The demonstration at St Kilda might have shocked many, but I’ve seen pro-nazi sentiment anonymously carved on toilet doors all over the nation.
As far as discourse goes, crisscrossing this country in a truck is not a particularly even endeavour. The voices over the CB offer their thoughts, but they’re often portraying a character. It, in its own special way, is a moving echo chamber. I’ve heard many castigate the government, minority Australia or the threat of terrorism, but it is often framed in a way to gain support. I don’t strictly believe that they believe what they’re saying. They’re just breaking up the boredom of the road, four letters at a time.
Many truckies cut down these antagonists (or form them) in order to feel part of a community. Agreeing that someone else is ruining something is the basis of democracy, and indeed, it feels cathartic.
But the crackle of the radio provides an unreliable narrator. Often, the only kernel of absolute truth is found in the places we rest. Sometimes in the earnest chat between drivers, but certainly tattooed into the walls of truck stop bathrooms. There, free of judgement, criticism or responsibility, resides what we’re really thinking.
Alongside the random phone numbers promising good times, or whoever it is (or whoever’s mum) and the frequency of their rooting, is the barest of thoughts, emotions – a narrative that continually shifts. It follows the news cycle. Back in the year of the plebiscite, the tone was often typical, but often not what you’d expect. Often, it’s hate and love. One in response to the other. “Fuck fags” was scrawled into the wall, followed by a missive in a different colour: “I do”, which cascaded to the final word of a third party, yelling in blocky capitals: “we all shit here.”
This, mind you, was a stop in the middle of practically nowhere. It’s a fairly accurate barometer of who we are. I don’t trust the headlines, nor the newspolls, but the silent commentary is a fairly reliable mark.
Also on The Big Smoke
- They’re Nazis, it’s time we call them by their name
- POC don’t fear the St Kilda rally, we fear those who ignore it
Moving into 2019, the tone has shifted noticeably. While many of us rightly shook our heads at the images of Nazi salutes at St Kilda beach (and the cost of one Senator’s day out, which we paid for), I’m not particularly surprised that it happened. In fact, if you could join all the swastikas I’ve seen on toilet doors, it’d probably lead you to that same shoreline.
You see, the toilet door is a one-way conversation. Often, it is entirely critical, either of someone or some thing. In the last 14 months, the tone has changed. It has morphed into prideful epithets, or calls to arms, and they tend to follow the tone of “it’s ok to be white”, endorsed by an echo of the same statement. It is now a place to rally around.
It’s easy to point out the Nazi when it is saluting you, but there were many goose steps prior to this week. Yes, we have a Nazi problem, but we’ve had one for a while. Extremism walks in baby steps, testing the water to see how far it can wade in. They might be painted across broadsheet now, but we’ve made it ok. Scott Morrison’s soznotsoz castigation of these people is one aspect, but the blame doesn’t solely rest on his shoulders. Nor does it with Sky News, who decided to put Blair Cottrell to air. They were, of course, attempting to do what every news force endeavours to do – drag eyeballs. It was a mistake, sure, but the reason it happened is because they figured enough people would listen to what he had to say. It even goes beyond the return of Pauline Hanson. Each was a brick laid to transport them to St Kilda.
The responsibility of those who disagree is to notice it, notice it, and not let it slide until it becomes overt. If we’re going to use the Nazi example, we shouldn’t look to 1939 for examples of it as a comparison. If we expect them to invade something, or openly commit acts of hideous violence, then we’re blind to the actual machinations of their creed. If we want to kill ours in the crib, we should look far earlier, back to when Hitler’s mob was a just small fringe group of angry people in a Munich beer hall.