Guest post today by Gerard Oosterman, artist, farmer and blogger.
Turkey promised to keep it’s borders open for the people fleeing the violence in Syria. Many thousands of Syrians have crossed into Turkey. TV footage shows men, women and children walking into that country.
Even though Turkey is a country with a large population of over seventy million and already coping with an overflow of many other nationalities, it has not lost its humanity in doing the right thing by extending its hospitality to those so much worse off. They are quickly opening disused buildings and building camps, and constructing a temporary hospital.
If Turkey can do it, where is our compassion?
Lack of ‘humaneness’ is what seems to doggedly divide Australia from most of the rest of the world, with a deeply ingrained hostility towards others. It is especially directed to those hapless victims of endless wars that somehow managed to make it anywhere near our shores.
Our present minister and previous government ministers have exalted in, ‘we must make conditions here as harsh as possible as a deterrent’. The general gist of the messages from our governments has been constant: “No-one, we repeat, no-one should come here on the understanding they will be treated with compassion or care if they jump the ‘queue’ or come ‘illegal’ by boat,” is what they are saying. The political leaders are well aware that those sentiments will be well rewarded with the approval of thousand of voters.
The latest threat of sending at least 800 refugees to Malaysia just about takes the cake in the manoeuvring of our desperate government keen to further our whipped up xenophobia. The fact that this whipping might be translated to a caning in Malaysia is seen as a mere bagatelle, easily overcome with a few soothing words of a promise that it would most likely not happen. The UNHCR seems less convinced.
While the conversation is continuing and a flurry of visits to New Guinea and Nauru are intended to underline our tough stance once again, some might question where this dreadful fear comes from. Is there something in our history that gives us clues?
We couldn’t do much wrong by visiting our most recent history of how we treated children, both in our mother country of the UK and in our own.
Having just seen the film “Oranges and Sunshine” and previously read David Hill’s “The Forgotten Children”, I wonder if one day we might admit there was something rotten going on in our culture dating back perhaps hundreds of years. I know of no other country that deported over 130, 000 children in recent times. I also know of no other country that then allowed the further destruction of those children in the Australian institutions that were supposed to care for them.
Is it is the history of bullying children and sending them into the hierarchical system of English boarding schools? The public (private) schools with their corporal punishment, and the degrading treatment of those who grew up in the ‘British system’ of parenting and educating?
This seems to go to the very heart of why Australia has never managed to shake off that bullying that defined us from the very start.
Yet, when it comes to cattle or suicidal whales we get teary-eyed, ban the export of cattle or stand in the sea for days stroking dying whales. Where is the stroking for the flotsam of humans cast on our shores?
Last Monday’s ABC’s Four Corners showed bullying and degradation at the very core of our armed forces. It is totally ‘us’ and not just the isolated few of ‘them’. Howard, Ruddock, Abbott, Gillard, Morrison, Bowen. What chance did they all have growing up if they were indoctrinated into a system of bullying?
For Australia to regain its humanity it needs to take a good look in the mirror and reject the notion that we are somehow a fair and just nation. We are not. We might become fair, hospitable and friendly only if we dare to look at our inherited demons and reject the bad and accept and nurture the hidden good.
In the meantime we should take a leaf out of Turkey’s book. We will not turn them away, is what the Turkish Minister for Immigration is reported as saying. They are human beings in distress.
I can’t even imagine one of our politicians saying that.
Gerard blogs at Oosterman Treats Blog
- You: Turkey breaks with Syria over crackdown (latimes.com)