Are you as alarmed as I am when you see on our TV screens, or hear on the radio, or read in our disappearing newspapers about the deteriorating state of democracy in Europe, Asia, the United States of America, Africa, the Middle East, even in our own country?
Do you see, as I do, the rise of extreme right wing politics: nationalism, rampant patriotism, populism, nativism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, even white supremacy, as well as the re-emergence of fascist, racist and reactionary ideologies?
Look at Europe. Recent elections have brought right wing parties to the fore in Hungary, Poland, Germany, Austria, and even Switzerland. Take a look at a recent article published by Bloomberg: How the Populist Right is Redrawing the Map of Europe
by Andre Tartar. Here is an extract:
A Bloomberg analysis of decades of election results across 22 European countries reveals that support for populist radical-right parties is higher than it’s been at any time over the past 30 years. These parties won 16 percent of the overall vote on average in the most recent parliamentary election in each country, up from 11 percent a decade earlier and 5 percent in 1997.
While some parties evolved along the way, they are all now seen as anti-elite, nativist, and having a strong law and order focus, as defined by academics who helped shape this analysis.
We ought to be startled by this account.
Day after day we see from the news reports that opposition to the flood of immigrants from Middle Eastern and African countries has given rise to these anti-immigration sentiments. War, terrorism, and civil strife leading to persecution are usually the root causes of the migration. Several European nations are now turning away immigrants, even those who arrive in boatloads with nowhere to go. Some countries have relented, while others have put up the shutters. The human misery that has resulted is heart-rending. With nowhere to go, and return to the country from which they are fleeing impossible, they are being herded into camps where they exist in appalling conditions where overcrowding, poverty, inadequate nutrition, disease, poor medical resources, and violence is the norm. Hopelessness compounds their plight.
Despite the desperate needs of these refugees, more and more Europeans are shouting ‘enough is enough’ and ‘go back to where you came from’. Angela Merkel’s past policy of allowing, even encouraging immigrants to settle in Germany has brought her undone. With the emergence of the extreme right wing, anti-immigrant party, the ‘Alternative for Germany’ (AfD)
, support for Merkel has eroded; she is now permanently wounded.
In the Middle East, the authoritarian, oppressive regime of Bashar al Assad in Syria has waged fierce war against rebel forces since 2011, reducing his country to rubble and forcing its people into refugee camps. In 2016, from an estimated pre-war population of 22 million, the United Nations identified 13.5 million Syrians requiring humanitarian assistance
, of which more than 6 million are internally displaced within Syria, and around 5 million are refugees outside of Syria, the vast majority of which are hosted by countries adjoining Syria.
Further south there is war-torn Yemen. While it is structured as a democratic nation, it is dominated on its northern border by authoritarian Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy, where the king must comply with Sharia (Islamic) law and the Quran. Saudi Arabia’s support for rebel forces in Yemen has resulted in starvation, lack of drinking water, rampant disease and death, particularly among children, and displacement of millions of Yemenis
, who are not welcome elsewhere.
Reflect now on the Asian subcontinent where hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas have made perilous journeys out of Myanmar to Bangladesh
to escape communal violence and abuses perpetrated by the security forces that have burned their villages, raped their women, and killed their men. The escapees live in overcrowded camps that Bangladesh cannot sustain. Their misery is compounded by the hopelessness of their situation. Xenophobia makes their plight bleak and seemingly irreversible. The world’s leaders look on unsympathetically. A handful of charitable organizations are on the ground helping where they can, but struggle against overwhelming odds.
To gain a perspective on the extent of the world’s refugee crisis, read these extracts from a June 2017 paper by the World Economic Forum.
One in every 113 people on the planet is now a refugee. Around the world, someone is displaced every three seconds, forced from their homes by violence, war and persecution.
By the end of 2016, the number of displaced people had risen to 65.6 million - more than the population of the United Kingdom. The number is an increase of 300,000 on the year before, and the largest number ever recorded, according to the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR.
Within this figure are different types of refugee. Most - 40.3 million - are people displaced within their own country. This is a slight dip on the year before, but the figure still makes up almost two thirds of the total global refugee count. Most of these people are based in war-torn Syria and Iraq, alongside those uprooted by conflict in Colombia.
Refugees who have fled to another country make up the next biggest group, which at 22.5 million people is the highest number ever recorded. Predictably, Syria, now in its seventh year of conflict, is generating the highest number of refugees. Five and a half million fled the country last year. But over the course of 2016, South Sudan became a major new source of refugees after the breakdown of peace efforts in July contributed to 739,900 people crossing the border by the end of the year. Since then, the number of people who have left has climbed to 1.87 million people.
We don’t need to look far from our own shores to see the same problem. We have our own quota of displaced persons seeking asylum in our country, languishing on Manus Island and Nauru, being held at bay by a mean government and a mean minister that gives them no hope.
When we look across the Pacific to the ‘land of the brave and the free’ we see a punitive policy towards immigrants where those who cross the border to the US are sent back, or housed in military camps, or separated from their children, many of whom appear ‘lost’, where the President of that wealthy nation sends message of rejection day after day, and by Executive Order pushes them further away. Laudably, many thousands of his own citizens protested in the streets of US cities against his moves, angered by his callousness and repressive behaviour. Similarly, the people of Britain have demonstrated angrily against him and have mocked him with Trump Baby effigy
during his recent UK visit. We know though that his fervent supporters applaud his actions. They will likely vote for him next time around. They see a reflection of themselves in his attitude and behaviour – they too harbour nationalistic, anti-immigration, even white supremacist feelings – America only for Americans.
