It’s funny I’m writing this on the US holiday of independence. Much of the time American politics is bashed and recently it’s been the source of more memes than Game of Thrones – admittedly I’ve giggled at more than a few.
Strange thing is – the state of American politics isn’t even nearly half the circus of the Australian system.
On Saturday I exercised my right to vote. Even though I didn’t like either of the major parties policies I still went and still placed a legitimate vote. I even asked myself why a few times. Funny enough while I needed to pause when answering my own question – I had no trouble a strangers.
“If you didn’t like either – why did you vote” a stranger asked me at the Ice Hockey on Saturday night.
“Because I don’t want to be one of the people further polarising a nation that is becoming increasingly extreme” I replied without even filtering the words as they came out of my mouth.
And that was the truth.
In Australia, we’re standing on a precipice. Our nation is becoming increasingly polarised and members of the community are displaying more and more frequent signs of extremism. And no, I’m not talking about the “great terrorist threat” which coincidently I don’t view the same as the extreme factions. I’m talking about people developing a rigid position that despite calm reason and logic being applied on the others side – is completely unwavering. This is the Australia we are either creating or allowing to be created. “Moderates” are disappearing, in their place we are left with those with polarised opinions on either side. The natural conclusion of this is unrest and violent clashes.
Let me break it down for you – if there are terrorists living in Australia – right now their laughing at us. Because there is a huge amount of violence and civil unrest and they haven’t had to lift a finger. It’s the pure thought of terrorism and exclusionist political policy that has everyone at each others throats…
You can call me whatever you like – a fence sitter, left wing, right wing, stupid – I guarantee that I have been called worse. And I’m okay with that, I don’t take it personally. I don’t take it personally because the people who call me those things are themselves, extremists.
An extremist is defined as a person who holds extreme political or religious views. I want to remind whoever is reading this that that doesn’t indicate which side the views fall on. Whether they be left, right, buddhist, shinto, christian or yes, even atheist. It’s an extreme view – regardless of it’s alignment. The thing with extremists – is they can’t be reasoned with, mainly because you can’’t sit down and have an impartial discussion with them. It always becomes impassioned. It always becomes heated. And their argument always contains feelings or unfounded rumours rather than hard, black and white facts. As a moderate, I know all too well that you can’t have an analytical argument with someone who’s emotional invested in a cause. Someone who’s emotionally invested can’t be analytical in my experience.
I watch as our way of life crumbles – not because of the “evil, scary Muslims” but because of a polarised and increasingly extreme nation. Neighbours who are emotionally invested in one sides propaganda donning masks and taking to the street intent on “beating senses” into the other side. None of these protests are designed to be civil or peaceful – because both sides are intent on forcing the other to see their point of view. They’re intent on recruiting the impressionable and venerable while the moderates stand back in dismay knowing that logic and diplomacy have no place in the middle of the age old squabble of “my sides right and your sides wrong because…”.
No side or person or group who use manipulation and violence to recruit or demonstrate their point can ever be right. Both extreme sides are 100% in the wrong. By becoming so aligned people become the thing they hate, the thing they protest against, the thing that others fear. This irony is lost on most. It is not lost on me.
So – where do I stand? Somewhere back in the 80’s I suppose where we encouraged immigration and cultural diversity. Where other peoples rich heritage made us richer from just being around it. Where we embraced their colourful festivals and religions. We even had an event “Expo ’88” which was designed to celebrate cultural diversity and how much smaller our world was becoming. I remember going to Expo – getting my little passport and running to get stamps and look in wonder at the dragon dancers and geishas. I’m thankful that sense of wonder has never left me – that urge to learn and soak up what other cultures bring to augment my own (rather than it being rammed down our immigrants throats it should be the other way round).
I want to know all I can about the different cultures in the world – the ones my values are aligned with and the ones that they’re not. I want to do this because without a better understanding of where they came from, I will never understand why our mindsets and priorities are so different. I can never learn to respect something that I don’t understand. I want to draw the distinction there between “like” and “respect” because the are not mutually exclusive terms. I like people I don’t respect and I respect people I don’t like. They are not intertwined.
Is the purpose of this post to chastise anyone one on one of the extreme sides? No – that’s their choice to live in a society that condones bullying and hurting people that don’t conform to their way of thinking (which I feel is quite totalitarianist). My purpose is to mourn moderate Australia where we can see the difference between an individual, a culture, a political movement and a religion. I mourn the time when we used to see evil deeds as perpetrated by a person who is doing evil or someone who has a mental illness obscuring their moral centre. I’m sad that when one person acts out – it’s the convenient associated group that’s blamed out of mistrust and fear.
Incarcerate the evil-doers, but don’t make their whole community live in a prison of fear and judgement.
I’m going to finish this post off with an analogy between two events that occurred in Australia at around the same time. In December of 2014 – two horrendous events occurred in Australia – but you will have only heard extensively about one. A man claiming to be of Islamic religious alignment took 18 people hostage inside the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place, Sydney. Three people died during the event – including the assailant. Later, it was found that the man was mentally ill and while he claimed he was a Muslim he was not considered an active or devout member of the faith. At the same time a in Cairns, far north Qld – a Christian mother of Islander decent stabbed 8 young children to death – leaving their tiny bodies for her 20 year old son to find later that day. The woman was a known ice addict.
I ask you – which is of these events was more horrific? Which deserves more community outcry and angst? Which perpetrator do you have the stronger negative feelings toward?
In closing I will give you my opinion: both crimes were equally disturbing and horrific in my mind. It shouldn’t matter that one crime was perpetrated by an Australian woman and one by a man who claimed to be a Muslim. The taking of any human life is the ultimate crime. If the logic of the extremist was applied to this case – I would distrust all people of Islander decent now because of the actions of one person who was abusing mind altering substance. So logic would follow that all people of her creed where substance abusing, child killers?
One of these events attracted weeks worth of media coverage – one had a small article on page 7 of the national newspaper and a 5 minute slot on the evening news…. both events equally troubling.
I condemn both perpetrators and their actions. I do not condemn their religions or cultures – they are not responsible for the way an individuals mind works.
In the age of “all Muslims are terrorists” or conversely “all terrorists are Muslim” I want to introduce a fact many may find surprising. 90% (the actual number reported by statistical analysis is 94% but media outlets are reporting 90% so lets go with that) of all activities that are considered to be terrorist in origin are carried out by people who are not of Muslim decent.
My only interest is for this to make people think – have they been indoctrinated into an extremist mindset? It would be my preference for the community at large to look at the individual or the circumstances behind the crime rather than cultural or religious alignment. We’re never going to get to the bottom of problems within our society if we just keep blaming the “flavour of the decade”.