When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
Three threads over December 2009 -January 2010 on Lavartus Prodeo (here’s number two) addressed the issue of assaults on Indian Students, mostly in Western Melbourne, but also other parts of Melbourne and Western Sydney.
The question is,’ said Alice, `whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
`The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, `which is to be master – – that’s all.’
The LP moderators who wrote or authorised the posts bluntly attribute the reason for these attacks to racism, despite the comments of Victorian Chief Of Police, Simon Overland, who said that while a number of the attacks were undoubtedly racist the bulk of the attacks were ‘opportunistic’
i.e. comprising robbery as the primary motive on the ‘soft targets’ of Indian students, mostly slight of stature, known to carry cash , iPods, laptops and mobile phones, walking or travelling alone to and from late night shifts as taxi drivers and service station and late-night convenience store attendants in low socio-economic area suburbs.
..which sounds to me eminently plausible.
Circumstances Are Irrelevant: Its Racism
While the LP moderators and contributors acknowledge the relatively risky profile of the work activities of Indian students they absolutely refuse to factor that circumstantial risk profile into their characteristaion of the attacks as racist.
Rather, the LP team say that the Indian students are forced to engage in high-risk jobs by a set of laws and practices which produce a disproportionately high incidence assault on Indian students. Since the Indian students self-evidently constitute a racial group and the attacks are concentrated on this racial group, the LP commentators state the set of laws and practices which cause these assaults are ipso facto racist.
Specifically, these laws and practices are an example of Structural Racism.
The Structurally Racist Laws Causing Indian Students To Be Bashed
Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. `They’ve a temper, some of them — particularly verbs, they’re the proudest — adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs — however, I can manage the whole of them! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!’
`Would you tell me, please,’ said Alice `what that means?`
The supposed racist structures that cause Indian students to be bashed were enumerated by Mark Bahnsich
in this post
Mark enumerates the following: The 20 hr per week limitation on foreign students, the requirement of foreign students to fulfill work experience requirements in their courses, incomplete, misleading or poorly researched information propogated private colleges and (Indian) education agents, that only low-skill employment opportunities are open to foreign students despite the fact they may already have foreign qualifications, negligent regulation of the private education sector, the fact that Indian students come to Australia with little money, the fact that Indian students are unfamiliar with our legal and bureaucratic system, , the fact that Australian-run private educators and the fact that Indian students are unfamiliar with the cultural, safety and social aspects of Western Melboune or Sydney.
Reading through Mark’s list, it is apparrent that not one of these laws and practices is framed with racist intent or motivation, a fact readily acknowledged by the LP commentators. That fact, however, is regarded as irrelevant.
It does not matter to them that the set of laws and practices faced by Indian students is not framed with racist intent, only that the combined effect of such laws and practices forces Indian students to take low-paying jobs in risky socio-economic areas and thus they get exposed to thugs and criminals and get bashed.
For the LP commentariat Structural Racism can exist without racist intention or motivation.
For me this is a lunacy worthy of Humpty-Dumpty from Alice In Wonderland, who, you may remember, assigned meanings to words based on his own personal whim and preference and for his own transient enjoyment.
Miracle Cure For Racism Discovered
`Now you talk like a reasonable child,’ said Humpty Dumpty, looking very much pleased. `I meant by “impenetrability” that we’ve had enough of that subject, and it would be just as well if you’d mention what you mean to do next, as I suppose you don’t mean to stop here all the rest of your life.’
`That’s a great deal to make one word mean,’ Alice said in a thoughtful tone.
`When I make a word do a lot of work like that,’ said Humpty Dumpty, `I always pay it extra.’
`Oh!’ said Alice.
Mark Bahnsich and his supporters provide a number of solutions for what they consider the deeply-ingrained xenophobic gene in Australian society. They mostly boil down to one thing: give Indian students more money – then they wont have to take the aforesaid risky jobs and put themselves in the way of thugs.
Consequently the LP team recommend giving Indian students Cab Vouchers, providing subsidized or free student housing, ask or require them to bring more money with them, relax or abolish the 20 Hr per week work limitation and abolishing or amending their work experience requirements.
Its is a strange sort of racism that can be cured merely by providing money to the victims.
To my mind, this Miracle Cure indicates very clearly that the problem is not racism, but one of wealth. Its a poverty issue not atypical of that facing students of every nationality including locals, not a problem of racism which persists despite the persecuted group having money or not (e.g ‘rich Jew’ anti-Semitism).
If Its Not Racism Then What Is It ?
`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
`That’s enough to begin with,’ Humpty Dumpty interrupted: `there are plenty of hard words there. “Brillig” means four o’clock in the afternoon — the time when you begin broiling things for dinner.’
Indan students are being attacked for precisely the reasons Vic. Police say they are: opportunistic attacks on soft targets icarrying valuable items in risky areas at risky times of night while travelling alone. What puts them in harm’s way is a their relative poverty. Therefore the problem is far better called ‘Structural Poverty’, not ‘Structural Racism’. The fact the problem can be cured by applying money is a clear indicator of its true cause.
`I see it now,’ Alice remarked thoughtfully: `and what are “toves”?’
`Well, “toves” are something like badgers — they’re something like lizards — and they’re something like corkscrews.’
Many on the left are over eager to identify racism. This is a result of the volumes of leftist literature that portray (Imperialist) Capitalism as inherently racist and sexist. This ideological inertia predisposes leftists to enthusiastically identify racism even where it does not exist.
Here follow two examples of leftist ideological polemic which illustrate how the understanding of the interconnection between Capitalism, Racism and Sexism is described in varying levels of correlation.
