jewin' the fat

Everyone’s a little bit racist
April 27, 2010, 2:24 PM
Filed under: media | Tags: , , , , , , ,

I’m still not quite sure what the relevance of the joke was, why he had to reference the tale as “true”, or how it “set the stage for [Jones’] remarks” but whatever, everyone’s a little bit racist. And besides, nothing like a little latent anti-Semitism to liven up the party. Am I right? Jim? Am I right? Har-di-har-har cause Jews sell stuff see? Har Har.

Judge the joke for yourselves after the jump.


The Odd Couple of days
February 27, 2010, 5:07 PM
Filed under: Comment, Identity | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

I found myself recently on a road trip, heading down the beautiful south coast with a ragtag bunch of friends and acquaintances. Amongst us were 2 Labor hacks, 1 PhD student, an Ethiopian immigrant, a Torres Strait Islander, a couple of Catholics and a range of couples, singles, old flings and potential new ones, as well as a guy who seemed to relish every opportunity to point out that myself and one other in the group were Members of the Tribe – though he didn’t see fit to put it as politely as that.

But I suppose, it was kinda my fault anyway. I did discuss it with my fellow Heeb – that is, our general Heebi-jeebiness. More specifically, after a few months MIA, I was interested to find out about his life, including his non-Jewish girlfriend, and how he was dealing with the clashes in belief and religious practice (she is an atheist). Perfect pre-dinner conversation. It started meekly enough, but before we knew it, it seemed everyone had an opinion on our musings, and were being quite vocal in their appreciation, or in this guy’s case, disgust. Then we entered the twilight zone, and bizarre-0-man provided the ultimate conversation buzz-kill:

My Grandmother warned me about people like you”. (Me? I thought? what, conservative? Opinionated? Pseudo Feminist? Middle Class? Sorry?)“She warned me about Jews. Don’t Trust ’em.”

The next day was shite. More rain, rain and rain. Good thing there was take-away fish and chip shop, Rugby Union on TV and a stack of board games, including Monopoly. (side note: I am not an avid Monopoly player. I am not interested in investment, and am far more likely to be seen frittering my wealth away on rent and chance cards, landing myself in Debt and in Jail. Now Risk. There’s a game for me!) So we settled in to play. Someone nominated me as the Bank, mostly because I was sitting closest to the board and already mesmerised by the pretty colours. And away we went! Soon it became clear that Jew 2 and I had put  a foot wrong, and not because we both were hemorrhaging money faster than Lehmann Brothers.  Rather because we were so unwilling to give up without a fight for our precious coloured paper.

“Ah, the Jews are out in force today … you guys should be good at this, you know, gouging people for rent … Jews hate to lose money …Yeah you love money … well, it is what they were born to do …”

Now once again, perhaps we had led them down the garden path a bit – you know, played along, laughed it off. Pretended the 7th or 8th jibe didn’t sting far more than the 1st or 2nd. Well eventually I went bankrupt (I told you), and it was with a sigh of relief and a deep sense of gratitude to whomever bought me out and let me escape to check my Gmail. Out of the fry pan and into the fire.

After the Rugby, it was dinner time and the hordes were hungry. We shopped, cooked and feasted, and while we sat around drinking wine, licking our fingers and picking at leftovers, someone brought up the unusual topic of hazing, on university campuses. So I thought ‘hey, I’m amongst friends, a little sharing never hurt’, and offered my experience as an executive member of a Jewish university Campus group, and the spectacle we presented to the first-year group which involved four heads of campus in Sydney, our hands tied behind our back, and an apple that had to be eaten. Again, within an instant, my story about consensual adult public fruit-eating  has turned into a travesty of sexual rights and abuses, and I was being accused of being just as bad Nazis for forcing honest, hard-working Germans to vote for them in 1936.


Now, I could have reminded this human-rights defender about the history of pre-war Germany, and still bristling with the desire to stick my fork in his leg and his fresh t-bone up his nose, my Jew-in-arms came to be defense, but without much effect. Apparently asking consenting adults to engage in harmless, though messy showboating for the amusement of 18 year olds is akin to supporting a dictatorship with genocidal tendencies. Thanks for bring that to my attention. Oh silly me. Isn’t my face red now, hmm?

