Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Sol Trujillo's parting shot

I thought I'd write about something else today, like about how I'm insanely thinking of having even less sleep in the mornings and catching the EARLY bus just to get to work early to impress my boss who was late to court this morning (even though he criticises ME for being late!) and also when I'm having trouble staying awake in court as it is.

But then I saw this piece on Sol Trujillo's comments on Australia. Now, let's leave apart the fact that everyone can get a bit bitter when they've been done out of a job. Especially nowadays.

Sol called Australia 'racist' and then people came back and made the usual comments about how we aren't racist and we're the most multicultural country ever with the biggest and best anti-discrimination laws ever and that makes Sol's comments 'ridiculous'.

I've heard these kinds of comments many times before, so basically, neither side is being very original though both may be extremely sincere. Or not. Having not been outside Australia much, from experience I can't give my considered opinion of how other countries rate on the 'racist' scale.

However, here's some comments I 'd like to make:

1. According to this article, India is is the most culturally, linguistically and genetically diverse geographical entity after the Asian continent. Doesn't say anything about Australia holding any record.
2. Simply because a country has lots of people from different ethnicities and nationalities residing within it doesn't mean those people can't feel and exhibit racial tension and develop racial hierarchies. They can even be legally endorsed. So 'multiculturalism' in itself isn't proof of non-racism, per se.
3. It seemed to me that some people ... and this goes for lots of other things, like health and environmental policy too ... want to say something doesn't exist as a problem just because it's not that bad in Australia. "We're not racist in Australia ... because our anti-discrimntaion laws are better than anywhere else" "We don't need to improve our carbon emissions because we don't emit as much as anyone else" blah blah.

This is a very Aussie way of thinking - I can be slack and I don't need to improve or strive higher because everyone else is worse than me. It's a very mediocre way of thinking and it reeks of people who never want to get to the head of the class. like a B-grade student who doesn't try to get an A because all his friends are getting Ds.

Maybe some child genius had the cure for cancer in Australia but figured there was no point in revealing it because their friends were just turning in book reports for Morris Bleitzman books so they threw out their analysis. I wouldn't be the least surprised.

In Australia there are racist people and there are racist social pockets and racist public figures and racist policy etc. Some people don't feel it or realise it because they aren't the ones getting the hard stick. It mightn't be as bad as other places but not acknowledging it belittles the difficulties some people have with it.

Which leads me to ...

4. Racism has a lot to do with the individual experiences.

Anyone can experience racism, but usually it's people in minority groups who get put at a disadvantage or feel a burden because of racism. Just like any other discrimination or sneering. People have always behaved differently towards groups that are different from them - that is, there have always been groups in some societies who have gotten some schtick because they've been different - looks, race, gender, disability, sexual pref, religion, political beliefs whatever.

Some people haven't felt it as badly or haven't been as negatively affected by it, or felt they've affected others badly that way. They're fortunate, and often they believe that discrimination and those 'isms don't exist and those who cokmplain about them are paranoid harpies making a mountain out of a molehill to get attention.

They could well be people who fall into a 'minority' category of one or two - "I'm a Lebanese female and I've never been harassed and no one talks to me strangely and everyone's really nice to me, I don't know what anyone's complaining about, eeveryone who believes racism or sexism exists is a whinger!"

But you've really got to find out what the other person's experience is to find out whether they've got a valid gripe ...

Maybe they do.

That doesn't necessarily mean the whole country is a nation of racists ...

However it can point to why their point of view has been coloured, and also, that their really is at least an element of racism in a country, whether you count that as a problem of the country yet or not.

Racism and any form of discrimation, harassment, bullying etc can be so personal and so hurtful I think it's somewhat insensitive to say someone is ridiculous for feeling that they've been cut down and that they've received racist slurs. How objective can this be? Though I understand why the defenders are quick to jump up and make those comments in an effort to ensure the image of the nation is protected.

P.S. If we have strong anti-discrimination laws it may be because we don't value racism ... but it also probably is pointing to the fact that there is a problem. I'm betting we didn't put the laws in there as a pre-emptive strike just in case someone happened to be racist or discriminative, but they never are.


Friendless said...

Someone should explain to Sol that he got kicked out because he did a ratshit job as Telstra CEO, not because we couldn't say his last name. He seemed to think that the correct way to treat the Universal Service Obligation was to whine about it, and the best way to deal with the government was to ignore it. WRONG! He presided over a massive decline in Telstra's share price and prestige, and should have been sacked ages ago. His comments are just more whining in his usual vein.

TimT said...

I strongly feel it is time for the Government to institute some kind of anti-discrimination-against-Maria-sleeping-in-court legislation. There should be some act of parliament about this immediately:

1. Maria should be allowed to sleep in court if she wants to.
2. Anytime she wants to.
3. Any infringement of this legislation will be penalised by giving Maria more optional sleeping time.

Maria said...

Now, Friendless, I want to know if the proper way to say your last name is how you say it or how the majority says it. Should it be a majority vote or does the person owning the name get to decide? It's a difficult one. Once someone's said your last name wrongly enough times, it kind of sticks and then it becomes your actual last name and your correct first last name (if that makes any sense) becomes your incorrect last name. At last.

