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.
Reflections on the proliferation of borders from a pandemic world. (written mostly in 2020, finished off in 2021)
When the flames engulfed the home of the brave,
The stampede towards the the border was in vain.
Faces palmed, faces paled
As the wall they said would make them great could not be scaled.
– ‘Victory Lap’, Propagandhi
The nation closes its borders. This is both remarkable and not. Unremarkable because the militarised border regime that has governed the political trajectory of this island nation had easily created the capacity to enforce a total shutdown. It ordinarily walks the line between living up to the racist fantasies of a paranoid population and the economic need for certain types of migration to fill gaps in the labour market. But these aren’t ordinary times and so it flexes and the racists swoon while the ‘progressive’ liberals are appeased in their sense of (bio-)security.
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.
(I’ve pushed what is chronologically the fifth ‘dispatch’ to the top of the pile because it’s probably the most important).
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:
For people who aren’t white and living in a colonised and white supremacist society, being able to understand and process feelings of guilt, shame and trauma is an ongoing exercise that requires honest reflection and accountability. Where We Stand is a dance/ performance ‘ritual’ that facilitates this by inviting Indigenous and other people of colour into a theatre turned into a healing space filled with warm, soothing aural tones and soft places to be in. In that space, personal stories of the damage of these interlocking oppressive systems are shared amongst us. In being there, feeling the intimacy of relating such experiences, a question arises in my mind: how do these personal affects, these lifelong traumas shared between us as confessional mementos translate into forms of anti-colonial solidarity and action that might upturn the colonial, white supremacist society that we inhabit?
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.
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.
The cops shoot dead a young Indigenous man in his home in Yuendumu. The eastern seaboard burns. The coloniser’s logic won’t let them make the connection between genocide, relentless resource extraction and ecocide.
This track is where my head is at. Here are the lyrics:
When the flames engulfed the home of the brave, the stampede toward the border was in vain. Faces palmed, faces paled as the wall they said would make them great could not be scaled. When the free-market fundamentalist steps on a roadside bomb outside Kandahar bleeding to death, I swear to Ayn Rand I’ll ask if he needs an invisible hand. You say #notallcops. You say #notallmen. Yeah you insist #itsonly99%. There’s nothing new for you to learn. Ok, sit back, relax and watch it all burn. The colossal waste of energy: talent upon the talented, freedom upon the free. This whole damn beautiful life wasted on you and me. God are you there? It’s me, in the denim jacket. Are you receiving my prayers through the noise and cosmic static? God are you there? Can you confirm i’m on the right goddamn planet?!? The day the rapture came, a forgettable event. The clouds, they opened up and not a single person went. To the chromatic whistle of a carousel calliope stomp the citizens of our clown idiot dingbat society.
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.
(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).