Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Nigerian dudes sing Bollywood

This is cool for so many reasons.

The song is "Goron ki na kalon ki duniya hai dil walon ki" from the movie "Disco Dancer".

That translates as something like "The world belongs to neither whites, nor blacks, the world belongs to people with heart." Kinda appropriate for a video that shows the power of music to cross the boundaries of race and culture.

If you wonder what the original sounds like, here it is:

Monday, September 28, 2009

Indian taxi driver bashed by star footballer

One of the rising stars of the AFL, Essendon forward Michael Hurley, was arrested early on Friday morning for the assault of a taxi driver. The 19-year-old rookie had been in the news for all the right reasons a few weeks earlier, when he had kicked the goal that sent his team into the finals, but his behaviour after a drunken night out could threaten a promising career.

Driver Onkar Singh Bains picked up Hurley outside the Seven Nightclub in South Melbourne, and then stopped outside Hungry Jacks restaurant in the CBD. Hurley left the cab without paying and walked into the restaurant, Bains pursued him asking that he pay the fare, and in the altercation that followed, Hurley punched the driver's face and kicked him in the groin. Police were called to the scene and the footballer was arrested, and will likely be charged on summons.

This incident has unfortunate timing for Victorian Premier John Brumby, currently in India attempting to soothe fears after a spate of assaults on Indians in Melbourne. His comment about the matter has scarcely helped. "I understand that Hurley is a good kid. He is deeply remorseful. It is not typical of his behaviour...but he had too much to drink."

I understand what Brumby is trying to say, but it was a clumsy comment when you think about the message he is sending. He will appear to Indians to be excusing the behaviour. And at a time when alcohol-fuelled violence is a hot-button issue in Melbourne, Brumby sounds like he thinks being drunk is a valid excuse for violent behaviour. Sure, the incident probably wouldn't have happened without the alcohol, but it also wouldn't have happened if Hurley was not a young macho dickhead either. Brumby should remember that a great many people, particularly women, frequently drink alcohol yet somehow restrain themselves from committing violent assaults.

While details on the incident are still not completely clear, what likely happened is this: Hurley, heading home, asked the driver to stop while he grabbed something to eat. It is quite likely that he was not attempting to evade the fare, perhaps intending to return to the cab to continue home after buying food. In any case, Bains pursued him, wanting to be paid, which led to the incident. I have heard it suggested that Bains should have known Hurley was coming back, but this is unrealistic. Taxi drivers lose a lot of money from fare evaders, and it is perfectly reasonable that Bains would not want to run the risk of waiting for a customer who had "done a runner". It has been suggested that Bains may have been aggressive in the manner that he approached Hurley; this is possible, but this would certainly not excuse Hurley's response. And I wonder how aggressive the driver would really get towards a 193cm, 92kg footballer.

The question that the Indian media have already jumped to conclusions for is: "Is this yet another racist attack?" I think it unwise to jump to conclusions here - he may well have acted the same way towards a non-Indian. But I certainly wouldn't rule it out either. And I'll tell you why in a minute.

Reading the comments on this story around the blogs, forums and newsites, and its alarming how some people are so keen to find a reason to blame the Indian for this.

Take this blogger:

"...a cabbie who was stupid enough to leave his cab and create an altercation... Michael Hurley was a fool, that's a no brainer. But his once bright future is potentially ruined while the aggressive cabbie is treated as a genuine victim."

Gee, poor guy. Hurley that is. What an outrage that a lowly immigrant cab driver had the audacity to be punched and kicked by the true-blue Aussie sporting star.

Or try this douche:

"It would have been pretty obvious Michael Hurley was going to return from Hungry Jacks. He explained this to the idiot. If you can't understand us then go back to your own country. Or at least don't drive a taxi. This had nothing to do with racism of course but the stupid idiots in the Indian media won't see the facts. And this promising young AFL star has had his career ruined by the stupidity of the taxi driver."

Although if he's going to call someone else stupid, he shouldn't entitle his post "Stupid curry muncer [sic] attacked by AFL player".

Here are some comments from the Herald-Sun website's article on the case:

Blinded by the beauty:
Thanks a lot Hurley, you fool. Now all the Indian cabbies will protest naked in the city again. I'm still seeing a shrink from the last protest.

Sean R of South Morang:
Did we really need to know if the cabbie was indian? Here we go racism and everything else with riots and such. Cab drivers need to back off and stop harassing passengers especially with the ludicrous prices they charge and 1star service.

Matt of Williamstown:
There's two sides to every story. Melbourne's knowledge of cabbies is that they are rude, arrogant and inconsiderate to customers. I would assume that Michael Hurley was going into Hungry Jack's to get food before continuing on his cab journey home. The cab driver then became rude and demanding of the fare and Michael overreacted by kicking him. I don't by any means condone Michael's actions but ensure the media has the whole story before attempting to bring another footballer down like you have through the week with Fevola who did nothing more than have a few too many friendly drinks with the boys.

Feedup of Indian sqaure..woops fed sqaure:
Good on Hurls, you have just done what everybody else wants to do to cab drives in Melbourne. How about writing an article on the state of the taxi system and the drivers, its a disgrace, they are agressive, smell and insulting. Bring back a government that gets the job done and makes decisions...instead of spending money on scoping projects and further studies...Action required or its going to get worse. Stop stuffing about with the India government, how about looking after Australian's

nick of crazyburn:
the taxi driver deserved it.

Sally of Melbourne:
If it was like the cabbie I got the other night demanding $40.00 from Crown to Essendon I don't blame him

Glenn of melbourne:
At 5.30am , I take it he was on his way home, he stopped for a bite to eat and then presume he was going to get back into the cab to go home and get some sleep, when an arrogant little man pestered him for the fare which was yet to be completed. He kicked him in the groin, cmon what is he a girl

Shaun of Richmond:
Given the generally appalling service by Melbourne taxi drivers, I would not jump to the conclusion that Hurley was completely in the wrong.

Just to remind you again - Hurley punched and kicked the taxi driver. Not the other way round. Fortunately, those comments are a minority. The best comment has to go to this guy:

chris allchin of docklands:
Michael Hurley should be allowed to do whatever he wants whenever he wants. how dare the cab driver approach him!

Nice work son.

So even though such repugnant and racist comments as the above are not reflecting the majority, they are common enough that we should be worried. Does Michael Hurley share the same disdain for brown people? If he does, then perhaps race did have something to do with it. Or perhaps he is just another young man with more muscles than brains, more ego than morals - our city is crammed with them.

More about racism and footy culture here and here.

More about attacks on Indians here and here.

Foods to make you stink: Petai Beans

Unless you've travelled to Southeast Asia, it's likely that you've never eaten petai. And many people would say that you're not missing out - why would anyone want to eat something often referred to as "stinky bean"?

The petai bean (Parkia speciosa) is also known as the twisted cluster bean. It is most commonly eaten in Indonesia and Malaysia (the name petai is Malay). It is also relatively common in Thai and Lao cuisine, and you can often find the beans imported to the West being labelled with the Thai name, sataw or sator. It is also known to the Burmese and the Burmic peoples of North Eastern India.

It is classified as a member of the family Fabaceae, and thus is related to all the other bean varieties commonly used around the world. Indeed, when podded it resembles a young lima bean, with an impressively bright shade of green and almond-like shape. Its pods, which hang from trees up to 30m high, resemble longer, twisted versions of broad bean pods.

So how stinky are they? Well, the beans themselves are not particularly stinky at all. But once you eat them, you will begin to notice things. Like your urine and faeces will bear the unmistakable petai smell. That's clearly not a big deal, since no one expects their excretions to smell nice anyway. But the effect on your breath will be more worrying. Your breath won't smell too horrible - its not as bad as, say, raw garlic - but its enough to bug you. And when you burp - and believe me, if you eat petai you will burp - you get to taste the petai's odor all over again.

