Freo's View

WE ALL GOT RED BLOOD AND BROWN SHIT

 

There is plenty of time for contemplation and soul searching during the cold and wet winter days and nights, so when it was suggested to me that I should try to speak at one of the new TEDx Fremantle events about Perception and Reality, I wondered what it was I would like to speak about.

My thoughts don’t comply with the TEDx Fremantle categories of; only good science, no political agenda and no religious proselytizing, so I decided to just write down my contemplations and publish it here on Freo’s View instead. Here it is:

When we talk about reality and perception we should start with the elephant in the room first, and that is that Australia is not the best country in the world. Simply because no country is! There are many great countries in the world. I lived in three of them.

Our soldiers are not braver than those from other countries, and there is nothing specifically Australian about people helping each other in a crisis. When there are floods in Bangladesh, earthquakes in Mongolia, or wars and disasters in other parts of the world, the communities rally to give a helping hand.

Australia has lived on the urban myth of being the fair go country, but how can we claim that when the British settlers mostly ignored Aboriginal culture and language and treated our indigenous people as primitive idiots. How can a fair country take children away from their parents to bring them up as Christians and does not allow them to speak their native languages, and how can a fair country allow many of these children to be abused and raped?

How can we believe to be the fair country when we ban genuine refugees from coming to Australia, but lock them up instead in camps of neighbouring countries, but want priority immigration for supposedly ‘endangered’ white South African farmers?

How can we claim that we live in the best country on earth, when tonight, like every night, 115,000 homeless Australians sleep rough in the cold and wet?

The perception of greatness has always confused the Australian identity and that’s why we are still looking for one. We are not the Akubra hat-wearing cowboys, who live in the red dirt outback, but 90% of our population lives on the coastal plains and in big cities.

You might be surprised now when I say that I really love living in Australia, and even more that I live in Fremantle. But we need to start cutting the crap and let go off the hubris, because to be able to move forward together as a community and nation we need to acknowledge the harsh reality that Australia is far from perfect and that there is a lot of room for improvement.

We at the grassroots need to insist that political debate is about issues and has substance, and is not about point-scoring and name-calling, and we need to let all politicians know that we will no longer put up with their infantile behaviour in our parliaments.

We need to stop believing in the urban myth of our own greatness and start by showing real compassion for the less well off in our society.

It is not acceptable that we spend millions of dollars on non-essential things when our pensioners are barely making ends meet, when our hospitals are over-crowded and have long waiting lists, as does social housing, and when so many suffer from serious mental health issues.

Australia joined the so-called war on terrorism, but why haven’t we begun a war on poverty, and a war on unemployment and homelessness?

We are not all equal when multinational companies don’t pay tax, but low-income earners, pensioners and people on social benefits constantly get scrutinised to the point that is causes anxiety and depression for many.

It is good to have dreams, but it is not good to live in dreamworld and ignore the pragmatic reality of Australian life. Racism is a daily experience for those who are not white, and verbal abuse is also a daily worry for Muslim women, who have become the easy targets for ignorant fools. Western Australia has the highest rate of domestic violence in the nation!

Australia is a beautiful country, and I strongly believe that most people are good, caring and tolerant, and even more so here in Fremantle, but there are also many intolerant haters, who do not positively contribute to our community.

The Australia I love was summed up pretty well one evening in the Fitzroy Crossing pub in the stunning Kimberly when a drunk and huge Aboriginal man looked down on me in the toilet and said “Isn’t it amazing brother that we both have red blood and brown shit.” Yes indeed. We have a lot more in common than what divides us!

My wish for Australia is to wake up to reality and stop claiming that this is the best country on the planet. There is a huge different between being proud of one’s nation or becoming dangerously-and unrealistically- nationalistic. We can only find Australia’s real identity when we stop the tokenism and engage in real reconciliation with our Aboriginal brothers and sisters. To do that we need to use the word RESPECT more often.

To show real respect we need to acknowledge Aboriginal people in our constitution, we need to build a substantial Aboriginal cultural centre in Fremantle, so that overseas visitors can engage and learn about our indigenous history and culture, and we need a memorial on Rottnest Island telling the awful story of the inhumane Quod Aboriginal prison, where nearly 400 boys and men from all over Western Australia died.

Only with real mutual respect, and only with real, deep and soul searching honesty can we make Australia the best country in the world. Dismissing and patronising others is only holding us back.

Roel Loopers

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