Philobiblon: Australian tribalism erupts

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Australian tribalism erupts

After Britain and France's "race riots", it is now Australia's turn, or at least so a simplistic analysis would have it.

The ignition point in Sydney was access to and use of a beach. Two surf lifesavers were beaten up by some men from a Muslim background who had been told to stop play soccer, and then the conflict was off. The site of the start of the problem was Cronulla and other southern beaches of Sydney - which will be familiar to anyone who's read the novel Puberty Blues, or seen the film, and the misogynistic, tribal world they portray.

I lived in Sydney for the first 20 years of my life and never visited one of those places - Sydney is a very spread-out place, and very divided. But it was generally agreed the image the novel presented was accurate, and I doubt much has changed.

They'll know that even among the white tribes of the southern beaches (estimated to be 90 pre cent-plus Anglo-Celtic) conflict was common. But when the "Westies" (from the poorer, far more ethnically mixed inland suburbs) try to assert their right to the public space, the conflict is likely to be even more heated.

It is probably true that race is only peripheral. Both sides have absorbed the often-destructive masculine-dominated theory of "mateship". And that's the real fuel.

This SMH piece is the best analysis I've seen.


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