View From Across the Ocean (2/8/2015)

Not nearly the same, so stop telling him it is.

About a week or so ago I was mocked by a customer for being an Australian. He was a young man, just old enough to drink in British Columbia out with the family, and kept on calling me “mate” with a stupid grin on his face and a poor attempt to mimic my accent. “There you go mate,” he’d say. “Thanks mate,” he’d smile. “There you go mate,” he’d say again, just in case I didn’t hear him the last ten times. Kept on saying it every time I checked on the table. Now, I’m not averse to a little bit of ribbing over my accent or where I’m from. Some customers will call me mate once or twice in a good-natured way acknowledging that I’m not from around there. Usually I might be able to make a few jokes about the weather because of it (“it’s not that hot mate!”) or make fun of Caesars, the apparent national drink (“honestly, it’s like a nation-wide Stockholm Syndrome!”) I’ll frequently make fun of myself when a customer misunderstands or mishears me (“yeah, I talk funny.”) Nothing serious. But this kid, this kid was making fun of me. It was in his tone, and he just kept on fucking going. Got on my nerves pretty quick. But it was a minor issue, and I wasn’t going to call him on it. That’d only lead at best to lacklustre or lack-of-completely tip, or at worst a complaint to the manager (and “he kept calling me mate” would not be a particularly strong defence). So I put up with it, swearing up a storm when I was out of earshot in the kitchen but otherwise taking care of the table with my usual smile and care. Because that’s the job. You just gotta deal with shit like that.

Now, I wanna be very clear about something: this is in no way comparable to what’s been happening to Adam Goodes.

For those non-Australians who might be reading, Adam Goodes plays AFL for the Sydney Swans, was a goddamn recipient of Australian of the Year and is, very importantly, an Indigenous Australian. And over the past few years an alarming number of white Australians have been getting increasingly upset about this uppity Aboriginal who has no issue being proud of (and displaying) his cultural heritage and is quite willing to call out acts of racism when they happen. Honestly, man’s a fucking legend and an amazing player. Honestly, it is fucking disgusting how he’s being treated, what with the other team’s supporters actively booing him and the obvious targeted racism. Just as disgusting? All the white men telling him to just deal with it, telling him that it’s not racist, or telling him that he’s in the wrong for calling it for what it is when he experiences it. Ignorant, hurtful and indefensible behaviour. I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be a bit of sledging and heckling in sports, but all those white commentators who have had the privilege to have had never needed to deal with racial abuse and think it’s just par for the course need to pull their heads from out of their arses and recognise that there are lines that should not be crossed, and calling out racial abuse for what it is should be lauded instead of condemned regardless of whether it came from the mouth of an old man or a 13 year old girl. She didn’t call him “mate”. She called him an ape. That was wrong, and someone needed to tell her that. Saying that he should just put up with it, ignore it and let it continue is wrong, because racism (alongside homophobia) should not be tolerated in any professional environment.

It is gladdening to see the Swans, their supporters, NSW Premier Mike Baird, so many other members of the sporting community and commentary, politics and now, at last, even the Prime Minister stand besides Mr Goodes. Enough to drown out the arseholes standing against him? I reckon so. Especially as long as good folk follow in Mr Goodes’ example and call out racist shit when they see it.

Who will rid parliament of this troublesome speaker? … Oh, sweet.

Seriously, why the hell was Bronwyn Bishop still the Speaker for the House of Representatives (the lower house of Australia’s Federal Parliament) for so long? For those beyond Oz’s borders, a few weeks ago Ms Bishop got in a bit of trouble when it was discovered that she (and two staffers) spent $88,000 of taxpayer money on a whirlwind two-week tour of Europe trying to get support for a plum new job. Then even more trouble when it was learned our supposedly unbiased and impartial speaker spent over five grand taking a helicopter from Melbourne to Geelong to a Coalition Party fund-raiser, about an hour’s travel otherwise in her taxpayer provided commonwealth car. Yeah, let me repeat that. Five grand of taxpayer money to take a fucking helicopter because she didn’t want to be too late to a party. A fucking helicopter. It then took her 12 days to issue an apology so weak it could have been called Bud-Lite, showing a serious contempt for the people of Australia who were obviously outraged by her spendthrift ways. I mean seriously. A. Fucking. Helicopter. She lost the respect and confidence of the people and she lost the respect and confidence even of members of her own party.

Yet Prime Minister Tony Abbott failed to do the expedient thing and remove her, sticking by his chosen Speaker and merely putting her on probation. Meanwhile the Memes grew in number, everyone forgot about the Royal Commission into the Unions that had revealed some less than savoury donations to Labor Campaigns including Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s, and Malcolm Turnbull once again reminded everyone about how great life would be if he was still head of the Coalition with a simple picture of him boarding a train to Geelong instead of a chartered aircraft. And, of course, everyone wondered when the axe would fall and Mrs Bishop’s head would roll off the block.

Well, it finally happened. She resigned, citing her “love and respect” of the parliament and the Australian people (Baaahahahahahahaha) as the reason for stepping down. Thank god for that. We’re finally rid of her. Maybe the House of Representatives will finally have a someone in the Speaker’s chair who takes the whole ‘impartial’ and ‘unbiased’ parts of the job seriously. The big question now is how badly bruised Mr Abbott is by the whole affair. Badly, by the looks of it, with a few broken ribs and Labor not letting up. I’ve seen no shortage of Abbott government detractors gleefully celebrating the fall of Mrs Bishop and the splash damage done to Mr Abbott in her wake. Schadenfreude. The PM’s announced review into MP entitlements might do a little to earn a bit of trust and credibility back, but his continued allusions to Mrs Bishop being a victim of the system rather than admitting she did wrong (and she did very wrong) isn’t going to do her any favours.

Anyway. I was going to have a go at Senator Cory Bernardi’s continued crusade against Halal food in Australia (now targeting the Australian Institute of Sport, who responded like a champ by apologising to anyone who might have eaten non-Halal food thinking it was Halal), but I think I’ve hit the Coalition enough for now. See you all next week.

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