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General Affairs Mental Health

Australia-ism

I have lived in Australia for 15 years. Prior to that, in the United Kingdom for a little over half a decade.

When I first moved to Melbourne, I felt welcomed here in contrast to my life in the UK. Initially, when asked about the infamous red-neck behaviour in Australia and I would laugh it off saying that I have many Australian friends of all colours and heritage. Racism was possibly a disease that had died off in the 90s. As I mature and my experience with the society grew a little more, I started feel the acceptance was skin deep.

Aussies like to think of themselves as welcoming and accepting. It is a good start, no doubt, certainly better than an outright rejection of any foreign culture. Imagine your typical middle class white family in the burbs. When asked how they feel about Afghan refugees, the patriarch would animatedly declare how the Afghans are great people and perhaps he’d have his Syrian neighbours over for a backyard barbie every Australia day. Until one day, his daughter starts to date a brown skin man and that fella boldly asks her father for her hand in marriage. Then things would go downhill from there. Kinda like “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” – a rude culture shock for both families only with a big fat unhappy ending.

Gradually as I reach middle age, I learnt to keep my composure, my mouth shut and my opinions about the lack of acceptance to myself. I would look upon at other foreigners trying hard to merge into mainstream Anglo Australia, muttering “No worries, mate” with their strong accent and patiently explaining that being fifth generation Malaysian Chinese meant that no one had been ‘born in China’ for a while, silently applauding them for their efforts and secretly hoping they would fare better than I had.

A few days ago I shouted a neighbour coffee. We hailed from the same country and by chance we also share the same surname. He was well known in this side of town for his efforts in social media to promote personal stories of local residents. That was our first meeting and from my impressions in social media he struck me as an optimistic, cheerful man who had successfully amalgamated into our suburb. He even won an award for his work with the people. I was glad to see someone else doing a better job of being accepted by mainstream Australia. Yet when we broached on the subject of racism, I was surprised at how quick he unleash his dissatisfaction to me, a stranger he’s only met several minutes before. He believed it is necessary to continue the fight to combat this inequality right down to eliminating the casual racism we deal with on a day-to-day basis. Our stakes in this fight are different – he has a family with young offspring whom he’d hope would see a better future. I, on the other hand, no longer have much faith, wish or hope for the future to be any different from today.

Nonetheless, it is difficult not to contemplate this unique blend of Australian Racism, or Australia-ism in 2020, when an underlying resentment of all things Chinese blew up in our face, followed closely by the protests about aboriginal deaths in custody set off by the death of George Floyd on the opposite side of the Pacific. Confronted by a sharp increase of hate speech on social media, it became harder to maintain my silence. Every now and then I would engage and get sucked into a spiral of angry words, then waste precious energy disengaging and walk away. Eventually I would throw in the towel again, resigning to the reality that it remains impossible to have a conversation with the nation about their racist tendencies when the denial is one big, thick steel wall.

I have no proposed solution, not even a conclusion in this blog post.

Categories
General Affairs Mental Health

The 2020 International Women’s Day Rant

This morning, a good friend of mine messaged me to tell me about her plans to go on a march to support putting an end to femicide in Mexico. Millions of women in the country will be protesting against the silence and in hope to end the machismo culture. Our brief text exchange evoked a horrific memory I’ve long suppressed – my personal brush with Australian ‘machismo’ in Colombia.

Nearly 10 years ago, I was travelling with a male friend through Latin America. We used to be partners but were travelling as platonic friends. Brad, (not his real name) and I got into an argument which escalated and he assaulted me in our guesthouse late night in a small town in Colombia. I was upset and started crying, rang downstairs to the guesthouse owners asking them to call the police. They refused, saying it’s just a regular quarrel – I should either shut up (as I was disturbing other guests) or get out. I chose the latter. Packed up my bags and took off 11:30 pm into a busy town where hotels were fully booked due to a festival.

So there I was, a lone Asian girl stranded in the middle of the Andes. A middle aged man was gathering passengers for a taxi to head to the nearby town. I asked if I could catch a ride in his taxi. He said no problem, just wait in the car while he gathers other passengers. 15 minutes passed. I saw a well dressed couple walk by. The woman apparently said something the man didn’t like. He pushed her to the wall and attempted to strangle her. Before I could react, she said something that clearly pacified him, so he left her go. The two continued walking hand in hand as though nothing happened. Given what I just experienced, I was hardly surprised.

Another 20, maybe 30 minutes passed. The taxi driver returned without any other passengers. I told him in my pidgin Spanish what happened and asked if he could help me find a place to stay tonight. He was kind enough to drive me to a safe place, and offered to pick me up the next morning to catch a flight to my next destination.

The problem was, a few days from that fateful night, Brad and I had booked and paid on 2 weeks tour in Venezuela. To see the Angel’s Fall was a huge dream of mine. So I went along with it, stuck with the asshole who assaulted me only days before, completely unapologetic and utterly unrepentant.

