is about six times that for white men, according to a Pew Research Centre study in 2013, a serious cause for legitimate rage.

If only Australia had it so good.

The US might be the home of mass incarceration – and it is, with 5 per cent of the world’s people, it has a quarter of the world’s inmates – but America has nothing on Australia in its enthusiasm for disproportionately locking up black people.

On this side of the Pacific, achieving a black imprisonment rate six times that for whites would be a good news story, a moment to cherish, to celebrate.

Indigenous Australians are imprisoned at a rate 13 times that of other Australians, according to figures collated by the Productivity Commission.

That’s not 13 per cent higher, or twice as high, but 13 times the rate, 1300 per cent of the rate for the rest of the population.

At any one time, over 2 per cent of the Indigenous population is locked up, which doesn’t remotely compare with the figure for the rest of us.

The effect of that proportion of people out of one group over time is almost unfathomable, the disruption to the prisoners’ lives, their futures, their families.

It’s not as if this is a new problem, but it’s a rapidly deteriorating one. In 2000, the Indigenous imprisonment rate was merely 8 times as high. Those where the golden days.

So not only do we jail Indigenous people at a far higher rate than even the US imprisons black men, we’re speeding things up, putting a greater proportion away. We’re increasing this most self-defeating of gaps.

A particular point of Australian difference is our ability to do it harsher for children. For young people, who are meant to be locked up only as an absolute last resort, Indigenous children are jailed at a rate 24 times that of other children.

When Obama turns his attention to a justice system that seems anything but colour blind, the world listens. When Mick Gooda, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commissioner, late last year proved Aboriginal incarceration to be every bit the catastrophe he labelled it, Australia scarcely rolled its eyes. Most didn’t even notice.

His figures put the difference in rates at 15 times, and found the reoffending rate for children in detention – 58 per cent within 10 years – was higher than the proportion of children who stayed at school until year 12.

“We do better at keeping Aboriginal people in prison than in school,” Mr Gooda told the ABC.

If most of us continue to ignore this catastrophe, as the country seems determined to do, we will deepen this social disaster.

Every year it gets worse, or merely stays the same, or only marginally improves, is another year squandering the potential of an enormous fraction of the Indigenous population and wasting hundreds of millions across the country on unnecessary incarceration.

The Productivity Commission called out four major factors contributing to this shameful reality – education, drugs, child neglect and employment. We need to fix all of them, but surely education is the low-hanging fruit.

Cutting education reforms, like the short-lived Gonski package, is one way to perpetuate the catastrophe. The absence of opportunity leads, for far too many, to the absence of anything but a life hurt by crime – as both victim and perpetrator.

Americans, even Republicans, are starting to realise the folly of the perpetually tougher on crime vortex, and the extraordinary bill it leaves the state and the communities it hits. In many states, cold economics is forcing reform that has much wider payoffs than merely to state treasuries. For the first time in 40 years, Obama noted, last year both the crime rate and the imprisonment rate actually fell.


6 thoughts on “Australian culture: authoritarian, racist, increasingly mean

  1. Thanks for this fascinating view inside your nation’s culture. Reminds me of a Facebook conversation I enjoyed the other day. The topic was “reverse racism.” I explained that racism is to societies as bullying is to individuals. Ergo, the phrase “reverse racism” is as absurd as “reverse bullying.” A minority standing up to its oppressors is just as admirable as an individual fighting back against a bully. I detest bullying, victim blaming, cultural norm enforcement, and all the myriad techniques both large and small that oppressors use in an effort to keep targets “in their place.” This is part of the reason why I’ve been operating a free community martial arts club for the last 6 years. The biggest and the strongest must be taught that they have a responsibility to protect and defend the smallest and the weakest. If the biggest and strongest can’t learn, well, maybe the smallest and weakest need to give ’em a poke in the eye (literal or verbal, as appropriate).


    • Hi Robert,
      I think bullying and servility are two sides of the same coin – both entail relating on the basis of power not respect.

      And I see both in the behaviour of the dominant white majority in this country – ‘bullying’ towards not only Australia’s indigenous people (in my view, the continuation of genocide, but now by parliament and bureaucracy, not guns and poison) but also towards Australia’s neighbours in the Pacific and Asia, and at the same time the most disgusting servility towards your nation, whose people fought for your independence from the British.

      What does it say of a person that they take pride in their servility, that they feel a flush of worth and a frisson of vicarious power in pronouncing ‘Iraq’ as a Texan oil millionaire does?

      To mature as a people, Australians need to address (face up to and confront) the sickness at the heart of their culture, a sickness they keep telling themselves they have grown beyond – shame.
      Best regards, Phil

      Liked by 1 person

      • Agreed. My nation, made up of immigrants fleeing oppression, turns the sword on native peoples and becomes anti-immigration. It rebels and wins against an empire and then sets about creating its own. The cycle of abuse through, by and among nations, cultures, and families seems never-ending. Only respect and empathy can break them.


      • My perspective is socialist and internationalist. The twentieth century has shown how dangerous the modern invention of the nation state is – it is the plaything of dominant classes and their political representatives.

        The functioning of capitalism and the development of trade and technology increasingly make a mockery of the concept ‘nation state’, so I agree with your regard for respect and empathy.


        Liked by 1 person

      • Bravo! Q: What are we to make of the popularity of Bernie Sanders? A fluke? Or could America be awakening from her jingoistic daydream?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Robert,
        I have no doubt whatsoever that so long as there is not a mighty series of flashes reducing all and sundry to ashes and laying waste to the planet, the world (the US, Australia, Europe…) will become socialist. Trotsky expressed it thus – ‘barbarism or socialism’.

        Just as feudalism passed and capitalism rose from it, so will socialism rise from capitalism. Not to please me or provoke those who reject it but because, as the mystic Hegel argued and which Marx absorbed into materialism, contingency is the appearance of necessity and the only (theoretical) absolute is change.

        All the despairing ‘Marxists’ have lost sight of this or never understood it.

        To put it another way, consciousness and thought are, fundamentally, the product of the movement of objective reality (‘matter’). Marx was right when he argued that the level of development of the productive forces is the primary determinant.

        The ‘best laid plans’ of the capitalist class and their vast range of agents (military, police, politicians, economists, psychologists etc., the dedicated efforts of whom can all be summed up by ‘the products of consciousness’) can delay this (this is part of the process) but cannot prevent it.

        Nothing (short of all-out nuclear war and total destruction) and no-one can.

        I previously posted some prescient thoughts Engels expressed in 1894 on the impact of the rise of China on the US and Europe (in effect, on the world) that you might like to read.

        Best wishes, Phil

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s