Simon Collins

Simon Collins

20 June 2020

9:00 AM

20 June 2020

9:00 AM

Like most Speccie readers I am anxious to give public vent to my outrage at police brutality, institutional racism and historic injustice. But so far age and circumstance have conspired to sabotage or severely limit my attempts to express solidarity with my brothers and sisters in Minneapolis, New York and Chicago. For example, while taking the knee in my local Coles prior to asking an employee of colour for directions to the toothpaste aisle, I pulled a hammy, and had to ask her instead if she would mind pushing my loaded trolley to the checkout, prompting another shopper to accuse me (quite rightly) of white male privilege.

But remembering what Chairman Dan – sorry, Mao – said about a journey of a thousand miles, I was undeterred by this experience, and as soon as I was able to walk unaided went looking for public edifices commemorating instances of more sustained racism, with the intention of toppling them. Unfortunately, the only statue in the lower north shore suburb where I live is a life-size bronze of a fox terrier on a drinking fountain, and while it is highly likely that Foxie’s owner was white and male, and entirely possible that Foxie was trained by him to chase and bite people of colour, Google could not confirm my suspicions, so I had to content myself with writing ‘OPPRESSOR’S BEST FRIEND?’ across the plinth, in washable, organic Texta.


The next morning, fuelled by inherited guilt, I hobbled into the city, where I came across two more obvious candidates for demolition which have so far escaped the attentions of the mob. One of them, situated a few metres from the steps of the Town Hall, is the statue of another canine conquistador, a scottie called Islay, who was, according to the accompanying plaque, a favourite pet of Queen Victoria. For far too long Sydneysiders have done the Shop of Shame in the building named after this woman. A woman who presided, lest we forget, over the expansion of a global empire built entirely on oppression and exploitation. Surely it can only be a matter of time before this monument to historical injustice and cathedral to contemporary capitalism is torched, its dignified sandstone proportions and pleasing Romanesque interior in no way atoning for the crimes against humanity that may or may not have been committed by the ancestors of the white man who designed it.

For much the same reasons, the name of Australia’s second-most populous state must now be changed to better reflect the values and social order its leader has worked so hard to establish since taking office. Some Victorians want their state to be renamed Victopia, others prefer Dystoria, but in the meantime, their northern neighbours can start the tumbril rolling by beheading the animal to whom our current monarch’s great-great grandmother tossed biscuits when she was not approving the subjugation of less developed and differently pigmented nations. I had a go with the saw attachment on my Swiss army knife but had to stop when I got a blister.

I found the Sydney statue which most obviously deserves to be pulled down, chopped up and thrown off Circular Quay, halfway along Macquarie St. in the shadows of the State Library. The name of this street alone, being an homage to NSW’s first governor and, ergo, genocide facilitator, is offensive enough to make everything on it subject to the wrath of the righteous, and now they have finished (for the time being, at least) with the Cook statue in Hyde Park, it is indeed possible that they will work their way steadily down towards the Opera House. Cook took no part in the colonisation of Australia, of course, and whatever iniquities Macquarie and his charges inflicted were restricted to a relatively small area of one state. So one shudders to think what the protestors will do to the statue which commemorates the friend and constant companion of the man who facilitated the expansion of British colonialism – and all the cruelty and injustice that entailed – to every inlet, beach and promontory of this vast continent. I fear that nothing can save Trim, Matthew Flinders’ cat.

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