the scourging of the shire

Whether it be the night drives up to listen to the ocean, a number of leisurely breakfasts in Gymea, Miranda, Cronulla, the 6am trips to Sylvania McDonalds after staying up all night watching videos, I have a lot of happy memories of the Shire.

So many, in fact, that it’s easy to overlook any problems that you hear about.

Many months back, when a group of people were spitting on the Bali Memorial, for reasons best known to themselves; nothing was done – another commonplace occurrence in Cronulla: groups of people indulging in antisocial behaviour: these things happen when you have young, hot-blooded people around.

Things changed though: Two weekends ago, when (out of uniform?) lifeguards were beaten up for smart mouthing; last weekend, when ‘rioting’ broke out.

Harder to overlook.

Sydney itself has barely changed – in the space of a couple of weeks, there are no significant visual changes to the place.

There’s a change in mood, though. Especially if you’re travelling through certain parts of the city at night. Not a change for the better, either. Parts of town need to be avoided – for a while.

And what’s the main response we hear?

  • “How bad are these people?”
  • “They should leave our country if they don’t want to (this or that)… “
  • “It’s Un-Australian”
  • “It’s all too Australian”
  • “It’s an outbreak of racism.”
  • “It’s not an outbreak of racism.” (Can a group of people who can’t tell a Lebanese person from someone of 5 or 6 other nationalities be called racists? Is it still racism when you’re upset with people who look like a particular race? I would tend to call that bigotry, or thug-mentality, but I would like to think that the term racism refers to a prejudice directed against a particular race. I’m happy to be corrected on that.

I was disappointed with myself that my first reaction wasn’t along the lines of “How should my faith influence my response to this situation?”. Having had a little more time to think about it, I’m reminded that the Christian response to this situation is to reach people on both sides of the disagreement with the gospel: the good news about Jesus.

How do we get from violence on the street to a situation where having a faith-based discussion is possible? By calming down the hostilities between the various parties. A minority prefer an ongoing state of violent fighting rather than peace: its unlikely that this group can be satisfied in the long term: perhaps if you’re wanting to have violent fighting take place on the street, it might be time to rethink your aims: it doesn’t seem like a sustainable goal.

More people would like to be able to enjoy the beach – some are happy to enjoy the beach, and share it with others: some would only like to extend that courtesy to people who have the same kind of skin colour, and shire pedigree. It seems that these people could be persuaded – for the sake of the greater good – to be more welcoming of strangers, provided all beach activities are limited to the peaceful enjoyment of the sand and surf.

If we’re to return to – and even improve upon – the kind of Cronulla we had before the outbreak of violence, an environment of peaceful discussion, and some common ground, must be reached.

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