Before the smoke clears – dispatches from the south-east reflecting on the bushfires, crisis and despair.

(I’ve pushed what is chronologically the fifth ‘dispatch’ to the top of the pile because it’s probably the most important).

Burnt forest just outside of Bairnsdale

Dispatch #5 (January 8th- 10th): Delivering supplies to affected areas on the lands of the Gunaikurnai nation (East Gippsland)

Just spent a couple of days delivering supplies with two friends to some of the affected areas in East Gippsland. We went as far out as Orbost, but roads were closed beyond that. Yesterday we made some deliveries around Bairnsdale and Bruthen. We decided to leave the area last night, because conditions were due to get hectic again today. These were my main thoughts from being out there:

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Everybody Hates the Police

Reflections on the blockade of IMARC, police violence and how to act politically against it.

For a few days in late October, protesters attempted to shut down the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) because fuck mining and capitalist resource extraction as it murders Indigenous peoples, devastates the environment and creates the conditions for the world to burn. Numbers weren’t large enough and tactics not fluid enough* to be entirely successful but there was significant disruption.

And so the police went hard. And people were staunch. And the police went harder. I’ve been up close with plenty of scenes of police violence and even still it was distressing as I stood there unable to see – having lost my glasses in the scuffles – but hearing people wailing and being sick from the effects of copious amounts of capsicum spray used viciously at close quarters.

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Anti-colonial Affections: How migrants might spurn white Australia’s demands for love in favour of solidarity with Aboriginal resistance.

written in early 2019.

A veil of innocence

An affectation of innocence underscores white Australia’s relation to non-white migrants who arrive here. It exists as a certainty in the inherent goodness of the structures of liberal democracy, a belief that the welcome that has been given to us migrants is charitable and tolerant in such a way that reinforces a position of benevolent authority. In conjunction with this belief is the sense that non-white migrants are always looking to exploit the naïve, kindness of white Australia. This is a continuation of racist, colonial narratives that disguises the violence of colonisation by positioning white people as constantly endangered by the lurking, dangerous brown/ black other, who will use any means – barbaric and violent or sneaky and underhanded – to access all the goodness of white society. The sense of fragility and paranoia that these colonial narratives engender mean that migrants’ place here is predicated on endlessly demonstrating our gratitude for having been allowed to stay. We are expected to display our affection and attachment in ways that are both recognisable to, and uphold, the assumed neutrality of liberal democracy by not calling it for what it is: white, liberal democracy. This veil of innocence, of impartiality, attempts to obscure a founding violence that defines all racial politics in this country, while allowing for the ongoing exploitation and dispossession faced by First Nations people.

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When Peter Dutton be struttin’ like he’s motherfucking Stringer Bell, it’s time we all get our Omar on.

There comes a point when it’s probably better to accept that the most well-developed ethical response has been scattered by the unrelenting winds of shit-baggery and there’s not much to do except roll with the visceral disgust as the stench hits our nostrils. That point occurred last week as we were treated to an online promotional video featuring Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton in an American SUV, cruising into a car dealership and shaking hands with the workers – all to a banging DMX soundtrack. The promo introduces Dutton with the tagline, ‘the baddest MP’, and along with the choice of vehicle and music is a trolling attempt to bring him cred as some ‘badass’, gangster politician who does what’s needed to get ‘it’ done.

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Resistance From Beyond the Coloniser State: reflections from a few days at the DjabWurrung Heritage Protection Embassy

(from my notebook): The embassy is spread across three camp sites, each a few kilometres apart. It is a beautiful stretch of bush, a land signposted by awesome gums with secret hollows and gnarly limbs – the sacred birthing trees of the DjabWurrung people. You feel the presence of history in this country, of lives having passed through here for millenia, existing in symbiosis with everything this landscape provides. And all fully framed by the stunning, imposing presence of the sandstone outcrops and ranges known as Gariwerd. The highway cuts through like a scar, and the state of Victoria now intends to prise it open, creating a seeping, exposed wound.

DjabWurrung Heritage Protection Embassy stands as a blockage against the incessant flow of colonising, state violence that attempts to wash away all trace of the cultural and environmental custodianship that Aboriginal people claim over this land. In this moment, that violence takes a most banal form – a state infrastructure project to widen the already existing highway between Melbourne and Adelaide. This would eradicate a site of sacred importance to the DjabWurrung people, including an 800 year old birthing tree that has seen over 50 generations born in the hollow of its trunk (more here).

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Untangling the knots: Finding collectivity in the mire of liberal multiculturalism.

