Carlo's Corner: Well obviously Mardi Gras has nothing to do with human rights

March 10, 2016
Mardi Gras sponsor ANZ automatic teller machines.
Mardi Gras welcomes sponsors such as ANZ, because nothing says 'celebrating progress' like a big bank funding fossil fuel corporations.

A controversy broke out at Sydney's Mardi Gras on March 6 when organisers threatened to ban the No Pride In Detention refugee rights float if they criticised Opposition leader Bill Shorten's refugee policies.

And fair enough. The Mardi Gras was begun by people demanding basic human rights and an end to dehumanisation and unjust repression, so there's obviously no connection with the current bipartisan treatment of refugees.

Sure, Shorten's policies involve support for illegally detaining asylum seekers — including gay refugees fleeing homophobic persecution — in cruel and degrading prison camps, but you have to keep things relevant.

That's why the Mardi Gras welcomes floats by the likes of ANZ, because nothing says “celebrating progress” like a big bank funding fossil fuel corporations.

I am sure everyone can agree that if anything speaks to the spirit of the '78ers who defied police brutality in the first ever Mardi Gras, it is surely activities threatening an eco-holocaust undermining the capacity of the planet to sustain human civilisation.

Malcolm Turnbull also became the first-ever prime minister to attend the Mardi Gras parade, which was a lovely gesture and no doubt he appreciated a break from all his hard work caving in to the homophobic right of his own party.

Some people have churlishly suggested it was a bit hypocritical for Turnbull to attend, given his government's recent actions, but cut the poor guy some slack.

What with putting the issue of same-sex marriage off to a potential future plebiscite that might or might not be binding some time after the next election, through to launching an investigation at the behest of batshit crazy Christian fundamentalists into the Safe Schools anti-bullying program aimed at improving the lives of LGBTI students, it's all been go, go, go.

If anyone deserves a chance to let his hair down and have a bit of a party, it is surely our PM. No doubt, first thing Monday, it was straight back to the grindstone of taking policy leads from Senator Cory Bernardi.

The Mardi Gras controversy does capture something of the disturbing “state of the nation”, as our government ignores growing pleas for humane treatment of desperate people requesting asylum, while disregarding the worsening climate crisis and approving new coalmines like an out-of-control alcoholic with a failing liver who just can't resist one more.

Still, if there is one thing that seems to reassure us as we sweat through record-smashing hot March nights, it's at least we aren't the US.

The rest of the world is watching the US Republican primaries with a sort of nervous laugh, like you might at a pub when a drunk approaches, looks you in the face and says something that you can't quite decide is an attempted joke or a dangerous threat.

Then again, the US already acts with such dangerously violent impunity, it can launch air strikes killing 150 people in Somalia — a country it isn't even at war with — and the rest of the world just shrugs and keeps focused on the main task of tweeting about the size of Donald Trump's hands.

Plenty of people in the US have very legitimate reasons to fear the increasingly violent  (archived by Internet Archive) racist sentiments Trump is whipping up in his disturbing campaign. But you can't help thinking that for Somalians at least, it wouldn't even be surprising if their response to the presidential race was to hope the crazy-hair dude wins so at least they'll get some entertainment value out of the imperial power before being slaughtered in its next drone strike.

Maybe each drone could be fitted with its one Trump replica hair piece so they can at least die with a smile on their face.

But there is a rare sign of hope, with the self-described socialist candidate Bernie Sanders shaking up the Democratic race. The significance can be seen in competing attitudes to Sanders versus Democrat establishment candidate Hillary Clinton over the US's traditional “backyard” of Latin America.

Coming under fire for Clinton's role in supporting a 2009 coup against a left-wing government in Honduras when she was Secretary of State, Clinton's campaign team dismissed her role (archived by Internet Archive) as just one of “active diplomacy”. That's an impressively inventive way to describe the military kidnapping an elected president at gunpoint and carrying out a nearly seven-year reign of terror to prop up a corrupt pro-US regime.

On the other hand, Sanders used a March 10 debate in Miami to slam US coups and invasions (archived by Internet Archive) in Latin America — even praising Cuba for its social gains. This is not just entirely unprecedented for a serious contender for the US presidency, it also means if Sanders wins the White House and sticks to that sort of attitude, it might finally be Washington, not the capitals of Latin America, facing the threat of a military coup.

Which would, at least, make a nice change.

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