In 2005 in and around Cronulla beach Sydney, there was a Lebanese v the rest 'race' riot
|For my American audience there are some things you need to know to fully understand this narrative. Australia is a South Pacific multicultural experiment that on the whole has worked well since the end of the whites only migration policies that were phased out during the 1960s and finally ended in 1973. Directly as a result of the Lebanon civil war in the 1970s and 80s, many people migrated from there to Australia to escape the warfare and poverty.
By 2005, many of their children had come through our schooling system and found themselves in a society that was more difficult to negotiate than it had looked from the perspective of war torn Lebanon. Some made it in the new society, but many fell into the social and economic cracks.
Australia has a similar political divide to the US along Democrat and Republican lines; 'progressive' liberal humanitarians v 'right wing' 'conservatives'; usually cast as a struggle between liberally educated, big government, high tax, justice-for-all and socially libertarian laissez-faireism v 'reactionary redneck', small government, low tax and economically libertarian laissez-fairism. (Laissez-faire is a French word meaning a philosophy or practice characterized by minimal governance.)
The radio and print 'shock jocks' are the 'right wing' of the media and have a reputation for appealing to grass roots atavism. Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt are its lead opinionators.....
Waleed Ali is the Australian liberal media Muslim pin up boy for all that is reasonable, urbane and modern about Islam. Sheik 'Catsmeat' (drawing attention to how western women dressed themselves up like cat's meat) Hilali was Australia's leading Muslim Imam who had the unwise temerity to give some rather frank traditional Muslim sermons on women, rape and sexually revealing fashion taste. The public mainly white liberal reception to this was so hostile that he was eventually forced to resign.
After the riots late in that year, one side has cast the young Lebanese men as victims of racist prejudice and violence while the other cast the Lebanese as unpleasant and violent Muslim interlopers into our-way-of life. Much of the language of debate is analogous to that swirling around racial and religious politics in the US.
The 10th anniversary of the Cronulla riots has come and gone, with all the sort of commentary one might expect when discussing 'violence', 'racism' and 'blots on our international reputation’. And the misguided clowns who wanted to 'celebrate' it were thankfully denied the right to demonstrate, had to settle for a BBQ instead and suffered some well deserved ‘spontaneous justice' at the hands of suitably masked 'anti-fascist' democratic disciplinarians.
And the winner was....ideological bollocks.
The real winning went on in the two years following the riots, when anyone who had done more than scratch themselves in the wrong place was caught up with by some very robust policing, followed by some vigorous magistrate court work outs, which left a lot of people smarting from some eye watering legal repercussions.
But beyond that, the liberal commentariat and the shock jocks have contributed little to a genuine understanding of not only what it meant in 2005, but now, when Western Sydney is beginning to produce rather more dangerous social product than aggressive ready-for-a-fight young buccaneers, contenting themselves merely with spoiling other people's enjoyment at the beach.
The beach is Australia's favourite summer chill out venue. Almost everybody goes there. It is normally a very multicultural warm and fuzzy place, except for the occasional drunk. And as long as one respects one's fellow beach goers, by not spoiling their peaceful enjoyment of the space, all is sweetness and light, and no one gives a damn where one comes from or what one's ethnicity or socioeconomic status is.
But at Cronulla beach, over an indeterminate period leading into December 10 years ago, some of our young Lebanese brothers managed to make themselves very unpopular with quite a lot of people, which would be impossible to do if they had just quietly sunbathed or swum, kept to themselves and didn’t bother anyone else.
If in the first place they had been gratuitously ‘picked on’ by pugnacious racists who didn’t like non whites on their beach, we would have heard about it. Unprovoked aggression against our Lebanese brothers would not have found support and sympathy, because most beach goers do not like bullies, let alone racist ones. And anyone who wants to suggest otherwise, can easily test this theory by trying it on any beach in Australia.
It would be a ‘courageous’ experiment.
It seems to me that if one were a white supremacist looking for non white face to kick some sand into, you would pick on some easily intimidated Chinese tourists, rather than a bunch of tough Western Sydney boys, who are very likely to put up a fight.
A far more likely theory is that our Lebanese bros were going down to Cronulla with some ‘attitude’ that would rapidly rub other beach users up the wrong way. And it would not have taken long for this easily identifiable group to acquire some hostile epithets (that would reflect adversely on the animal species of their mothers, their race, ethnicity, religion, abode, diet and taste in clothes and cars) and attract a strong collective view that they did not belong in any sort of decent society, let alone a public place like a beach, anywhere this side of Antarctica.
