I went to Melbourne. Mostly my trip was great. I ate lots of amazing vegan food (Lord of the Fries! Vegie Bar! Trippy Taco! Fuck yeah!). I went to the anarchist bookfair. I went to food not bombs at Loophole community centre, I went to a barbecue at the Melbourne Anarchist Resource Centre, I went to a film night at Barricade Infoshop. I spent quality time with lots of nice revolutionary people I haven’t seen in a very long time.
Then this other thing happened. We went to a party. I had a bottle of red wine. Usually I’m a beer drinker, but I’d just been reading The Dharma Bums, so it was red wine. To be precise it was a Shiraz and I’d picked it out because it had a cute picture of a guy in a black bandit mask driving away with a giant bottle of wine tied to the roof of his car. So it was bandit wine. That’s the kind of wine connosieur I am. But I digress.
We went to the party and I drank cheap bandit Shiraz and talked shit about anarchism and insurrection and typography and at some point somebody got a phone call from his friend who was nearby and there were guys with shaved heads wearing braces and he was feeling a bit nervous but he didn’t want us to come get him.
I missed everything that happened after that (mostly thanks to bandit wine) but it sounds like it went something like this: a neo Nazi went up to a guy who was unlocking his bike around the corner. He asked the guy if he was ‘some kind of commie’. The guy replied ‘yeah’. At which point the Nazi punched him.
After that there was some kind of confrontation between Nazis and party-goers which culminated in a Nazi picking up broken glass off the street and slicing his own throat and then yelling and screaming about how he’d been cut. Apparently this was some kind of bizarre attempt to start a fight.
Someone called the ambos and the cops showed up and the party dispersed pretty quick after that.
The whole confrontation with the Nazis was pretty fucking terrifying and nauseating because I’d like to think that people can walk the streets safely at night and not be assaulted by White supremacist dickheads, but the incident I really wanted to talk about happened after the cops had already left and the party had more or less dissipated and I was standing on the footpath trying to work out how to get back to the house where I was staying.
Two anarchists who’d been involved in the confrontation with the Nazis were explaining what happened to a group of very inebriated hipster types. The hipsters thought the whole thing was hilarious. The very distressed anarchists tried to explain that it wasn’t a joke, that Nazi attacks are very scary, that they were talking about physical violence… One of the hipsters rolled his eyes and replied that they were ‘missing the point’.
This whole interaction was very revealing. It made me think about how to someone who’s always led a privileged existence – who has class privilege, and White privilege, who has no direct family history of not having that privilege – violence and oppression are completely theoretical. Being beaten up by Nazis is just an interesting anthropological experience. It’s easy to see the irony in violence when it’s not being targeted at you. It’s easy to intellectualise oppression when it’s not being perpetrated towards you. To these kids racist violence is something you see in movies and read about in books, so it’s no wonder they couldn’t take it seriously when it actually happened in front of them.
The whole thing made me angry and depressed, because if you can’t get people to stand up against something as blatant and obvious as neo Nazis beating people up on the street, how can you get them to stand up against more subtle, less visible forms of oppression, like the ones perpetrated by the state? How the hell do you make people see that violence and oppression aren’t fairy tales or interesting plot devices. It’s a real thing that people live with, it impacts people’s freedom to live their lives as they like. Minimising it is a fucked up thing to do because it’s not glamorous and novel, it’s scary and the trauma of living with that fear is something too many people carry with them.
It was quite a lot to absorb in one wine addled night. It’s scary enough being faced with the reality of neo Nazi violence, but on top of it having it dismissed by other people, that’s the thing that really terrifies me.