It's concerning me more and more that people are getting thoughtlessly damaged by the various conflicts that attract my attention at the moment. I lived most of my life in a country where some people attack others because of the colour of the clothing they're wearing. There's talk now of this behaviour having migrated from New Zealand to Australia. "Are you for blue or red?" Because the word "gang" is linked to this behaviour it's seen as more sinister than "Are you a Ford person or a Holden?"
A decade or so ago I had a friend who worked at a pub in Bondi Junction. Her boyfriend was Irish. One night he ended up immobilised by anger. He'd been bailed up by a young Irish backpacker who on hearing him speak had interrogated him to find out where he was from and if he was Catholic or Protestant. The young bloke eventually realised that he wasn't going to be told and walked away not knowing whether to hate him or like him. "I came here to get away from that shit ".
In Australia the sail-boat people argue with the powered-boat people over who are Australians. Both agree that it's not the plane people. The various waves of plane people seek out subtle differences of timing to prove that they are more Australian. This all looks like Dr Seuss's Star Bellied Sneetches to me. I wonder what the people who were here before there was an Australia make of these arguments? Gulls fighting over a chip?
A few years ago I was walking through Glebe and one of a group of teenagers didn't like the cut of my jib and insulted me by calling me, amongst other things, a typical Anglo. This wasn't like the insults I've had for my skin colour in other parts of the world. I wanted to explain that though, yes, most of my ancestors are from England the ones I want most to be associated with are Irish and Scottish. Label me if you must but I prefer gubba, palangi or better still pakeha. "Anglo" as an insult contains the same message most abuse does - "there's something wrong about who you are".
I don't like bullies and I don't like bullying. I've been a bully and I've been bullied. In both situations I lose something of myself. When we're lucky we meet people in our lives that make us want to be better people. I've met a few - I live with three now. They encourage me to behave well and remind me when I behave shabbily. I bully less and feel worse about it when I do. It's a betrayal of them, of myself.
I have the same simplistic grasp of Jungian concepts that I do of most things but as I see it we're attracted to people who have more of the aspects of ourselves we like and repelled by people who have too much of the aspects of ourselves we don't like. So with bullies I feel an immobilising disgust at them and also their reminding me that I can act in a vicious underhand way, can misuse what power I grasp on to. Oftentimes institutions talk about changing bullying cultures but usually ringfence where the bullying occurs. If it's a school only pupils are considered as bullies or victims - not teachers or P&C members. If it's a government group the actions of MPS and political parties are ignored. If it's a company the shareholders and board are at the eyepiece of the microscope. It's a localised problem not a society-wide one. It's something "they" do, not us, not me. A bullying approach to challenging bullies. Like fighting for peace.
For years BHP was called the Big Australian but now considering the trail of wrecked communities the company has left in its wake they've achieved multinational status. I'm thinking Twiggy Forrest's FMG is now the Big Un-Australian. "Un-Australian" is a hopeless term meaning not the kind of behaviour the speaker think typifies Australia. Includes everything anyone takes exception to. Given Australia's history since January 26th 1788 the actions of FMG are typically Australian. Befriending selected Aboriginal people at the same time as you're attacking others is a long practiced strategy. Handing out a few blankets and putting on a good feed while you're sending in the surveyors is what shaped New South Wales. Dangling the shiny baubles of Western civilisation in front of people while you're taking everything of lasting value from under their feet is World's Best Practice colonisation. Or old school NTI.
So part of my disgust for Andrew Forrest and his cabal of the self-serving and the misled is driven by my realisation that given $6 billion and the admiration and respect of the people that admire and respect power and money I might behave in exactly the same way. And if a whole lot of country dies in the process that surely is simply collateral damage.