While raw garlic is worse, garlic-smell on the breath only lasts around a day at the most, typically. It is not uncommon for the smell of petai to be burped up and excreted for up to 3 days. So before eating petai, you really need to evaluate your chances of getting some kissing action for a few days. Because unless that person has also been eating petai, they're not going to think too highly of your oral hygiene unless you are constantly cramming in the Mentos. Drinking a lot of water may help to flush the smell from your system, but I ain't promising anything.

Oh, and being a bean, it naturally contains the kind of complex carbohydrates that cause increased flatulence as the digestive system works to break it down. And of course, that flatulence will carry the distinctive petai smell.

So, what about the taste? Is it so delicious that it is worth being a bit whiffy for a day or so?

Well, to be honest, the taste is a tad funky. Not bad, but certainly not exciting. The bean has a mild bitterness to it that is vaguely reminiscent of brussels sprouts. While many Westerners are averse to bitter foods (despite liking beer and coffee), Southeast Asians are quite partial to them. Some claim it has significant health benefits (as is often the case with bitter-tasting foods), but I'm not convinced of the veracity of some of the claims I've read. At the very least, like other beans it is a useful source of protein.

Young petai can be eaten raw, but are not so pleasant. They take on a new life when combined with other strong flavours however. In Malay cuisine petai often appear in a selection of ulam (raw vegetables and herbs) and are eaten with a chili sambal on the side. Or they will be cooked into the sambal itself - Indonesia's fiery and garlic-laced sambal petai is one of the best uses of the bean, although its not for the faint-hearted. Prawns are often added to the sambal as well, which is a classic combination. The Indonesian fermented soybean cake tempeh, which also has a slightly bitter acquired taste, is also a good partner for petai; they are usually cooked with sweet soya sauce (kecap manis) which balances the flavours nicely. The beans can be cooked into an omelette as well, although this is just asking for trouble flatulence-wise.

Nasi goreng petai is my favourite way of using the bean. It follows the usual Malay/Indonesian way of making fried rice (lots of shallots and garlic a must), but with extra chili sambal. Pungent shrimp paste is often used, with scrambled egg stirred into it. The end result is a reddish fried rice studded with the green petai beans. It's a dish which is likely to make you fart, burp, sweat and stink like nothing else, but it's great stuff.

It should be said that petai is not popular with everyone in the countries that use it - some don't find it to be pleasant-tasting, and many just don't want to have to deal with the after-effects. Personally, I don't eat it very often for the latter reason.

It's not always easy to find petai in the West, but groceries that cater to Indonesians and Thais are likely to carry them, either tinned, or in frozen form - I'd take frozen, personally.

In the same countries as petai you may also find its relative, the jengkol bean, which I may post about it someday. It is even stinkier.

See also: Foods that make you stink: Fenugreek

Sataw on Foodista

Friday, September 25, 2009

Tuts My Barreh

I have no words to do justice to this. But it looks like Korean popstar Rain has some competition from his countryman here. Watch and enjoy.

Like this? Then you'll like:

WTF? Weird Vietnamese version of the song "Birthday Sex"

Meet Namata, Flava Flav's Cameroonian clone and world's greatest dancer

Asians embarassing themselves, part 1

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Is the anti-Obama movement motivated by racism?

If you watched Letterman the other night you would have seen Barack Obama being interviewed. And he was the usual erudite, calmly confident and even witty man that the rest of us outside the States are proud to have as the Leader of the Free World. Among the questions Dave asked was about whether, as Jimmy Carter has recently suggested, some of the vitriol aimed at him recently was based in racism.

The O-Man deflected it with a great line:

"First of all, I think it's important to realise that I was actually black before the election..."

Smooth. I like that the most powerful man in the world has good comic timing. But was he being genuine?

I would say no. He is either hopelessly optimistic or he's not really telling the truth. I'm not saying its a bad thing that he's not being honest, because he has no other choice in his position.

I've little doubt that as an intelligent guy with a deep understanding of society and race, Obama knows full well that his race is a very significant part of the groundswell of conservative opposition to his administration.

It's just that he can't say it. The trade-off for becoming Everybody's President is that he can no longer take the side of black people against white people, on anything. Remember the Henry Louis Gates affair? (Cops hassle elderly black professor for breaking into his own house, then arrest him for being abusive.) BO didn't accuse the white policeman of racism; he merely said that on face value, the police seemed to be overzealous in their actions, and that such an encounter is complicated by the historical nature of racial profiling in police interactions with minorities.

Of course, right-wing nutjobs like Glenn Beck jumped all over him for that.

When Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and the like are brainwashing their large audience and saying that Obama is a racist, an Arab, a socialist, a fascist and so on, its not surprising that people are afraid.

The Right like to pretend that the legacy of racism is done and dusted, and that race and racism is no longer a factor in how things operate or how people think. This of course is absolute nonsense. But to acknowledge that, as Obama has done before, means being accused a number of times of "playing the race card". Thus he has been effectively neutered in any discussion about race, despite being uniquely qualified to talk about it. And his ideological opponents get to make veiled racist comments with impunity.

Does this mean that all the folks attending protest rallies against Obama's health care plan are card-carrying racists? No, not at all. I'm sure some of them even have black friends, not that that means anything. And many of them I'm sure, are purely against his policies.

What we are talking about is a far more subtle and subconscious form of racism. One that is buried deep in the psyche. We all have that to a certain extent, but some people don't know its there. So they are influenced by their own mild racism but don't even know it. For many conservative Americans, Obama is scary, because to them he represents "The Other". He's got dark skin. He's "foreign" - he's got a strange name, he's not really an American like us, they say he's a Muslim. The labels of "socialist" and "communist" that have been bandied around by conservatives about Obama do not seem racial in nature, but they feed into the image being propagated of him being something other than American.

So when many of the anti-Obama brigade chant about "wanting America back" or "socialism" or "fascism", they are drawing on their fear of The Other. Of course, they're not using obviously racist language, which they probably find distasteful, since that's how racists talk, and these people don't see themselves as racist. Which is why any time someone like Jimmy Carter tells the truth about this crap, they can complain that the Left is just shutting down debate by crying racism. Which is why Obama will never be able to really tell the truth about the racism of the Right. His tenure as president depends on him telling himself and his country that it is not racist.

Although seriously, the racial connotations are not hard to see in these signs:
(Hat tip: Evil Slutopia)


UPDATE (26 Sept):

Oh yeah, and I forgot to add this comment by a conservative blogger and Republican activist:

More on the whole "coloured people = primate" thing here.

Intel's Indian "rock star" ad

One the best ads I've seen this year is the following one for Intel, which intends to remind us of some of the company's achievements over the years. It focuses on Indian-born computer engineer Ajay Bhatt, co-creator of the USB.

Although that's not actually Bhatt himself in the ad - he's played by actor Sunil Narkar. Bhatt actually looks like this:

Which may seem a bit disengenuous, but you've gotta admit that Narkar plays the role with suitable rockstar panache.

Although the ad is obviously a bit of fun, it does raise a point: why do we lavish so much praise and celebrity on entertainers and athletes, yet not on the scientists and backroom boffins who create much of what enriches our day-to-day lives? I daresay someone like Bhatt deserves much more props than, say, Paris Hilton. Maybe he should make a sex tape.

Like this? You'll also like:

Awesome Asian Ads - India

All about Indians in 90 seconds

Goodness Gracious Me: "I want to be a doctor."

Sam Newman in racist "monkey" trouble

The Footy Show's Sam Newman has been accused of racism by the ABC's Media Watch program, for use of the racial slur "monkey" in reference to two people.

