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Tackling extremism requires cultural change, not just laws

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In 1994, the year he would become president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela observed in his autobiography, “No one is born hating another person … People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate they can be taught to love.”

Police stand between far-right and anti-racism protesters at the St Kilda rally.Credit:Darrian Traynor

Seeing the world as it sometimes is, we may be tempted to repudiate this dictum as laudable yet unattainable. But imagining the world as it ought to be, who among us could ever doubt the hopefulness and compelling force of such a historic and iconic figure?

Extremism is more than a viewpoint you dispute or even detest. It means words or actions bearing the hallmark or connotation of violence that are so fanatical they would upend proper authority and debase basic democratic traditions.

Signs of recent extremism in Melbourne might give us occasion to reflect on Mandela’s words and ask whether we are doing enough to address their causes.

On the fringe: Queensland senator Fraser Anning at the St Kilda rally last Saturday.Credit:AAP

In the latest in a series of recent and disturbing anti-Semitic attacks around Melbourne, an aged care facility with many residents Holocaust survivors was desecrated by a neo-Nazi group with a swastika.

The St Kilda rally last Saturday was evidence that, while pathetic, efforts by certain small outfits to kindle prejudice, and potentially disorder, cannot be........

© The Sydney Morning Herald