Maria said...

I would like to see that, TimT. i mean, I don't think it would interfere with my job which is to sit motionless in court most of the time so I shouldn't be able to get fired for something that's not relevant to my ability to perform my job. Really now. Makes sense to me!

Maria said...

I guess I'm playing the Devil's Avocado here, Friendless, since i think the majority of people feel the way you do.

That Sol is a guy who had it pretty good, and now he's leaving he has an unsubstantiated whining jab at Australia.

My contention? This could be very true, but there's other possibilities - it's just that the other possibility is both so likely AND very comfortably appealing to both the media and most Australians that it's easy to grab hold of.

So I'm prepared to look at some of the other possibilities: Maybe he's on the mark? We are racist?

Maybe his criticisms are whiney, but they are substantiated?

Maybe he actually has some feelings and some bad experiences?

I think it's easy and we're all used to rushing to defend ourselves against such criticisms that sometimes we don't think about whether there is any validity in the criticisms. This can be pretty foolish - no self examination, just bristling with defence.

And that is most easy to do when the person is big shot businessman - easy to dismiss their comments as a whole lot of gasbagging.

Friendless said...

Even Malcolm Turnbull said something sensible about this - we were not too racist to give him the job. I know that there is racism in Australia - Scrabblette experiences it occasionally - but I contend that there is probably some racism in any society. Is there so much in Australia that we should be singled out? I don't think so, and if there is it's not aimed at Hispanics. Maybe aboriginals, Asians, or Lebanese, but not so much Mexicans. The fact is that people who do a good job will be valued, just ask Penny Wong.

Maria said...

I don't know what 'racist enough to be singled out' means - is there some rule that Sol Trujillo is only allowed to feel upset about racism in a country if it's racist enough comparative to other countries on a generalist scale?

His comments were yes, made in comparison to other countries, but let's remember he's also making them from a personal point of view, not an academic point of view, and I don't think there is any rule that says you can only be singled out for criticism once you are 'racist enough'. Of course he would single out Australia, it is the country he has most experience of.

I don't give a tinker's toot how racist other countries are, if I experience racism in Australia I'd complain about it if I felt like it. I'm not going to wait till I've done a comparative study of every other country in the world to wait and find out if my feelings are "valid" or if I'm getting bashed up "enough" or "not enough".

They're my feelings dammit.

As for 'if you just do a good job you'll be valued', well I wish that were true.

Friendless, I have worked in a GOVERNMENT JOB as a VOLUNTEER.

After I was there for a while i was brought in by the manager who told me I was doing a better job than the other volunteers but I had to leave because I was Asian. Basically the other volunteers couldn't hack having an Asian around so they told her to get me to leave and since they were the majority I had to leave.

In other discrimnatory news, I am also disabled.

I once failed an assignment where a teacehr told me straight out that my work was very good but she was failing me on principle because I was disabled - that was it. She just didn't think I deserved the grade even though my work did deserve it. She didn't think 'my type' deserved to be in society.

She also taught a class in Cultural Diversity in society, which is ironic.

So maybe I'm a bit cynical of the whole 'your work speaks for itself' motto. Some people will come straight out and tell you that they like your work but you stink because they don't like the group you belong to. They would value the same work more highly if only it had come from someone else - maybe some one white or male or something like that.

Others will veil their prejudices, but it is fairly obvious once you've dealt with them enough.

I think the other side of the coin is that many people would LIKE to believe that it is their work that speaks for itself - that they didn't get where they were because they were white and male - or conversely, because they were the token black or Asian or female or they have gorgeous long legs or amusing crooked teeth or because their father is such and such - but often all these things have had a great inflluence and they are kidding themselves if they believe their work was the only factor in getting them where they are.

Friendless said...

I admit, it's hard for me to experience racism, being white, male and middle-class. Well, at least I'm getting old :-).

When Trujillo (who's also white and male) says Australia's racist he's either saying Australia is more racist than other countries or he's not saying anything meaningful at all.

I've always been impressed by your (blogging) work Maria, I think anyone who doesn't employ you is missing out.

Friendless said...

Birmo is blunt on this topic:


Maria! Wake up! No sleeping in court!

Friendless said...

Peter Costello is fairly blunt as well:


Maria said...

If only I could BLOG in court now, dammit!

Maria said...

Does it count as racist if we point out after this that swine flu has not hit us so hard as ... Mexicans?

Maria said...

By the way, Friendless. You're not getting old. I think Kevin rudd has instituted a new rule that no one is allowed to get old for at least two years later than when they were previously planning on getting old. It's all economics.

JahTeh said...

Maria, my chin hit the ground after reading your comment. Those two incidents were undoubtedly racist and the work one also bullying. As the grandmother of two beautiful mixed race girls and I mean mixed, Sri Lankan, dutch, english, american, french and german, I hope they will grow up in a society that is becoming better at seeing a person first before looking at race.