The 27th of January marked 70 years since the freeing of Auschwitz prisoners during World War II. Auschwitz will always be remembered as a dark era in modern history and a great human rights atrocity, particularly, and most notably, against Jews. Romanian Gypsies, gays and Soviets were among the victims.
This dark anniversary has further highlighted the current wave of anti – Semitism, particularly in Europe where thera have been a number of Jews murdered. On the flipside, has been the discussion and debate surrounding immigration, particularly those from the Middle East to Western countries (Australia, Italy, France, Belgium, to name a few). Please don’t let this be a repeat of history!
On the night of the anniversary, I was watching ABC’s “The Drum” in which they discussed the issue. A Jewish expert? scholar? I’m not sure. Anyway, he was talking about his unease about the (now dropped) proposes to drop Section 18C of the Anti – Discrimination Act (1975), which makes it illegal to “offend, insult. intimidate or humiliate” people on the basis of their race or ethnic origin. This paricuar panelist argued that changing the act, I’m guessing in his mind, making it easier to discriminate against someone was a “slippery slope” into systematic oppression of minorities.
Now, I don’t usually buy into “slippery slope” arguments, and to be honest, I’m not entirely sure about this argument. However, it has made me think.
In Germany, the Nazi Party rose to power on the 30 January 1933. Over the next two months, the Nazis became so prominent that they ruled over the whole of Germany. 1918 was the year when World War 1 ended. The Germans were left in ruin. The politicians then blamed their downfall on the vast majority of victims of what would become one of the worst atrocities in history: Jews and Communists. Because of that, the elected Weimar Republic tried to create a sense of democracy and order, but failed.
Throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s, it is understood that particularly Jews in Germany were segregated and discriminated against and systematically oppressed. So, how are we to respond in the future when it comes to foreigners and other minorities?
I have always been against discrimination. It can hurt people and very rarely, do I see any good come out of it. I wholeheartedly agree with the Anti – Discrimination legislation we have here (in Australia). I think the current wave of anti – Semitism that’s affecting the world right now, is truly disgusting. I mean, Jewish kids being attacked and verbally abused on their way to school? Come on! It should stop!
In my view, discrimination dehumanises certain sections of the community. It creates an “us versus them” mentality. It causes people to be ostracised, abused and bullied. I think it’s counter – productive when trying to get migrants to assimilate. It causes people to miss out on opportunities that most people take for granted, like work, renting a house or apartment, and other life events. It can cause people great distress, sometimes leading to things like self – harm or suicide. It’s not good in my view at all.
But, then again, have we gone too far the other way? I read complaints on blogs and other forms of media that say that current anti – discrimination laws (especially the RDA) have stifled free speech and therefore, stifled, at times, needed debate. One of the fiercest critics of the current laws is conservative Newscorp political commentator, journalist and editor, Andrew Bolt, who in 2011 was found guilty of breaching 18C when he claimed that fair – skinned aboriginal people were claiming the Aboriginal identity for political and social gain.
Last year, Sydney Morning Herald editor – in – chief, Darren Goodsir was condemned by Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull for publishing a deeply offensive anti – Semitic cartoon. I don’t remember hearing him being taken to court over it, although I did think he resigned. The illustrator was Glenn Le Lievre. Was he sacked? Was he taken to court? I’ll be honest, I think what Goodsir and Le Lievre did was far, far, far worse than what Andrew Bolt did. In fact, I would argue that what they did was dangerous, given the current climate that is around the world. But why did they get off while Bolt has been slammed as a “racist” for nearly five years? (claim of which he has vehemently denied). To me it’s a gross double – standard. At the very least, Sydney Morning Herald should’ve been just has heavily legally condemned just as much as Bolt, if not more.
So, where does that leave anti – discrimination in general? Well, I think that, as I said before, it’s needed. What I think does need to be changed in this country is that anti – discrimination laws need to apply equally to everyone, not as a means of a witch – hunt.