Australian racism: Bottom up or top down?

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(Image via @ANTaR_National)

Australians are becoming international representatives for intolerance, self-interest and inequity, writes Jonea Veith.

I haven't travelled in a while, so I can't claim to know public opinion on the streets of London or elsewhere, but I feel that were I to don a backpack again, I might not be so well received now as Australians have been in the past. Not only has our national representative taken a less gracious line than some of his predecessors, but the ignorant and insensitive Aussie seems to have made a comeback. Or a breakthrough.

It feels backwards. Why, when we have so much, are we not striving for better things?

Everything seems aimed at the lowest common denominator. The insular attitude of a country absorbed in self-serving ambition is supported and encouraged by Government at the very top. They give permission and enable the fearful, nasty narrow-minded facets of our social and national identity.

The nastiness steps up another notch when a person's expressions of hurt, or injustice or fear are met with resistance, belittled and pooh-poohed as weak and cowardly. “Why are you taking it so seriously?” That bullying, undermining angle that is so antagonistic, has such power to crush reasonable and just protests. It's a backhander that seems often to be the felling blow, even as the perpetrator steps away hands raised.

I had been doing my best to ignore the furore surrounding Goodes, but there's obviously more going on than the usual animosity from football enthusiasts. To be honest, my initial take might have been “something footballer something something”. Generally football doesn't make it on to my radar. So very un-Australian. The thing is, what does that even mean any more? Australia — the lucky country, home of mateship and a fair go, land of Common Wealth.

I'm watching the touted ideal of ourselves crack and peel away, great sections of its skin are just falling off like old wall paper. I don't like what's behind it. How far have we regressed? Or have I been shamefully naïve in thinking that we had begun to advance past racial bigotry?

I want to be Australian in an Australia that does still stand up for the underdog and where every citizen, whether  “battler” or executive, will get a fair go; a country which aspires to greater things, one that looks ahead and plans to lead the world in managing climate change and protecting our unique and fragile environment; a nation that prides itself on reaching out to aid others, rather than closing off and one which supports all Australians, no matter the colour of their skin or their sex; a society that is inclusive and a people who can recognise mistakes in the past, and endeavour to make them right.

An Australia which should shun even the thought of mass booing anyone, because they're able to respect a fellow human.

We are millions of people – some of us were there at the SCG on Saturday – who can be compassionate and fair, who like to think of ourselves (if you go by the stereotype) as loveable, hard-working, slightly irreverent types who believe in equality and standing up for a mate.

So, why does it feel like we are becoming international representatives for intolerance, self-interest and inequity?

Are we defeating ourselves from the bottom up, or are we being undermined from the top down?

Jonea Veith graduated from Melbourne University and currently works within the healthcare service industry.

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