Australia…

oz_flag I’d be a liar if I said the Australian flag did nothing for me. It’s evocative of good memories from a childhood with just a few.

Memories of my Australian-made bathers from the 1970s, and a barbecue at a beach in Port Lincoln that now hosts expensive townhouses adjoining a marina, are frequently summoned by the sight of my nation’s flag. My father, being a fisherman, wasn’t always home, and when he was home he was frequently moody, especially as the years wore on. But at the beach, he was in his element, and the barbeque was as close as he had to a sacred rite. Southwark Bitter, in a longneck with a green label was the communal wine.

It’s a pretty stereotypical image of Australia, but it’s not one that was inculcated into me via advertising or viral memes, and obviously, it predates the popular hooliganism of flag-capes, vandalism and race rioting that’s been in the ascendant since the 1990s. But it is what it is; bathers, barbeque, beach and booze.

I’ve always been in favour of Australia becoming a republic, although I’m ambivalent about the issue of the flag. I don’t view it as so sacred that I’d oppose it being changed, and yet I’m not motivated to see it go.

Maybe, if I wasn’t as emotionally numb as I am, I’d get up in arms about it. Maybe, if I had a better grasp of my own emotional state, I’d anticipate feelings of loss at the prospect of it going away. I can’t say I know for sure.

The most I can muster from this introspection, is a realisation of how folks more emotional than myself may also be more invested, either way.

Other folks surely see the flag differently, even if only in degree.

More broadly, the concept of Australia isn’t objectively bound just to things that are popularly cherished. It’s not just slabs, thongs, zinc cream and shorts. Australian culture is anything that Australians can experience it as, and that includes the snake bites, the road accidents and the racial violence.

You don’t get to expect that people’s subjective experiences are recounted in a manner identical to your own. Reality doesn’t work like that.

When people complain about Australia on account of their experiences, there always seems to be at least one defensive patriot who’ll attempt to cast such objections as mendacious. Don’t complain, you’re ruining our party! That’s Australia you’re talking about!

It’s a pity that it often doesn’t occur to these people that the solution to this problem is to have an Australia that produces less avoidable, undesirable experiences.

Possibly the pinnacle of irony in all of this, is when people complain that other Australians should “like it or leave”. Clearly the people making this complaint don’t “like it” themselves, and yet they don’t pack their bags.

Where would they go? How would they get there? (If only it was feasible to send them off on rickety fishing boats, the irony would be resolved…)

If you’re going to have a debate about whether Australia is worth celebrating, or if you just want your celebrations to be more authentic, you have to get used to the idea that Australia isn’t just what you make of it from a casual glance. You need to be more outwardly exploratory, and more self-reflective than that.

As I write this, Australia Day 2015 is fading into yesterday. Caricatures, and narrow cultural cross-sections are standing at ease, resting in preparation for their deployment on ANZAC day.

A thousand and one lost identities will drop the clichés until ads for lamb and the like demand their deployment again. The fetishists will take a break from paying superficial homage to the outward appearances of sub-cultures they couldn’t really care about.

Memories of Australia will go unchronicled, their owners partitioned from the story telling – whole facets disappearing with time to the detriment of us all.

And those of us with more acceptable narrative elements will have our reflections reinforced by the presence of Australian flag flip-flops and bikinis – bromides for the comfortable Aussie.

~ Bruce

(Photo Source: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos)

When requesting condemnation from Muslims…

Before I proceed, not as a caveat nor a qualifier, but because I haven’t said as much here as yet; the Charlie Hebdo shootings are unequivocally and without qualification, an atrocity. In as far as a meagre site like this, with its meagre traffic and meagre output can be capable of noticeably contributing to the global outpourings of sentiment, the editorial position at Rousing Departures is one of solidarity in freedom of expression, and sympathy for the victims of the Charlie Hebdo shootings. If anyone reading has a problem with this, or if they want to append a “…but” of their own, they should just walk away.

***

Don’t jump to conclusions on account of the title – condemnations of atrocities are always desirable. That being said, you can’t nor should you demand that any given person enact a condemnation.

When I condemn Islamist atrocities I do so for the obvious reason that they are ethically undesirable, and frankly, because it’s easy for someone in my position to do. Unlike the Charlie Hebdo staff, or Saudi Arabian atheists, or Sufis subject to Taliban rule, and unlike a whole range of other populations, I’m not under any threat of violence.

Some folk don’t seem to understand their own relative safety.

ruppie “Maybe most Moslems peaceful, but until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible.” – Rupert Murdoch.

