Beyond Words

downloadIt’s not often I’m  lost for words – or when the only words that will fit are strong and obscene – but the developments with asylum  seekers since  the Abbot  government  have been in power have increasingly left me irate. I haven’t said much on here or in social media because I often feel that ‘liking’ a facebook page, ‘sharing’ a status update, or signing a petition is a less that minimal response. It requires nothing of me beyond being another angry voice in a small crowd.

As I was praying  this morning  I considered handing in my citizenship as a way of saying ‘count me out of this bullshit.’ But that’s pretty drastic and takes me out of the equation completely when it comes to influence. Not that I feel I have any…

That said, I know many Australians want to disassociate themselves from the actions of their government. Many of us feel a deep sense of shame and anger coupled with a disturbing impotence at what we see and hear.

But I keep coming back to the belief that this must actually be what the majority of Australians must want.  There must be a stack of votes in this baby for the government to ride it so hard. We have gone from being average to below average at showing needy people compassion to now being a model of oppression and persecution. We flout international laws on asylum seeking, produce offensive propaganda and then con our own people into believing there is such a thing as a ‘queue’ and an ‘illegal’.

I can accept that some of the media may be biased either way. Those supporting asylum seekers will highlight the atrocities. The government will highlight the ‘dangers’. But even if we take the polemic out of it, and try to be objective we can’t help but see a tragic absence of care for those who need it most.

Sure – we have been involved with some of these people and have been close to it, so there is a personal element to the conversation for us, but I sense that this is what is needed if we are see people rather than ‘illegals’.

The latest piece of propaganda created to deter potential refugees is beyond belief in what it communicates. The latest news and images from Manus island are also frightening in that it shows the volatility of the camps these folks are in. The decision by the government to round up those without permanent visas and send them home has some sinister overtones too.

Hope-less is the word that comes to mind all the time. Even those in prison have hope – they will be released – they will have a life. But for those who have been beaten and tortured and given up everything to escape and seek protection they are simply locked away out of sight until they can stand it no longer and would prefer to go home and die.

That seems to be the strategy. Get asylum seekers to the point where they can no longer handle the bordeom, hopelessness and poverty of their lives and where to go back seems like a better option.

What do we do? What do I do?…
That’s the problem I am feeling. I don’t like being unable to do anything at all. I don’t want to be seen as just a ‘lefty, refugee lover’ because I know its easy to look like that.
But I am angry – angry at a government that was voted in to ‘stop the boats’ and has taken that as a mandate to make sure no-one ever seeks asylum here in Australia.
I recently read The People Smuggler, the graphic story of an Iraqi refugee who to this day has not received a permanent residents Visa in Australia. If you want to understand some of the tensions involved then read this book. It tells a tragic and horrible story where the key word is ‘survival’.
I’m afraid this may have just turned into a rant, but I’m going to put it out there anyway. I’ll be looking for something creative to do that will make a difference. I’m just not sure where to put my spade in right now.

2 thoughts on “Beyond Words

  1. Fully agree with you, Hamo. But what can we do? – how can we effectively be the counter-culture to this sort of mindset? What does it mean to be salt and light in the situation?

  2. While the bigger policy issues remain critical & challenging, at a practical level friends of mine run Case for Refugees. It is a community legal service that connects probono lawyers with refugees. They need serious financial support especially as Govt policy becomes more draconian.

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