It was in reference to a story from Malaysia in which a 37-year old man (Muhammad Musa) was married to a 107-year-old woman (Wook Kundor). Holding up a picture of the couple and asking what kind of person would want to marry her, Newman referred to Musa as a "monkey". When co-panellist Brendan Fevola told Newman "you can't call him a monkey", Newman replied: "That man is not long out of the forest."

When Fevola (recently dropped from the show due to his drunken antics) is giving you advice on appropriate behaviour, it's time for a long hard look at yourself.

Not long after, Newman referred to African-American tennis player Serena Williams, and held her picture up next that of Musa by way of comparison.

You can watch the clip from Media Watch here.

This is not the first time that the "monkey" label has caused controversy in Australia. It was only last year that Indian cricketer Harbhajan Singh was in hot water for allegedly calling Australian player Andrew Symonds (who is of Afro-Caribbean descent) by the term.

And Newman has form - he's no stranger to controversy. You may remember in 1999, at a time when racism against Aboriginal footballers was a big issue, he blacked up his face in impersonation of indigenous player Nicky Winmar. Last year, when sexual assault scandals were plaguing the league, he placed a picture of journalist Caroline Wilson on a mannequin and proceeded to handle the doll in a sexual way (resulting in him being "rested" from the program). Last week, when being inducted into the AFL Media Association's Hall of Fame, he launched into a rambling rant criticising others in the industry, and when one of the audience called out for him to get off, he replied with "Get f***ed."

Now, some have questioned why the current incident should be considered racist, since Newman has referred to white people in the past as "monkeys" and called his co-panellist Jason Dunstall a "silverback gorilla".

And look, I don't like to support Newman who is clearly a stupid fool, but it could be argued that labelling this racist is an overreaction. Some comments I have read supporting Newman ask why it is not racist to refer to a white man as being a monkey, but it is racist to refer to a non-white that way. And you could argue that it is the politically correct brigade who are being racist if they automatically connect "monkey" to someone's ethnicity. It has been suggested that both Serena Wiliams and Muhammad Musa do in fact look ape-like, thus the comparison. The same could arguably said for Symonds. Cricket commentator Greg Matthews tried to clumsily add to the debate by saying "monkey" was not an appropriate adjective for the burly, powerfully-built Symonds, and then likening him more to a "silverback gorilla".

Oh dear.

What a lot of people have missed here is the historical context. People of African descent, and to a lesser extent Asians, have been likened to monkeys throughout history as a way of lessening their humanity. It was frequently stated in the 19th century that Africans had evolved little from the apes in comparison to Europeans, and you'll still hear people say that today. Witness scenes still occurring at some football games throughout Europe where idiot fans throw bananas and make monkey sounds at black players. But there is no real historical context for a white man being offended due to being called a monkey by another race, if that ever were to happen.

Thus the furore over this recent cartoon in the New York Post, which alludes to President Obama:

Was the cartoonist perpetuating the monkey slur against black people? It's hard to say. Former President Bush was occasionally likened to a chimpanzee in his time in office, which most likely referred to his intellectual abilities rather than race.

So while I'm not saying that Sam Newman was definitely being racist, he was at very least being very stupid and displayed the sensitivity of a neanderthal. You just don't go calling coloured people monkeys.

White Westerners have generally prospered from the legacy of their forebears colonial exploitation of the world. They are on average wealthier than other peoples, and have more opportunities. So don't complain its unfair when non-whites don't like you calling them monkeys, its a small price to pay when you think about it.

Find this interesting? You may like:

Racial humour - when is it okay?.

Controversy over "blackface" Jackson 5 skit

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Gerhard Reinke's Wanderlust - Thailand

Gerhard Reinke's Wanderlust was a short-lived series made by Comedy Channel in 2003 which retains a spot in my heart as one of my favourite shows. A mock travel documentary series, it follows host Gerhard Reinke (played by Josh Gardner) as he explores tourist destinations around the world. Reinke is the kind of host who is to be found wearing swimming costumes that reveal a bit too much, catching herpes from kissing the Blarney Stone in Ireland, and getting addicted to coca and captured by Marxist rebels on the Inca Trail.

Only 6 episodes were ever made, but the show retains a cult following, fervently hoping it will return to production. The 3 videos below comprise the very first episode, when Reinke visits Thailand. It's low-budget production suits its mock-travel format perfectly, and the humour, often subtle and sometimes not so subtle, is brilliant. Enjoy.

Like this? You may like:

My week in Bangkok, Part 1 and Part 2

Danny Bhoy - A Visitor's Guide to Scotland

Let's all blame the victim

In the course of my work I've done a lot of study into the nature of violence and crime. What interests me most is not so much the act itself, but the mentality of the person who does it, and the attitudes and beliefs that encourage it to happen.

With that in mind, check this report in the Herald-Sun last week regarding an assault in Brisbane:

A FATHER of six who king hit and almost killed a man in a road rage attack over claims he jumped a petrol station queue has been jailed for at least 12 months. Brisbane District Court was told Wilson Daniel Lee, 38, punched expectant dad Tal Naor, 30, in the head causing him grievous bodily harm - at a Caltex Service Station on Creek Rd, Carindale, southeast of Brisbane, on August 17 last year. Prosecutor Stacey Coker said Lee was a passenger in a Jeep Cherokee lined up in a queue for fuel when a car driven by Mr Naor reversed next to a petrol bowser ahead of others waiting to fill up.

She said while Mr Naor was lined up waiting to pay for his fuel he became involved in a row with Lee's daughter-in-law who berated him for pushing in. The court was told Lee then confronted Naor about what he had said to his daughter-in-law and punched him the head. Naor felled to the ground unconscious, with blood flowing from his ears, while Lee returned to his car and then drove away.

The court was told Lee handed himself into police the following day after CCTV footage of the attack was aired on television news.

Mr Naor suffered a serious brain injury and needed a life saving operation, the court was told. He was in intensive care at Brisbane's Princess Alexandra Hospital for a week and in the hospitals brain injury unit almost another three weeks. Mr Naor's heavily pregnant partner Becky Ward and close friends maintained an around-the-clock bedside vigil as his parents flew in from Israel.

Mr Naor, who attended court today, said he has suffered a permanent brain injury as a result of the unprovoked attack. Proudly cuddling his nine-month-old daughter, Leah, Mr Naor said he suffered regular serious headaches, memory loss, vertigo and mood swings. "I was 90 per cent dead (after the attack) and I am glad to be alive to actually see my baby," he said.

Judge Kerry O'Brien sentenced Lee to three years jail, to be suspended after he serves 12-months in custody.

OK, now that type of incident is unfortunately all too common. An argument breaks out over a relatively trivial issue, someone loses their cool, and someone - in this case Tal Naor (pictured) - almost loses their life. Not enough people understand the potential lethality of a single punch. But that is not what interested me when reading this article. As usual, I like to read the comments by readers, and I expected the usual condemnation of the perpetrator, and of the judge for too short a sentence. And there were some of those, but more notable are these comments:

Pauly of Melbourne:
Might teach him to wait in line like everyone else?

Mark Bishop of Townsville:
How can you say this attack was unprovoked? Whilst I don't condone violence of this nature this guy has firstly jumped a fuel queue and then had a verbal altercation with the offenders daughter-in-law. We don't know what was said in this altercation but to provoke a king hit from Mr Lee I would assume it was pretty bad.

Troy of Melb:
Unprovoked Attack? Pushing in front of other drivers that have been waiting in a que, is that not provoking a attack? I am sorry as there is no excuse for violence, but it is hardly a Unprovoked Attack. If he pushed in front of me I certainly would have confronted him. Its a bit stiff that this smartallec gets to stand there and play the victim in all this when if he just waited like everyone else in the que there would have been no problem, and he wouldnt have ended up in hospital.

