The racism of Western liberal democracies is an insipid and dangerous form of racism. Disguised under the banner of reason and rationality, the racism perpetrated by Australia is all the more racist because it pretends not to be. Beneath the vague sentimentality, and charity parading as justice is a deep undercurrent of hatred. Like the superego in Freudian psychoanalysis, we have tried to suppress this side of ourselves and as a result, it manifests in obscene, cruel, and cynical forms which it would not have originally taken.
Refugees on Manus Island and Nauru are victims of the pathology of reason. Refugees, under the claim of ‘stopping the boats’, are taken offshore to ‘detention centres’ where they languish, gulag-style, enjoying the deep-burns of the local Phosphorous mines, or the equally deep burns of 40-degree sun. Stories of rape, assault, and self-harm abound. All this is done under the pretence of ‘stopping the boats’ and some other patriotic rhetoric like ‘protecting Australian jobs’. The Age recently reported how refugees which have come to Australia for medical aid have been threatened to have all their assistance cut off, meaning they will have to find work, food, and shelter in Australia within 2 weeks or be sent back to the detention centres. When asked why these refugees were being cut off from the system, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton replied that it was, again, ‘to stop the boats’. The line of reasoning becomes mildly absurd when considering that the boats have stopped coming for a long time. And even then, why must innocent refugees suffer when all they are guilty of is trying to flee persecution?
Our treatment of refugees brings to mind an event from September 20th, 2007, when 7 Tunisian fishermen were put on trial, potentially facing 15 years each for saving 44 African migrants from drowning. All observers agree that the point of the trial was to dissuade others from trying to help ‘boat-people’. Much like how our treatment of refugees is supposed to act as a deterrent to people-smugglers. Refugees occupy a position between states and are thus not entitled to the rights of a state, meaning human rights become the rights of the state. The refusal to extend human rights to refugees is pretty ironic considering Australia is a self-proclaimed democracy.
Our racism does not manifest itself in brutal torture covered by the media, or by mocking refugees. Rather, the racism is institutionalised in the form of a rational system where refugees are taken, logged, and placed in detention overseas in a very disinterested and rational way. The officers who put innocent people in prisons feel justified by telling themselves ‘they are only doing their jobs’ and it is the system itself which is to blame. Yes, the system becomes the manifestation of our authoritarianism and racism. Blaming the system is like blaming the gun for the murder. Our treatment of the refugees is distanced and institutionalised by a criminal justice system, where it is properly contrasted with the reckless slaughter of innocents by the USA. The formula for our reasonable racism owes itself to Robert Brasillach, 1938
We grant ourselves permission to applaud Charlie Chaplin, a half Jew, at the movies; to admire Proust, a half Jew; to applaud Yehudi Menuhin, a Jew; and the voice of Hitler is carried over radio waves named after the Jew Hertz…we don’t want to kill anyone, we don’t want to organise any pogrom. But we think the best way to hinder the always unpredictable actions of instinctual anti-Semitism is to organise a reasonable anti-Semitism.
Is this not the same logic our government employs when dealing with disposable populations of colour? The government will reject the extreme views of Pauline Hanson, but they will vindicate them by waging war in the Middle East. The government will condemn the slaughter of innocents overseas when done in the name of the Caliphate but justifies its own slaughter in the name of sovereign borders. Think of the recent round of ads which featured an Indian doctor, Chinese physiotherapist, Egyptian dentist, or Armenian journalist. We congratulate ourselves on our diversity, my God, aren’t we told every day that we are a multicultural country? You would think that constantly saying it would be compensating for something, wouldn’t you?
Our government’s deal with the immigrant threat by rejecting the absurdly racist and extreme proposals and then settling for a far more ‘reasonable’ solution. We don’t want to kill the Indonesians, Syrians, Iranians and others who come here. We just want to keep them at arms-length, in institutions over the border. We like the idea of them but dislike the smell.
Rather than venting the emotion in its pure form, the government waters it down, settling for reasonable racism. Diet racism, delicious. Enjoy the video: