With the Japanese bikers in the halal restaurant…

Samaras Restaurant was very busy yesterday when Chris T and I went there for lunch. I felt more than usually patriotic – proud of living in a land where diversity is accepted and respected — as we hoed into the amazing “meat lovers” platter, all halal of course. This is what we had:

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The menu says that is “for one” – well, you’d have to be very hungry to manage it. Chris and I shared and, with a side dish of cauliflower, had more than enough. And I tell you, it is even better than it looks! Even in Surry Hills’s “Little Lebanon” in the past I have not had better.

And yes, there was a table of around 15 young Japanese bikers and friends in the restaurant as well, all tucking into the excellent food, and appreciating the friendly vibe and good service. As did the anglo-celtic Aussies who took over those tables when the Japanese left.

Ah Wollongong! Here it is not too unusual to see sights like:

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Note the Buddha in the background, by the way. These photos are from my photoblog under the tag “multicultural”. Despite what some say, we Australians have been rather good at creating a positive experience of cultural diversity. May we continue thus to grow,

Which brings me to the latest by the Revenant of Oz, now a Senator. I prefer to name her thus 1) because she is a revenant and 2) I avoid adding to the sum of her name being mentioned on the Internet. Her latest has caused a degree of mirth:

Australian Multicultural Foundation and SBS chairman Hass Dellal said One Nation leader Pauline Hanson’s preoccupation with the Australian Tax Office (ATO) implementing some squat toilets in its Melbourne office reeked of “insecurity”.

ATO’s acting chief finance officer Justin Untersteiner told the Herald Sun this week that the office deployed the toilets because it was committed to “maintaining an inclusive workplace”.

Pauline Hanson asks in a Facebook video posted on Sunday: “If they don’t know how to use our toilets…then what the hell is going on?”

She then responded to a comment on that post: “It’s not just a matter of dollars Wade. It starts with toilets and ends with costing us our Australian way of life.”

Waleed Aly commented in the Fairfax Press: a good opinion piece, I thought. He goes on to make an interesting point, having mentioned Revenant sidekick Senator Belfry’s amazing outing on last Monday’s #QandA.

…And  [Belfry]  sounds nothing like Hanson. Sure, he’s not a fan of the Racial Discrimination Act, but he doesn’t seem especially fixated on Muslims – or toilets for that matter. That’s even truer of Rod Culleton, who will be One Nation’s senator in Western Australia. He hates banks, probably because one of them took his farm.

But when asked recently about One Nation’s dogma that multiculturalism has failed, he replied: “I wouldn’t say it’s failed. I respect multiculturalism. You know, I’ve married a very beautiful Greek woman and her family love me like a son.” That woman, by the way, was also a One Nation candidate in Western Australia. Ask her about Hanson’s proposed royal commission into Islam and she says, “that’s one of the ones that, again, I will not be in agreeance with”.

Well, that’s quite a disagreement. It’s remarkable that Hanson would have candidates so at odds with what, until now, has seemed her party’s political reason for being…

We’ll only figure out what that all means over the next three (or six) years. But the starting point is that Hanson presides over nothing particularly organic. Drill to the bottom of One Nation and you find varieties of disillusionment, but not always xenophobia. It’s just not that coherent… But they might have more in common than they seemed to a month ago. That includes the same proclivity for bizarre video stunts. And you know that old saying: it starts with toilets and ends up costing your political authority.

I have wondered what collective I might use for the Revenant’s group: Ein Volk has connotations that may be unfair. I thought of the Had a Gutful Party, which is accurate but abbreviates to HAG, possibly sexist. Maybe POP? Pissed Off Party?

BTW, I do suspect that when you saw, as we all did…

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… your first thought was not “that’s a Muslim.” You probably felt something about the cruelty of war. You probably saw a frightened child. You probably reached out in humanity and wished this world could be better. Let’s keep those reactions alive, eh!

Addendum

And this bus-load makes me proud to be an Australian!

…Many of us are still pretty far from being comfortable travellers in an increasingly diverse world. We may be curious, but we can lack confidence, erring on the side of silence rather than diving in and risk saying the wrong thing.

Perhaps we worry that no one will stand with us if we do speak out. That our fellow Australians indeed are the racists we’re stereotyped to be. That it’s easier to stay quiet than risk a debate with a Hanson supporter. Perhaps it all just makes us feel too nervous and we pretend not to hear over our headphones.

Whatever it was on Thursday, this was a pretty neat example of 50-odd people keeping their cool, making it calmly clear that none of us was tolerating racism, and having the confidence to sort it out. The standard you walk past is the standard you accept, so they say.

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