Jarrad of Melbourne:
What do you mean unprovoked Herald Sun? The guy PUSHED in line! Did I read a different article? You idiots.

what the heck, this guy deserved to get hit

Marty Lowry of Melbourne:
unprovoked? He jumped the queue! If you show that basic lack of manners and respect for others then I have absolutely no sympathy for him. He took a chance and it came back to bite him in the form of a nut case with a good punch.

Sarcastic of Ahead of you in the queue:
How can you say it was unprovoked? He jumped the queue!

Tim B:
you have said he was unprovoked. he was obviously provoked because the guy pushed in. mr lee probably wouldnt have done it otherwise. mr naor might have said something about his daughter in-law aswell. if the so-called victim had not pushed in the line and waited like the rest of us have to then he would not have got hit. he brought it completely upon himself and i have no sympathy for that. he thought he was a hero till he ran into a bigger hero.

JOhn Brown of Melb:
not condoning violence but maybe the ignorant Mr Noar will think twice before pushing in again. It rude selfish arseholes like Mr Noar that piss everyone else off on the roads

Brett of Bangkok:
Finally the sentences get tougher but for the wrong guy. Young punks punching and stabbing people in bars to look tough, and get less than this guy who had at least a valid reason. The idiot had no respect for anyone lining up. Happens all the time in Aus now, as people from other countries dont adapt to Australian culture. Total disrespect. And probably deserved the punch as PC Australia lets guys like this get away with everything else.

Amazon of SA:
unprovoked? He totally deserved it. people that cut in like that have whats coming to them.

Vicki C:
No one should resort to physical violence and individuals who do should be punished. Having having said that Mr Naor should apologise for his actions that provoked this situation. People who by their rude and inconsiderate behaviour provoke violence should not leave our court system feeling vindicated. They have contributed to the unfortunate situation but the community has to cover the costs of incarcerating the offenders. Membership of a community requires individuals to not only restrain from physical violence but also to restrain from actions that will offend. Queue jumping is something that offends many of us.

Mick of Melbourne:
"Unprovoked"? How rich is that?

Amazing. That's 13 out of 28 comments that are offended not by a violent assault that left a man permanently disabled, but by someone cutting in line in front of someone else. One reader (Brett of Bangkok) even managed to incorporate a shot at immigrants into his comment. Now I am no fan of people jumping queues, but the worst outcome of that is that someone is delayed for an extra minute or two. And I don't know, but it seems like the kind of situation where Mr Naor may not have realised he was jumping a queue - seeing a spot at the bowser available, perhaps he figured it was okay to move into it.

According to some, that is justification for a bashing. He "provoked" violence.

What is provocation? Normally one would consider that provocation involves words or deeds that make it very difficult for another person to control themself. Does jumping a queue count? Of course not. Sure, it may make you angry, but all Wilson Lee needed to do was grumble about it for a few minutes, and then it would be forgotten.

The concept of provocation is dangerous because for many it provides a moral loophole. As in, it's wrong to bash someone senseless, but it's okay if they said something about your mother, or looked at you the wrong way, or bumped you and spilled your drink in a nightclub.

For some reason, we seem to always want to blame the victim. I'm stunned by the amount of rape cases that provoke comments about the victim's choice of clothing, or sexual history, or culpability due to her consumption of alcohol. I wrote a while back about the alarming way that people, particularly young females, blamed Rihanna for getting severely beaten by Chris Brown. Likewise, the recent attacks on foreign students have brought all kinds of racists out of the woodwork who find reasons to blame the victims.

With these attitudes around, is it any wonder that people feel no compunction about committing these crimes?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sitar Grooves: Al Green - "Something"

Another look at how that traditional Indian instrument the sitar has infiltrated modern popular music. Often used to signify exoticism or psychedelia, many soul acts in the 70s worked out how sensual the sitar could sound. Producer Willie Mitchell is one of those, and he uses the sitar beautifully here on Al Green's wonderful "Something", lending the track an extra layer of intoxicating, sexy elegance. Enjoy.

New regulations threaten to kill Melbourne's vibrant live music scene

I received the following letter in my email box last week from a muso friend of mine. If its interpretation of the new regulations is true, it is extremely worrying for anyone involved in live music in Melbourne.

"Hi All

As advocates of live music in Melbourne, we thought it wise to send you a note regarding a recent change to licensing and live music regulations that has slipped a little under the radar in the last month. We'd love it if you could spend a couple of minutes reading about this situation and lend your support to the cause.

It's come to our attention thanks to a letter from 3RRR Stalwart Johnnie Von Goes, that a recent change in liquor licensing laws in Victoria has become a genuine threat to live music in this city. Of course it seems that a threat to live music in Melbourne arises every couple of years. 3am Lockouts and gentrification of our glorious inner suburbs cause a reasonable amount of media hooplah but it's certainly worrying that these latest changes are happening with barely a whimper.

In the past few weeks small pubs and licensed premises around town have had visits from Consumer Affairs in attempt to curb alcohol related violence.

These pubs have been told they must provide security guards if they are going have live music...
Any sort of live music...
Any size crowd...

A security guard gets paid around $250 per shift. Bands in small pubs these days don't get much more than a rider and a meal. It's not hard to do the maths. At least one pub has already stopped hosting live music and it seems a matter of time before a whole lot more will be forced to follow suit.

This problem extends further. A Bazooki player in your local Greek tavern will require the venue to hire security. That means we'll need a security guard to watch over 4 families eating the mixed grill and greek salad. Blues at The Rainbow Hotel to 15 people on a Tuesday night will require security. We're talking jazz, rock, punk, afrobeat, dub, reggae, lounge, abstract pointilism, folk and classical music. We're talking open mic nights in front of friends and family. These places don't attract violence or large crowds. Although we agree there is a need to stamp out alcohol fueled violence, taken to this level, it's ridiculous. Clearly there's a need within the policy to differentiate between large venues with the potential for violence and small venues that will be adversely and unfairly affected by these regulations.

So, you get the picture. The healthy cultural life of a city requires grass roots artists to be embraced and nurtured. The real possibility of small venues losing live music forever will impact the development of emerging artists as well as those playing niche and culturally diverse genres. The effect will be felt throughout the music community."

Something does need to be done about the booze-filled violence that is plaguing Melbourne these days, but the regulators would seem to be barking up the wrong tree here. Consider the clubs playing commercial dance, hip-hop or R&B, where fights are commonplace. I spent most of my early clubbing days at hip-hop/R&B nights, and saw people being carried out on stretchers a number of times, and had a bottle thrown at my head for no reason at another club. Just walking past the big mainstream clubs these days, the level of testosterone on display is obvious. Venues such as QBH have been in the news repeatedly for all the wrong reasons, while the Salt nightclub (another place I used to hang out a lot) was closed down several years ago because of repeated stabbing incidents.

I have attended my share of gigs and played in a number of bands myself for a few years. Witnessing a fight was very rare indeed. Particularly in venues playing original music in the live-music heartland of Melbourne's inner north, punters tend to be serious about appreciating the music and not particularly interested in flexing their muscles. Certain types of bands and venues do attract rowdy crowds, particularly at the outer suburban pubs with bands playing rock covers. Which is why these regulations should be applied on a case-by-case basis. Otherwise, it'll be good for the security industry but terrible for everyone else.

Drunken racist bogan knobhead of the week

From the Cairns Post, this story.

A DRUNK footballer's loudly simulated sex with a parking meter has been
recounted in Cairns Magistrates' Court. He then made racial slur against a
passerby - the final straw for police.

