Monday, December 12, 2005

What's Going on in Australia??

What am I supposed to make of the Aussie riots going on right now? For that matter, what was I supposed to make of the French riots of just a few weeks ago?

I'll wager that I spend more effort keeping myself informed than 90% of the rest of the American population. Maybe 95%. I've read an awful lot of news articles, opinion pieces and blogs on the French riots. Even now, I don't know if the riots represented the actions of young out-of-control muslim jihadists whipped up into a religious frenzy or a bunch of angry underpriviliged kids of no particular ethnic or religious makeup fed up with a lack of economic opportunity. Given the politically-correct nature of modern journalism, I find it incredibly difficult to believe that Reuters and AP would write stories referencing "muslim riots" if the rioters were not, in fact, muslims. Assuming some of the rioters were muslims, does that mean that 51% were muslim? That 99% were muslim? How many muslims need to engage in the rioting in order for it to become a "muslim riot"? I suspect the number is closer to the 99% figure than the 51% figure, but the factual reporting on this issue was so miserable that it's difficult to know. Same with the reporting as to the rioters' motivations. The fact that the rioters were muslims is only relevant to the extent that islam is a factor in the rioting. Again, I suspect that this is the case, but the complete lack of insight provided by our media outlets leaves me scratching my head.

Now we find ourselves with what have become known as "race riots" in Australia. What makes them "race riots", exactly? Are they "race riots" because one ethnically-identifiable group is squared off against a different ethnically-identifiable group? Fair enough. No doubt folks are being targeted by both sides based at least partly on their appearance. But is that all it takes to make a "race riot"? When I think of a classic "race riot", I'm thinking of an army of skinheads rampaging through an immigrant neighborhood tearing the place apart because they hate all the darker-skinned folks.

I'm not convinced that's what's going on in Australia. I think there are a lot of predominantly white Australian locals who are seeing certain changes taking place around them. I don't think they're comfortable with all the changes they're seeing. I think they're seeing a new ethnic group (the Lebanese) moving in and bringing with them a different set of cultural ideas, many of which clash with the prevailing customs of the local area. I think they've grown increasingly uncomfortable with time, setting up a cultural tinderbox.

Whether the Aussie locals are right or wrong to be upset with the change depends entirely on the quality of the prevailing culture. For all I konw, the existing Aussie beach culture could be a culture of violence, theft and wanton rape, while the immigrant culture is a culture of peace, love and mutual respect. If this is the case, I'm all with the Lebanese moving in to clean up the violent beach culture.

From the reporting so far, however, I have few real facts to go on, so I can only go with my hunches. My hunch is that the Australians on the beach are generally "Aussies". By this, I mean I imagine they're mostly the fun-loving, "live and let live" types you generally see in Outback Steakhouse commercials, prone to playing beach games and throwing shrimps on the barbie. The type of folks who settle a disagreement with a coin toss over a can of Foster's. That's not particularly tough to imagine. By the same token, it's not hard to image that the Lebanese immigrants are generally "Lebanese". By this, I mean they're likely at least closely related to the same folks who turned Beirut from "the Paris of Lebanon" into... well, into Beirut. The type of folks to settle minor disagreements with AK-47s and RPGs. I could be wrong. Maybe this is a conflict between a bunch of hot-headed militant Australian surfers and a handful of good-natured, laid-back Druze militiamen. Somehow, though, I kinda doubt it.