26 January 2006

Un-Australia Day

I decided to mark Australia Day by taking a trip up to Redfern, the aboriginal ghetto a couple miles south of Sydney's gleaming (well, mostly) Central Business District. My main reason for doing so was to take in a free concert I'd read about, wherein indigenous rappers and similar multi-culti artists promised to lambaste the racist system and mourn the ruination of Australia by the infernal white man.

Unfortunately, the infernal white man was doing a lousy job of getting the trains to run on time, and that, combined with my laziness that led me to lounge about watching the cricket for much of the afternoon, meant that I got to Redfern too late, and thus I can't report on how things went. There were no riots, I'm guessing, based on the fact that several police were hanging around outside the Redfern Police Station as though they didn't have a care in the world, but then again, that doesn't prove anything around here; politicians and police officials are still squabbling over why, the night after last month's Cronulla riots, the police stood by and watched as a mob of about 100 Middle Eastern youths gathered in a park in Sydney's southwest and then set off in a caravan to the coast, where they attacked people and property in revenge for the previous day's attacks by Anglo-Australians.

To be perfectly fair, those riots had absolutely nothing to do with aboriginal people, and some aborigines have been quoted in the media that they feel grateful for the Anglo-Middle Eastern conflict because for once the police are leaving them alone. Of course Redfern had its own riot a couple years ago, which broke out when a young aboriginal man died while he may or may not have been being chased by the police (the police deny it) on what may or may not have been a stolen bike and while he may or may not have had a warrant out for his arrest (you don't get a lot of definitive information around these parts).

The whole affair sounded remarkably similar to the way 2005's French riots got started, though on a far smaller scale, and predictably enough, there were plenty of "activists," both indigenous and white, weighing in on why the poor, oppressed aborigine "youth" had no choice but to riot (this hippie paper being just one example. But strolling through Redfern this evening told me another tale, too, an all too depressingly familiar one: apart from the differing appearances and accents, it was virtually identical to publicly funded slums that you can find all across the USA and, increasingly, in Europe.

You had the same gangs of sullen young men congregating on corners and in alleys, apparently so stunned by their constant oppression that they can't think of anything to do with themselves but smoke dope, drink beer and look menacing. You had the same squalid housing, where it apparently never occurred to anyone to pick up a broom or throw a bit of rubbish in a bin instead of on the street. Nobody's expecting people who scrape by on a minimal welfare cheque to live in palaces, but at the same time, basic cleanliness and order doesn't cost much, if anything.

Who do you blame for this state of affairs? The ghetto-dwellers who seem unable or unwilling to make the effort to change their circumstances? The government officials who find it cheaper and more convenient to write off certain sections of town by providing the occupants with a minimal life-support system in the form of the dole but offering or expecting nothing more but generation after generation of dysfunction? My favourite villain in this piece is actually the middle-class activists, the race-based ideologues, who, whatever colour they may be, make their livings or get their kicks by telling people that all their failures can be explained by "oppression."

You see it in the sad parody that the American civil rights movement has become (come on now, Martin Luther King to Al Sharpton in only two generations?), in the burgeoning Asian and black ghettoes of Britain, and certainly in the dire state the French have got themselves into with regard to their Arab and African populations. Is racism a factor? Of course it is, but the racism of the supposedly "oppressed" peoples is just as bad and probably more self-destructive than anything the white population, in utter thrall to a muddled and benighted multiculturalism can throw at them.

What's especially frightening is what I would call the politicisation of thug culture, the dangerously romantic notion that gangsta rappers, street gangs, and the almost oxymoronic "hip hop culture" constitute some sort of revolutionary movement. Any moron with a grudge and a brick (or an AK47) can tear down the structures of society, but there's nothing revolutionary about that unless you also have the means of recreating a new and better one. It reminds me of Jacques "Dingbat" Derrida's explanation of his philosophical methods, where he describes deconstructionism as pulling on a thread of a sweater until the whole sweater collapses back into the ball of yarn from whence it came. But a five year old can do that just as easily as a philosopher, where not one person in a thousand has the skill and the discipline to turn that ball of yarn back into a sweater. The same goes for a city or a state or a culture.

1 comment:

Wesley said...

Perhaps if hip-hop culture can deconstruct itself, it may yet prove useful.

Anyway, tearing down structure is only useful to a point. Tearing down infrastructure is where the real fun is.