Born Australians are one more thing

Lived multiculturalism

The shock was deep: in mid-December last year, race riots in Australia, of all things in Cronulla in the south of Sydney, on one of the picture-perfect beaches on the fifth continent. For a whole weekend a mob of drunk white Australians chased down Arab-looking men. Mayor Kevin Schreiber still can't believe it:

"The incidents took us completely by surprise. I still think that it had mainly to do with the fact that people had drunk too much. The problems started at 2:30 in the afternoon, when some of them had already had a lot of alcohol. Well , and when so many people get together, sometimes it just takes a spark to make it explode. "

Jahmal Daud sees it very differently. The human rights activist with Arab roots takes care of refugees who only have a temporary visa or who are locked up in one of the Australian internment camps for asylum seekers. Jahmal Daud saw the riots coming:

"I expected it. What only surprised me was how brutal it was. There is quite a tension between the individual ethnic groups. And now they are telling us Muslims: Get away! You can imagine how we feel Many Lebanese are now asking themselves: Where should we go? We don't speak Arabic anymore, how are we supposed to find our way in Lebanon at all? "

One event - two opinions. How they couldn't be more different. Cronulla: Was that a one-off event? A chain of unfortunate coincidences, as the mayor thinks? Or does Cronulla represent a deeper problem? For racial tension and intolerance, as the human rights activist thinks?

For a long time Australia was considered a lucky country - a country of happiness without race and class barriers, in which every immigrant got his chance. One in five of the over 20 million Australians was born abroad. And now this!

Australia, says Clive Hamilton, director of the Australia Institute think tank, Australia has long ceased to be an island of the blessed:

"In times of fear, people tend to withdraw into the familiar and view everything new with suspicion. This can also be observed in Australia. After September 11th and the terrorist attacks of recent years, distrust of certain groups has grown - Especially towards the Muslim community. Whereby: It could have been worse. There were also many voices who called for prudence. They said: Don't overreact now! And parts of the Islamic community have also acted responsibly by creating a have drawn a clear line between normal moderate Muslims and radical extremists. "

Similar to Berlin or London, Sydney, Australia's largest metropolis, has districts like Bankstown that are Muslim: Arabic characters, Arabic butchers, Arabic places of worship. Many Arab immigrants like Jahmal Daud only came down under in the last two decades, as refugees from the civil war or for economic reasons.

Promise Australia! In contrast to countries like Germany, the 20 million state defines itself as a country of immigration, but according to Clive Hamilton, the concept of a multicultural society has a majority:

"Most people find multiculturalism quite okay - according to the motto: We accept different cultures, but only if the newcomers sooner or later adopt some of our core values. That has worked out quite well for us so far. But the minorities have to move . And if necessary accept some aspects of majority society that they themselves may find unacceptable. That is just part of the deal to be able to live here in Australia. "

Australia has only been a multicultural country for around 30 years. By the early 1970s, the White Australia Policy left its mark on immigration. Immigration: yes, but only if the immigrants are white and come from Europe. That was the racist creed back then. The newly elected social democratic federal government did away with it in 1973, changed the Immigration Act, the immigration law, opened the country to non-European immigrants. It all started with the boat people from Vietnam, soon followed by Chinese, South Americans and Arabs.

If you will, Thomas de Vogt benefited from this opening. The journalist heads the German-language service of the public multicultural broadcaster Special Broadcasting Service - SBS for short. It has now been almost 30 years since SBS went on the air with the aim of better informing newcomers in their respective mother tongue. Today SBS broadcasts in 68 languages: world record.

SBS - says de Vogt - SBS is multiculturalism in practice. The French sit next door, the Turks diagonally opposite, the Dutch further ahead. The budget is not generous, but state funding is secured, even if the conservative federal government around Prime Minister John Howard regularly criticizes the allegedly overly liberal reporting.

Thomas de Vogt does not contest that. Turning the cash tap - even a John Howard cannot allow himself to do that. SBS is too popular for that, too many Australians appreciate the station as a symbol of the new, multicultural Australia.

