By Kim Bax.
Feminists should care about Schapelle, there I’ve said it, and so should anyone who’s bothered about justice. As Martin Luther King Jnr wrote “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” I care about her because she could be my daughter (I have two), and the incalculable grief of her Mother resonates hard. There but for the grace of God goes me.
But quite honestly, I’d let the case pass me by, assuming others were dealing with it, and rode off into the sunset on other causes, like our looming environmental cliff. Then in 2010, a friend sent me an email about her, and I was in two minds about checking out the link, but curiosity got the better of me and I did. When I bothered to take a deeper look, I was blown away at the glaring perversions of justice. How an earth had I allowed this to slide off my radar? And then my other instincts rolled in. On the front line of Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp in the early eighties, and in my much loved kinship with the sisterhood at Uni (I devoured so many books), I drank in a profound lesson. Nothing’s trivial, everything’s connected and the personal’s political. So I knew Schapelle mattered.
I also felt like slapping anyone (metaphorically of course), who referred to her (or her loved ones and supporters), as “Bogan.” I left school at 15 without certificates (hated the place, I was bullied and couldn’t be bothered with exams, they bored me). Dad worked on the production line at Fords, and a much loved uncle closely involved in my upbringing worked on the shop floor too, so I’ve got deep working class roots. Luckily, after swanning around London in junior office jobs for a bit, a successful stab at the local psych hospital’s entrance exam saw me accepted for three years training in the aging asylum. Florence Nightingale was my new role model, and a thirst to learn more was fired. Fast forward a few years, with my shiny new qualification on board, I ended up at Uni, in the social sciences with a deep interest in women’s issues. Then there was uproar as the war mongers set upon siting nuclear missiles at Greenham Common US air base, near Reading, just west of London. A small group of marchers departed from Wales to set up camp at the military complex, and it quickly evolved into an exclusively female protest, attracting hundreds thousands of women from all over the country, and all over the World. It was anarchic, disorganised, with no hierarchy anywhere, but it worked. The power and the passion was mind blowing and I found my niche. The authorities were in a tizz, the ethos was total non-violence, and plowing into groups of young, middle-aged and elderly women with batons was a very bad look, so they didn’t. Dragging away some young, muscled punk with tatts was one thing, doing the same to a bunch of grannies peacefully sitting in the way of a military truck with their knitting was different. It wouldn’t go down well on the box. We rang rings round the military and police, who couldn’t fathom our plans (mainly because we didn’t know ourselves until the last minute, it depended on the mood), or pick off our leaders (because there weren’t any). But it worked organically, in the way a rain forest works. Our hearts connected us, and the ancient power of “Women’s business” drew us together again in this modern day World.
So that sets the scene for my profoundly disgusted reaction to this quote about Schapelle, from a high-profile “Feminist” (and academic), featured by ABC Australia’s The Drum: “Here’s Schapelle with her Bold and the Beautiful name and her bogan fish-and-chip shop family” What the hell? I happen to like fish and chips, and respect the hard working people who serve it, and what does she mean by a vicious term like “Bogan”? I’ll tell you what it means, it means Schapelle’s trivial, she’s ignorant working class dross, she’s below you, don’t bother with her, don’t look for the deeper issues, there aren’t any, move along. There were also many heavy hints Schapelle’s supporters back her just because she’s white (underlining the author’s “Bogan” theme). Here’s one example: “For many, Schapelle is recognised simply, and sadly, as just a tragically unlucky white girl, treated harshly by those Muslims with their incomprehensible legal system and the sketchy lawmakers.” Well hullo lady, here’s a wake-up call. Let’s deconstruct your smears.
First, Schapelle’s supporters. They come from all backgrounds, from highly qualified professionals, to young kids who work at Woolies (and they deserve equal respect). They’re also multicultural, as is Schapelle’s family. She has siblings of mixed heritage, and Mercedes is married to an Indonesian. Prominent international activists are also vocal in backing her, such as U Gambira. He was a leader in the All-Burma Monks Alliance, and took a prominent role in the “Saffron Revolution,” earning imprisonment and torture for his troubles. He was eventually released after much global pressure. Arifin Wardiyanto is yet another overseas advocate. He’s a well known anti-corruption fighter and human rights champion in Indonesia. Further, Julian Assange’s mother Christine added her support and belief in Schapelle’s innocence. The rising tide is incredible.
