Lest We Forget

Remembrance Day 2015 will be remembered not for the sacrifices of past serviceman, but for the federal government’s exposing of the myth for which they supposedly fought.

The government’s citizenship (Allegiance to Australia) bill was due to be debated in Parliament today and passed by the end of the week. This bill has shattered what remains of the illusion that Australia was built upon, and always sought to protect, “fundamental rights” such as freedom, democracy and the rule of law.

Australia was founded upon slaughter, as was the British colonial experience in every other part of the world. The legal and institutional order established by Britain, now extended to Australia, was always designed to extend and excuse colonial control around the world.

Australia inherited these hollow liberal slogans, and invokes them only when the precise opposite is being sought. Iraq and Afghanistan are classic examples, which despite the rhetoric, have resulted in more violence and less “peace”, more tyranny and less “freedom”.

The liberal myth has perpetuated for so long in the West because historically the crimes of Western states were committed in foreign lands against a foreign population. It’s easy to excuse, or be entirely indifferent to, the suffering of others as longs as these people are regarded as just that – others.

But the world today is far more connected, and the crimes of Western states have been laid bare for all to see, reinforced by the existence of the victims of Western aggression in the West itself.

The government’s citizenship bill, like most other aspects of anti-terror policy in this country, is designed to punish thoughts, not actions.The only difference is the brazenness with which the government has sought to introduce this law, which like most other aspects of anti-terror policy in this country, was done so against the express advice of those tasked with advising the government on these very matters.

This bill will strongly target advocacy, which given the already extraordinary reduction in the legal threshold required for convictions under anti-terror laws, means many unsuspecting souls will soon have a knock on their door.

The argument, of course, is that “if one have not done anything wrong, then one have nothing to worry about”. The truth, however, is that anti-terror policy in this country has already punished many innocent people. As the victims of ASIO and AFP harassment will attest, as will the many who have had their passports cancelled, work opportunities refused or prayer facilities closed, the impact of Australia’s overarching anti-terror policies is not an imagined occurrence but a lived reality.

But why should Australians be concerned if “the government is merely seeking to protect us from the threat that is Islamic extremism?” The answer is twofold.

The first is that the narrative that positions Islam (whilst ignoring the consequences of state policy) as central to the “radicalisation” theory is both fallacious and self-serving. It misplaces the source of individual grievance, which aptly explains why most anti-radicalisation programs to date have drastically failed and the ‘extremist’ threat continues to rise.

The second is that the greatest crimes that deserve our collective attention continue unabated. The consequence of this is the perpetuation of real grievances, and subsequently, the perpetuation of the ‘extremist’ threat.

But all of this has, in many ways, failed to move the Australian public. Whilst many have rightfully expressed concern about Australia’s anti-terror policy, most of us intuitively know it will only really impact the Muslim community. And given the sustained dehumanisation of all things Islam and Muslims, it is understandable that the Muslim experience is hardly a pressing priority for the wider public.

But this is the great irony. Australia’s relative indifference to the injustices perpetrated against Muslims in this country is precisely why the government has been able to enact policies unprecedented in their breadth and depth. And whilst we may believe these laws are designed to contain the Muslim threat today, the public will soon realise that unrestricted power in the hands of those who justify the worst crimes at home and abroad will inevitably be used against others too. When that day inevitably comes, all Australians will then realise the liberal myth was always just that.

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