Jamal Dawoud is the president of the Social Justice Network in Sydney, Australia. A hard intense man with strong views and stronger words. I have a lot of respect for him and for his courage. This is his latest article, I'm not sure if I agree with all the points in it. Though it is a very worthy contribution
I was refraining from writing about London riots for the last week. But the issue is very hot and attractive. And there are tons of questions to be asked about how “democracies” fail so miserably to the point of citizens looting public and private buildings.
My personal experiences for the last few months are clear example of reasons to reach the point of “let us take law on our hands”.
Today was the climax. I received a letter from the State Debt Recovery Office (the most hated state department in NSW) informing me that my drivers licence will be suspended sometime at the end of the month. The reasons were that I did not appear in the court, where I sought court review of parking fine. Then I failed to pay the money determined by the court. When I contacted the SDRO, I informed them that I never received notice to attend the court. I also did not receive any letter of the court decision. Not only this. I never received notice from the SDRO asking me to pay the money, ways to pay the money and how much I should pay.
It is not about the fine, anymore. It is about the system. The system where punch of politicians are using the might of the state (including many security agencies) to oppress the majority of population. All by laws they agreed to adopt and within “democratic” context.
The whole fine issue was about someone with authority has put a bus stop sign on telephone post, where not many people can notice it (as money trap to collect as much as possible for the council). Then the same authority sent rangers to issue fines. Then the same authority sent another office to punish the black goat that refused to put its head with other heads and give up. And if you do not accept the punishment, the same authority sends police to further punish the black goat and threaten with jail if it insists to stay rebellious.
Would this minor issue prompt me to accept the logic of rioters in London?
Let us go back few days in the week. Me and My friend Hussein went to obtain him a licence. Ordinary worker there who had prejudice against his ethnicity and against the unauthorised legal way that drove him to this country, told him that she will not do her job and facilitate achieving this mission. He can go and bang his head against any wall in the street, but no licence will be issued or tests organised. But he still has the right to shout, argue and get upset. But he cannot shout louder, as this would result into fines for “disturbing public peace”.
Is that all???
Of course not. I also remembered how I was treated like criminal when the minister for immigration lost control of his department when detainees in many detention centres decided that enough is enough. The minister so naively accused me of all these troubles and verbally asked the authorities to ban me from entering any detention centre. And racist police officers were leashed with full authority to humiliate me and oppress me to the point that I thought that I am living in Zimbabwe. And to date, I was unable to obtain written ban. And all my complaints against the racist police officers went unnoticed. And I also can bang my head against any wall. This is democracy: you have the right to bang your head against any wall, but not to the point of destroying this wall. That would be “damaging public or private properties”. And we are still in democracy.
And before that I was subjected to some of worst racist and degrading treatment at work. And because there are not enough evidences, the racism and Islamophobia went unnoticed but some very small amount of money to prove that it is still democracy, somehow.
All this in addition to the difficulty finding suitable accommodation, bad experience in public hospitals, expensive food, skyrocketing electricity and gas bills, block of access to decision making bodies, ....
But it is democracy: you have the right to ask, complain and criticise, but them they have the right to ignore you.
And now today at this moment, I wonder if I, as one of the highest law abiding citizen in this country who is doing all within his capacity (and even beyond that capacity sometimes) to help others and help building better society, is subjected to such humiliating treatment, what is about the rest of the society who are more marginalised than me (they are in millions)?
Was this the major reason behind London riots?
You feel humiliated, robbed by different organisations (including your own “democratic” government), cannot have decent life, expensive life style, high taxes, fines in violating laws or not violating any law, ailing health system where you can be humiliated by nurse or doctors for asking why you have waited for long time to see any professional, no decent accommodation .... All these while you can see that the common wealth is robbed by few people, including the politicians that punish you by either more taxes or fines for every move in your life.
And justice is very slow when you want something from them, they humiliated you, they denied your rights or when you need any vital service. They have the right to refuse your request. Then you have the right to appeal. This would take years. And the system is designed for your appeal to fail. Then you can go to higher legal system level. After all these accessed, you will be already lost more than what you will gain.
But the justice is very quick and decisive when they want something from you, when you make any small mistake or they discover that you have accessed more than is allowed for you. The justice fist at that time is very strong, even if they will destroy your life.
So in both scenarios, your life is destroyed. But in the first scenario, if you can prove that they hurt you or caused you any damage, they also do not care. Because they will compensate you from the tax you had paid during your life. Or maybe they compensate you from the taxes paid by your brother, sister, wife or neighbour. They do not lose anything.
Does this give grim picture? Can you imagine that 1 in every 4 Australians has mental health problems.
But all in democratic context. So we should be happy.
But why British were not happy within this democratic context. They are not happy with exercising their democratic rights to be humiliated, robbed and oppressed in democratic way.
Do you think that this is the reasons (or part of the reasons) that thousands of “hooligans” roamed London, Manchester, Liverpool .... in the last few days?
When people lose hope of being respected, listened to, cared for and participated in decision making, they will do this. And it is clearly that British had reached this point.
So the question here: is Australia too far from this stage?
I can declare very clearly here that I am not very far at all from this stage. But apart from me, are there many Australians feel the same?
The result of the last election where the informal vote was very high and people deliberately declared that “all politicians are the same, all are crooks”, is clear evidence that Australians (or large section of them) have reached close to the British state.
It is not British only. Few months ago, Greek, Italians, Spanish and Portuguese did similar things.
We lost the hope. Yes we did, where the laws became very blind, heavy handed and violate basic rights.
Would I participate in any riots if happened in Australia?
I am not sure if I have the courage.
But who cares about me: what about homeless (after the department of housing is telling them that there are cheap accommodation that they can rent, when the market is very dry), unemployed (who are tortured by Centrelink and authorities), marginalised in the suburbs (where laws turned them into criminals because they speed at some stage or they lost nerve at public department), former detainees who need to put up with prejudice and feel of guilt for the rest of their lives, sick people who are treated like trash in hospitals, students who needs big fortune to complete simple study, ....
Would they refuse to stand up for their rights, indefinitely?
After the uprising in most of Western countries, Australians will think about standing for their rights, their future and the future of their children. They are coming into terms with the bitter reality: The democracy will not stop politicians (who act mainly on behalf of big corporations) from taking away their rights and privileges.
Democracy needs power to protect democratic rights, especially after many of these democratic rights were already taken away in the last decades.