Tuesday, December 9, 2014
Freedom from fear and bigotry
'Freedom and justice cannot be parceled out in pieces to suit political convenience. I don't believe you can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others'. - Coretta Scott King
The rise in Islamophobia has seen a number of hate crimes perpetrated against innocent Muslims. The bigots who protest against Islam often claim they are defending Australian values and that our ancestors didn't fight in the various wars for the country to be overrun by Muslims.
What many of the bigots don't realise is that our ancestors fought alongside other Australians' ancestors, who were Muslim or indigenous or Jewish or atheist, in order beat fascism. You know, the fascism that attacks people of differing religions, races or opinions and either imprisons them or kills them ... or both. The type of fascism that spreads lies and innuendo blaming other groups for economic or social woes. The type of fascism that demonises others.
Abuse and discrimination of others isn't new in Australia. Indigenous Australians have suffered it for generations. European migrants, such as the Italians, Greeks and Spanish, experienced it. Asian immigrants suffered it. Now, the latest targets are asylum seekers and Muslims.
The current government is doing plenty of blaming of others and plenty of demonisation of minority groups to further their popularity. They're manufacturing threats that accuse asylum seekers arriving by boat and Muslims in general (whether born here or immigrants) of increasing the risk of terrorism and crime, stealing jobs, wanting to 'destroy our way of life' or any other lie of the moment.
With such a horrid future awaiting Australians if these 'threats' are allowed to flourish, the government rides in like a knight in shining armour to rescue the bigots in distress by passing laws that strip everyone's freedom. The government is fueling fear and hatred to create policies aimed at one thing: ensuring votes from the fear-stricken.
The ignorant bigots blindly accept these harsher laws, these moves to a fascist state in order to 'protect our way of life', believing the lies that claim freedom abounds only if there are enough laws to protect it. They don't see the blatantly obvious drive for power behind these laws.
This move to fascism is exactly what our ancestors fought against.
John Adams, one of America's founding fathers and its second president, stated 'Liberty cannot be preserved without general knowledge among the people'.
In order to ensure that Australians don't have this general knowledge, that they don't question our leaders' lies, the government has attacked the media by slashing the budgets of ABC and SBS, slashing education and university funding and slashing science budgets. However, in an act straight out of the dark ages, funding of priests has increased.
The Abbott government is replacing scientists and teachers with priests.
Many people are happy to blindly accept the lies of the government and its efforts to dumb down society, without questioning its actions or challenging its claims in order to 'protect our freedom'. They are confusing freedom with security.
General Eisenhower explained the difference between the two:
'If you want security, go to prison. There you're fed, clothed, given medical care and so on. The only thing lacking ... is freedom'.
It is an insult to invoke the memory of dead diggers in conflicts past to justify racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia or any other hate crime. Even though most of Australia's previous wars were fought for imperialist objectives, the soldiers who fought and died believed they were doing so in the name of freedom. Not freedom to hate, but freedom to live in peace.
The government has implemented harsh changes to 'anti-terrorism' legislation that predominantly target Muslims, and the Migration and Maritime Powers legislation which discards the human rights of asylum seekers and promotes torture and imprisonment without charge of innocent people, including children. This might give a sense of security to bigots, but it destroys freedom. Increased laws do not mean increased justice.
Coretta Scott King, wife of Martin Luther King Jr, succinctly summed up the link between freedom and justice with a message that should be heeded by all politicians: 'Freedom and justice cannot be parceled out in pieces to suit political convenience. I don't believe you can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others'.
The biggest threat to our freedom is not Islam or asylum seekers, but fear. The second Secretary-General of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjöld recognised this years ago: 'Freedom from fear could be said to sum up the whole philosophy of human rights'.
Fear is a two-edged sword. There are those, such as asylum seekers, who genuinely fear persecution. But then there are those who fear those who are being persecuted. This is the category within which many of Australia's bigots reside. It is their fear that is manipulated by the government to justify laws persecuting the persecuted.
While bigotry attracts voters to fascist policies it also acts as a distraction. While the people are running around fear-stricken and attacking others, they aren't focussing on what the government is doing. This makes it much easier for the government to not just implement fascist policy, but also to unleash neoliberalist policies on society and the economy which make the rich richer and the poor poorer.
The mettle of a government is shown by its treatment of the most vulnerable. This government, in fostering bigotry and fear for political convenience, has shown itself to be amoral and not worthy of claiming to 'defend Australian values'.