First, From CLASS STRUGGLE, CAPITALISM AND THE STATE by The Workers Solidarity Federation an Anarchist/Syndicalist organisation which believes in a revolution by the workers and the poor to establish Stateless Socialism.
Class struggle does not ignore sexism, racism etc.: insofar as the majority of people who are affected by these oppressions (and who are also affected the worst by these oppressions) are working class, insofar as these oppressions are rooted in the capitalist system, and insofar as the working class can only be united and mobilised on the basis of opposing all oppression, these issues are all class issues. It is impossible to mobilise the working class without dealing with all the issues that affect the working class. That is to say, the class struggle can only succeed if it is anti-racist, anti-sexist etc.
Second, from Defying corporations, Defining Democracy
In one sense, capitalism is not inherently racist or sexist – corporations are happy to exploit anyone in the drive for profit. But owners and managers have used racism to divide workers and solidify control, and sexism has been important in keeping certain jobs associated with women or “women’s work” (such as the expanding customer service sector) low paying. Those stories are also an integral part of the history of the corporation.
Examples could be easily multiplied.
Indian Students Are Divided As To Cause
While the LP moderators are insistent that Structural Racism is the cause of the attacks, a significant minority of Indian students, like Vic. Police, assign the cause to Opportunism.
Of course this does not contradict the Structural Racism hypothesis because Structural Racism is said to explain the preconditions for the attack, not the attack itself, which thus still permits the attacks to be bluntly described as racist even though robbery or thuggery may be acknowledged as the primary motive by Leftist analysts.
To my mind, this is a lovely way of having your explanation and eating it too as the emotive and unnuanced appellation of racism with all its accusatory power can be levied at Australian (Capitalist) society while the highly jargonized term of Structural Racism is employed as covering fire when the racist motivation is questioned.
Indian student Ruchir Punjabi, former President of the University Of Sydney Student Union, made the interesting comment that that portrayal of the attacks as racist was a distraction for the severe problems besetting private foreign education in Australia.
In this way he was drawing attention to many of the problems identified by Mark Bahnsich around the largely unregulated flow of under-resourced and under-advised Indian students into Australia which has led to a more than tripling of Indian student numbers in Australia between 2004 and 2009. As an informed Indian student national with intimate knowledge of Australian society and culture he has an unusually well-rounded perspective and does not cry ‘Racist!’
Anglos Are Largely Not Perpetrating The Bashings
Humpty Dumpty raised his voice almost to a scream as he repeated this verse, and Alice thought with a shudder, `I wouldn’t have been the messenger for anything!’
The testimony of the Indian students is that the attacks are largely perpetrated by Immigrant, non-Anglo groups. The attacks on Sydney’s Indian nationals are described by the victims themselves as coming from Lebanese youths:
Macquarie University student Mukul Khanna, called back home by his worried parents: “A lot of my Pakistani friends have left the place after being brutally attacked and robbed . . . Interestingly, the attackers are mostly not locals and are themselves people of foreign origin.
In Melbourne (same link as previous) This year between May 8 and August 2 there were 12 reported robberies on taxi drivers in Flemington, Moonee Ponds and Ascot Vale. “Police will not officially acknowledge any particular ethnic group is a target, or that any other group is carrying out the crimes. But in every case the victims told police their attackers were African . . .”
In The Guardian:
Pulok: The media is giving a false impression of this – it could have been any ethnic group that actually did this. Last year it was bunch of Somali guys smashing up an Indian shop in Sunshine [a suburb three kilometres to the west] and bashing the owner. But you see all kinds of people not in their senses on the street and they can be dangerous.
Rav: There are new migrants in this area from all over the place and not having much money is a big contributing factor. Indians usually find it much easier to find jobs (even if they’re not great jobs) than a lot of the African guys, so that probably causes some resentment.
While the fact that Anglo attackers are in the minority is acknowledged by the LP commentariat, this (fairly enough) is also regarded as irrelevent, but does not deter some commentators from explaining the racist nature of the attacks with reference to Australia’s Constitution, the White Australia Policy of 1908 (approx.) and pre-WW2 attitudes to Aboriginals and non-European persons in general as they hunt out teh various mainfestations of Australia’s ‘deeply-ingrained’ xenophobia
…all of which of couse is only germane to Anglo Australia and completely irelevant to the Lebanese youth gangs of Western Sydney, the Somali gangs of Melbourne or the mixed ethnicity cohorts of unemployed friends that are actually perpetrating the attacks with minority Anglo input.
Once again the predisposition to critique (White) Western Capitalist societies interferes with the ability of some leftists to discuss this issue objectively.
So What Should Be Done ?
In the short term I agree with the LP team. Give late-night workers Cab Vouchers, provide Student Accommodation, better policing, better lighting, everything possible should be done. We differ only on the description of the problem, not its severity or victims.
Its a poverty issue, not a race issue
In the medium-term, the repulsively negligent oversight of overseas student education should be addressed with primary attention on requiring overseas students to come to Oz with more money. The problem will then magically disappear and Australia will no longer be (structurally) racist.
I would retain the 20 Hr work week minimum as a sensible limitation on foreign students and also retain the work experience requirement for qualifications.
To conclude, more poetry from the incomparable Humpty-Dumpty:
I took a corkscrew from the shelf:
I went to wake them up myself.
And when I found the door was locked,
I pulled and pushed and knocked.
And when I found the door was shut,
I tried to turn the handle, but — ‘
There was a long pause.
`Is that all?’ Alice timidly asked.
`That’s all,’ said Humpty Dumpty. Good-bye.’