Life savers are as close as it gets in Australia to a sacred site. The ongoing unpleasantness came to head when four Lebanese boys attacked a couple of them. It was 'on', just like it would be if one graffitied The Prophet's Tomb in Mecca, during the Hadj.
And when things started to get too hot for our Lebanese brothers, instead of thinking to themselves that the locals were getting a bit upset and it might be a good idea to retreat until things had calmed down a bit, they brought in a column of around forty cars full of ‘armed’ reinforcements, and went on the offensive. Then it was really 'on'.
This was not the behavior of a bunch of innocents. The scenario had all the hallmarks of what might have happened if the Cronulla beach crowd had tangled with members of some of Sydney's more notorious motorcycle chapters.
The shock jocks in Sydney behaved at least as wilfully as the Lebanese boys Instead acting as agents of restraint, they egged on the proceedings and tapped into the crudest possible caricatures of Islam. They could have just calmly pointed out to the Lebanese brothers and their community that some of them needed to alter their attitude if they wanted the same welcome on our beaches as any other ethnic group in our multicultural society.
They should have been laying it on the local ‘Aussie heroes' to pull their heads in, hold their tongues and let the police deal with it. And they could have been asking why the situation was allowed to get so out of hand before the police moved in to break up the affray.
If Jones et al had been using their brains and thinking about longer term consequences, they should have been pointing out that if the locals let anger do the talking and got into the fight they had been provoked into, it would become a riot, they would run afoul of the law and inevitably say and do things that would get them framed into the racist stereotype. And the characters that had had a significant hand in causing the problems would be seen as 'the victims' of, wait for it, ‘racist violence’.
One picture of a furious local mob attacking some unfortunate Middle Easterner in the wrong place at the wrong time and it would be all over. The racist caricature would be infallibly proven and prissy, judgmental, finger wagging, petit bourgeois prejudices would triumph. Nobody but the usual ‘fascist sympathizers’ would look any further than that. That is all that would be remembered, blame shifted and happily propagandized ever after.
But much worse than the ‘progressivist’ blather was the attitude of the likes of Alan Jones, who thought they were running some sort of inconsequential adolescent inter-ethnic crusade, when they live in a multicultural society from which there is now absolutely no escape. There is no plan B. If it doesn't work, we are all in big trouble and the society could well cantonize into a series of no go zones, like Beirut in the 1980s for instance.
It was once such a lovely place.
Islam is plainly not a monolith. It runs all the way from the liberal, reasonable, urbane and measured Waleed Alis of this world, through to the Taliban, and everything in between. Christianity has been every bit the same in its own time. A significant proportion of that community came here to escape sectarian violence and religious police, and just want a quiet life out of the ideological firing line, find some economic security and a decent education for their children. Very nice.
But, on the other hand, it is pure delusionalism to imagine that Islam does not present us with perhaps the most serious challenge to multiculturalism that it has faced so far. It is a moving feast, and worldwide, over the last forty years, it has been the Islamic traditionalists who have been making all the moves. The Waleed Ali modernist demographic has been not just under pressure to tighten up on its practices, but getting politically and now militarily shunted out of the way by people who want to do it just the way The Prophet said back in the seventh century, or else.
Over the last ten years that trend has accelerated and become much more pronounced. There isn’t a day that goes by where we get news items that we’d rather not hear, about Muslims struggling with each other and the rest of us to reconstruct their relationship with the modern world.
And its traditionalist and radical protagonists are not exactly libertarian progressives, like dear old Waleed. They do not 'understand' the separation of Mosque and state. They think that personal morality and legal liability are the same thing and that the Mullah should have the right to interfere in the private lives of the faithful.
It is called Sharia Law and if we think that sort of thing only happens in lands far far away, note that in 2007, the people of Western Sumatra (Banda Aceh to Broome is 3941 Kilometers) won the right to impose it in their region of Secular Indonesia, after a thirty year insurgency.
We are going to hear much more about Sharia and the questioning of our liberal traditions coming from the Islamic quarter, and we are not going to like it. Our ancestors shed a lot of blood over that one, which led us to the somewhat unfortunate presumption that the matter was permanently settled. It isn’t. Nothing ever is.
Sheik 'catsmeat' Hilali was shouted down in 2006 and the local Islamic leadership of the still quite small Islamic community was easily ‘persuaded’ into getting rid of him. But when next time comes for what is now global middle-of-the-road Islamic opinion to publicly say what it thinks to a much larger Islamic community, do not expect that the Waleed Alis will prevail or that it will roll over like it did last time.
