By ICM-1928, Bologna.

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Though we may be able to form tentative coalitions with such movements in our opposition to the war in Iraq, and in our protesting against detention centres, I would argue that the proper coalitions to build on are with representatives of the Iraqi people who are socialist, communist or social democratic, and with refugee and community advocates whose politics are not conservative and right-wing. We should not be echoing either liberalism’s reduction of international politics to the ethical banality of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ or an ahistorical left politics that places identity before ethics and politics.

And what is the result? Australia is more ghettoised, more fearful, more distrustful and more ignorant than at any time in my memory. A promise articulated in multiculturalism — a promise, it is true, that still needed to be explored, debated, critiqued, developed, committed to — was sent kicking, flung out to sea, destroyed on the sands of Cronulla. I don’t want liberalism to cry crocodile tears and claim that this was not what they meant when they were clamouring for multiculturalism to be disbanded at the height of the culture wars.

Fears about quotas, special treatment and affirmative action were expressed in the corridors of our parliaments, academies and workplaces. It is neither my intent nor my concern to attack political correctness at the level of such practice because, unlike liberals, I believe that overcoming and challenging historic disenfranchisement and historic oppression does require a struggle for collective recognition. To put it bluntly, I might believe, like liberals do, that we are all born equal, but this belief is meaningless in that we are all born into unequal social formations and histories.

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Proceedings, by ICM-1928, Bologna.


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