Vogt: "But how far you should go with multiculturalism - that is of course a different question. And, I mean, you can call it multiculturalism if you can eat Lebanese on the street corner and Chinese on the other street corner. Well , it sounds multicultural, it looks multicultural, it is even to some extent multicultural, but of course it is not necessarily a profound change in the position of the population who basically want to be Australian, that is to say, Anglo-Australian. "

According to recent polls, more than two in three Australians welcome multiculturalism - on the one hand. On the other hand, every second thinks that social cohesion is weakened when individual ethnic groups isolate themselves; three out of four Australians think: Yes, there is subliminal racism.

Contradictory? Jim Forrest shakes his head. The social scientist from Macquarie University in Sydney makes a completely different calculation: One - the survey on social cohesion - is an expression of concern, the other - the approval of multiculturalism - an indication that there is agreement on how the problem can be solved :

"Australia is a very tolerant country. Especially when you compare it with European countries. According to our research, you can say that one in eight Australians is racist. These are people who are against certain ethnic groups. In Great Britain it is one in five , on the European continent even one in three. So, all in all: Australia is very tolerant. "

Australia: a very tolerant country? When listening to popular call-in shows from right-wing radio producers like Bob Frances, one can doubt. There is a mood against the "Lebs", as Australians of Lebanese origin are disrespectfully called, and the indigenous people of the fifth continent, the Aborigines, are advised to finally come to terms with the fact that Australia belongs to the whites, is against asylum seekers and others Polemicises minorities.

After Cronulla the same game: The "Lebs" were to blame, of course. "Whatever they come to our beaches, they have no business there," was the tenor of many broadcasts.

Pauline Henson should have been pleased. The former owner of a fish-and-chip shop was once mentioned in the same breath as Jörg Haider and Jean Marie Le Pen. In the mid-90s, she founded One Nation, and her party made the leap into parliament with her party in the 1996 parliamentary elections from Canberra - with slogans like "The boat is full" and "No more multiculturalism!"

The fact that One Nation has almost completely disappeared from the political scene today is mainly thanks to him: John Howard. The conservative prime minister, who is celebrating his tenth anniversary of service this year, has outmaneuvered Pauline Henson by adopting her slogans:

Hamilton: "Of course, John Howard has made political capital out of the existing fears of foreigners and xenophobia. He is very, very clever. He manipulates the dark side of the Australian psyche and uses it to his political advantage. Howard is a master of the 'dog whistle politics' - the dog-whistle politics. Dogs can hear this whistle, unlike us humans. And then come running. Howard always manages to say something that at first glance seems harmless. But there are mostly a subliminal message that the dogs perceive exactly. So the people he wants to reach politically. Immediately after the unrest in Cronulla, John Howard said that he could well understand why Australians wanted to defend the Australian flag. And be proud of it, To be Australian. Mind you: During the riots, Arab-looking people were attacked by drunk Anglo-Australian men, and Howard is talking of patriotism. Incredible! Of course, the rioters got stuck: The Prime Minister approves of our behavior. "

John Howard has had several successes with his dog whistle politics. Example 2001: The election campaign looks bad for the Conservatives for a long time, the polls predict that the Social Democrats will win the parliamentary elections. Until Howard and his spin doctors start the Tampa affair: Allegedly, Asian asylum seekers are said to have thrown their children off a leaky boat - the Tampa - off the coast of the fifth continent in order to obtain asylum. Howard immediately appears in front of the press and announces that firstly Australia will not be blackmailed and secondly
Australia itself decides who it will take on.
The only catch is that this incident never happened. The accusation that asylum seekers threw their children overboard turns out to be a lie.

It didn't harm Howard - on the contrary: the issue of asylum will dominate the election campaign from now on. Quite a few political commentators in Australia think Tampa saved Howard the election. His tough demeanor resonates with many Australians.

The principle of deterrence - hardly any other country has such draconian asylum regulations as Australia. Most asylum seekers and illegals - complain Amnesty International and other human rights organizations - are often detained in internment camps without a judicial order or arrest warrant, often indefinitely. There are currently around 800 people. The Howard government sells this as a success: after all, 4,500 refugees were still living on Australian soil in 2000.

