Saturday, August 06, 2005

Australia for the 'Australians'

Like Seinfeld and Simpsons episodes, the culture wars arrive a decade late in Australia. Ten years after The Bell Curve set off a furore in the US, Sydney-based academic Andrew Fraser has seized on research linking race, IQ and socioeconomic outcomes to support his claims that Anglo-Celtic society is under siege from dumb blacks and smart Asians.

The fact that Fraser happens to be a law professor at Macquarie University, which has offered to buy out his contract and banned him from teaching in lecture rooms (though not from the campus grounds), has raised issues not only of freedom of speech but of academic freedom at our universities. The allegedly Trotskyite media has helped Fraser cast himself as an informed dissenter being persecuted by minority lobby groups and a left-wing establishment. Macquarie VC Di Yerbury says that the teaching ban reflected safety concerns expressed by Fraser himself, particularly in view of threats by far right groups to converge on the campus and enforce Fraser's right to preach kulturkampf from the pedestal of a Macquarie professorship. According to Fraser, racial attributes fall within his 'area of expertise' as a constitutional lawyer, thus entitling him to market his views under the university's name.

Given Fraser's adoption as the intellectual poster-boy of white supremacist groups like the Patriotic Youth League - to which he apparently gives pro bono legal advice - one wonders if this is a case of serious policy debate or of blinkered tribalism. Best to go straight to the horse's mouth. Take this extract from Fraser's interview on A Current Affair:

Andrew Fraser: It seems to me the basic goal of any immigration policy, if immigrants you must have, is to get people who are basically of the same ethnic stock of the people who are already present.

Ray Martin: What is a typical Australian in your eyes?

Andrew Fraser: It is the sun bronzed, blonde, blue eyed Aussie. That is what brought me down here. That is what, I would say, brought many people down here, the belief that what was really attractive about Australia, was that it was populated by Australians.

They must be short of blonde, blue-eyed people in Canada (whence the good professor hails). Or maybe just of bronzed ones. Consider this excerpt from Fraser's email correspondence with overseas law schools, quoted in the July 20 Parramatta Sun, the local paper which published Fraser's original article:

"Already the legal order is radically skewed against the interests of white men; that tendency will grow more pronounced as the managerial-professional elite becomes more heavily Asian.”

It's possible for a judiciary and legal profession that remain 90% white male and self-regulating to have overly progressive attitudes, but until I see some evidence for this I'll regard the proposition as bunk. Or more specifically as knee-jerk conspiracy theory masquerading as academic discourse, which is the crux of this whole affair.

"[My] argument is that the white Australia policy was fundamentally sound and that it was a mistake to abandon it ... [I am the victim of] the illegitimate demands of ethnic pressure groups and political extremists".

Migrant assimilation, the political influence of minority groups and ideological agendas in our educational institutions are clearly issues of community concern and legitimate topics for debate. It's sad that an educated man like Fraser can only express them through a dated social darwinist prism that turns disempowered groups into community bogeys. This transmutation of underdog into oppressor is a phenomenon that seems pronounced in, if not unique to, Protestant settler societies - the US South, South Africa, colonial (and, apparently, parts of 21stC) Australia. One theory concerns the evolution of a Persecuting Society in medieval Europe and its transplantation into the New World through a perverse transfer of oppression syndrome; but that's a topic for another post.

Fraser claims to be the victim of left-wing ideologues who control our technocratic elites. In fact he is himself propagating an ideology, one with identifiable and depressingly recurrent features. Take the projection of mainstream social vices - 'a culture of tribalism and violence', to quote PYL spokesman Luke Connors - onto powerless minorities, in this case Sudanese refugees. Then there's the spectre of domination by any disproportionately successful migrant group ('Asians', whatever that term means). And don't forget the motif
of inviolable white womanhood - the 'world's most endangered species', according to material being distributed by the White Pride Coalition in Toowoomba (Qld), a town where my Malaysian aunt was recently denied service in a milkbar. All of these are features of a warped worldview that Australia has been trying to ditch since the 1970's but which evidently has deep roots in the Anglo-Celtic society that Fraser champions. The Hanson affair of the mid-90's was in retrospect only the outrunner of a battle for Australia's national soul, of the sort that has been raging throughout political and academic forums in the US for four decades. Asylum seeker wedge politics, the War on Islamic Terror, anti-Indonesian hysteria over Schapelle Corby's trial - multiculturalism isn't launching into the new century off the best foot.

Given that Fraser's contract with Macquarie has only a year left to run he'll hopefully decide to wrap this up as quickly and quietly as possible, treating it as an unpleasant prelude to a comfortable retirement. Since he's so keen on sun-bronzed Australians, perhaps he'll head north above our own mason-dixon line (a.k.a the Qld-NSW border), where the silent majority seem to share his views.

1 comment:

John Lee said...

Tina Faulk gives an insider's perspective on Australian multiculturalism. Will probably do another post on this in the near future.