Mr Paulo Flores is today’s guest poster on Blak and Black. Paulo is a European trained and qualified Psychologist, Lawyer, Mediator and Human Rights Activist. He is currently working in Australia as a mediator and investigator. Paulo was previously a case worker dealing with the victims of ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia. During many hours of heated discussions, fuelled by the odd bottle of red or two, we began to realise the real and hypocritical nature of the political situation that passes for democracy in Australia.
In this post Paulo draws some interesting parallels between contemporary Australian society and Mubarak’s Egypt. Parallels that some may find uncomfortable, but parallels none the less.
Over to Mr Paulo Flores
Many ordinary people are suspicious of and hostile towards those from different religions, cultures, races or political parties. Some of the most powerful forces in human psychology occur within and between groups. Social psychologists have identified several biases that occur once an in-group and an out-group – an ‘us’ and ‘them’ – have been identified. We have, for example, a tendency to see members of other groups as homogeneous and to attribute their failures to internal characteristics. In contrast, we see members of our own group as more varied and attribute our failures to situational factors. Within highly cohesive groups there is a tendency to try to minimise conflict and reach consensus at the expense of independent thinking and the critical assessment of ideas, often resulting in hasty, risky or irrational decision-making. We are also far more likely to give preferential treatment to those whom we perceive to be members of our own group – no matter how arbitrary or random that grouping may be.
It is this type of behaviour that eventually leads to structural inequalities within society. These structural inequalities often give rise racial and economic tensions leading some to challenge the cultural paradigms that gave birth to these structural inequalities in the first place. If the legitimate grievances of the challengers are not dealt with in a sensible and productive way; the forces of resentment, leading in some instances to extremism, retaliation and ultimately genocide takes hold.
For those who have never been targeted because of their race, religion, or sexual orientation it is impossible, for them, to imagine the soul destroying effects, constant negative stereotyping can have on individuals as victim and perpetrator and on society as a whole. What we are witnessing in contemporary Australian society is a decline in civil courage leading to weakness and cowardice in political and judicial decision making. This cowardice we are currently witnessing has lead to a moral vacuum which is being filled by extremists on both sides of politics. Hand-in-hand with this extremism goes a lack of accountability on the part of politicians, the police, the judiciary and the public service.
The targets of Australia’s extremists, as with all extremists, are the weak and vulnerable members of society. In the Australian context, the weak and vulnerable members of society being targeted are Indigenous Australians, refugees and Muslim Australians. To any right thinking person, this state of affairs should be unacceptable, yet we as a society tolerate it.
When the modern Western states (including Australia) were created, the following principle was proclaimed: governments are meant to serve the people, and people live to be free to pursue happiness. In Australia, many citizens have been granted this desired freedom through the growth of the welfare state and the increase in the availability and diversity of material goods in such quantity and of such quality as to guarantee in theory the achievement of happiness, in the morally inferior sense, which has come into being during this same period.
In this process, however, one psychological detail has been overlooked: the constant desire to have still more things and a still better life and the struggle to obtain them imprints many Australian faces with worry and even depression, though it is customary to conceal such feelings. It is this competition for more and more material possessions at the expense of morality which is the root cause of many of the structural inequalities present in contemporary Australian society.
In my practice I deal with Indigenous Australians, refugees and those in single sex relationships who have been the victims of systematic discrimination in Australia. It was in the course of my work with Indigenous Australians that I first encountered Bakchos. I use the word encounter, not by accident, as one does not meet Bakchos, one encounters him.
Bakchos, like many other Indigenous Australians, has witnessed the destruction of his immediate family through suicide, murder and substance abuse, all brought about through the actions of the structural inequalities currently operating within contemporary Australian society that seem to work to keep the marganilised in their place.
When I worked with the victims of ethnic cleansing (genocide) in the former Yugoslavia, I witnessed the end result of many of the structural inequalities that have already, or are in the process, of taking hold in Australia. To date, Australia has been able to shield itself from the attention of the world community, on these structural inequalities, because it hinds behind the monikers of friend of the United States and pluralist democracy.
Recent history has told us a lot about those who claim the moniker of ‘friend of the United States’. Mubarak’s Egypt is a current and very telling example of the type of friends the United States seeks and subsequently supports. I suspect that a democratic Egypt will have a lot to tell the world about United States and Australian hypocrisy when it comes to making friends in the international arena.
As to Australia’s claim of being a democracy, I believe that a close examination of the facts will dispel any notions that the people of Australia might still harbour about living in a democracy.
Indigenous Australians make up less than three percent of the Australian population, but over thirty percent of the Australian prison population. Crimes committed by white Australians against black Australians bye-in-large go unpunished, while even the most minor infractions committed by black Australians against White Australians brings the full force of the law down on the black. Bakchos canvassed some of these issues in his post Three months for a dollar. Those in power in Australia are able to circumvent the ‘rule of law’ to suit themselves, while those out of favour with the powers that be, find themselves subjected to the manipulation of the ‘rule of law’ to suit the desired outcomes of those in power. This is beginning to sound a lot like Mubarak’s Egypt.
What happened to the former Commissioner for Revenue for the ACT, who was a client, is a very clear example of those in power manipulating the ‘rule of law’ to suit their desired outcomes. What Australia is currently subjecting Mr Julian Moti QC the former Attorney-General of the Solomon Islands to, is another clear example of those in power manipulating the ‘rule of law’ to suit their desired outcomes. If space permitted, I could now go on now to discuss Dr Haneef, Mr. Mamdouh Habib, Mr. Martens, the AFP and Detachment 88, etc…
The point though is simple. In a democracy everyone is subject to the ‘rule of law’ if the ‘rule of law’ operates differently and more favorably for some as against others, the society that allows this to happen cannot truly call itself a democracy.