Second, even the briefest examination of the facts (for those prepared to take an honest look), shows up the most glaring discrepancies in her case, which Gerry Georgatos has covered extensively in previous articles at The Stringer. So clearly, the ABC’s “Feminist” is wrong on the basics, but even more than that, her Goebbels-like labeling of ordinary working class people (very much like my own family), sickened me. If they’re “Bogan” (whatever that means), so am I. So let’s explore that modern-day tag of shame.
As a child, I remember my Dad’s old set of Second World War books, and how I’d pore over them with fascination and horror, as I absorbed pictures of pits filled with charred, emaciated bodies. I couldn’t look, but I couldn’t look away either. It always disturbed me how human beings could do that to each other, what an earth was powerful enough to drive that savagery? My later training in psychiatry and the social sciences gave me some answers. Language is powerful, language is magic in action, language creates reality and “Labelling” is the propagandist’s chief tool. So hey, don’t bother about that wop, that wog, that nigger, that bogan, they’re not like you, while the words themselves conjure up graphic images of degenerate humanity, people better off dead or marginalised. But it goes even deeper, seeing someone as “Other” is prerequisite for the most appalling violence against them (hence the trivialisation of the ghastly abuses Schapelle’s endured, which some performers have used as comedic fodder for their gigs), but that’s not enough, it needs an extra dollop of passion. Where does that come from? It comes from the shadow, it comes from the painful, unacknowledged drives we can’t bear to own, so we project them on to the conveniently labelled victims, the “Sluts,” the “Faggots,” the “Dirty Jews,” the “Filthy Muslims,” and the list goes on. I don’t even think it’s a conscious process, and it’s the fuel of hate. Hence the first burning times that swept Europe, as innocent women were incinerated or hung as “Witches,” and the second burning times as the Holocaust claimed a generation. The roots are the same, and here I respectfully bow to Willhelm Reich, the political activist and psychoanalyst who explored these powerful themes in his ground breaking book, “The Mass Psychology of Fascism,” as did psychiatrist Frantz Fanon in “The Wretched of the Earth.”
This brings me full circle to what I grasped at beginning of my four-year advocacy for an innocent woman e.g. “Nothing’s trivial, everything’s connected and the personal’s political. So I knew Schapelle mattered.” I could see the hate spewed about her (and her family), all over internet, quite out of proportion to the severity of the alleged crime (even if she was guilty), and I smelled a witch burning. The acrid smoke was obvious. Lindy Chamberlain was the last Australian woman on the pyre, Schapelle came next, both labelled and torched to protect corporate interests. Lindy was turned into the “Other” (e.g. not like us), by portrayals of her as a cold religious zealot, involved in a weird cult that sacrificed babies, while Schapelle is just a feckless and undeserving “Bogan,” ditto all those who love and support her. Meanwhile, the Northern Territory’s tourist industry still thrived, untroubled with tourists put off by child snatching dingoes, and QANTAS sails off into the night unsullied by deeply criminal baggage handlers. Set fire to the women instead.
However, there’s a twist in the tale for the corporate witch burners, and a deeply ironic one. The spectacle generates enormous passion and interest, because it’s not reality we’re dealing with, but the projected beliefs (and disowned drives), of the mob. So invoking the ancient archetype is not without hazards. Those powerful energies bend to no-one’s will. Whether looking on in horror or hate, no-one can avert their eyes from the spectacle. So when a Murdoch editorial opined “Hopefully, the unrelenting spotlight will be switched off whenever she returns home,” I managed a wry smile. No, they won’t and the crimes against an innocent cannot stay hidden forever, your naive wish is doomed.
This article was written in response to the following two articles by Lauren Rosewarne.