The shadowy underbelly of Australia’s fair go: @FrBower comments on #racism

Fr Rod Bower underbelly Australian fair goracism

“I am not a racist! But…” We have all heard it and many of us have said it, but what does it mean?

Australians are, for the most part, a pretty decent lot. We love the larrikin, the underdog and the idea of a fair go. However, just as there is always another side to the individual there is also another side to a nation. There is always the dark underbelly. Carl Jung, one of the founders of modern psychology, called this “the shadow”.

We see it all the time, what we hate most in others is often what we are trying so strenuously to deny in ourselves. What is true for an individual is also true for a group or even a nation. The corporate shadow is the collective unconscious and is so easily projected onto another group. This ‘shadow dynamic’ empowered in the past the Nazi regime, apartheid and the segregationists of the southern states of the United States. These are classic manifestations of the phenomenon of the projection of the shadow. Closer to home, there is the shameful way in which we later arrivals treated Australia’s Aboriginal People.

The Abbott Government has tapped into the ‘but’ part of our ‘I am not a racist’ mantra.

In this ‘shadow dynamic,’ the ‘enemy’ is created and all the secret sins of a people are projected onto and, hopefully, though rarely, eradicated in this created enemy. It is the projection of the perceived superior onto the assumed inferior. It is the cause of much of humanity’s atrocities and pain throughout history. It is the proven tool of the regime that seeks nothing but power. It is the chosen weapon of the sociopathic leader, and a tried and tested system of social control.

The unrecognised shadow always leads to hidden behaviors – we all remember the anti-gay morals campaigning pastor with the gay lover on the side. Then there is us, the nation of people who champion a ‘fair go’ while all along denying basic human rights to others.

The tabloid press and radio shock jocks are also great channels for the expression of the shadow. Day after day we hear journalists and DJs decry the ‘dole bludgers’ while advanced lurkers in the shadow call in and complain that society is going to the dogs and it’s all ‘their’ fault. Tabloids rail against the ‘do-gooders’ and ‘tree huggers’ in a sad and pathetic reversal of the shadow; and under their shadow casting cloud, we continue to deny and hide our more compassionate selves for fear of the vulnerability that exposure brings.

Above all else, it is the government of the day that can exercise the national corporate shadow. Sometimes this can be done unconsciously and unwillingly, at other times with manipulative and intentional malevolence. I fear the latter more accurately describes our present situation.

The Abbott Government has tapped into the ‘but’ part of our ‘I am not a racist’ mantra. Abbott and Morrison have completely understood our latent racism and protectionist proclivities. They have facilitated the expression of our shadow and by controlling the information in a very clever way regarding the reality of this work, we are not confronted directly with either the reality or the consequences of this projection.

The very nature of the shadow means precisely that it must remain in the shadows. The minute it is brought into the light of our awareness, it must be both owned and dealt with through integration into our psyche, or it must be eradicated.

At the moment the government is keeping our shadow hidden from view with calculated precision under the direction of a team of professional spin doctors, costing the Australian taxpayer over $12 million a year. We will permit just about anything and pay almost any price to deny our shadow.

Comments contrived to hide our darker selves from ourselves include: “We do not comment on operational matters”; “I have already answered that question”; “Australia is conscious of, and intends to meet, its international obligations” and “We do not provide shipping news to people smugglers”. These verbal constructions are a proven and effective tool for hiding the consequences of shadow work.

The last statement is particularly telling. If the current policy is the deterrent that we are being told it is, then it would make sense that this information should be shared more widely. The more accurate information available about the misery faced by asylum seekers, then surely the better and more effective the deterrent would be.

Unfortunately the down side of this for the government is that it would allow us, the Australian people, to see our shadow, and that would never do!

For if we did see our shadow, we would have to make a series of challenging choices regarding what we do with it: are we likely to integrate our shadow and deal with it, working through the issues of our racism and the consequences of its application?

No, we would probably have to get rid of it, projecting it onto the Abbott Government itself, and thus eradicating this ‘evil’ from our midst at the next election. Serving only, of course, to allow the shadow to again roam free, seeking out its next incarnation in a government. A government that again would erroneously believe that this self-seeking shadow might be captured, tamed and managed for its own purposes.

