Youngsters who take the political bull by its horns

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Take this egg for your face! A 15-year old boy targeted Australian Senator Fraser Anning in response to comments the senator made about Muslim immigrants to New Zealand and Australia

WHEN a teenager smashed an egg over the head of Australian Senator Fraser Anning last week, it was a potent act of protest which will rightly be spoken about; probably imitated, for many years to come. It follows the cliché of an audience throwing eggs at an unpopular politician pontificating in a hall. This particular politician greatly deserved it.

The senator had done what white supremacists do everywhere – attack immigrant Muslim and other migrant communities, as they have also done to Jews in the past. This followed the grisly killing of 50 Muslim worshippers in Christchurch, New Zealand last week by a man described as a white supremacist. The senator did not exactly justify the killings, but clearly considered Muslim immigrants not welcome.

In the case of this egg and the embarrassment, the white senator will forever be the butt of jokes among supporters and foes alike, notwithstanding his aggressive response and slapping of the youngster, and subsequent wrestling of the boy to the ground by his hoods.

But for sure, he and his thuggish ilk will not disappear. Sadly they will be back, on the wave of increasing racism and nationalism in the world, not just in New Zealand and Australia, but more in Europe, exacerbated by unsavoury comments against ethnic minorities from the leader of the world’s most powerful country, President Donald Trump of the United States. Trump promises to “Make America great again!” but his underlying message is racist. Swastikas are appearing in unlikely domestic and public places, from Canada to Hungary. The world needs to move, lest we return to the poisonous racism of the 1930s.

The difference between this egg-in-your-face protest and other more conventional forms was that it was done by such a young person, a teenager too youthful to have had much political exposure. It shows the depth of unhappiness and sense of embattlement of Muslims. His means of protest was so unorthodox and theatrical that it brought immediate smiles to most people, even those who disagreed with the message. The video went viral worldwide.

There is a South African precedent: this Australian youngster’s gesture caught everyone so utterly by surprise, the same as four young women did when they stood up at the front of the audience in August 2016 at an Independent Electoral Commission results announcement ceremony in Pretoria, as President Jacob Zuma addressed the crowd. They held five signs saying “I am 1 in 3”, “#”, “10 years later”, “Khanga” and “Remember Khwezi”. The posters referred to the woman Zuma was accused of raping 10 years previously.

They stood there unmoving in black dresses, holding the placards in front of the podium, backs to Zuma. Nobody listened to him, he was unaware of what was on the posters and was overshadowed by the four women, who were then violently removed by the presidential security. But the crowd was drawn to the young protesters, and to the words on their posters rather than Zuma. They stole the show in the same way the Australian boy stole it from the racist senator.

It’s as if the world’s youth are on the move and won’t take adults’ hypocrisy anymore. At January’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish climate change activist all but stole the show with a howl to the comfortable global elite that “the house is on fire” and condemned the record number of flights by carbon-spewing private jets which ferried rich corporate bigwigs to the event. She was nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. Grown-ups are being taught by the children in this topsy-turvy world.

GEOFF SIFRIN is a journalist in Johannesburg, South Africa, and former Editor of the SA Jewish Report. Email:  geoffs@icon.co.za 

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