F**k Off, We’re Full announced the windshield sticker on a Perth hatchback. In the 14 years since first visiting the land Down Under, an insidious undercurrent of fear has taken a firm hold on the national psyche. Not the increase in skin cancer or shark fatalities, but the fear of a Chinese take over. In the late 70s as the government opened its borders to refugees, it allowed thousands of war-torn Vietnamese to flee Russian communism and start anew. The typical Aussie was far from welcoming. Clearly things haven’t changed much in some parts!
A fear of foreign invasion was born years ago. Russia threatened to rob Australia of its prolific mineral reserves back in the mid 1800s and the seed was planted. Even the mysterious drowning death of prime minister, Harold Holt back in 1967 has conspiracy theorists pointing at Russian involvement.
Fact or fallacy, fear-mongering shares a popularity similar to sport in this sun-blessed land. Imagine! Almost daily, politicians exploit the public fear of foreign takeover and job losses to grab the attention of a nation.
It works. In 2001, when John Howard ordered the turnaround of a boat load of refugees during an election campaign, it ignited the voters and sealed his victory.
I recall a similar fear infiltrating my home town of Leicester back in the 70’s as an influx of Indians and Pakistanis descended on our city. Silent prejudice brewed in ‘white’ homes, mine amoungst them. Tempers flared on buses. ‘Coloured’ kids left abandoned on playgrounds. An us and them mentality arose from our threatened status quo and rampant belief in British superiority.
Like Canada this is a nation born from immigrants. Unlike Canada it’s still kicking and screaming in protest. I reckon the die-hard Aussies won’t go down without a fight. The iconic image of the blond-haired, surf-crazy, politically incorrect, beer swillin’ nation is hard to break. After all, this is the Australia we have come to know and love around the world.
But everything changes. With death and taxes it’s one of the few certainties in life. Guess it depends how long and how tightly we hold on, and to recognize if and how the fear of change plays out in our own lives. That’s surely worth an evening of contemplation.