December 1, 2007
If you’ve just tuned in, i’ve been writing because my story appeared in newspapers around Australia (and Europe): cairns, brisbane, adelaide, sydney, melbourne, perth, tassie, england, the.uk, ireland and yes – sweden. (plus: front cover of cairns post! pdf 900kb)
This was a bit of a buzz for me, especially as the story was faintly ridiculous. People get kicked out of pubs all the time for being not-what-the-locals-ordered. Or a bit weird. Maybe even “socially undesirable”. In fact an Indigenous woman got kicked out the same pub five minutes before i did – and her face didn’t get in the media, did it?
Yes i got kicked out of a pub for having a book with me. A book with the T-word in the title. Plus wires hanging out me pocket. And staring in shock when that dark-skinned lady got chucked out the door. She was a good dancer.
The locals thought i was going to blow the place up. Apparently.
My friend Avril was shocked and wrote a letter to the Editor of the Cairns Post who found it a worthy headline and chased me down. Thank heavens i had the wits in the interview to pose as a tosser, and claim that i was “Absolutely flabbergasted”. Yeah, go michael !
Many people, gathered around water coolers, found this to be a sign that we’ve lost the plot, gone to hell in a hand-basket, and that hard-right governments are turning to tyranny. Also that the government and media hype is really about subduing Western populations and centralising control.
Following this, the people of Australia kicked out their conservative government. Yeah, go The People!
So, what do you think? Are we on track? Should we be going to war to stop all this anti-civilian violence. Rounding up folk who look different? Surrendering our civil rights in the interests of public safety? Sending suspects overseas where we can torture them ‘legally’?
Time to get some ring-ins .. yep just ring this number and chat to us now .. oh how do i make the switchboard work?
(images: thanks for takin it to the banksy by guano at flickr)
November 30, 2007
Stating its reasons as public safety, the Japanese government is passing legislation to enforce fingerprinting for all foreigners. Vegetable Japan posts a strong protest, noting that all of the anti-civilian violence in Japan has been carried out by the locals rather than Gaijin.
She believes that the government is using widespread fear to crack down on individual liberties, and refers to an article by John Mueller. Writing from the US, for Foreign Affairs, Mueller wonders whether the threat of the T-word is now used primarily to curtail civilian freedoms, rather than to maintain public safety.
(image of delicious food taken without permission from Vegetable Japan)
November 22, 2007
Jon Faine asked me if Cairns was competing to be the most ignorant, rednecked place in Australia. i said it was in the running, but that this was just one pub. Let’s not go overboard with the generalisation, i tried to imply.
(But respectfully. Faine is one superhero.
(Link to interview below
Before i state that abusing people (and their cities) because of their behaviour isn’t always helpful, i’d like to add that Sydney is still in the lead for that competition, after the Cronulla riots of 2005.
A couple of people getting kicked out of a pub really doesn’t compete with that.
When you add in all the dog whistling coming out of another NSW town .. Canberra, then Cairns isn’t in the running at all. Did i say Canberra? Maybe the messages of fear and suspicion, of hatred and social division, have been emerging from Kiribilli all along.
So lets leave Cairns out of it. Cairns is a beautiful city full of wonderful people. So is Sydney. Wonderful people that deserve all the safety and first-rate public education we can muster.
Don’t shoot Brasilians because we think they look Middle Eastern and carry a backpack on the Tube. Stop blaming minorities for our global imbalances.
Elect governments that are far less committed to spreading social division and fear like honey on toast (just to conceal their out-of-balance economics).
Fund public education properly, so that people have a clue about how to live in this world.
.. but i might have a copy if you missed out. Okay, here’s a listening device:
powered by ODEO
Thanks for reading.
(thanks kalandrakas at flickr for “how to pray the japanese way“; abc images used without permission)
November 16, 2007
When i went dancing in that hotel in Cairns, i really didn’t think too much about the consequences. But i did think about how people might perceive me – a fortyish male caucasian on my own. So i tried to be discreet, non-threatening .. not stare at anyone.
i moved about on the dancefloor for four or five songs.
(Including Dexy’s Midnight Runners, and Billie Jean. Okay, i was desperate for nightlife. i was on my own in a strange city. i was feeling a bit lonely and uncomfortable. But trying to look cool and relaxed about it.)
Then i stood to the side of the dancefloor watching the action for maybe three songs. Again, trying to be unobtrusive.
Whoops! It didn’t work. Somehow i came across to some people as potentially threatening, and the bouncer asked me to leave, saying that several patrons had complained about the book i was carrying. When story hit the front page those patrons wanted their say too.
Now i find out it wasn’t just the book.
Some of the patrons from that night are now upset at being labelled paranoid. They say that they saw a man “behaving strangely”, and that they felt intimidated. These people saw
- wires coming out of a man’s pocket (my mp3 player and headphones),
- a waist pouch (with my sunglasses),
- and a book with “the T word” on its cover (novel by Richard Flanagan).
They saw a man standing motionless on the dancefloor for twenty minutes ..
(that really baffles me. i’m sure i was dancing vigorously, and i meant to be friendly, but in my own space – intending fully to respect other people, not intrude on anyone else’s fun.
(Anyone who’s seen me on a dancefloor would be puzzled by that one. The reason i hit the dancefloor was because it was active. Usually i’m the one who gets up first, and starts other people going.)
Other people were also asked to leave
At the moment that the bouncer (#181) came up and moved me to the pavement, i was wondering whether to leave or to have another dance ..
.. because i’d just seen an Indigenous woman escorted out the door. She’d been dancing too. A very funky dancer, she was striking in appearance. Recalling the moment, I realise now that i did stare pointedly around me at that moment. i was stunned. This woman had also been dancing on her own, very well. She was well dressed and good looking. She looked to me like a good and interesting person.
i somehow leapt to the conclusion that she was asked to leave because she was “too black”. If that were true, then this was not the kind of hotel i wanted to dance in.
At that moment i stared around me in shock, trying to fathom why this had happened. i was outraged at the possibility that my conclusion could be right. i did stare at people then, wondering why everyone had let this black woman be kicked out for no reason.
- A man who looks different,
- who has wires coming out his pocket,
- who has a pouch around his waist and
- a book with the T word on the cover,
- as well as long frizzy black hair,
- who stares, indignantly.
Clear signals, to someone on the lookout. Someone who feels threatened by the world of difference. Someone who perhaps doesn’t notice an Indigenous woman being kicked out of the pub.
Atmosphere of fear
i’ve got to say that i think labelling people paranoid could be a mistake. i always thought Keating’s biggest mistake was to abuse his opponents, rather than lead them to a better place. People do get afraid, and their minds can leap to unfair conclusions. Abusing or making fun of people who feel threatened, or are in the grip of fear, is perhaps not the best approach.
This culture we live in has been brought to the point of hysterical frenzy, and individuals are not immune from these emotional currents. Most people don’t have much protection against the pressure-cooker emotions of the mass media, or from politicians who seek to embed their power by preying on those fears. i too have looked at strangers in bars and found myself wondering.
We urgently need leaders who can empathise and allay people’s fears, while at the same time evolving our understanding and our behaviour, sensibly and responsibly.
Personally i feel vulnerable and disturbed. Now i know how easy it is for people to get the wrong idea.
Just what the book is all about.
(image: thanks for “is that an iPod in your pocket by thespacesuitcatalyst at flickr)