‘Want to go see ‘Chasing Asylum’ with me?’ Danelle asked a few weeks back.
‘Dunno…’ I replied.
‘Because I already know the story and I’ll probably just end up pissed off, frustrated and feeling powerless at what’s happening… not sure I can stomach it. I hate being told there is a huge problem – oh and by the way – you can’t do anything to fix it.’
I still hadn’t decided at 5.00 tonight and the movie began at 6.30. In the end I agreed to go. I prayed as we drove… what do I need to see in this tonight?
And I did end up feeling pissed off and powerless, but perhaps that’s beside the point. The story wasn’t new – much of it I had heard before – the movie didn’t go anywhere surprising and while it was quite well made and gave some insights into the lives of those in detention, it also told the tragic tale of Australia’s resolute refusal to even contemplate sharing our country with anyone coming by boat.
So its no surprise that I’m in favour of doing more – much more. If we can spend $500000.00 annually to keep people in tents on an island then I imagine we can surely use that money to help them become valuable members of our society. The amount of money spent is the exact value we place on not having ‘those people’ in our society.
That said, I’m not an idealist. The movie didn’t address the question of ‘what if everyone came?’ How would we cope with the load? How would we need to change to accomodate the challenges that would go with that? Maybe that’s because those questions are so far removed from the Australian psyche that we can’t even contemplate them. Right now the best we can hope for is a fair(er) go for those poor people locked up indefinitely offshore.
The movie included stories from asylum seekers, stories from Aussies who had worked in detention centres and who could stomach it no longer. It told stories of the families who had seen loved ones head off in search of a better life only to die in the process.
Video of Tehran made me think again of my friend, Stephen, who came from there and was unable to settle in Australia, despite 4 years on a temporary visa, despite getting a job and finding his feet. Along the way he ‘accidentally’ found faith and his life was transformed. Unfortunately this was interpreted as him ‘conveniently’ finding God, while the truth was anything but that. His new faith made his possibility of settlement much harder. About 18 months ago he was arrested, sent back to Villawood and then Darwin, before he eventually gave in and agreed to go back to Iran. We haven’t heard from him since, but we hope he is still alive.
I sensed the most poignant moment was the footage of Vietnamese refugees coming to Australia and being welcomed and settled. I guess we could say that all turned out ok?… We didn’t finish up being overrun, or losing our identity, our jobs, our livelihoods to these new migrants…
At times as I watched I was hoping the movie would end. Some of it was boredom. I have heard it all before. Some of it was simply not wanting to hear more information about a situation I feel helpless to change. I don’t like feeling powerless, or living in a democracy where the current choice is for either party A who will enforce the status quo or party B who will do the same.
But in the end I sensed that maybe I was just there to weep with those who weep. Perhaps the point of tonight wasn’t to spark me to build an extension to take in a new family or to up stumps and work somewhere else among these people.
Perhaps it was just to share in their pain and feel a smidge of their helplessness and to pray for the wisdom to know where that leads.