I’ve never before written a letter to an author that I did not already know. I’m not telling you this because I want this letter to seem particularly special. It’s more to allow me to introduce a small amount of context about where I’m at as I started to read Experiments in Imagining Otherwise.
I’m in Berlin right now and the idea that I came to Europe for a long, hot summer is already feeling distant as the days become shorter and cocooned in the grey, chill of autumn. I return to my home in Naarm (otherwise known by it’s colonised name of Melbourne, in so-called Australia) in less than two weeks. The mood is definitely one of contemplation and deep thought about the next stage of life, how I hold onto a revolutionary imagination filled with rebellious desires as I get older and how I incorporate the experiences I’ve had and lessons I’ve learned while I’ve been here.
I write to try to make sense of such considerations. There’s been a small amount of writing I’ve been doing on this trip – some postcards and letters to loved ones, a couple of ‘travel story’ type pieces and one long(ish) piece of feedback to a friend about a draft of an excellent article that they wrote. But I have no more postcards to send now.
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.
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.
(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).
“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.
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.