Flat White

Facts are irrelevant now

8 June 2020

12:55 PM

8 June 2020

12:55 PM

‘This is the excellent foppery of the world…’  — Edmund in King Lear (Act 1, Scene 2), Shakespeare. 

In an age of mass interconnectivity, we all live in one society. Last Saturday, tens of thousands of Australians gathered in response to the killing of an African American man by a police officer on the other side of the world in the US state of Minneapolis.  

Mass protests all around the western world, emulating the riots and disorder in the Uniting States, have seen American-style racial politics exported everywhere; from London and Paris to Melbourne and Christchurch. Despite having an entirely different conception, history and development of racial issues to those in America, these countries have all demonstrated that the rhetoric and language of US-style race politics now dominates the debate everywhere; whites, possessed of original sin in the form of ‘White Privilege’ are now all across western cities falling to their knees in ritual penance for their oppression of ‘Peoples of Colour”s ‘minds and bodies’, regardless of context. 

Using this American killing as a pretext to demonstrate against what they describe as the ‘genocide’ of Aboriginal Australians through deaths in police custody, the WAR, or ‘Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance’, defied the government Coronavirus bans to help organise the June 6 Australian protests, in spite of the fact that so many activists were hitherto complaining that the indigenous are at ‘greater risk’ of dying from the disease. Their stated demands were, among others, that ‘the police and justice system be dismantled’, and ‘the defunding of the police force’ and ‘the charging of all police officers and correction officers with murder’ be undertaken. 

The justification for this, they say, is the epidemic of aboriginal deaths in police custody; a form of ‘slow genocide’ being intentionally inflicted by the Australian state against the Aboriginal population in particular. Yet only the simplest research is required to demonstrate the absurdity of this statement. For decades in the wake of the 1995 royal commission the death rates per head of indigenous prisoners, as demonstrated by the Australian Institute of Criminology, have been consistently lower than the death rates of non-indigenous persons. 

Despite representing nearly 30 per cent of the prison population of Australia, only three Aboriginal deaths were recorded in police custody for the last year monitored (2017-18), compared to 14 non-indigenous deaths (rather less than 30 per cent). It is simply wrong to say that the state is waging genocide on the indigenous population. 

Yet the facts are irrelevant now. It is not a matter of statistical analysis that brought tens of thousands of people onto the streets of Sydney, Melbourne and elsewhere; but a ritual feeling of global solidarity with a movement that has become the main source of meaning and righteous indignation for a western generation raised on a consistent diet of anti-colonialism and the politics of gender and race grievance, regardless of nation, culture or history. 

This is how the world is now; the interconnectivity allowed by the internet was expected to usher in a utopian future of broader and more open debate through the spread of a multiplicity of ideas and arguments where the best and most true would win. It has instead allowed a single, dominant message to be disseminated everywhere, to the point where, if a black man dies in America, the Cenotaph in London will be vandalised. 

As the world has become ever more connected, and local cultures and concerns have been driven out by global ones; the algorithms of the social media giants now offer us, in place of the uncomfortably limitless complexity of the world, a kind of collective shadow reality; a way of interpreting the world that, even if it is false, is at the very least collective. It doesn’t matter that the only thing connecting Indigenous Australians and African Americans is the presence of melanin. In the war between believing what is true and believing what the twitter tribe demands; the tribal belief is the most convenient. 

This is what our new internetted global culture requires; amidst the mass chanting, the fist salutes, the invocations of collective repentance and the literal prostrations, our new culture has found its rituals, articles of faith and religion. 

Even the ABC’s Religion and Ethics report has joined the religious fervour of the moment, with an editorial claiming that “#BLM is a gift to the church in that it is an unwitting prophet that calls the church to repent…. #BLM cries out from the wilderness exposing the church’s false gospel that has severed the proclamation of the coming Kingdom of God from its just politics…’

G.K. Chesterton is oft-quoted as saying ‘when men stop believing in God they don’t believe in nothing; they believe in anything.’ In the age of social media, where the loudest and most obnoxious ideas win, we have found that anything. 

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