Adam Michael Kelly, 25, of Smithfield, spent the night in the watch-house after his offensive performance and was fined $150 in court yesterday for causing a public nuisance.

Police were called to a disturbance at the corner of Shields and Abbott streets on August 31 about 8.40pm and found Kelly dry-humping a parking meter and yelling out: "Yeah baby, you know you want it."

Police prosecutor Sen-Constable Michelle Long said Kelly was making large pelvic thrust actions and officers saw people walking by reacting with disgust at the performance.

Then, while talking to police, a woman of Asian appearance walked by and in a loud voice Kelly looked at her and said "f---ing gook, f--- off home", Sen-Constable Long said.

At that point, police arrested the young labourer and took him to the watch-house.
Kelly’s lawyer Richard O’Shane said his client had been extremely drunk after an extended binge-drinking session with teammates to celebrate the end of the CDRL football season. "He can’t remember much of the incident," Mr O’Shane said.

Maybe Mr Kelly just has a thing for really skinny women.

Certainly gives more weight to the assertion made by Paul Fenech (of Fat Pizza fame) that Cairns is the bogan capital of Australia; and adds to the growing evidence that rugby players have far more testosterone than brains. I just find it amazing that while Mr Kelly was being given a talking to by the police, he still had the presence of mind to racially abuse a passing Asian and didn't think that might cause him any problems.

The report doesn't say whether or not he tried to fit his junk inside the coin slot.

Noordin Top is dead at last - does it signal the end of terror for Indonesia?

I don't like to say about anybody "I'm glad he's dead." But in the case of Noordin Mohammad Top, I'll make an exception. I am glad he's dead and I hope he's getting bummed by Satan right now with no vaseline.

The Malaysian-born Top was explosives expert, recruiter and financier for a spate of bombings in Indonesia such as the Bali Bombings of 2002 and 2005, the recent attack on the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton Hotels in Jakarta, and the 2004 attack on the Australian Embassy in Jakarta. This is the guy who decided that the terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah was just not violent enough, so he set up an even more radical splinter group inspired by al-Qaeda.

He somehow managed to evade police time and time again, which built up a mystique around him that was no doubt enticing to potential recruits. But his luck ran out
on Thursday when he was shot in a police raid on a house in Solo, Central Java.

He started out as an accountant, by the way. Who said accountants were boring?

The question now is what Top's death means for terror in Indonesia, a country that has suffered more than its share of attacks. Clearly, his demise will be a blow to his extremist group, and will no doubt mean that less innocents are killed. But while Top had a rare knack for explosives and orchestrating attacks, unfortunately there are plenty more where he came from.

There's an article definitely worth reading here about the future of Indonesia and how it deals with the threat of increasingly radicalised Islam. It was written just before Top's death, but apart from that it's on-point; it details how a country that was once the world's shining light for liberal Islam is gradually being drawn into the same spiral of intolerance that afflicts so many other Islamic countries.

Kanye West's career trajectory - from genius to utter douchebag in only 6 years

In case you've been living under a rock for the last week or so, rap superstar Kanye West has made a bit of a dick of himself at the MTV Awards:

It's fair to say that as of 2009, Kanye is officially a douchebag. But was it always this way? Well, possibly, but the difference is that once, if he was a douchebag he was at least a douchebag who made cracking music. These days, he doesn't have that anymore to balance out being a head case.

The first most of us heard of Kanye was in 2001, when he produced several songs on Jay-Z's classic "The Blueprint" album. He and Just Blaze helped give rise to a new style of hip-hop production utilising sped-up samples of old-soul records. Admittedly they were really just biting RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan who did it in the mid-90s, but still, they polished it up for the masses and did it well. He then produced a number of songs for other artists, the early highlights being Talib Kweli's "Get By" and Alicia Keys' "You Don't Know My Name".

His appearance on John Legend's "Live at the Knitting Factory" album, dueting with Legend on a piano-based version of "All Falls Down", showed some serious lyrical ability on top of the production skills. Then he released two brilliant singles - "Slow Jams" and "Through the Wire" - the latter recorded with a jaw wired to his face after a near-fatal car accident which the song details. At this stage, he was the rising star of urban music. And since his public profile was still minor, he had little opportunity to act like a wanker in front of worldwide audiences.

His debut album "The College Dropout" from 2004 confirmed his arrival as a major player in hip-hop. It's easily one of the 10 or 20 greatest hip-hop albums ever - great production, tunes and lyrics. That year he also produced most of John Legend's excellent "Get Lifted" album. And while his album skits and excessive cockiness were a little annoying, with output this good that could be easily forgiven.

Producing tracks for every man and his dog may have been taking its toll though. While "Late Registration" was another big hit in 2005, to these ears it was disappointing - his samples were getting too obvious, and he seemed to have run out of interesting lyrics. In fact he seemed to have saved his best production for Common's excellent "Be" album. In September came the infamous "Bush doesn't care about black people" rant following Hurricane Katrina. He may well have been right, but it didn't win him many fans.

That was the start of a period where Kanye, arrogant at the best of times, seemed to let stardom really go to his head. Soon after he appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone dressed as Jesus wearing a crown of thorns. I mean, seriously, Kanye, you're comparing yourself to Jesus now? In November 2006 at the MTV Europe awards, he was so unhappy about missing out on the Best Video award that he got up on stage while it was being presented to the winners, and argued he should have won it instead. Then in 2007 he didn't win any awards at the MTV Awards, and was angry that Britney Spears was chosen to open the event instead of him; he claimed it was because he was black. (Come on Kanye, there's only so many times you can get away with waving the race card around without serious proof.)

2007 was also the last year he was still making seriously good music. 3rd album "Graduation" wasn't that great, apart from the single "Flashing Lights", but he also appeared on the fab single "Classic" alongside Nas, KRS-One and Rakim, and did some seriously good production on Common's "Finding Forever" album.

Maybe his mother's passing in late 2007 messed with his judgement a bit, because it wasn't long before he started trying new things. Like singing rather than rapping (which is OK if you can sing, but Kanye can't). And feeding everything through auto-tune. The single "Love Lockdown" in late 2008 is the sound of Kanye jumping the shark. Of course some people still loved it, but then again some people love getting urinated on - i doesn't make it all right.

And then there was the Taylor Swift incident. Sigh. If Kanye was still making brilliant music, perhaps we could forgive him, but clearly he is so far up his own ass these days that he thinks he can do anything and people just will just lap it up. A shame, really.

The Indonesian-Malaysian rivalry is getting nasty

From this article last week in The Australian:

"The large gang of thugs milling with bamboo spears in the main street of Menteng, Jakarta's most fashionable old-money district, said it all. Calling themselves the Benteng Demokrasi Rakyat (Bendera), or People's Democratic Front, they began by handing out miniature red-and-white Indonesian flags, the kind sold by hawkers at city intersections for as little as 1000 rupiah (12c).

But as the traffic backed up on Jalan Diponegoro...things turned ugly. Fuelled by weeks of anti-Malaysian rhetoric in the Indonesian media, the Bendera bovver boys started demanding ID cards from the cars' occupants. Every resident in the country, citizen or not, is required by law to carry one. The gang, part of a floating mass of Jakarta youths generally available for affiliation with whoever pays the most, was looking for Malaysians - people with essentially the same racial features as themselves, only with allegiance to a different flag. They didn't find any, and eventually police moved them on without making arrests, but it was enough to prompt President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to call for calm two days later."

Bendera and others have been talking up going to war with Malaysia, and have been stockpiling weapons and supplies in case of that eventuality. It is worth noting that the Bendera members who were searching the streets for Malaysians to attack received little more than a stern talking to from law enforcement. Indonesia has never been good at stopping mob rule.