An obvious retort (there are many), is that holding cancer victims responsible for treating themselves is more than a little silly. At the very least, this is a bad analogy, but then Rupert didn’t get his riches on account of his wits, so I guess we can’t expect any better.

A somewhat less obvious retort, although entirely more salient, is that Rupert’s prescription would have Sufis labouring to reform or repeal Wahhabism. Sufis who never blew or shot anyone up. Sufis who never contributed to Wahhabist theology or Islamist politics. Sufis who’s relationship with the excesses of Wahhabism/Islamism can simply be summed up as having been on the receiving of sectarian violence.

Before people start attributing responsibility for anything to Muslims, it’d first help to know about the various kinds of Islamic believers there are out there. Let Information Is Beautiful help you get started on that. (Keeping in mind, that not only do the various branches read their texts differently, but that they don’t all have the exact same religious texts*.)

It would also help, before asking anything of anyone, to make sure they aren’t already doing it. Just because you’ve never seen a Muslim condemn Islamist violence, doesn’t mean that such condemnation doesn’t happen – that’s the argument from ignorance right there.

Not only do many Muslims criticise Islamist terrorism, but they have sometimes been known to really rise to the occasion. This is desirable, and laudable, and very much so because such action is voluntary.

(And if you want to see a Muslim being really critical, you can always head to this arcane thing called the Internet to read such material. Hell, I’m pretty sure even old Rupert would love such reading, should he ever find it.)

***

If you’re going to frame your demands for condemnation under the banner of The West And Its Values, which you’re probably free to do if you’re in a position to make such demands, then you may want to actually be just a little in-touch with history. Let me furnish you with a few facts.

  • Fact: The Ottoman Empire, while certainly guilty of its own crimes, kept Wahhabism in check until the 20th Century. The West did not because the West just doesn’t factor in in the early history of Wahhabism. From the 20th Century onward, The West has been pretty rubbish at opposing Islamism.
  • Fact: Ideologically, modern Islamism syncretises doctrinal elements from certain Western values; specifically, those of Nazism/Fascism. (This is something, incidentally, that should obligate Western anti-Fascists to actually oppose Islamist groups, rather than voice solidarity with them).
  • Fact: Financially, Wahhabism and Islamism for the past few decades, have been propped-up by the Western hunger for oil. A hunger that has seen past Islamist/Wahhabist atrocities wilfully ignored by Western powers, as well as into the present in cases like that of Raif Badawi.

Perhaps, if you’ve owned a car over the last few decades, you’d like to reconsider your own responsibilities, given your own potential indirect funding of Islamic terrorist cells. Or perhaps you’ll review your patronage-by-extension of the regime responsible for atrocities during the Grand Mosque Seizure of 1979. Of course, such a likelihood is slim because the likelihood of substantial indirect financial contributions to these atrocities by Westerners increases with wealth/fossil fuel use – right Rupert?

(Before turning a blind eye to Islamist extremism became the hypocrisy of choice for a portion of the post-Soviet-era Western left, this was the right’s stock in trade**).

I don’t mention any of this to denigrate The West, and I certainly do hold the Enlightenment values of tolerance dear; values that stand on their merits. But I do have to state that I can’t empathise with people invoking these values for the sake of having something to brag about or barrack for. While these values permit triumphalism, they’re not about triumphalism, and it’s not like any of us are Enlightenment intellectuals capable of taking credit anyway.

This kind of thing seems suspect to me, and has a whiff of hypocrisy about it – do these Brave Heros of The West really hold these values dear, or are they just playing Dungeons and Dragons? And as with connecting ordinary Western motorists with Wahhabist oil barons, the basis for targeting average every-day Muslims with charges of responsibility seems incredibly tenuous.

***

As alluded to earlier, you have to consider the risk speaking out would subject Muslims to; consider the distribution of terrorist attacks.

A thought experiment: Would you really demand that a gay Sufi from Şanlıurfa Province in the south-east of Turkey, come out to denounce ISIS, on pain of being tarred a sympathiser by avid readers of The Sun? How would you weigh their responsibility for ISIS against the risks involved?

On the other hand, it would hardly be beyond the pale to argue with some sheltered, never-vilified, can-always-run-back-to-their-parents, with-it white dude from the upper-middle-class suburbs of Melbourne, Australia, over their newly found religious affiliation with radical Salafism. This could hardly be any worse than giving someone an earful for joining Golden Dawn or One Nation. Not everyone is free to toy with their religious identity like this, and not everyone faces the same consequences, nor indeed, the consequences of their own ideological choices.