With the US Supreme Court upholding by five to four
(the court has a five/four majority of conservatives) Trump’s travel ban on Muslims that prohibits entry into the United States of most people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, these people are now legally excluded from US residence and citizenship. This is xenophobia run riot, but Trump is triumphant, especially as the court agreed that the government "had set forth a sufficient national security justification"; in other words these Muslims constitute a national security risk. His supporters agree. This move will enhance his popularity among his supporters, as is already showing up in the polls.
There is no point in expressing righteous indignation at Trump’s actions, as this is what his own followers want. The people themselves are complicit, as is the Supreme Court, which could swerve even more to the conservative right if Trump’s nomination of an ultra-conservative replacement for retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, namely Justice Brett Kavanaugh, is confirmed. Kavanaugh’s radial views are disquieting. Read what publisher Phillip Frazer has to say about him, and Trump’s reason for nominating him.
It’s alarming. Trump is determined to entrench his ideology in the Court and perhaps set the scene for the revocation of some liberal laws: to give just two examples, laws relating to abortion and gay rights.
South of the Mexican border, it will be intriguing to see how Trump’s anti-immigration policy, especially where it is directed against Mexicans, will play out with the recent election of left-wing populist, Andrés Manuel López Obrador
, popularly known by his initials AMLO, to replace the unpopular, right wing Enrique Peña Nieto as President of Mexico. AMLO heads the National Regeneration Movement, which fosters a sense of nationalism and nostalgia for a long past. Trump’s nationalistic ideology is similar. AMLO campaigned against violence, corruption, inequality - and US President Donald Trump, whom he detests. It will be fascinating to see how these two egocentric characters bump their heads together!
Thinking back, how has this anti-immigration sentiment arisen throughout Europe and the world? For a clue, reflect on the Brexit campaign that culminated in June 2016 when a bare 51.9% of Britons voted to ‘Leave’. The most powerful ‘Leave’ slogan perpetrated by UKIP’s Michael Farage, Boris Johnson, and their ilk was ‘Take back control’.
It carried the not-too-subtle message that the UK had lost control of its borders and that those seeking to enter from foreign countries were taking over. Some Britons said they could hardly recognize their own streets, now filled with those of different colour, religion, and habits, where food outlets reflected a cuisine different from traditional British, where they felt they were strangers in their own country. The ‘Leave’ campaign was so potent, appealing as it did to nationalism and even xenophobia, that it carried the day, leaving the UK wallowing in a monumental mess, still trying to work out how to extricate itself from Europe by 2019. Having created the mess, Boris Johnson then made the mess even messier when he decided to resign as Foreign Secretary, just hours after Brexit minister David Davis also pulled the plug. His reason: Theresa May’s Brexit plan could see Britain turned into a colony!
Reflect now on other powerful nations where extreme right policies and authoritarianism prevail. Russia springs to mind. Vladimir Putin exercises complete control, crushes dissent, jails opponents, kills dissidents, and shamelessly annexes neighbouring countries such as the Crimea and Ukraine despite the protests of their people, claiming all the time that his actions reflect the wish of the people of these countries. Several European nations support Putin’s moves, and Donald Trump admires him as a ‘strong man’!
North Korea is a repressive regime where opponents are murdered, sent to penal camps, where its people are oppressed by a ruthless hereditary dictator, where military spending takes precedence over feeding its people so that Kim Jung-un can threaten his neighbours and the rest of the world with nuclear catastrophe. And Donald Trump admires him! Kim fosters, indeed insists on unswerving loyalty to the ‘dear leader’, promotes rampant nationalism manifest by military parades and wildly clapping subjects, just as Trump desires!
If you think right wing extremism is an overseas phenomenon, reflect on the behaviour of our own government. Peter Dutton promotes nationalist attitudes with his border protection policies and his imprisonment of boat arrivals on Manus Island and Nauru. In pursuit of the Coalition’s authoritarian ‘law and order’ ideology, he paints boat arrivals as an invasion force, to be repelled, to be given no encouragement whatsoever ‘lest it encourage people smugglers to resume their trade’. His leader enthusiastically echoes his anti-immigration sentiments.
On another front, further evidence of the Coalition’s extreme right wing leanings is its attitude to the ABC. As is the case with all authoritarian regimes, the Coalition finds dissent unacceptable and therefore to be suppressed. The enthusiasm with which the Young Liberals passed without dissent a motion to privatise the ABC, long held as policy by the IPA, shows how easily we could slip into an Orwellian state in our own country. The instant denials by Coalition members that this would never happen should be set against the repeated complaints about the ABC voiced by Communications Minister, Mitch Fifield. Anyone who believes the Coalition’s ‘reassurances’ is a fool. If you think it’s an exaggeration that Australia is edging towards an Orwellian ‘police state’, read this article: An incomplete list of evidence that Australia is becoming a police state
Now, as icing on the radical right wing cake, we have turncoat Mark Latham sidling up to Pauline Hanson mouthing anti-Labor right wing slogans, raving about how the country’s gone crazy with its political correctness, identity politics, and anti-white racism! For her part, Hanson insists she would love to have him beside her in Parliament
. Imagine that! Moreover, she has preferenced Dr Jim Saleam of the Australia First Party at No.8, two spots ahead of Labor in the Longman by-election
. Saleam is a convicted criminal and former neo-Nazi who formerly led National Action, a militant white supremacist group.
So where does that leave us? Surrounded by authoritarian, nationalistic, anti-immigration, even xenophobic governments all around the world, and governed here by a Coalition that harbours similar sentiments, what future can we expect?
We should be very fearful that this global wave of extreme right wing behaviour will overwhelm us in our own country, and thereby destroy the democratic rights and freedoms we have enjoyed for so long.
Remember Nineteen Eighty-Four.