The last few nights I have been watching the excellent SBS documentary ‘Go Back To Where You Came From’. The premise of the show was to gather six ordinary (white) Australians and have them trace the journeys that refugees have to make before they come to Australia. They get to meet both boat people and refugees who have come through official UN channels, see what the refugees have to face in the supposedly ‘safe’ haven of Malaysia, and then go back to Africa and the Middle East to see what life is like in the refugee camps. In tonight’s final episode they will go to the war-torn countries of origin of many refugees to see exactly what they are fleeing from.

Whilst the refugee issue is something that needs to be discussed further, it is not what I want to talk about right now. You see, the real villain of the show is Raquel, an unemployed 19 year old from the western suburbs of Sydney, who claims on the one hand that she’s not racist but on the other hand declares that she hates Africans. She is a real work of art! The problem is that I am meeting more and more people like Raquel these days. I think that part of the problem is the internet.

The net is great in that it allows people to freely express their opinions. People who otherwise would not normally have a voice are able to use Facebook, Twitter or Blogger and instantly get things off their chest. It also allows people with unsavoury opinions to have a soapbox to spread outright hatred. One person in particular that I have had the misfortune of debating online with is Scott Pengelly from Melton, a white supremacist with a strange fetish for Asian pornstars. (I know it doesn’t make sense.) Scott is all over Facebook and other internet sites, telling everyone that will listen that Australia is being invaded by [insert ethnic/religious group here] and that they are ruining Australia. This loser of a human being has publically stated that only whites can be Australian and that anyone who is not white is a foreigner and should go back to where they came from, even if they were born here. I did ask him if the Chinese in Bendigo, whose ancestors came here over 150 years ago would qualify as being Australians or foreigners but for some reason he did not reply.

Part of this problem has been fostered by our politicians. Years ago I cringed when in the face of some rabid Hansonism John Howard declared that Australia was a tolerant nation. This idea of tolerance has since been echoed by Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott. To me tolerance signifies only a willingness simply to ‘put up with someone’. Shouldn’t we be looking more at accepting people for who they are and not just putting up with them? Shouldn’t we be embracing this wonderful diversity and learning from all the different cultures that make up the melting pot of multicultural Australia? The media too, particularly News Ltd and journalists like Andrew Bolt exacerbate this issue through misinformation and by constantly looking for the worst in the migrants and refugees that we take in and then claiming that this is a trait that the majority of them share and that we really should take no more.

Finally I think I will just add a bit about myself here to show where I am coming from. I have been called an inner-city dwelling latte sipping lefty who wouldn’t know what it is like living in the suburbs next to all the refugees, Asians, Africans, Muslims, etc. While it is true that I live in inner-city Melbourne I am originally from the suburb of Noble Park, where I spent the first 22 years of my life. For those that don’t know, Noble Park is recognised as the most ethnically diverse area of Australia. It has a bad reputation but that is unwarranted as most people who live there would say that the place is not as bad as others make out. When I lived in Noble Park I used to think it was great. We had Kiwis on one side next door and Serbs on the other. Across the road there was a Mauritian family who had a daughter who I fancied, while behind us there was a Greek family where the mum always liked to sun-bake naked. The local shop owner was Lebanese whilst down the road there was a Vietnamese church.

At school, University, TAFE and work I have had mates from all corners of the globe. In Uni my best mate  was from Sri Lanka whilst ‘P’ is from Malaysia and my current flatmate is from Hong Kong. My best buddy at work, who I muck around with all the time is from the Philippines. (She’s also a St Kilda supporter and after the Grand Final last year gave me a big whack on the arm after I gloated a bit too much about my Pies’ magnificent victory!) I generally find that no matter what a person’s religious or racial background is their hopes and dreams are usually not all that dissimilar to my own.

This has again turned into a bit of a ramble and I’m not sure if I got my point across too clearly. Again this is more of a way of expressing myself and getting all of these thoughts out than anything else. If you’ve enjoyed this rant (or hated it) feel free to leave a comment.

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