Originally published in Edition One (2023).
Content Warnings: Colonialism, Nazism, war, abuse and racism
The wind that shakes the pages before me moves the grass in one great chorus of dance. The word "snap" fades into the distance as the sudden thud of a football breaks the peace. My awareness of the beauty before me pushes against my recognition that such scenery is only made possible by an ongoing genocidal project. A giant plane soars above my head, my mind transported to the images of war that fuelled a childhood obsession. The sun slowly sinks lower and lower with the shyness of a kid peering over the neighbors’ fence. Such peaceful moments are completely alien from the violent intrusion of metallic birds from the sky. Their wings spread deep across the horizon, rounding beyond the treeline until only their roars are left.
Out of sight, but not out of mind, a continual awareness of war contradicts my everyday life. Colonial amnesia on steroids. The battlefield has been supplanted by the sporting one, yesterday's grand final oozing with history and pomp. The grand final parade, a uniquely victorian spectacle, reminding me once again of the whiteness of this sporting world. The endless veneration of geelong's success accompanies analysis of the role played by the players' farms, all without mention of the stolen histories of those very places they retreat to once the celebration dies down.
The success of white life comes at the cost of Bla(c)k life, torn asunder from family, community, land, and love, so that we whites can sit here 250 years later and be able to believe we are not living in any great war. What idiocy, what whiteness. The maxim that declares colonisation “a structure, not an event” falls deaf on our english ears. While I don't have the planes of WW2 or the drones of Afghanistan above my head, I do have the grass beneath my feet as a present absence, a lifeless testimony to genocidal invasion. essendon and moonee ponds, both colonial jewels atop rolling hills so that a topology of violence can be maintained from above. The rich alluvial soils made possible by millennia of Wurundjeri-willam care presented a liquid temptation seemingly worthy of spilling blood, John Batman’s own sheep having feasted on the western banks of the maribyrnong. Even on grass, the antecedent to any such sporting spectacle, a colonial spectre lingers.
The control inherent in the history of grass mirrors the triumph of “Man” over nature imbued with all its feminine implications. To rape, to pillage, to seize by conquest is to be a man, to be white, to be a colonist. It is your duty. And so it is no wonder that Bauman chooses the gardening metaphor to surmise the Nazi project. To prune the “aryan race” of its excesses is to fulfil the fascist demands that exist well beyond the borders of the German state. The borderless nature of white supremacy transcends any barriers placed upon it, and in so doing mirrors the flights of capital. No wonder that colonists love fences, demarcating between what is ours and what is not. Borders, boundaries, binaries—the colonial toolkit par excellence. The insidious world of white supremacy has not gone quietly into the night, but now hides under a veneer of diversity, neoliberal multiculturalism, and strength in difference discourse, with that difference only ever on white terms.
They say diversity itself is a white word, meaning anything other than the white individual—the universal center of subjectivity. The metropole will always dominate the colony, and the wealth that is on display everywhere here in this colonial crown of “melbourne”, was always and will always only be made possible by blood. The toil of Chinese miners in the victorian goldfields, South Sea Islanders blackbirded onto plantations, and First Nations shearers, stockmen, and domestic servants stolen from country—theft on an industrial scale whose history continues in colonists coffers and is obfuscated in the names of homes, stations, mines, rivers and all manner of towns littered across the nation.
Territory itself becomes a parcel to be allotted into many individual holdings, the land beyond wellington in NSW akin to the mississippi river in the USA. Anything westward is the great untamed wilderness in the colonial imaginary, the frontier conditions replicated in canada, australia and the united states. These movements sung under the euphemism of “dispersal.” Never before had the poetic capabilities of the english language been mobilised in service of such violence. Language shapes the world and its mastery enables the colonial policing of who can be accepted into the category Human. Cook’s lie of discovery becomes the basis on which Terra Nullius rests, a lie mobilised in the continual dispossession and dehumanisation of First Nations peoples. The distortion of language and history lives on in the great denial of the reality of this place. And even if white people do know the names of Myall Creek, Breelong, Coniston or other such massacre sites, they claim innocence in their workings.
They can dispassionately recount events with the chill of a surgeon, able to divorce themselves from the systems that killed those men, women and children, the system which makes their life and all their loved one’s lives possible. They can uphold that distance by an argument towards “time.” But time is not a tsunami that effaces history. As Marx puts it, the living inherit their conditions “directly encountered, given, and transmitted from the past.” The narrative production of history and the silencing of its terror constitutes our very subjectivity.
Where is the room for reckoning here? It is the reason ghosts become important. The ghosts of that violence are still with us, in the white mind or the colonial city, all around, everywhere, all the time. If we don't listen to those ghosts, white people will continue the abusive structure of white domination. In this game the end goal is not life for some—it is death for all. White supremacy takes no hostages, and it will kill white families as it is doing today at the hands of men, its most loyal servants. The rapturous anger of a husband who raises his fist at his partner or children is but one variation on the great theme of white abuse that litters Western history. The raising of a fist, the raising of a foreign flag on a beach, or the raising of an extended right arm towards the führer all descend from the same logic: a failure to recognise this keeps the wheels of whiteness spinning. It is our duty once we realise the violent path it takes on a systematic and individual level, to turn our own wheels against whiteness itself. For it must be destroyed if I am to live.