I survived Venezuela and Hugo Chavez was not my biggest threat. Years later, Brad got married – he somehow found a wife who is happy be the sole breadwinner while he played house husband with the children they have. I remain unmarried and child free. Whether or not I wanted marriage or children was irrelevant – I will always be negatively labelled and judged for the rest of my life. While Brad will never suffer any consequence for his action in Colombia.

This is the world we live in . This is my reality. That story about Brad is not even close to the worst story I’ve experienced.

My brief conversation with my dear friend reignited the rage in me, an anger and hatred I have tried unsuccessfully to suppress and smoother. I have a sudden urge to yell out all the unjust I’ve experienced this life, demanding the world pay heed and give me back what’s right. All that from a friendly text message about a feminist march.

Happy International Women’s Day.

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Book Reviews General Affairs

Book Review: An Innocent Man

The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small TownThe Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town by John Grisham
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When television series such as Law and Order and Crime Scene Investigation runs for decades, it is evident that the general public enjoys the belief that law enforcement are a force for good, that they never give up until the truth is uncovered.

Unfortunately, the reality is too far from our imagination of such dedicated workers. In the end, everyone who works in the legal system are not only subjected to the human flaws of err, but also of denial, laziness and self interest.

“The Innocent Man” is misleading in the sense that the book wasn’t about a singular disaster but describes a series of catastrophic errors of the judicial system that resulted in not only wrongful convictions but often the execution of innocent people. I have been an ardent fan of John Grisham yet it is hard to believe that this non-fiction book of his is more surreal than most of his imagined stories. I applaud him not simply for his immense talent in turning a long and complex story into a page turner – I finished the book in 24 hours – Mr Grisham is clearly endeavouring to provide a complete picture of the good and bad side of law. In his other novel, “The Rogue Lawyer”, I noticed how he describes an over zealous group of trigger happy police, anxious to march into the home of a suspect with guns and cannons blazing. This was possibly inspired from an incident in “The Innocent Man” where a SWAT team returns from duty dejected as they missed an opportunity to showcase their prowess in the arrest of a high school science teacher with no violent history.

The Innocent Man is a terrible tale where no happy ending is possible. While no one likes to read about the lives wasted due to the inadequacy of a system we are expected to have faith in, I hope John Grisham will continue to deliver such powerful messages to anyone who cares to listen. The world is imperfect and no amount of disguise from Hollywood can change that.

View all my reviews

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General Affairs

Justice for Justine but not for Eric nor Tamir

Justice for the Australian Justine Damond

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation flashes repeatedly a mug shot of Mohamed Noor in an orange jumpsuit, reporting an African American man being charged for the murder of an Australian woman of European descent. The public is horrified, it seems like a senseless crime. Numerous images of Justine Damond’s perfect life and beautiful smile is televised to highlight the tragedy, the waste of an otherwise joyous and productive life. Few words were written to remind the public that Noor was a police officer on duty at time of shooting.

Same Shit, not the Same Bucket

Several years ago, a 12 year old boy was seen playing with a toy gun. Hardly anything newsworthy, a kid playing with fake firearm in a park. He was shot dead. The police officers who shot him was not prosecuted. No justice for this boy. Whilst Australian Broadcasting Corporation published the news, there were emphasis on the boy’s race. Words like ‘replica gun’ instead of ‘toy gun’ were used, claiming a 12-year-old playing with fake firearms outside a city recreation centre was perceived as a threat. An image of him with the toy gun was published. Two armed police officers in car, driving by a park seeing a black boy holding a fake gun decided to shoot him twice when they are within 1.5 metres from the boy. That decision was considered a ‘reasonable one’.

Same Bucket, not the Same Shit

There is not easy way to say this. An unarmed obese man clearly incapable of running a mile without running a risk of death by heart attack was held down by chokehold then face pinned to the ground by not one but four trained and armed police officer.

The same news corporation – Australian Broadcasting Corporation, described in detail how a suspicious Eric Garner was put in that position of being a suspect. It was made clear that the four officers who treated him in an unnecessarily violent manner were in fact on duty carrying out their roles as police officers.

Conclusion?

As I watched the televised report of Mohamed Noor entering court, here in Australia, I had an inkling the manner in which the news is broadcast here is heavily bias. I searched Google for any commentary from the ABC (both Australian and American Broadcasting Corporation), then the BBC for comparison between White Cop shooting Black Civilian vs. Black Cop Shooting White Civilian. I came up with next to nothing. Then I searched Twitter and lo and behold, the chatter about Justine’s death vs Tamir vs. Eric is candid and lively. The Europeans are aware of the discrepancy and how grossly unjust the situation is. The Americans are coming to terms with it. The Australians? They don’t give a toss.

Now that is the tragedy.