Saturday, May 24, 2003

The cost of being Alison Broinowski

With a subheading that goes: “The image of Australians as boors and bullies made the Bali bombing predictable”, it seem certain that Alison Broinowski is very soon going to become a household name – and not in a good sense.

Personally, I think that this will be a shame – because her views on the Bali bombing are only a side serving in her overall eight course banquet of offensiveness. Tabloidizeable in a rancorous way – badly timed – ditto; but nonetheless, essentially true, at least IMO. By this, I mean that Kuta’s Sari Club was a yobbo’s paradise. The first time I went to Bali (21 y.o.), it wasn’t there yet (but I definitely wouldn’t have been in if it was; and I’m pretty sure that I did go to Paddy’s Bar); the second time (32 y.o.), I looked in, and walked firmly past – it seemed almost a parody of everything that was wrong with Kuta (in which locale I only spend a few pre-flight home hours, anyway).

Well, that’s me, and my tastes and prejudices. I’ve aired them here only reluctantly, anything that needlessly disrespects the dead – especially during a time of high sensitivity (which is the mourning period, and sometimes more) – deserves contempt, in my book. I emphasise the “needlessly” here – I’ve pointed out the above only to be able to tackle Broinowski more honestly. So back to it.

"The dead and injured in Bali may have been the victims of Canberra's ventriloquistic mouthing of Washington's world view, or of their Western appearance and lifestyle, or of the longstanding hostility of many Indonesians towards Australia, or of all these."

All these putative Bali-bomb explanations are long-standing, textbook platitudes about Indonesian-Australian relations. In the post-September 11 world (the very existence of which Broinowski seems to refuse to acknowledge), they are all ludicrously old-hat – global Islamo-fascist terrorism may have some national variations, but being meekly subsumed into the fabric of a decades-old, backyard regional spat is a simple impossibility. Put another way – Amrozi’s recent taunts to the “infidels” neatly blows away Broinowski.

Moving on from the Bali bombings and Indonesia generally, Broinowski’s post-colonial tour of the rest of Asia makes the average Aussie backpacker look seasoned, or at least focused, in comparison. Reading her bio, her combination of breadth and shallowness makes more sense. Broinowski is not really an Asian “old hand”, which I would define as an expat who has spent a significant part of their life living and working in a third world part of Asia (i.e. anywhere except Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan). Broinowski has spent significant time in Japan, but (unsurprisingly for me) can’t wring anything more illustratively pejorative out of the Japanese view of Australia than a couple of newspaper howlers.

Necessarily then, Broinowski has gotten herself into the pickle in which the two countries that can be relied upon to reliably provide enough anti-Australian invective to prove her thesis – Malaysia and China – are those of which Broinowski has little seeming understanding. Her quotes from this article (scroll down)by Malaysian journalist, Rashid Rehman (who everyone else calls Rehman Rashid, BTW) certainly provide good copy, apart from the not-so-small qualifications that (i) he is a Muslim (I am assuming) and so has a vested interest in tangentialising Islamo-fascist terrorism (ii) he is from Malaysia, whose long-time leader has periodically baited Australia in public for purposes of domestic political gain, and (iii) Malaysia is a racist-country, whose anti-Chinese laws would not be tolerated in any Western democracy. Rather than quoting Rehman Rashid on the ugly Australian abroad, then, Broinowski could have killed two birds with one stone, by exposing Malaysian anti-Chinese prejudice alongside Australian anti-Chinese prejudice.

As for what Chinese textbooks say about Australia – a place with no history, riding on the sheep's back, and “absent, negligible and boring” – well blow me down! They don’t mention our 100-odd years of specifically anti-Chinese immigration legislation? If not, then I think that Australia has been let off very lightly by the said Chinese textbooks; far too lightly, I would say. Another outrage there, Ms Broinowski, and one which I’m sure that you could profitably spend several years living in Beijing investigating.

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