31 May 2006

Ghassan Hage on racism

Ghassan Hage gave a public lecture on racism at Sydney Uni this evening. After explaining some basic, apparently almost completely structuralist (references, in chronological order, were to Lévi-Strauss, de Saussure, Foucault, Althusser, Lacan and Arendt), principles for anthropological work on racism, he produced a conclusion that was stunning in its simplicity: Muslims are being prepared through racism for extermination, as the Jews had been.

In questions another shockingly simple theme emerged: racism is endemic to human beings, and we are all racist. Marginalised communities may be more racist than the dominant one. We should concede this point so that we can take up the more important point, that the racism of the dominant culture can lead to extermination, whereas the racism of marginalised communities cannot.

The relativism, which of course is idealist, which says that the racist Cronulla revenge attacks are as bad as the racism of the Cronulla pogromists, because the underlying principle is the same, must simply be made to yield to the fact that Australia has the capacity, and possibly the will, to exterminate Muslims from the continent, and possibly, in collaboration with others, much of the world, and Muslims in Australia and elsewhere exist under this threat.

Six weeks later, here's an article from the British Sun calling for 13% of British Muslims to be "rounded up" and "cleaned off the streets".

30 May 2006

Reading the Maps on East Timor

Today's instalment differs slightly from yesterday's reading. While Tim Anderson (I apologise by the way for wrongly crediting the piece to Evan Jones, on whose blog the piece I wrote about was posted) posited an attempt to get rid of the socialist East Timorese liberation movement Fretilin as the government of East Timor, or move which also coincides with Javanese attempts to strangle East Timor at birth, Reading the Maps produces a more penetrative analysis, which goes inside the East Timorese political class and diagnoses a pro-Australian faction headed by East Timorese president, Xanana Gusmao. The presidency is a largely ceremonial position in the East Timorese governmental structure, but Reading the Maps explains it was the President who called in the Aussies, over the objections of the Prime Minister, Marí Bin Amude Alkatiri.

The very fact that Alkatiri would object indicates he's the kind of man that the Australians would logically want to get rid of. Since they are apparently in command of the capital now, one imagines they can do whatever they want.

29 May 2006

Tim Anderson on East Timor

It's an early failure of this blog that I have neither the time nor the expertise to comment on the Australian invasion of East Timor over the weekend. All I could have said by myself is the obvious: that the intervention is motivated by controlling natural resources, not humanitarian concerns, and that Australia should stay out of the internal affairs of other countries, rather than persuing what has really been a white-man's-burden argument for intervention in a situation in which fuzzy-wuzzies are incapable of governing themselves.

Coming so soon after Australia's increasing troop levels in its ongoing occupation of the Solomon Islands, I've been predisposed to read the East Timor situation as closely similar, i.e. on my account a situation of Australian intervention to back up a puppet government.

However, there is an obvious difference in that East Timor was not previously occupied by Australian troops. Evan Jones has today posted a piece by Tim Anderson called 'Howard's role in East Timor?' which lays out the charge that Australia and America have conspired with the Catholic church to depose the democratically elected left-wing government in East Timor. Australia's main game here of course is to loot even more of East Timor's natural resources. This situation is utterly familiar. It is a Australia running its neo-colonies by the textbook developed by the US in Latin America.

22 May 2006


  • What is Australia?
  • What is Australia Watch?
  • What is to be done?
  • Why watch Australia?

    What is Australia?

    Australia is a construct. It is the name of a landmass, but the notion of a landmass is a white man's construct. The notion of the entirety of Australia, singular body of land, was constructed for the purpose of claiming it, of making it into our property. This landmass was subsequently given over for local management by the whites who were settled, or chose to settle, around its southern and eastern fringes. In the process, a new Australia was constructed, based on the landmass, and overlaid with the settlers' conception of themselves, their corporate identity. "White Australia" is, and always has been, something in the order of a tautology. The purpose of this blog is to watch Australia, this living entity born on this continent, its movements and dynamics. An eye is cast to its imperialist tendencies, and to the legacy of the penal colony in Australia's capitalist economic system. We oppose to this the notion of the rights of Australia's victims, of workers and indegenes, as expressed in acts of resistance to Australia, such as the Eureka stockade and countless other strikes and acts of defiance.

    Australia has never been anything more than a local agent of Anglo-Saxony. While Australians are not citizens of the U.S. or Britain in most cases, the Australian ruling class and even the Australian upper middle class are highly interpenetrated with the higher echelons of American and British society. Australia has some interests which differ from those of America or Britain in some limited cases. So what? Individual American states have interests which diverge from those of the union, and Australia pretty much never pursues an independent policy in pursuit of its own interests.

    What is Australia Watch?

    Australia Watch is in principle a group blog. At present, it is bound to a Sydney-centric perspective, which is regrettable. If you want to write something for this blog, contact us. We are recruiting, and I anticipate we always will be.

    Australia Watch is Just Another Blog. We're not trying to represent The Truth. Rather, we're trying to offer a radically different perspective on things Australian, in a spirit of disgust with the dominant discourses. We're not trying to say that any other way of looking at things is invalid, but rather add our own as a corrective.

    Australia is in principle a (non-sectarian) leftist blog, as laid out in our foundational description of Australia. But this is an analytical perspective, rather than a utopianism. We are not making reformist policy recommendations, nor are we aligned with any of the many ineffectual and utopian-fantasist movements of the Australian revolutionary left. See below.

    What is to be done?

    We don't know:
    The necessity of reform mustn’t be allowed to become a form of blackmail serving to limit, reduce, or halt the exercise of criticism. Under no circumstances should one pay attention to those who tell one: “Don’t criticize, since you’re not capable of carrying out a reform.” That’s ministerial cabinet talk. Critique doesn’t have to be the premise of a deduction that concludes, “this, then, is what needs to be done.” It should be an instrument for those who fight, those who resist and refuse what is. Its use should be in processes of conflict and confrontation, essays in refusal. It doesn’t have to lay down the law for the law. It isn’t a stage in a programming. It is a challenge directed at what is. (Michel Foucault, 'Questions of Method')

    Here's the same sentiment in Uncle Charlie's words, for traditionalists:
    “We do not dogmatically anticipate the world, but only want to find the new world, through criticism of the old one. Hitherto philosophers have had the solution of all riddles lying in their writing-desks, and the stupid, exoteric world had only to open its mouth for the roast pigeons of absolute knowledge to fly into it [. . .]. If constructing the future and settling everything for all times are not our affair, it is all the more certain what we have to accomplish at present: I am referring to ruthless criticism of all that exists, ruthless both in the sense of not being afraid of the results it arrives at and in the sense of being just as little afraid of conflict with the powers that be.” (Karl Marx, 1843 letter; minor translation changes by me)

    In fact, we don't even want to know:
    If prisons and punitive mechanisms are transformed, it won’t be because a plan of reform has found its way into the heads of the social workers; it will be when those who have a stake in that reality, all those people, have come into collision with each other and with themselves, run into dead ends, problems, and impossibilities, been through conflicts and confrontations—when critique has been played out in the real, not when reformers have realized their ideas. (Foucault, op. cit.)

    Not to mention that there are certain things we're not allowed to say under the Australian Criminal Code as ammended in the Anti-Terrorism Bill 2005 (pdf).

    Why watch Australia?

    Because we live there, and because no-one else is doing it! The purpose of this blog is to look at Australia through a grid of analysis completely lacking in media reporting of things Australian. They report facts that come to light through a grid of their existing prejudices and commercial imperatives. We seek to understand the facts through an analytical grid which might represent a prejudice, but is at least a fairly original one not representing our own knee-jerk, affective responses to events.