Ah, nationalism, the refuge of the ignorant. Obviously groups like Bendera are right out there on the whacky fringe of Indonesian society, but they are a reflection of some serious problems in relations between the two countries. Indonesian resentments have been building towards Malaysia, over a variety of issues, mostly trivial. Given that the countries share an almost identical cultural history as well as a border, much of the ill-will is over claims that Malaysians have been appropriating Indonesian culture and claiming it as their own. For example:

There is an ongoing dispute over the oil-rich Ambalat region off the east coast of Borneo, which was exacerbated recently when a Malaysian naval vessel sailed into the area.

A Malaysian tourism ad recently displayed Javanese-style shadow puppets (wayang kulit) and a Balinese traditional dance (pendet), showing them off as Malaysian culture.

An Indonesian recording company has alleged that the Malaysian national anthem, "Negaraku" is a rip-off of an old Indonesian popular folk song called "Terang Bulan". The songs are similar, but that's because both are based on an 18th Century French tune which the Sultan of Perak (in Malaysia) had heard while in exile on the island of Seychelles.

Another folk song, "Rasa Sayange", which originates in the Indonesian region of Maluku, was also used in a Malaysian tourism campaign ad (below).

It might sound strange, but another issue that Indonesians are seething about is Malaysians claiming the dish rendang as their own. Which is a delicious dish that Indonesia should rightfully be proud of, but can you imagine two countries going to war over a beef curry?

Oh, and did I mention that the bomb-making mastermind of the most devastating recent terrorist attacks on Indonesian soil has been Noordin Mohammad Top - a Malaysian? (I can just hear someone saying "You took all our culture, and this is what you gave us back?")

As well as the cultural appropriations, Indonesians are pissed about the continuing stories of abuse and maltreatment of Indonesian domestic workers in Malaysia. To top it off, an Indonesian worker in Malaysia was recently sentenced by Sharia court to a caning and 12 months in jail for drinking alcohol in a bar.

There is a widespread perception among Indonesians that their wealthier neighbours the Malaysians have an arrogant attitude towards them. And Indonesians have a point. In culturally similar neighbouring countries (Australia and New Zealand, or England and Wales) there is always going to be some friendly rivalry and mild derision. But there is plenty of edgy history between these two - they once fought a border war in the 60s when President Sukarno tried to annex the northern part of Borneo. And the relationship is further tainted by economics; with Malaysia's greater wealth, it is a magnet for poor Indonesians looking for work in construction or as domestic helpers. But the inherent power imbalance between the two nationalities in Malaysia leads to a condescending attitude among some, exacerbated by the reality that most Indonesian workers in Malaysia are from humble backgrounds with little education.

Of course, Malaysians don't really get what the fuss is all about.

The reality is of course that although many cultural traditions may indeed have originated in Indonesia, both these countries are colonial constructs. The entire SE Asian archipelago, including also the Philippines, East Timor and Brunei) is very similar culturally, and such divisions into separate states only exist because of which European power took over which area. The people of Java and Sumatra have far more in common with Malaysians than they do with the people of Indonesian West Papua. The Indonesian language is basically a variant of Malay, for heaven's sakes.

Since ancient times there has been a cultural osmosis between these countries, with ideas, people, food and traditions flowing in both directions. So to claim certain aspects of culture as being solely Indonesian or Malaysian is problematic. Take rendang for example. The dish is generally acknowledged as being from the Minangkabau culture in Sumatra, but it was adopted in Malaysia over 500 years ago. It is unlikely that anyone in Bali, Sulawesi or Kalimantan was eating rendang until considerably later. So you could argue that Malaysians have more claim to rendang as "their" dish than many Indonesians do. Malaysian rendang tastes different anyway, as does Malaysian satay. (Certainly not better, just different.)

It's all ridiculous really. Let's all take a deep breath and chillax, people. My Indonesian brothers and sisters, take a freakin' chill pill. Why get angry over a song or a beef preparation? Malaysians, lose the arrogance a bit, huh? And let us claim our dances, songs, recipes and islands. You already have so much more money, won't you at least let us have our pride?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Jen Kwok - "Date an Asian" (or at least f*** one)

Reasonably amusing R&B song by comedian Jen Kwok that takes a light-hearted look at the stereotypes of Asian men. And any song with a chorus involving the the pleading lines "At least f*** one" is all right by me.

"Where my Punjabis at? Where my Filipinos at? Where my bubble-tea drinkers at? (Everyone should be raising their hands for that one - it's delicious.)"

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Eid Mubarak!

Selamat Hari Raya Idul Fitr1 1430! Mohon Maaf Lahir Batin.

To all my Muslim family, friends and readers, enjoy your Eid-Ul-Fitr celebration. Eat all the sweet pastries you can and don't feel guilty.

I'll be attending an Indonesian community function next Sunday (a week late - hey, that's how we do things, we're Indonesian.)

Dunno who these guys are, but they rock

These cheeky buggers infiltrated the anti-Obama "teabagger" protest that just descended on Washington DC.

The desi guy one the right has the funniest sign, although the one on the left is funny for a whole different reason - try out the website written on his sign at your peril. (I did and I'm still recovering.)

Btw I love that a conservative political movement is named the "Teabaggers". Particularly when you consider the other meaning of the term in popular slang.

Heh heh.

See also:

Is the anti-Obama movement motivated by racism?

How to come across as a complete racist on national television

Another South Asian assaulted at train station

Last weekend a man was robbed and brutally assaulted with a bottle while waiting for an early morning train at Berwick in Melbourne's south-east. The unprovoked attack was captured on CCTV footage, below:

I'm not saying that this incident fits within the abhorrent trend of "curry-bashing" that has afflicted Melbourne recently, but its interesting that the victim, a 34-year-old engineer who identified himself only as Francis, is a recent immigrant from Sri Lanka.

As reported here, Francis nearly lost an eye in the attack, and has been so traumatised that he has moved house and can no longer bring himself to use public transport.

18-year-old Conrad Puala of Dandenong has appeared in court charged with the assault and robbery.

This is the same weekend that 3 Indian men were bashed by a mob on the other side of the city, in an attack that from all reports was clearly racist in nature. And also when an unidentified man was beaten to a coma in nearby Hallam - I dunno, but judging from his picture he looks a bit desi to me. Just saying.

I doubt that there is any racial motivation for the attack on Francis, but it is worth pondering. When many claimed that the attacks on South Asians in Melbourne were merely opportunistic in nature, is this the sort of thing they meant? Given that the footage shows at least one other commuter at the station, a white man, did race have anything to do with who was being targeted? Would a white victim have been attacked with the same savagery?

Again, I don't really see a racial element in this. But when South Asian people are so disproportionally represented in these "opportunistic" assaults, you have to wonder about the pattern that emerges.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Tajik Jimmy. This guy is freakin' amazing.

His name is Baimurat Allaberiyev, better known as "Tajik Jimmy"; an ethnic Uzbek guy originally from Tajikistan, discovered working construction in Russia. He would sing the Indian movie songs that he remembered from his childhood, and his astonished co-workers would record them on their mobile phones.

My mind was officially blown at the 36 second-mark. You'll see.

The song is a combination of "Goron ki na kalon ki duniya hai dil walon ki" and "Jimmy Adja", both from the movie "Disco Dancer". Bear in mind that despite singing in Hindi, Allaberiyev doesn't actually speak the language. But he gives it a red-hot go anyway. The language he speaks in towards the end is Russian.

From humble beginnings, he now has his own manager and performs in concerts. The NY Times has a article about his amazing story, which is worthy of a Bollywood movie in itself.

I love the internet age.