And we are not going to be in anywhere near as strong a position to ignore them as we once were. Seventy years of the consumer revolution has left our reproductive and social commons in something of a mess, to the extent that the only coherent and systematic socializing still going on is from the proud sponsors and the public relations and marketing machinery sitting behind them.
Modern social practice and ideology just doesn't have the cachet and legitimacy they once did. Human beings do not live by Smartphone’s alone; something that traditional religions in general and Islam in particular, well understand, and have done for some time now.
And do not be too surprised and upset if the desperadoes who used to turn up in droves to Billy Graham salvation and redemption shows in the hope that Jesus would really love them, start coming to Islam, because it maybe the last movement left standing that seems to believe anything much beyond spending big at Christmas.
You shouldn't have to be a Muslim to see that a junk economy eventually produces a junk society and existential junk in its wake. When this unsustainable system starts to disaggregate, the shopping malls start to decay and the weather starts to feel like the wrath of God, the ideological landscape will look very different and our Muslim brothers and sisters really will have to be reckoned with.
Multicultural tolerance depends on having a dominant open society that absorbs new elements as cultural side dishes, which is what cosmopolitan Rome was like, until it started to decline and Christianity started to spread. And part of the Reason that 'the Jewish religion' was resisted so vigorously and for so long by the Roman state, is that it did not do multicultural tolerance. It was their way or the highway, which is exactly what happened when they took over as the official state religion, after a three hundred year struggle. Paganism became illegal.
And Islam has exactly the same drivers, because it comes out of the same autocratic theistic tradition, Waleed’s protestations notwithstanding.
Fear of Islam is not necessarily a phobia. But the Alan Jones version of it very likely is and certainly was 10 years ago. But he and his anthropogenic climate change denying Islamophobic mates aren't the only ones into delusionalism and denial. And it comes out in spades whenever what happened in Cronulla comes up.
Laissez-faire social libertarianism isn't travelling any better with the cultural commons than capital markets are with the ecological one. Its ethos has become mythologized into a language of received wisdom and condemnation; a catechism of belief and lists of heresies, where analysis and argument is taken over by categorization, using heavily soiled and over-used ideological clichés. Philosophy gives way to aphorism and slogans. Rights become freebies disconnected from the moral training and agency that underpin them. Social analysis degenerates into a caricature of heartless monsters and helpless poor things. Social agency becomes do gooding well meaning naivete that borders on the irrational and the self-defeating. Its pedagogy is so weakened that learning and respect has become discretionary. Its morality is so riddled with excuses it looks like a Swiss cheese that delivers not freedom, but life without boundaries.
But the hardest of all to bear is their self righteous presumption of ideological business-as-usual and that all else is in league with ‘dark forces’. By this means the ‘Libertarchs’ (Orthodox libertarians who control the civil arm of our system of social reproduction) have made honest political discourse and the sustainable practice that comes from that, all but impossible, and replaced it with obfuscation and the politics of condemnation.
The time has come to call its bluff and kick its collective backside as hard as those of the Alan Jones’ and Andrew Bolts. They are as off with the ideological fairies as each other.
Singapore has had some very bloody riots, particularly in the post independence period and the break up with Malaysia. The relationship between Chinese and Malays has always been a tense and sometimes violent one, going back to early colonial times, when the Chinese came into South East Asia in large numbers; you know, boat people.
The Chinese People's Action Party administration of Singapore has a very ‘hands on’ policy, regulatory and policing environment of tolerance and proactive containment when it comes to Muslim Malays, because riots, disturbances and inter-communal ill will are very bad for business confidence and the image of the island state.
The ‘Little India’ riot of 2013, which was the first since 1969, got away from the administration because it happened spontaneously as a result of a traffic accident. But a Cronulla type situation would just never get going because the slightest sign of trouble would trigger a pre-emptive response, that while as low key as possible, would make it clear to everybody that whatever was going on better stop, or else. And the relevant government funded and oversighted ethnic community organizations would move in to do some non optional management/counseling of their own community members, so that outstanding matters could be satisfactorily ‘resolved’ and everyone could ‘move on’.
The history of dysfunctional and violent inter-communal relations has focused the collective mind in Singapore to ensure that those risks are actively minimized. For them, laissez-faire just isn’t good enough. And it isn’t good enough for us either. We do not have that kind of really bad recent history, but we are rapidly expanding our Muslim population. The Singaporeans aren’t. They have made sure of that. Our risk profile is increasing. Theirs isn’t.
If one looks across the world, there are a lot of multicultural experiments that have failed or are wrestling with intractable problems. Rapid population transformations are risky and libertarian laissez-faire just won’t do.