Between these extremes there is a whole lot of context, and the details matter.

***

During the time I’ve been gasbagging over these things, no doubt know-nothings will have had their egos stroked and their anxieties soothed at their regular pub, no doubt trolls will have frothed in the comments sections online, and no doubt other atrocities will be hypocritically overlooked by too many of those demanding condemnation, as well as those engaging in apologetics.  No doubt more Muslims will have taken to the streets in protest. No doubt Muslims like Tehmina Kazi will have spent more of their time directing their liberal-secularist organisations in light of all the horror and pontificating.

All without thanks or acknowledgement from certain quarters, no doubt. Quarters that require both left and right eyes to see.

~ Bruce

* Spare me the No True Scotsman Fallacy – pretending that All True Muslims read all the same texts, all the same way, is a fatuous observation to make when you don’t use the same criteria in identifying Muslims to hold responsible in the first place.

** Which is probably as good a juncture as any to suggest that people look into the writings of Kanan Makiya, giving special consideration to how he was a darling of the left prior to the collapse of the USSR, and thrown under the bus afterward. Even if you’re not going to go away sold on ideas like interventionist regime change, Makiya’s writing is a necessary challenge to endure if you aspire to be well read on such matters.

Tricks In Neoliberal Culture #001: Affirming Values Through Compliments

Say you’re a ne’er-do-well with a need or desire to pass yourself off as a bleeding heart. Say you don’t have enough time on your hands to do the actual work of a bleeding heart. Perhaps you’re too busy on account of maintaining a cocaine habit, or just sleeping in, or some-such.

Only, you’ve got a start-up, or a spokesperson gig that brings you work, fame and/or fortune, and it all rises or falls based on your standing.

Do not worry. Other people do this work all the time; capitalise on their labour. You just have to find a way to take credit, without appearing to take credit, all while minimising the expenditure of your resources.

This is where compliments come in, and they work at all scales.

Example 1

“Wow. Those cancer researchers do a great job. People really need to be more aware of how cancer effects people!”

Sounds twee, doesn’t it? Likeably twee though, and lets face it, it’s easy to portray anyone criticising such sentiment as being cruel. It’s also a bit of a non-sequitur; it doesn’t follow from the great job cancer researchers really are doing, that people need to be more aware of the social impact of cancer.

Hell, everyone knows someone who’s been “touched by cancer”.

But people don’t pay attention to this kind of detail. You can even put it in the same paragraph and people won’t notice.

“Wow. Those cancer researchers do a great job. People really need to be more aware of how cancer effects people! Everyone knows someone who’s been touched by cancer! Did you know that?”

Being a layabout spokesperson for cancerishness stuff is as easy as that. If someone points out the flaws in the argument, then simply call them cruel and fall back on the crowd to defend you.

It’s vitally important that you place these details well beyond reproach, because these details actually relate to what you’re going to do, and you don’t want your actions being scrutinised.

“Cancer researchers work hard. To draw attention to how bad cancer is, we’re having an iced-genital challenge. Just record yourself icing your genitals, nominate someone else with warmer genitals than yourself, maybe send some money to our cancer awareness campaign, and all will be good!”

Bucket_of_Ice Place genitals here, and send me your cancer dollars
(Photo Source CC: Nautical9)

Thing is, after getting your not-for-profit up and running, you’re not going to send that money on to fund cancer research. Oh no, you only send those boffins compliments. You? You fund cancer awareness. Who is doing the cancer awareness work that you will be funding? Why that would be you!

Compliment cancer research + patronise cancer-induced suffering with “awareness” shite = profit.

Well, not literally. By “profit” I mean “expenses” like business lunches (that you like to eat), travel (to where you want to go), employing people (such as yourself and your fuck buddies), and so on. All to make people aware of cancer, the effects of which have been experienced in at least some capacity by… everyone.

If exploiting people’s gullibility makes you feel poorly, just remember that thanks to this, you can probably afford to buy yourself a pony. If you still feel poorly after buying a pony, then you’re shark bait – use the pony as a decoy when predators arrive and then harden the fuck up.

Example 2

Okay, so maybe your career as a spokesperson or thingy-thing-doer or whatnot isn’t at the kind of level where you can just up and establish a not-for-profit and market the shit out of yourself The Cause. Do not worry; I said this was doable at all scales.