You can see the original song here, as well as a version of it sung by some Nigerian guys, which is also way cool.

(Hat tip: Sepia Mutiny)

Like this? You may like:

Daichi, amazing Japanese beatbox kid

Lloyd Popp - awesome Indonesian talk-box guy

Random comic genius: Louis CK on "White trash"

Can't get enough of Louis CK right now. I think he's just zoomed straight to my list of favourite standup comics. I guess its the combination of a keen intellect, knack for observational humour, and exceptional vulgarity.

Also see Louis CK on "being white", here.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Another racist attack on Indians in Melbourne; police accused of cover-up

Mukhtiar Singh has lived in Melbourne for 22 years and never experienced any violence; that is until last Saturday night. He, his son Inderpal and his nephews Gurdeep and Sukhdip Singh were playing pool at a bar in Epping in Melbourne's north. They had played there numerous times before without trouble, but this night was to be different. It started when another patron started abusing them.

"This drunk bloke came over, you know, he stirred us up, said something to my nephew. He was pointing 'come outside, come outside'."

According to Onkar Singh, brother-in-law of the 2 nephews:

"Our guys just ignore it and Gurdeep told him just to mind his own business. And as soon as the security guards see this happening they came to them and they took the other guy out of the joint. The security guard says you can keep on playing, don't worry about it. And after an hour they thought we'll leave, it's all safe now we can go and while they were going towards the car park they saw like 70 to 75 people in car park waiting for them. He says the people in the car park were shouting; 'You Indians, go back to your country'."

Mukhtiar again: "They said 'you Indians go back to your country', they used f words and everything, you know, even the ladies. The whole crowd came outside. 70, could be more than 70. Now all of them, they were coming from every side, you know, you look around, they're coming from this side, that side, the car park was just crowded, a lot of people there. Didn't have any weapons, beer bottles, whatever they had in their hands."

Sukhdip Singh (pictured top), 26, received the worst injuries - to his cheek, nose and jaw. He was in hospital for two days and still has a swollen face. According to Onkar Singh, Gurmeet suffered a broken jaw and Mukhtiar has a possibly broken shoulder. Inderpal suffered broken teeth but managed to escape and called the police.

Police who were called to the scene confirmed hearing the racial slurs still being uttered while they were there, but have stated that there were only 15 people in the group that attacked the Indians, of which four have been taken into custody. They claim there were not more than 25 people at the private function in the bar from which the attackers would seem to have come. The figure of 70 has been widely reported in India however.

The figure of 70 attackers does seem quite high; but I guess if a bunch of guys are beating you with bottles, your counting abilities aren't going to be at their optimum. There may have been many who stood around watching but not actively participating in the attack. It is quite possible that some had left the scene by the time the police arrived, or once they saw the police arriving. And there was a period of around half an hour between the initial taunting in the bar and the subsequent bashing, which is plenty of time for the attackers to summon their mates from elsewhere. It is now seemingly a common practice for brain-dead thugs to have a small army of brain-dead thugs on standby, ready to turn up and bash someone once the call is made. I'm not saying this is what happened, but it wouldn't surprise me one iota.

While the incident received considerable publicity in India, it only made the news in Australia today. Gautam Gupta of the Federation of Indian Students has questioned whether the police are attempting to cover it up. This coincides with Muhktair Singh's claim that the police's estimate of 15-20 attackers is also wrong.

15 or 70? In all likelihood the correct number is somewhere in the middle. The police deny any cover-up, and I'm inclined to believe them; there are numerous violent brawls ever weekend in Melbourne, and not all of them make the news. But I wouldn't be too surprised either if there was an attempt to keep it quiet; possibly to hide an inadequate response to the incident. Or alternatively, the police may have been reluctant to expose the incident for fears of fanning further flames, either from other thugs who see curry-bashing as a popular pastime to be emulated, or from Indians who feel increasingly persecuted and may wish to take matters into their own hands.


Let me say first up that I don't think Australians are particularly more racist than any other nationality. The vast majority of Australians would abhor what happened to the victims here. And hopefully a majority of Australians are welcoming and accepting of Indians and those of other ethnicities.

However, I there is a pretty big section of the population who have some really ignorant views on this stuff. Not to the point where they would actually bash anyone, but enough that they will spout stupid and xenophobic comments about Indians. This creates an environment which increases the chances of bashings occurring. Remember that in almost all the curry-bashing incidents, the perpetrators have been males aged between 14 and 25. I'd wager they're not especially smart or sensitive people either; I doubt any of them are studying medicine or the fine arts. So we are talking about a certain demographic that doesn't do much deep analysis of issues and is susceptible to influence from media soundbites, as well as whatever bigoted comments are spewed out by parents and peers.

Case in point: recently I was giving an anti-violence presentation to a group of 15-year-olds at a high school in what you might call a pretty rough area. As an example of the dangers that are out there, I mentioned some of the attacks on Indian and Chinese students. I heard these comments in response from a couple of students: "Well, they're asking for it because they carry laptops and iPods and all that stuff, 'cos they're all rich."
And: "It's the Indians' own fault, because they protested in the city and blocked all the traffic, so people hate them now."

Sounds like something you hear from a parent. I don't think either of those students would bash an Indian, but when someone believes those sentiments they expressed, or hears people expressing them, it certainly makes it seem more acceptable to bash an Indian.

Over at Yahoo7's Australian News Message Boards, I came across a thread entitled "Indians cry Oz doesn't care about them". Now, these message boards are disproportionally frequented by a lot of racist yobs, so I don't think the following comments represent the typical Australian point of view, yet I do think they are pretty common nonetheless. Here are what some of these fools had to say about the above story:

kym074: Or perhaps this guy is just singing his own tune and wanting to make the whole racism thing worse than it is. If Australian's are so racist, they should do what I would do in another country...... GO HOME!

(How silly that he complain about being bashed and called racist names, he should just go back to India, despite living here 22 years, right?)

thehills76: Here we go again, anything to make us look bad and they wonder why we don't give them much sympathy.

(Yeah you Indians, just take the abuse and beatings, you should be thankful for the privilege of receiving them.)

mindy.moo29: Typical, playing the race victim card... I wonder how much he got paid like the British tourist who got lost bush walking for selling HIS story to his countries own media? Quite allot I presume :)
Will prolly pay his next semesters student fees after he p1ssed what he had up a wall down the pub during stu-vac.
I agree, if it's so bad, why come here?
I'll put money on it that Sukhdip the student applies for and then is granted permanent residency for his trouble.
:)70 guys called to beat 4? pmsl....Um sure!!!
Anyone else who was at the club apart from the victims relatives saw the incident?
Sounds like your typical pub brawl to me, they happen here in Australia all the time among intoxicated pub and club frequenters.
The police claim they saw 15, not 70 individuals supposedly attacking the 4 in question, and only 4 were taken in for questioning then later released.
Had the injuries been serious, and or the police thought this was a premeditated racial attack, why were they released?
Sounds to me that a pack of Indians got a bit lippy with some people down the pub over a game of pool, had a scuffle in the car park and tried to make out it was more than what it was. A typical Aussey pub brawl. :)

(Amazing how someone can take a report and interpret it in such a way as to make the victims the villains. It may defy logic, but that's the magic of being a racist bitch.)

Its obvious they lied about the 70 people....what else did they lie about?
If I get bashed, chances are I will have deserved it. One things for sure...I won't be crying to international news agencies about it.

(Yes, they deserved it - how dare they play pool. And they have the nerve to complain to the media about it! What a bunch of wusses.)

thehills76: They said there were 70 people around then police smashed this by saying 15 just further proves that the race card is being displayed and who's lying.

