I had a post about crystallised ginger I wanted to write today. But then I was made party to a terrible crime, and I can’t think about anything else. I cannot get the picture out of my head of those exhausted shocked men on the beach, and the bodies of children under a bit of cardboard.
I get it that Australia can’t provide a home for everybody who wants to come here. I get it that there are often hard and hard-hearted decisions that have to be made in life, and there is courage in being able to make least worst decisions. I get it that asylum seekers who board a boat in Indonesia are, at that moment, free from immediate peril whatever the circumstances that landed them up in Indonesia in the first place. I get it that allowing that pathway to work will only dig deeper a channel for a stream of people fleeing desperate circumstances that is big enough to drown the rescuer along with the rescued. I get it that it is a black market that enriches conscienceless mercenaries. I get it that a selection process for refugees should be based on who is in the most desperate circumstances, or on who has waited longest, or on who has the best chance of making a good life in Australia, not on the irrational and unchosen process of who has the means and the daring to find a boat.
It is indefensible though to allow people to drown. We rescue lone yachties in the Southern Ocean at breathtaking expense. We rescue yachties from a “remote part of the Indian Ocean north-west of the French-owned Kerguelen Island” with no question about whose territorial waters they are in. Don’t tell me we can’t find and rescue a fishing boat full of brown people as far away as Sydney is from my place.
It is indefensible to keep people in concentration camps, onshore, offshore, anywhere. Thousands and thousands of young men gave their lives in the Second World War on the basis that this is an intolerable evil. It is indefensible to separate parents from their children or husbands from wives or brothers from sisters by arbitrary policies aimed only at getting headlines from the gutter Murdoch press.
It is indefensible to take years to make a decision and determination on where asylum seekers can set up a new home. We have lawyers, and the capacity to change laws if we need to. As a member of the Security Council we even now have the opportunity to show leadership drafting new refugee treaties if we reckon the old ones are too hard for lawyers to figure out.
It is indefensible for a rich country like Australia to do less than its share in the world to settle people fleeing starvation, war, and rising sea levels as well as persecution. And if our share is bigger than we would like, indefensible to be tightwad about what we will spend to help solve the problems that cause people to flee in the first place. Especially when we have our share of the blame, and we take the profit from stuffing up the world’s climate systems and causing calamities people flee from in the first place.
Stupid seems to pale into insignificance beside evil, but it’s stupid too. If I were one of those people trying to come to Australia with the best of intentions to make a life for my family, then losing everyone I loved due to such inhumanity would unhinge me. The anger stage of grief would consume my life. I think I would go mad, and angry mad people are dangerous.
All the posturing and brinkmanship and tough guy stuff would be pathetic in other circumstances, but in these circumstances it is sheer evil.