In an effort to stop my outrage bubbling into violence, I busied myself with cleaning up, while more wine was poured, and the group wound up covered in chocolate and eating nectarine slices. Happy families indeed. The next day it was home time and I woke early to make it down to the beach for a swim before everyone woke up. As I got dressed upon my return, I noticed a familiar black white and red poking out of my bag. ‘Must’ve been her Nazi voting instruction manual’, I hear you surmise.

Nope. It was my rip-off I Heart Israel T-shirt, bought in Occupied Palestine with a serious dose of Irony and Zionism, no less. I threw it on indifferently and as I rolled up the sleeves, I realised why my anger had suddenly dissipated. I could have called this guy any number of names under the sun, most of them a reference to his lack of understanding, knowledge or appreciation of culture, history and sensitivity. I could have called him out on his disrespectful language, tone and reference, how he, as an Indigenous Australian should understand the danger of antiquated, unsubstantiated prejudice and baseless bigotry.

But it all melted away. I let it go. Because you can wear your heart on your sleeve and your identity with shame, or pride, or joy or irony or contentment. The point is, you get to choose,  no one else. No matter what they call you.

PostScript: We have booked another escape for an upcoming long weekend to that same gorgeous spot of southern coastline, and we have instituted a strictly non-negotiable ‘no bigot’ policy. That’s right. This time, this Jewess gets to choose who comes along for the ride. And I’m calling shotgun.

The Amazing Race
January 8, 2010, 8:34 AM
Filed under: Comment, Identity, media | Tags: , , , , , ,

There is nothing more palatable or popular around a hipster wine bar, WASPish dinner party, Labor luncheon, Liberal cocktail party or Green Left Weekly freegan dumpster than the topic of race in Australia. Race Riots, Race Relations or racial profiling or vilification – it seems in a country built on immigration, we are obsessed with what Edward Said termed “the other” – the notion that we define ourselves, not by who we are actively, but reactively as what we are not – not them, not her, not that.

So imagine my surprise to find, while on a tour with a group of Asians from the Asia-Pacific, that I was, in fact with … a group … of people … from … Asia (!) who were more like me than most white, Jewish, Australian women from Sydney – my supposed racial group. We were interested in the same hobbies, argued about the same political topics, enjoyed the same music, ate the same food, watched the same movies, studied the same topics, worked in the same industry, for the same purpose. Same. Same. Same.

It probably would have been very easy to find differences between us – geography, ethnicity, religion, hair, eye and skin colour – but none of those things mattered – because when it comes to positive human interaction, it is our commonalities that bind us together. Each of us empowered by the same things, each of us made vulnerable by the same fears and threats. United we stand, divided we fall.

Several days ago, a young student was walking to work on night in Melbourne. He was attacked, stabbed several times by a gang of young people, and managed to stumble into his workplace, where he died. Does it matter that he happened to be Indian?

Well, apparently in Australia it does.

I’m not pretending that Australians are the perfect picture of tolerance and respect when it comes to the rainbow spectrum of nationalities represented in Australian society. In fact, Australians, through years of controlled immigration, refusal of refugee absorption and the horrors of the Stolen Generation – well, let’s just say we have our fair share of skeletons in the closet.

The attacks on Indian students, which have dominated the front pages of national and most regional/metropolitan papers, ranged from subtle to overtly violent assault, and largely have included some form of racial taunt or slur. But if the name-calling (curry-muncher, kike, fag, bitch) is just a spur of the moment verbal assault, based on visual or audio clues (an accent, skin colour, dress) – does that necessarily mean the motivation to harm is racial?

Don’t be fooled.  Australia is not an island of anti-Indian sentiment, festering away in the Asia-Pacific, waiting to set themselves upon innocent students. As well as this, Australia may not have the best track record when it comes to personal safety on our streets, and indeed there are neighbourhoods and areas when it is blatantly unsafe and stupid to walk around at night. Wearing jewellery, iPods, walking alone on unlit streets, even on main roads alone – all these things draw attention to the individual, and heighten the risk of attack.

But when it comes to this kind of randomised violence, every person who puts themselves in a dangerous situation is fair game.  To assume that every person who is a minority, or of a lower class, who gets killed/attacked is being hurt because of their ethnic background or upbringing or social status is a little simplistic, and inversely bigoted: “They are Indian, therefore it must have been about their race.”

The sad reality of life is that random, ugly violence is ugly and random, but it does not need a motive, nor a media beat-up to create one.