Saturday, March 04, 2006

Difference

This world is an amazingly varied place, with difference working together from the smallest bacteria through to the largest of creatures and trees. Sure, in the animal/plant life this interaction is largely based on one consuming the other, but in society difference is good too. Difference keeps us from being stale, it teaches us new things, and it gives us a choice of delivered food goodies from restaurants of varying cultures. I particularly like Thai food for instance, and love the fact that when I choose to eat in I get to use their fuck off large brass cutlery that appears to be used nowhere else on the planet except in Australian Thai restaurants.

In school however difference was bad. A physical deformity, a mental condition, being fat (and in my case the other two as well) was bad news bears as far as fitting in went. Those marked by difference to the norm had a tough time in school. And, outside of school, while the tough time is no longer as bad, occasionally it's still there.

I was sitting in a plane once with a work colleague and struggling to fit my belt on. I'm not in 'asking the steward/s for an extension belt' territory yet, but not far off, and so I felt I had to apologise for being morbidly obese. He looked at me and said this time honoured and hackneyed phrase, but which for some reason resonated with me that day.

'Mate, it'd be a boring world if we all looked the same.'

He's right of course. Because determining who the cool kids were in school would be made a lot harder for one. They might actually have to base on something like substance as opposed to whether someone was carrying a bit of extra weight. Of course the if you played Dungeons and Dragons or not options is still there to exclude people.

He's right though. It would be a boring old world if we were all the same.

The Howard government does not embrace difference. It embraces sameness. It demands we adhere to 'Australian Values' in one breath, then violates them in the other (like the spirit of egalitarianism or a fair go). It points at those different to us and declares their difference a threat. Be it Muslims as terrorists, aboriginals as land stealers (remember bucket loads of native title extinguishment?), refugees as line jumpers, gays as not fit to legally marry or adopt children, women who elect not to go through with a pregnancy as evil (some of the Large L Libs, some not), and looks down on anyone stupid enough to offer those in chronic pain and in the latter stages of terminal illness a means to exit life while still consciously able to make that choice.

Howard in my mind is like the nerd the cool kids in school adopted as a sort of pet, a mascot if you will, that would caper and prance for their amusement. Like the nerd who recommends the evil Lord of the Flies games the other kids play in Unman, Wittering, and Zigo

To stay in with the cool crowd Howard points at all those who are different and that should be excluded, or mocked, or put upon, or made to feel unwanted. As if he so craves the respect as an equal of the cool kids, even though he is desperately uncool himself, that he's willing to sacrifice his like disabled peers.

Howard is partially deaf, and looking a tad nerdish with a hearing disability in the 50's must have been a living hell. But he managed to leave that behind, and make it where he made it. Surrounded by the same toadying private school nerd beating fuckers that he had to put up with as a kid. Only now he's their 'leader' - for as long as they let him be leader. Coming up with the 'Lord of the Flies' schemes to remain popular with them, and to keep them in power.

Howard preaches home ownership, Australian values, material acquisition, having children for the economy (but making sure the wife stays home), buying shares, owning cars, and looking down on difference as a threat.

I'm 33, and I doubt I will change. I'm not comfortable in new situations, and I've never been overseas as an adult. But I've fortunate to be around some difference in my life, and I've enjoyed it despite my limitations. It opens my eyes to what works and what does not.

And what does not work, and never has, is preaching the idea that somehow one cultural subset of humanity, in this case anglo-celtic christian values, is far superior to any other - and that those other views are a threat to this superior cultural subset. Sure there are aspects of other cultures I'm not comfortable with - like amputation of limbs, or sticking bone through your nose, or cutting the foreskin off (which happened to me - my parents convinced I'd be better off with a helmet in case of future desert warfare).

I'm sure Howard huggers would violently disagree with the idea that Howard promotes this view that sameness good, difference bad, and relies on this view to remain in power. I'm sure they would. But I wonder if they will remember the eve of the 2001 election when Howard stood upon a podium, thumping his slim power walk pumping fist on the lectern, and stated in unequivocal terms, that 'we decide who comes to this country, and the manner in which they come.' The cheering and fawning clapping he received was not for a national security policy. But to support a nationalistic stance of be anglo-celtic in views and values or be not here at all. Their adopted nerd, all growed up, making sure his cool kid mates still know who all the weak and feeble and different from the norm are.

Economies are great things, as I presume owning a house is a grand thing. Economic growth is always preferable to decline (or negative growth for economists), unless I believe it happens at a large cost to environmental or cultural health.

So we as Australians, at least those who voted for Howard's party, have made the choice it seems to me to sacrifice the idea of a better society, where difference is embraced and explored, for one where the economy is all, and that difference is threatening or strange. To point out those different to the majority experience of anglo-celtic Australia, and deem it un-Australian.

Happy 10 years in power anniversary Liberal party. I hope you think at the end of the day your playing divide and conquer on the Australian people, for fostering a mean spiritness where Australians see those in a burka are potential bomb carriers, that refugees are potential terrorists or queue jumpers, or that aboriginals are unfit parents and drunks, was worth it to remain in power. That strutting it up to thugs and the ignorant was a valuable exchange for your time in office.

Because I don't. And when history is once again able to objectively view the past without being accused of distortion of 'black arm bands' they will justly label you for what you are.

Predators of the greedy, fearful, and ignorant.

2 comments:

  1. hVery well written.

    One thing I need to add though:

    ...having children for the economy (but making sure the wife stays home)

    The wife can stay home (though maybe she ought to get a work from home job in the interests of the economy) but the single mother needs to work; otherwise she's a dole bludger.

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  2. Yeah, very nice essay. Vive la difference!

    And as for "... and I've never been overseas as an adult.", sounds like it's time for a vacation!

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