Today I arrived at the vigil feeling teary. So much sorrow. More people somehow surviving so much loss. More people drowned after such traumatic experiences. More blood on our hands. Oceans of tears.
During the day I read some of what Jon Stanhope, former ACT chief minister, who has been Christmas Island’s administrator since last October said:
”I sometimes wish that perhaps some of the debate, some of the commentary … that each of us would perhaps look at asylum seekers not as a bulk anonymous grouping of individuals, but as individual human beings that have hopes and aspirations and dreams and feel the same pain and suffer the same grief as each of us,” he told ABC radio on Wednesday.
He went on to say: ”We have a one-year-old baby in our mortuary, the child of an asylum seeker family. I wished we named [him] … I wish we humanised them. I wish we gave them that respect in death.”
and I would add – in life.
People seeking asylum are dying at sea not because we are ‘not tough enough’ but because Australian politicians, mainstream media and parts of the fear-affected population have no interest in creating safe ways to travel to Australia. Their interest lies in shoring up their own power through fear-mongering, cruelty and the ‘sacrifice’ of many bodies and minds.
As Kon Karapanagiotidis of the ASRC points out in an interview with Michael Short in The Zone says: “There is no queue to bloody jump is the problem. This idea of why do we have boats and these people must be jumping a queue: all we have to do is look at Indonesia and go why did boats come from there. And we have to just stop and go: two things:
* One, an Australian Government in the last three years has taken how many people from Indonesia that have been assisted refugees? Fifty-two a year. The queue to come from Indonesia to Australia for someone who’s been assessed as a refugee is currently 37 years.
*Our Government is spending $36 million at the moment to build detention centres there where women and children are being treated like animals on our dime, under our name. So, if we had a genuine refugee processing system in Indonesia, if we had a refugee and humanitarian intake that reflected what other western countries do, we wouldn’t have these boats coming in that way. People would actually have a way of coming that was much safer for them.”
“What Kevin Rudd is doing now is he’s building a new detention empire, just like John Howard did. Take this as a figure: We’re spending $973.6 million to keep Christmas Island open for the next five years. You know what that would do for our organisation, the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre? It would fund us for 540 years, to care for just as many people in the community. Five hundred and forty years, for five years”. Read more:http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/society-and-culture/read-the-full-transcript-20100621-ypk2.html#ixzz2ZJHH11tP
As Despina said tonight – “they [politicians] talk about being tough on ‘people smugglers’. They’re creating a business, trading in humans and suffering!”.
For me, I think about the White Australia Policy and realise that what we now have is the white supremacist policy. Both Rudd and Abbott’s views are based on white supremacist ideology, the notion that certain groups of people who do not fit into the everchanging category of whiteness – are to be feared, hated, fought against. Within this there are those who ‘deserve freedom’, those who ‘deserve imprisonment’ and those who ‘deserve death’ – not because of any crime committed or any exceptional innocence. Certain lives are valued. Certain lives are not.
Within Australia at the moment hate speech has become the norm, incited and legitimised by the lies and misrepresentations of our so-called leaders. And it is sticky. It sticks to people, is regurgitated constantly and creates people who – it seems to me – are less than human(e).
This is something that Indigenous Australians have been living with since invasion and know intimately. Lionel Fogarty writes in ‘Jagera’ about his people’s struggle: ‘Our struggle was always against a whiter darkness”.
Yes. ‘A whiter darkness’.
It seems fitting to finish this post with quotes from some of the children in Pontville Detention Centre:
“Even if you make this place heaven it is not enough for us because we feel like we are in a cage. We feel people see us like animals in a cage…”
Remember that tonight there are 1600 children in detention centres “like animals in a cage”.
It was heartening that there were quite a few people at the vigil tonight.
I will be on the Market Building Steps tomorrow from 5pm -6.30pm