A very long essay I wrote around 7 – 8 years ago. I don’t love all of it now (and have edited a few bits out here) and it takes some ‘interesting’ twists and turns. However, I think the critique of liberal multiculturalism in the first half has some useful moments – although it’s heavily theoretical. Then there’s a strange middle section where I basically review a novel – ‘The Black Album’ by Hanif Kureishi – before a rambling ending that considers the possibilities of radical collectivity.

Introduction

Understanding contemporary multiculturalism in Australia, in all its liberal, capitalist garb, sets a background from which we can consider why it is that certain traditional cultural forms – religion in particular – have an ongoing resonance for migrants. The point of which is not to lay a critique about cultural choices at the feet of particular migrant groups but instead to show how this resonance of traditional cultural forms exposes the empty core of liberal capitalism and its exhortations to individualistic, market-based choice. Much of this will be inspired by sections of Zizek’s evisceration of liberalism in Violence as well as taking a look at some of the ideas in The Black Album, Hanif Kureishi’s novel from London in the early 90’s.

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Rootlessness and dislocation

The suggestion that non-indigenous people living in this colonised land should seek out and connect with their own cultural roots and use this as a source of strength in acting with anti-colonial struggles here, is a common one in radical milieus. I understand how investigating ‘cultural roots’ is important for some people, that being able to trace lines of connection to ancestors who resisted colonisation in their time can be a great inspiration in the present. However, I have also found its abstract use to be both confusing and simplistically dismissive of the global consequences of capitalist colonisation and resultant migrations. I think that it is necessary to interrogate some of the problems that are contained within such an uncritical valorisation of historical identity and culture.

These issues recently arose again at a workshop I attended that was centred around issues of Aboriginal sovereignty and colonisation/ de-colonisation. One of the facilitators, a non-indigenous woman of colour, gave a spiel about the importance of locating cultural roots, of knowing the land where your ‘bones are buried’, and drawing strength from this heritage. While I don’t believe that my personal experience should be taken as constitutive of a critique of this position, I will begin by laying out my subjective position just as a bit of background, but also because I’m pretty sure that I might not be alone in this.

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The Abyss is Everywhere. There is a Light.

Hope and dread from Christchurch to the end.

(Some thoughts and feels post-Christchurch on white supremacy, Islamophobia and eco-fascism after a few days of processing and conversations.)

Part 1

There is no good to come from this. There is no good to come from this. There is no good to come from this and there will be no ‘but’ as an appendage to that assertion. It’s not like I needed to be thrown into an abyss. It’s not like it took a white supremacist terrorist murdering 49 Muslims in a mosque in Christchurch to send me towards hopelessness about racism in this country. My nihilist tendencies already had me here and from here – with no real hope in things changing – I am content to foment my own little moments of resistance to this white supremacist, colonial state. But spare me the light that shines its harsh glare onto my futile, scrambling efforts.

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Settler / Migrant

Some thoughts related to this article by Monica Tan.

The first time I heard a non-white migrant use the word ‘settler’ to describe all other non-white migrants in so-called Australia, I recoiled at this naming that felt so unfamiliar to my experience. I didn’t associate with being a settler because that term seemed to place me within the same racialised group as white people – and I had my own familiarity facing their racist hostility.

In any case, the discomfort of that moment provoked some thinking on my part, as well as a few conversations with Aboriginal people, non-indigenous people of colour and white folk. After initially feeling that my position as a brown migrant bore no relation to white colonialism, it became apparent that for many Aboriginal people it most certainly did. Dispossession from country, loss of access to resources, and the struggle to hold onto cultural forms are all ongoing effects of an unceasing colonisation that remains in full swing. While racial power in this country is still specifically invested in whiteness, there are significant material benefits that non-indigenous people of colour have been able to access as an effect of colonisation.

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How white fragility defined race politics in so-called Australia in 2018.

A look back at 2018 and how white fragility describes a developing trajectory of white supremacy at a national level. How this shifts understandings of white fragility beyond simply being an individual weakness to reveal the interplay between interpersonal and structural racism.

2018, much like every single one of the preceding 230 years of this un-ceded land’s ongoing colonisation, managed to mark itself in the pages of racist infamy with the latest bouts of hysteria, paranoia, dog-whistling and racial-profiling. Considering the genocidal nature of that history and everything else that has passed, it might be possible to assume that there is nothing new to see, or be said, here. However, to effectively track and counter the active threat that racism presents, it is important to stay attuned to the variations in trajectory that occur in terms of discourse and action. One aspect that has become noticeable, if not to the same extent as in Europe and the USA, is that the far-right has managed to use a generalised state of hyper-racialised paranoia to find ways to enter the mainstream. While tracking this will not be the focus here, it is related to the discursive trajectory that I will be exploring in this article: how a sense of white fragility is increasingly articulated as a justification for the re-assertion of this country as a white space.

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