Jim Saleam, the head of the ultra-right Australia First party, is positively gleeful at weekend violence that saw a mob of drunken white youths pick on ethnic Arabs and try and drive them out of a swish Sydney beachside suburb.
"This civil uprising, which may well continue for some time, has actually gone a long way to bury the concept of multiculturalism," Saleam said.
He blames the replacement of a whites-only immigration policy 30 years ago with the color-blind one that rules today for racial tension that bubbled to a head on Cronulla beach on Sunday and sparked reprisal attacks 24 hours later.
But for most people it's not the concept of multiculturalism that is being questioned but its application.
"The violence of last weekend was not evidence of the breakdown of multiculturalism but, rather, its absence," said Gerard Henderson, the head of an independent think tank called the Sydney Institute.
Multiculturalism is the doctrine that immigrants can keep their languages, customs and religions so long as they obey the law and identify as Australians. It's a policy embraced by all political parties.
In the view of some, the shock troops of multiculturalism were none other than the Lebanese-origin youths who were booted out of Cronulla on Sunday and returned there the following night to reclaim their birthright to walk any beach in Australia.
Cronulla is an aberration in modern day Australia, where a quarter of the 20 million population were born elsewhere. In the suburb, more than nine out of 10 of its residents are from Anglo-Saxon stock.
In nearby Lakemba, a suburb that Saleam and his fellow-thinkers describe as a Muslim ghetto, is in fact a place where three-quarters of the residents are not Muslims and a quarter speak English at home.
Few share Saleam's opinion that Australia will go the way of France and that rioting will rumble on through a long hot summer month. The prediction is that tit-for-tat attacks will go on, arrests will be made and an uneasy truce will settle on a turf war between suburbs that are only a half-hour drive apart.
Cronulla, anyway, is up for change: Other eastern beach suburbs have been taken over by rich professionals and the "locals" have been pushed out by price rises.
The shocking scenes at Cronulla have shaken an Australia that has prided itself on settling 6 million settlers from 150 countries since large-scale immigration began in 1947.
It has sparked flashbacks to 1996 when right-wing rabblerouser Pauline Hanson swept into the federal parliament on a stop-Asian-immigration platform. Hanson, who went on to win 11 percent of the vote in a Queensland state election, has since left politics. Significantly, the last election Hanson fought was as a resident of Southerland Shire, the municipality that contains Cronulla.
The images of beer-brave youths that flashed around the world were incontrovertibly of racist thugs. Attesting to that were T-shirts emblazoned with slogans like "Ethnic Cleansing Unit" and "Fuck off Lebs."
"That was the ugliest manifestation of racism we have seen so far in this country," said Keysar Trad, head of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia.
"Nobody wants to see this violence in Australia. Nobody from the Middle East, nobody from the Anglo community. It's something that's most unfortunate and should never have happened," he said.
But happen it did, prompting a flood of recriminations and a sea of opinions on why it happened.
There is fault on both sides. Alcohol helped fuel white hatred of dark-skinned people that was expressed in mindful violence. The retaliation from ethnic Arabs was cold and calculated and in direct defiance of Trad and other community leaders.
Macquarie University demographer Jim Forrest has pointed out an aberration in Australia's immigration patterns that goes some way to explain some deeply entrenched anti-social behavior among youths of Lebanese descent.
Unemployment in these enclaves is twice the national average, crime rates are high and social commentators have made much of a generation that seems beyond the control of its parents.
Nadia Jamal, who grew up in the area and is the author of The Glory Garage: Growing up Lebanese Moslem in Australia, asks why "some men of Australian Lebanese Muslim background seem to be so aggressive and violent" and why they are mired in low-paying jobs.
"For their part," Jamal said, "Muslims need to ask themselves why so many young Muslim men, and not Muslim women, have problems."
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has over the past few months continued to escalate its hegemonic rhetoric and increase its incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone. The US, in turn, has finally realized how its “strategic ambiguity” is increasingly wearing thin. Similarly, any hopes the US had that the PRC would be a responsible stakeholder and economic player have diminished, if not been abandoned. Taiwan, of course, remains as the same de facto independent, democratic nation that the PRC covets. As a result, the US needs to reconsider not only the amount, but also the type of arms
Taking advantage of my Taipei Times editors’ forbearance, I thought I would go with a change of pace by offering a few observations on an interesting nature topic, the many varieties of snakes in Taiwan. I will be drawing on my experiences living in Taiwan five times, from my teenage years in Kaohsiung back in the early sixties, to my last assignment as American Institute in Taiwan Director in 2006-9. Taiwan, with its semitropical climate, is a perfect setting for serpents. Indeed, one might say serpents are an integral part of the island’s ecosystem. Taiwan is warm, humid, with lots of
China constantly seeks out ways to complain about perceived slights and provocations as pretexts for its own aggressive behavior. It is both victimization paranoia and a form of information warfare that keeps the West on the defensive. True to form, China objected even to the innocuous reference to Taiwan at April 16’s summit meeting between US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Neither leader’s prepared remarks even mentioned Taiwan, out of deference to the Japanese side. Biden’s opening statement was modest: “Prime Minister Suga and I affirmed our ironclad support for US-Japanese alliance and for our shared security.
There is no ambiguity when it comes to war. Ambiguity begs for certainty and a lack thereof has historically led to war. History is full of examples: Europe’s and the US’ ambiguity as to how they would respond to Hitler’s growing territorial expansion in Europe was certainly a contributing factor to World War II. In the same vein, US ambiguity toward Japan’s expansionist militarism in the 1930s clearly led to the Pearl Harbor attacks that started the war in Asia in 1941. Ambiguity in a world with leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) will inevitably