Not the sort of writing I usually post here, but a couple of pieces inspired by experiences while I’ve been traveling this year that touch on issues of anti-racism and colonisation.
1. A story about hanging with some hooligans at a football match in Ireland and a confronting moment of racism that is handled in the best possible way.
2. A somewhat free-form piece describing a beautiful place and the feeling of swimming in water that leads to reflections on history and place.
We had come to be there as a result of a night drinking Guinness at The Cobblestone in Dublin, where we met our Scottish football hooligan chaperones – from Glasgow, but not fans of either of ‘the Old Firm’ teams, instead choosing to follow the middling fortunes of Motherwell FC. We were invited to join them in making the trip from Dublin to Sligo in the west of Ireland for the match the next day. Motherwell were due to play Sligo Rovers in a game to qualify for a low-level Europe-wide competition – a big moment for both teams and their fanbases.
From a review of The Time of the Peacock (1965) to questions of assimilation and adaptation amongst the diasporic, migrant multitudes of today.
Scents of otherness in the Australian bush
In the The Time of the Peacock, Mena Abdullah captures the out-of-place-ness of an Indian family in 1950’s rural Australia through a series of beautifully crafted, short stories. Abdullah weaves together the family’s experience of holding dearly to the memories and ways of a distant homeland while trying to make a place in a country that marks them as indelibly different. She depicts the nuance and complexity of migrant lives – not just as outsiders in a foreign land, but also in the interconnections between family members. They aren’t just ‘Indian’, the dad is a Punjabi Muslim, the mum from a Hindu Brahmin family and those differences matter. The politics of the partition of India briefly arises, yet ultimately these subtleties are in the background, adding layers of depth to this telling of the migrant experience.
Some fairly loose thoughts about how once radical conceptions of ‘safer spaces’ have been invoked in protecting us from COVID and reinforcing the State’s biosecurity apparatus. Written specifically from Narrm, but probably with parallels elsewhere.
I retain a lingering trace memory of safer spaces being a direct and vital intervention into the complacent expectations of radical and transgressive spaces, before it settled into its current form as a bland and lifeless procedural appeal to higher authority. As a radical proposal, safer spaces is about those whose well-being is generally deemed unimportant, being able to claim space and take the necessary actions to assert control over their own safety. These actions will more than likely be an uncomfortable interruption upon the normality of those on the dominant side of a power relation, and all the better for that discomfort. What it shouldn’t be is a blunting of sharp edges, where instead of a spiky interruption, there is simply a broadening of pre-established terms to include those who are more marginalised.
In the midst of the COVID-related lockdown I wrote of how “time passes at the tenor of a slow murmur” to try and describe the sense of a distortion that I was feeling. It might have been apt at the time, but the weeks following have passed at a different, much quicker tempo. Now the institutions (police, prisons) and systems of oppression (white supremacy, anti-blackness, colonialism) that seemed so fundamental to daily life that they must have been born with the changing of the seasons are teetering on the precipice. The murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police has sparked a rebellion that has spread and taken form in all corners of the globe. Suddenly, time is a blur as history crashes around us.
Anti-authoritarian ideas to hold onto in these times of virus and crisis.
We’re all living quite a situation here. Before the virus had got near most of us, we were thrown into this necessary mode of life called social-distancing. Our lack of knowledge and the speed it has covered the globe and is transmitting within the locations we live has produced feelings of shock, confusion and fear. While these feelings make sense, we should also recognise and counter the tendency that they produce towards individualism and isolation.
Fear. Individualism. Isolation. Currently the circulation of these sentiments is exponentially bolstering the power of the state. As Crimethinc have said, “social distancing must not mean total isolation. We won’t be safer if our society is reduced to a bunch atomised of individuals”. Such an atomised society is the path to least resistance. Even as the virus spreads we must not become too isolated and disconnected from each other to be able to resist state control and the implementation of measures that fuck most of us over in a desperate attempt to save the economy.
“We will be beggars so long as we accept as universal the political divisions that cut up the white world and through which they conceive of the social conflicts and struggles that these divisions will engender. We will be beggars so long as we remain prisoners of their philosophy, of their aesthetic and of their art. We will be beggars so long as we do not call into question their version of History. Lets accept rupture, discord, discordance. Lets ruin the landscape and announce a new era”. – Houria Bouteldja
white person once asked of me “can’t you be less antagonistic when challenging
racism”? It was less a question, more a direction, imbued with all the
faux-innocence and partitioning of ‘civilised rationality’ as a quality
specific to whiteness, and therefore necessitating white people to preach the
word. The imperative that justified colonisation as the bringing of
civilisation to the barbarians, is now repeated by white liberals espousing
‘rational’ and ‘civilised’ debate in the face of racism and white supremacy.
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.
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.
(Some thoughts and feels post-Christchurch on white supremacy, Islamophobia and eco-fascism after a few days of processing and conversations.)
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
I’ve been noticing, and feeling inspired, by how many non-indigenous POC are increasingly finding ways to resist racism and colonisation and ensuring that they do this by actively acting in solidarity with Aboriginal struggle. This feeling was confirmed by seeing all the crews of POC on the march – whether just groups of friends or slightly more organised networks/alliances, it was a noticeable presence. The significance of this was further amplified in an excellent, fiery speech by Harry Bonifacio Baughan of the Asian Anti-Colonial Alliance.
I think it’s important to recognise that an outcome of colonisation and white supremacy is to keep disparate, marginalised peoples in a state of competition with each other. Our struggles are too often oriented towards appealing to the dominant, white power structures. When migrants cut across that by orienting our action towards First Nations people, we are undermining some of the power that whiteness holds and, more significantly, forging bonds of solidarity against racism, colonisation and white supremacy that could lead to new angles of attack.