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Fear, Prejudice, Tolerance

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Summary

Three acclaimed writers explore the crucial issues facing contemporary Australia: fear, prejudice and tolerance.

Christos Tsiolkas questions why the notion of tolerance has replaced the language of justice, equality and rights in today’s political vocabulary. He asks why the liberal left has failed to counter the rhetoric of the ‘clash of civilisations’. Tsiolkas claims this is a failed logic which damns multiculturalism in favour of nationalism. He argues that in this new globalised world, we need to create a set of ethics that goes beyond tolerance.

Gideon Haigh traces the phenomenon of nationalism from its enlightenment origins through its fascist excesses and examines how Australia arrived at its own sense of nationhood. What underlies our latest incarnation: a shrill, aggressive, brittle politics of narcissism, pioneered by Pauline Hanson, and pandered to by John Howard. It also ponders how the process reduced the liberal left to mute onlookers.

Alexis Wright asserts that Australia’s lack of tolerance and adoption of prejudice as patriotism has led to a fear that paralyses both Aboriginal and white Australians. She asks whether fear can rob hope, and argues passionately that we must resist personal and collective fear and trust literature to tell the truth about ‘the darkness inside’.

This impassioned and provocative trinity of essays is testament to the linguistic power and fierce intellect of these important Australian writers.

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