A few days ago, I returned home after a short trip to Australia. The day started badly, and only got worse. Firstly, I arrived at the airport at 12:15pm for what I thought was a 2:15pm flight, only to find out that I’d got the time wrong and the plane didn’t leave til after 5pm! So, I had a long period sitting around at a highly boring airport, with next to nothing to do and next to nothing to eat. There was a couple of things there for a vegan to consume (mainly coffee and chippies/crisps), but by and large I remained hungry, knowing the flight itself wouldn’t be any better. Then, to make matters worse, my flight was delayed by just under an hour as the plane was late to arrive.
This was small fry stuff though, compared to what was to come. As I headed through passport control on my way to my gate, I was the only person to be trace-tested for explosives. Now, having dreads and generally not wearing the most professional looking clothes, I’m kinda used to getting extra attention, so this didn’t overly frustrate me in or of itself. What pissed me off, however, was the piece of paper they get you to read before they test you – essentially a consent form. The form was in a large number of different languages, the first of which, as one would expect, being English. In big bold lettering across the top, the words “random test”. I suppose thats meant to make the reciever feel a little better – like they aren’t being singled out simply for their skin colour, hairstyle or clothing. Of course, however, this is exactly what is happening. And guess what? Australian customs don’t even do a good job hiding it. The second language on the consent form for the “random” test? Arabic, of course. Because you just know there are enough arabic speakers heading through Sydney airport that enough are bound to get caught up in the “random” test to justify its second listing…yeah right! Arseholes. Either make it truly random, or stop pretending you aren’t racist, prejudiced fuckwits.
I then had a nice boring flight, and got home late at night. I knew my flatmates had come to pick me up, so I was looking forward to getting home again. New Zealand Customs, however, had a different idea.
While going through passport control, I was subject to significant questioning – about the countries I had visited on that passport (from memory, as they had already taken it from me!) and when/where/why I was there, about my dreads (how long I’ve had them) and my glasses (why wasn’t I wearing them? The answer being contact lenses). Still, after 15-20 minutes of that (as opposed to most people taking 15-20 seconds), I figured I was through and could go home. Once again, it was not going to be so easy…
I was the only person from my flight put into the hardcore customs line – everyone else was allowed to choose to declare or not declare as they saw fit, while I was ordered to go to the furtherst aisle where I would be subject to a more in depth check. I was there, all up, for approximately 2 hours! During my time, I saw 4-5 other flights go through, and not a single other person was sent to the in depth aisle.
So, while I was there, I had to unpack every single item from my big pack and my carry-on bag. Much of it was subject to x-ray to ensure there weren’t any drugs inside (items like my sleeping bag, cellphone, both bags..basically anything with an enclosed space), while a number of other items were swabbed and tested for drug traces. While this was happening, the Customs agent asked me questions which I had to answer, if I ever wanted to get to the other side and go home. Some predictable questions – Have you ever done drugs? Have you ever been convicted? What is your occupation? Some questions were a bit weirder, a lot more personal and quite invasive – in depth questioning on my political beliefs, questioning on why I was interested in radical Jewish theory, which moved on to questioning and him attempting to deny my Jewish identity because I am atheist…and then, my belongings…
Most of the questioning, and most of what he wrote down in his little notebook, was related to my belongings. Below I will reprint the items that he had an issue with – some are simply bizarre and quite pathetic. It’s quite disturbing to see what they are interested in…
“Chemicals make our lives better” – text with picture of 2 headed alien figure
“Good Night White Pride” – text with image of antifa kicking a falling fascist
“Consumption is a disease not a lifestyle” – text
“We all know it’s wrong but we don’t speak up. We don’t speak up. I’m unsur and I’m afraid and I don’t really know if this is the right thing to do. But I tell you this: The silence ends here and now” – text with image of young girl on highway pointing to a circle-a roadsign. And yes, he actually wrote down the whole text!
“oceania.indymedia.org” – Text with Indymedia logo / skull and crossbones.
“www.stopg20.org” – Text and logo for the Stop G20 crew.
And a patch with 4 little black block figures pointing at a map and scheming.
Reinventing Anarchy – What anarchists are thinking these days – This book has about 2 dozen contributing authors, he wrote down 3 then gave up!
The Bookseller Of Kabul by Asne Seierstad – A book about a bookseller in Kabul that my Sister gave to me to read…not exactly politically revolutionary material!
East End Jewish Radicals 1875 – 1914 by William J. Fishman – It’s a fucking historical case study of Jews in London in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s for fucks sake. When he wrote this down, I was fucking fuming at the ridiculousness of the situation.
Anarchism: What it is and what it isn’t by Chaz Bufe – A short pamphlet which I offered to leave with him to read. He said thanks but no thanks…
Trouble Makers: Anarchism and Syndicalism, The Early Years Of The Libertarian Movement in Aotearoa by Frank Prebble – Once again, Customs doesn’t like people learning about history from the early 1900’s…
Mutiny – A zine from a Sydney anarchist crew. Coming to Aotearoa infoshops soon, so keep your eye out!
A communique on tactics and organisation to the black bloc from within the black bloc – This pamphlet REALLY freaked him out, it was kinda funny to watch. Even funnier was when he kept looking for the author’s names and refused to understand the concepts of pseudonyms or anonymity.
And last but not least, an article that I’d cut out of the Dominion Post, headlined “Mosque suspect can’t be banned”. It was about a stupid kid who graffitid swastikas and other things on a Lower Hutt Mosque but can’t be banned because he’s too young. This was near the end of my wait, and I realised he’d just been writing basically from dictation rather than actually taking in anything I said when he asked: “So, are you for or against racism?”
And perhaps the most pathetic thing of all? Their excuse for why I got called into the in depth check was that the woman at passport control thought my hands were “too soft”! Too soft for what? Fucked if I know…
Arseholes, the lot of ‘em.