The most notorious is the reception camp in the middle of the desert in Baxter, South Australia. The more remote the better: The Howard government has invested millions in expanding the reception center - not only in the desert, explains Thomas de Vogt, but also in the Pacific:

"So the pacific solution, the Pacific solution, was to simply shut down many of these asylum seekers on islands around Australia, so to speak, to build and set up internment camps there, including on the island of Nauru. That means people were simply sealed off there. There one had the feeling that a kind of reorganized, newly created colonial policy is being pursued here. "

Quite a few Australians see it differently. Whether or not John Howard is tolerant is a minor matter. For them, the conservative is one thing above all else: a guarantee for an unparalleled economic success story that has brought growth rates of over three percent and almost full employment to the fifth continent for more than a decade.

There are already increasing voices warning that the economy could overheat. In fact, there are already bottlenecks on the labor market if the raw material producers do not keep up with their deliveries to China or Japan. Clive Hamilton worries about this for a different reason. The country, argues the director of the Australia Institute, suffers from affluenza - a kind of collective consumerism:

"This consumption craze goes hand in hand with a significant increase in materialism. People are getting more and more hungry for money, everything revolves only around the material living conditions. More and more, more, more. This affluenza, this consumption craze, is rampant in us in Australia in Sydney. It's the epicenter. This incredible importance attached to money means, among other things, that those who have not made it - materially - increasingly feel as losers, as losers. These marginalized, impoverished groups feel excluded and at some point reject the dominant society. That is a dangerous breeding ground. "

Australia's Looser - these are mainly Lebanese Muslims. Unlike their Christian compatriots, who fled the civil war in the cedar state in the 1970s and have long participated in Australia's economic success, the Lebanese Muslims have a hard time; their unemployment rate is 20 percent, well above the average.

That stirs up resentment - especially among the boys who were born here and have to watch everyone else make their Australian dream come true: another car, another house, another vacation trip - just not them. That scratches your self-esteem. The result: Young Lebanese men of Muslim faith in particular are isolating themselves, compensating for the feeling of missing out with a macho culture, which, according to Clive Hamilton, violates pretty much all the rules that make up modern Australia:

Resentment not only on the part of young Lebanese Muslims: parts of the workforce are also threatened by Australian turbo-capitalism: poor education equals poor pay, equals poor advancement opportunities.

"Tolerance is a delicate plant" - this was the headline of the "Sydney Morning Herald" shortly after the riots in Cronulla. Unlike in the USA, however, there is no serious movement down under that wants to curb immigration, explains Thomas de Vogt. On the contrary:

"More immigration: Open more shops. More business - business activity. That goes hand in hand. That has long been proven. And, by the way, interestingly enough: The current government, which is a right-wing government, basically wanted a limit on immigrants Year around 78,000, 80,000 around. In the meantime there have already been 132,000 immigrants, per year, in the last few years. Yes, why? The conservative government is actually in favor of a limitation. No, for business reasons, off Business reasons. Because business immigration has proven extraordinarily successful here in Australia. "

It has become quiet again here on Cronulla Beach. No special occurrences. Business as usual? Not quite: Since the beginning of the year, elementary schools in Cronulla and elsewhere in New South Wales have been teaching a new subject: Australian values ​​- Australian values ​​such as responsibility and mutual respect in response to the race riots.

Clive Hamilton doesn't think much of it. For the political scientist, the whole thing is too bureaucratic, too formulaic. Hamilton prefers to rely on what he calls "the power of the factual", that Australian society will continue to prove itself adaptable - race riot or not:

"We will see a continuous transformation in Australia - away from the Anglo-Saxon stereotypes of the past. More and more non-Anglo-Saxons will occupy influential positions. And gain power. I mean, we can already see that in medicine, for example, young people from China and Southeast Asia dominate. They make up half of all medical students. Some Australians worry about the pace of this development, but few take offense. So I don't think this will be a serious problem in the long term. "