(Yet the police confirmed that even after they arrived on the scene the mob was uttering racist slurs - but no, it must just be the Indians playing the race card again.)

aquaman69: Indians Only have themselves to Blame here ...One boss I had told all the sales staff on a very large Car yard they would """ Not""" !!be sacked if they told an Indian family to leave the Yard F.A.R.K. off the reason was simple you agree to a price and any work on the Car and sign a delivery date , Indians and Only Indians will arrive in Numbers swarm all over the Car then start to find other things wrong and want a further reduction in price , Not fixed just a further discount it happened mant times and in the End we where told we could tell them to F.A.R.K. Off!! Seagulls of the Human race !!

(See, so the Singh family is rightfully bashed for what some Indians in a car yard somewhere might have done. Seems fair.)

Those views may seem extreme but I hear variations of them all the time:
"What a bunch of whingers."
"India is far more racist than Australia so they have no right to complain."
"Indians are rude/weak/stingy/rich/smelly/devious/loud/bad at English and therefore they deserve what they get."
"They shouldn't have been riding the train/walking the street/out at night/in Australia anyway, what do they expect?"

Plenty of people have no qualms about spouting these idiocies. Should we be surprised then that immigrants are so devalued that attacking them seems acceptable?

Other posts related to this topic:

Are Australians really racist towards Indians?

Disgraceful attacks against Indians continue

Attacks on Indians - is it racism or opportunism?

More Indian students attacked, and temple vandalised

Kamahl weighs in on curry-bashing - and the media twists it

Curry-bashing ringleader jailed for murder

3 more Indian students bashed in a fortnight

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Reader perspectives on Melbourne's increasing culture of violence

I wrote a post recently about the savage nature of several bashings in Melbourne, involving kicks to the head, which elicited a couple of interesting and well-articulated responses from readers. In fact I thought they were worthy of more attention so I've repeated them here.

The first is from Peter, an Australian commenting from Brazil. I take it that he hasn't been there all that long to have a truly deep understanding of Brazilian culture, but nonetheless his impressions are perceptive and worth consideration:

It's funny, I'm in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, at the moment, and while one is at much more risk of being robbed on the street than in Melbourne, or being caught in the crossfire between rival drug-trafficking gangs fighting over turf, one is far more at risk of being bashed simply for reasons of pure aggression in Melbourne, Australia.
So the fears are different here. I am concerned about being robbed on the street more so than in Melbourne, and of course of being in the wrong place when one group of drug traffickers decides to invade another favela, or the police decide to go in and try and get a drug lord. But I'm simply not afraid at all of being assaulted for no other reason than some idiot wishes to express his testosterone that way.

Because there's a lot of violence in Rio, I'd assumed that the people were violent. But after experiencing New Year celebrations on Copacabana Beach, I realised this idea couldn't be further from the truth. Tens of thousands of people on the beach -- and yet not the slightest hint of aggression or violence, even with alcohol being consumed (admittedly, Brazilians don't quite drink like Australians do). Naturally, I wasn't present throughout the whole beach, so it's possible there may have been violence somewhere, but in Australia it's inconcievable for me to imagine there being no violence at such an event. There's always an undercurrent of violence, that is, the possibility of violence, in similar Australian contexts where young people are gathered, and especially where alcohol is being consumed. I was similarly astounded at the absence of a climate of violence during the numerous street parties that are held in Rio during Carnival -- many young people around but seemingly no possibility of fights. If you bump into someone, for example, then it is simply an accident and the person you bumped into is likely to apologise before you have a chance to do so yourself, even though you are the one at fault.

So why the violence in Rio? In Australia there is one recognised government -- the state or federal government. In Rio there are multiple governments -- the state governments, as well as the governments or fiefdoms that exist in the favelas. Since these governments in Rio don't recognise each other's authority, they periodically clash -- the favela governments against each other, and the state government against those of the favelas. Interestingly, there is very little crime in the favelas themselves, as the "authorities" within the favelas do not tolerate such within their fiefdoms.

So while Australians enjoy the peace of having one universally recognised governing authority, Australians are much more aggressive than Brazilians, traditionally amongst the lower classes, like tradies. This isn't always bad, as it means Aussies won't take crap easily, such as from their governing authorities, which is in contrast to Brazilians, who will passively accept corruption and incompetence from state authorities with barely a bleet. But regarding violence, things have gotten out of hand in Australia over the last few years, especially in Melbourne's CBD. I've noticed that the CBD has gotten just downright scary on a Friday or Saturday night.
So while I worry about getting mugged in Rio, I get scared of getting bashed in Melbourne.

Another interesting thing I've noticed is that social decency still exists here. The universal conviviality and politeness with which the people interact here is such that I've given up taking up a seat in the metro over here, as I know in short order I'll be expected to give it up to anyone over 60. Now, can anyone imagine the "youf" of today in Australia, with that messed-up-hair look they all have now, doing the same? They may ... but it's no guarantee.

This retention of decency here amongst all ages is all the more extraordinary given that the consumption of such drugs as marijuana is so normal and widespread among Rio's Generation X and Y as to be unremarkable. The main drug of choice in Australia is alcohol by a country mile, but here marijuana seems to be universally popular amongst my age group (Gen X) and younger. So it's strange to find routine marijuana smokers automatically giving up their seat for an elderly passenger without a second thought -- and just over 60 isn't that old, so it's not like it's because the elderly person is so frail as to be about to collapse.

I'm always really fascinated with how the way that broader trends in society translate to shifts in behaviour of individuals. In other words, how cultural and societal factors - such as how kids are raised, the State's response to social problems, ethnicity, influences from media and religion, and socioeconomic status - impact on how people think and act. I'm hardly an expert on Brazil, but it has often intrigued me that a country that is so devoutly Catholic can also be plagued by such serious violence. But as Peter describes, violence in Melbourne and violence in Rio de Janeiro seems merely to manifest in different ways.

The other comment is from my friend and fellow blogger Bonoboboy, another well-travelled Melbournian who has previously collaborated with me on anti-violence projects with young men. This is his take:

The level of headkicking bastardy that goes on nowadays is just beggars belief. Has anyone asked these guys what goes through their heads? Maybe mobile phones are partly to blame. They can mobilise a group of attackers very quickly, so you need to get your group together before the other bloke does. Maybe the culprit is video games, movies and TV, which give the impression that the human body can take no end of punishment and still be OK (whereas, in reality, just one punch/kick can kill). Maybe its televised war and suicide bombings, which desensitize people from suffering. Maybe its Western society's obsession with efficiency and competition- if violence is to be engaged in, why be constrained by notions of proportional force, fairness and honour? Hurt or be hurt. Maybe there is no context in which to teach young men concepts of morality, compassion and honour, without being laughted at. No more church, football clubs, neighbourhoods etc. The impression you get from a nightclub nowadays is an extreme polarisation of gender- uber masculine men, showing their muscles and money and women showing their flesh. The insecurity on both sides is palpable...

Some interesting theories posited there. I suspect that all those factors mentioned play a role to a certain degree. Bonoboboy's point about the increased ability of people to summon friends via mobile phone is one I hadn't thought of. Along similar lines, is it possible that as more and more deadly attacks occur, the perception grows that any potential attacker will use severe force (for example, involving weapons, a gang of mates, or continuing to attack even when the opponent is down)? Therefore, someone involved may become more paranoid and thus be more likely to use deadly force themselves, since they worry that they may be on the receiving end of it.

Overall though, I think the key is that something crucial has been lost to many of us in terms of empathy. Our society is becoming more individualistic and self-centred. It often seems like more and more young people are adopting a tribal mentality - back up your mates at any cost, but anyone outside your group is dehumanised and unworthy of respect.

More such musings here , here and here.