Don’t ever let it be said that Ayn Rand didn’t collect social security. Also, if government money is available for a cause, fucking aim for it. (Depending on where you live, this trick may instead mean taking money from corporate PR departments – the point is, never think of where the money comes from or what it’s supposed to be for).

Whatever your situation may be, if you’re at least worth spit, there are always organisations with money floating around, looking for spokespersons for causes. The most sincere (and hence the most exploitable) of these look to outsiders, rather than their founders, to do the awareness-making and speaky-speak.

Often, they want someone to look as if they’re from outside the establishment because it gives a (false) appearance of independence. Tiny Tim can sell Scrooge’s good intentions better than Scrooge can.

The best place to prowl for these lush gigs is around performance artists. These needn’t be major recording artists, although it could be – you could work your way up to that if you’re evil enough. Again, this is doable at all scales.

As with the first example, you want to compliment others while minimising your workload. Essentially, this just means being a part of the crowd, while nominally, also being on stage.

Open mic sessions, spread between more established performers, are great for this. Become a regular at such gigs!

Write super-sanctimonious shit. It doesn’t have to be good, just be earnest. Nobody notices your artifice, or at least, if they do, they don’t want to be the only one who’s calling you on your shit – that’s a one way trip to lonely-town. You’ll get away with it – this is the easy bit.

The two important things that you do not want to fuck up, are; being louder in your praise of other artists than everyone else is, and not praising the wrong kind of shit.

If you want a gig as an anti-racism spokesperson, it doesn’t matter if on some level, your own performance is implicitly racist or patronising because most people at stage performances do not do deep thinking, and the ones that do don’t get listened to because they’re too quiet. It will matter however, if you give a huge fucking applause to a KKK slam poet; you’ll be the one sad fuck in the crowd who’s cheering them on. You’ll be the one pathetic twonk in the scene who cheered on that bonehead that one time.

Don’t be that twonk.

No, what you want to do is wait until that exploitable Social Justice Warrior who’s been fighting racism all their life, comes on to stage to slam, rhyme and free-verse about it, and then hit them with a “YES! YES! YES!”

Pick some affirmations that are short, abrupt, preferably monosyllabic, infinitely repeatable, don’t require thought, and then blast them out. Stand up while you’re hollering if you can.

Do not be bothered with any of that foot-rumbling crap, or that clicky-shit they do at slams in Melbourne. You’ll just blend-in if you resort to that. SEIZE PEOPLE’S ATTENTION! Take attention from the artist who has fought against racism all their life, and focus it on you, but don’t appear to be greedy while you are doing it; “YOU ARE BRILLIANT! I LOVE IT! SO TRUE! YOUR WORDS! SO WISE! INSPIRATIONAL!”

Be careful with “inspirational” though – the audience surely won’t know, but artists may cotton on to your motives when you use this word. If that happens, and the artist criticises you, take advantage; you can just feign innocence to make them look both bad, and bad to work with. Eliminate the competition with a smile.

All of this will work even better, if you’re looking for an anti-racism gig, if the artist you are exploiting is a person of colour and if you are white. Seriously.

Why? Because you’ll probably have a mostly white audience who on some level want the continued comfort of white people being in charge of any and all discussions of racism; people recruiting speakers from the arts use the audience as barometer. The disposition of the audience is also likely true of any number of advocacy bodies looking to recruit anti-racist spokespersons as well, or at least, this is mostly true of most of the well funded ones.

And if you fail, so what? You’re just some person who doesn’t like racism. You can’t be faulted for that, right? Again – feign innocence.

It’s not like this takes much effort anyway. If you don’t win the first time around, you may as well safely sit back, relax and have a beer, and maybe buy one for the new POC friend you’re mooching cred from.

You can go back to hating Jews and feminists after you’re done, which nobody is going to call you on unless you’re silly enough to make it an integral part of your shtick.

The thing with a low-investment, high-payoff scam like this, is that you can effortlessly repeat it over and over and over again. It’s mutable as well; it works just as well for disability advocacy, asylum-seeker advocacy, victims-of-crime advocacy…

If you’re a high functioning sociopath, all advocacy is potential self-advocacy, and don’t you go forgetting that, John Galt!

Observations

Go and attend some free public events centred around do-gooders and artsy types. Make observations. Particularly, watch the people who give the most compliments.

What labour do they actually perform?

What do they get out of the event?

How do they hide their exploits, if any, from being detected?

What values are they affirming through their compliments, and what signs do they actually show of living up to these values (Google is your friend)?

~ Bruce