Tag Archives: Australia

Happy Australia Day

26 Jan

1st Dog Australia Day

Bravery & The Right to Free Listening

17 May

I’ve been staring deep into the crazy whirlpool that is Twitter as this latest debate about racism in Australia raged.

I used to feel really scared when I was growing up about this sort of talk – that if I stood up for someone who was being made fun of for being an “abo” or a “chink” or a “wog”, the people doing the teasing would realise I was different too and turn on me. I laughed along at jokes I found horribly offensive and died inside at my inability to say anything.

Moving from Perth to Melbourne in my early twenties was an absolute eye-opener. Suddenly, I felt people appreciated my difference. All the weird and wonderful foods I’d been taught to cook by my mother were a boon at dinner parties and I met people who wore their ethnicity like a badge of honour. I’ve never been asked where I’m from in Melbourne.

I’m Australian.
Yes, Australians look like this, too.

I was often told in Perth, “maybe you could try for a job at SBS?” when discussing career options. In Melbourne, there was nothing strange about me working on TV. People looked at me strangely if I suggested otherwise.

All of this has come rushing back to me as I watch people fling insults this week. I’m not saying this to trash Perth (although yesterday someone did suggest I should work for SBS) but to show that we all have the potential to change our perspective. I grew up in a lovely place to intelligent, loving parents and was given a great education. I still felt inferior because I wasn’t blonde haired, blue eyed and “Aussie”. I carried that massive chip on my shoulder into the world and jumped down the throat of anyone who even made the hint of a joke about anything potentially racist.

Change your mind

Change your mind

If my yoga practice has taught me anything, it’s that there is nothing to be gained by force or vehemence or vitriol.

The debates I’ve heard this week are saddening, from both sides.

Surely we can realise that just because someone has a different opinion, it doesn’t mean they’re an idiot.

Good conversation starts with good listening

Good conversation starts with good listening

Β Stand by your convictions, but be open to hearing other people’s opinions.Β  Maybe they were exposed to a different set of values growing up, had a different education, have different circumstances now. That doesn’t mean we can’t all learn something from each other. And it also doesn’t mean we have to savage each other because we have different ideas. What if we discussed ideas, shared thoughts and left the personal attacks aside? Can we be compassionate to people who have ideas that rub us the wrong way?

I love Christopher Hitchens’ view on free speech:

“What they say is it’s not just the right of the person who speaks to be heard, it is the right of everyone in the audience to listen, and to hear. And every time you silence someone you make yourself a prisoner of your own action because you deny yourself the right to hear something. In other words, your own right to hear and be exposed is as much involved in all these cases as is the right of the other to voice his or her view.” (Toronto, 2006)

I despise racism, but I don’t have to despise the person who spouts it. It’s an opportunity for me to show them what it felt like for me, and put myself in their shoes. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, even if it’s one I don’t agree with.