This can only ever be a short-term goal and it always leads to medium-term self-destruction. The Howard Government serves as an example of this. John Howard captured our shadow during the Tampa Crisis and then overreached in the ‘Children Overboard’ fiasco. We saw our shadow and proceeded to annihilate it, or so we thought.

The ‘deceits of spin’ cannot last forever and we will soon begin to catch a glimpse of our darker side. We will, of course, not be able to cope with this challenge to who we believe we are, and will, eventually no doubt, consign the Abbott Government to a dark history.

This vicious cycle will continue on its destructive path with its accompanying misery until by some inconceivable leap in human consciousness we, as a people, are able to say: “I am a racist! But …”.

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  1. Thank you Father Rod, erudite and thought provoking words and attitudes as usual! I love the way you call us to own our shadow and live consciously. I’m so glad that you are willing to speak up and write about these issues the way you do. The pen is mighty and has the power to change lives and cultures.

  2. Jacquelene Close Moore says

    Beautifully written, and captures the thinking a lot of us have been trying to put forward in deep concern about the trajectory of things. It’s overdue for our nation to face this and deal with it, or we will elect nastier and nastier manifestations of our own creation as a collective. We are in both frightening times and times of amazing postive opportunity.

  3. Colleen McGregor says

    Excellent article – always appreciate Fr Rods thoughtful words,they continue to challenge us & our Government if they dare to listen.Its really appalling just where Aust is heading at present but I believe we can rally & defeat this horrendous mob Governing us….hope to see Newman go first then we’re after Abbott,a deceitful,heartless PM!

  4. Fr, it seems your shadow is your acceptance that 1200 lives lost at sea under PM Gillard’s policy was ok. And you preach compassion?

    • Glenys North says

      Does the end justify the means?

      • Sir ScotchMistery says

        Absolutely the end doesn’t justify the means. Ease talking a whole country, not a disparate group of LNP arse bandits. The individual is part of the whole. Nothing done by LNP to date represents anything good for the country as a whole. We are more than the sum of the parts.

    • Bethany J says

      John – maybe look at the big picture?

    • Moar Politics says

      Yes it’s a bit ironic to read a screed decrying spin when it’s being cheerfully used by the author.

      When did this new sense of moral outrage begin for you God man? Maybe around September last year?

      The race card is skillfully played again by the author. Though frayed and tattered it’s a routine that probably works well with the collection plate so it might as well be trotted out here.

      Like most of these childish articles that paints any opposing view as racist it has zero credibility and only fuels your Twitterati fame. If you really wanted to walk the walk you would leave your plush Gosford surrounds and head over to where these economic migrants come from and work the improve the lot of all of them, not just those or can afford to stomp on the hands of those also in need.

      And of course the tired old Tampa and anything else during a Coalition tenure is repeated like a tired meme. Who re-opened Manus and Nauru after closing them? Oh the lashings of spin around that. All cheerfully forgotten by the anti-Abbott hysterics brigade and by God’s local rep in Gosford.

  5. Horatio Farr-Kornell says

    Excellent article. You have enunciated accurately the nature of the Australian character . John Howard was a master at tapping into the nasty side of the Australian character, the “but”side. He understood instinctively . He wa part of the generation where that attitude was mainstream.
    The refrain that stopping the boats will save lives fits in with the “but” side. Before the Tories used this argument asylum seekers were queue jumpers, terrorists , economic refugees, cme in through the back door. Now it we don’t want to see them drowning at sea..
    Now we see the likes of Morrison and co exploiting this “but” because they see votes in it. When in opposition Morrison suggested that they exploit community hostility toward Muslims . Nice guy Scott.

  6. Bethany J says

    Very thoughtful article, Fr Rod, and very thought provoking. Articulates so many concepts.
    If we were to ever have a government that tried to de-construct this shadow, and called it out for what it is – fearful, reactionary and harmful at a basic level – we may eventually progress and mature as a nation.
    Leadership, long term thinking, an educated population, just think what a great country this could be!
    Dreaming? Hope not!
    thank you

  7. Phillip Mahnken says

    It all rings true. As individuals we construct a mask or persona, hope we get away with it, and have you noticed how rare and unrewarded is genuine admission of being wrong? Attributing wrong is a national sport. Our governments which represent our nation/us spend too much of their time doing this instead of providing positive healthy leadership. We let them be our shadow, especially in democracies, especially in the Anglo countries that shut ourselves off from other ways of thinking by refusing to learn other languages.