“Authoritarianism!" I hear people cry. Well they have at least one thing right. It most certainly is. For me and much of the rest of the world, 'authoritarianism' is just the simple exercise of authority to maintain a safe, orderly and respectful society; something only derided in places where there are not yet too many memorials to those who were killed and wounded for the lack of those things.
In the end, the New South Wales police and the courts did do their job, after the event. But it should never have come to that point in the first place. A well run and regulated society would have dealt with it by intervening much earlier. Beach goers should never have been subjected to the sort of misbehaviour that had obviously been going on for some time, and building into a volatile and explosive ‘situation’, waiting to go off.
Furthermore, as in Singapore and any responsibly managed society, there should be no mercy for, or hesitation in intervening with, shock jock incendiarism. They have a responsible role in helping to maintain the integrity of a multicultural society that sits alongside the traditional freedom of speech. And like with any infrastructure, it is ten times easier to undermine years of communal integration effort than to build it. We just cannot afford repeats of Cronulla and if that means Alan Jones’ civil rights have to be constrained, that seems a small price to pay compared with the alternative.
We cannot blame our police. They have been so nobbled by the well meaners, they just cannot do their job properly, and if they try, they become the problem, not the troublemakers. And there was no official beach supervision system to regulate that space so that poor behavior could be quickly identified, managed and moved on, using police support where necessary.
It would have been a lot easier for the police if it had been a chapter of the Hells Angels stirring up the natives, because they are an unequivocal threat to society against which there is an emerging plethora of anti-gang legislation. But they can’t ‘discriminate’ against Lebanese Muslims because that is ‘racism’. And being firm with them is ‘fascist police violence’. The plods might be a bit ideologically slow, but they know when they can’t win and what it will cost them if they try. So they don’t, and they didn’t.
The young buccaneers who came to Cronulla to make trouble knew the odds and played them for a well deserved break. They had all been to school here. They knew the drill and do aggrieved persecution like pros. Of course they aren’t trouble makers. They are just being ‘picked on’ by teachers who ‘have it in for Lebbos’. They’re all ‘good boys’. What is the matter with everyone else? Nothing could possibly be their fault. And more to the point, they’re victims of discrimination and racism by the Aussie beach sluts who do it for everyone else....but not for them….
The racism card has been an excellent obfuscatory tool to conceal the screamingly obvious; poor governance and a thoroughly corrupted version of liberty. It is time to call out the emperor. It is not his funny walk or odd manner. He just isn't wearing any clothes. And if we do not do it of our own volition, we can be absolutely certain, that at some point, the Islamic community will do it for us.
Sharia is a bit too seventh century for my taste. But if we clean up our act, by identifying the extent to which our social commons has been privatized and asset stripped, and re-establishing some common social standards, regulation and accountability back into the system of socialization, we should be able to head it off at the pass.
Here's hoping, because it will give us a slightly better chance of managing what will undoubtedly be a difficult hundred years with our rapidly growing Muslim population. We just might be able to keep enough of their respect and establish sufficiently firm boundaries and rules of engagement, to prevent them from starting to think like the Lebanese kids on Cronulla beach, back in 2005.
But perhaps too many of them already do. In some ways I can’t blame them. The secular society and values of late indulgence capitalism are not a particularly pretty sight. And if our Christian ancestors could speak to us now, they would be saying exactly the same sorts of things to us as a lot of our Islamic brothers and sisters are thinking, even if they aren’t saying much right now.
In the hundred years before the civil war in Britain, the Protestants started to change their dress code to reflect their puritan values and their disapproval of the social mainstream. The women were every bit as into it as the men. And as time went on, it became a uniform for ideological soldiers readying themselves for war.
Whenever I see a woman in particularly a full burqa, I do not think, “There goes a woman who is downtrodden”. I say to myself, “There goes a woman who vehemently doesn’t feel comfortable with or like the western dress code and the seamy libertarian values it represents”.
Yes Muslim women are second class citizens, but we exploit our women just as ruthlessly in our own way; damning them and their sexuality into commodities and consumer fantasies, ‘liberating’ them into a male culture of sexual compliance-and-first-date-use-ups, treating them as industrial auxiliaries, and making them work two jobs by not helping them at home. We are in no position to lecture Muslims on the status of women! What a cheek! And do not imagine that that one is lost on our Islamic sisters.
Straws in the wind?....Cronulla was at least a warning shot across our multicultural bow and possibly a harbinger of a much more dangerous and uncertain age, with an enormous amount of agenda to get through.