It was with a sense of “did this really happen” that I watched Leaky Boat on ABC TV on July 7. On ABCTV blog you’ll find a timeline of the events of 2001 from the “Tampa” to the “Children Overboard” affairs covered by this documentary, in case you’ve been on Mars for the last ten years, or overseas where they don’t have meltdowns over a few asylum seekers like we do.
Immediately following the doco there was a Q&A “leaky boat” special, with the usual suspects holding their usual positions. Because I’m bored witless by listening to the same old same old from absolutely everybody on this topic, I decided to pretend I was an intergalactic traveller who’d fetched up in Australia just in time to watch these programs. Of course I had an intergalactic knowingness that allowed me to immediately cotton on to what most of it was about. When I got bogged down, I asked the dog. If he told me without detectable bias I let him lie in front of the fire.
My task was to objectively observe the human talking heads and because I was extra terrestrial, I had no difficulty at all being objective.
I tuned in to everybody’s vibes before I tuned into their words. I have to say straight up that I didn’t take to anybody on an energy level. My antennae (disguised so no human could see them) vibrated something shocking when they picked up the mutual animosity, ill will, one-upmanship and totally negative emotion fairly radiating through the television screen. I found it intensely upsetting to be in the presence of such bad feeling, especially when Raye Coleby (of SBS Go Back to Where you Came From fame) started in on a couple of re-settled Muslim refugees about how they didn’t deserve to be safe in Australia because thousands upon thousands of other asylum seekers are trapped in hellish camps, especially in Africa, without the financial means some lucky Muslims have to get themselves out.
Apparently, the dog explained when I murmured a question into his silky ear, this argument is what’s known as the queue question, and the boat arrivals keep jumping it which everybody knows is bloody bad manners and apparently not a good start in a country where good manners are more important than anything else at all. (Really? Is that really true? Is the dog dissing me?)
The fact that a queue is also a Chinese pigtail is of absolutely no relevance here at all, the dog said when I asked.
Wait a minute, I thought, as I watched Coleby become more and more emotional over her Africans, and more and more aggressive towards the Muslims around her. There’s no queue to get into Australia, not as we understand queues where I come from. A queue that isn’t a Chinese pigtail is when everybody lines up in an orderly fashion to get something somebody else is distributing. That never happens in refugee camps in Africa or anywhere else. People make an application, Australia chooses who it wants. That’s not a queue it’s a lottery. Doesn’t matter how well mannered you are in a lottery.
So what’s Coleby on about?
Then the dog showed me how to send a tweet. My tweet said: “Is that the “real” Scott Morrison?” because I thought he might be an extra terrestrial like me, standing in for a human. Well, not like me because I come from a peaceful people and he got right in David Marr’s personal space and embarked on an offensive interrogatory attack that a lesser man than Marr might have clocked him for.
Why nobody threw their shoes at Scott is a mystery to me.
My tweet didn’t appear on the screen and for that I blame the dog who should have told me to say something more intelligent like the other tweeters did.
I have since checked my Twitter account and found that I have ten followers, including one who wrote about me in my human form: “She is a woman of strong opinions with a sparse Twitter following.” The dog just shrugged about that. It’s my own fault, he gave me to understand. You have to nurture your Twitter account, feed it, give it time and attention: it doesn’t just happen all by itself.
But I digress. From my lofty alien perspective I find the public arguments over boat arrivals have become so predictable as to be meaningless. I know exactly who is going to say what, and the tone in which they will say it. It’s like saying a word, any word, over and over again to yourself until it becomes incomprehensible. Both sides of the debate carry great burdens of animosity towards one another. Emotions are high, indeed the entire debate has been so appropriated by high emotion that there’s hardly anything else left in it. Anybody who tries to be rational and reasonable is outside of the parameters and won’t get a look in.
I don’t know what can be done about this, because from the galactic perspective it looks like it’s becoming a kind of mutual masturbatory opportunity for sado-masochists to hurl and receive nasties, and is achieving nothing at all for people who arrive by boat.
It is, however, a sign of our extraordinary privilege that we can expend so much emotion abusing one another about a situation that is not likely to affect any of us. Who in the ABC’s audience at home and in the studio is likely to suffer even a smidgin of disadvantage from a few thousand boat arrivals being re-settled in this country?
Personally, being an intrepid cosmic traveller, I’m always interested to hear another traveller’s tales. I don’t get nearly as bored watching refugees tell their stories as I’m starting to get watching talking heads of all persuasions talking about refugee’s stories. I realise there’s a whole pro and anti boat people industry out there and my perspective will not be popular but I don’t care. I found Leaky Boat fascinating. It was good to see Arne Rinnan again. I found Go Back to Where you Came From fascinating because it humanized everybody involved.
But the talking heads, whether I agree with them or not, I’m over them. Let the people speak. Then I’ll hear.
Picture yourself in a boat on a river, the dog whispered in the firelight, with tangerine trees and marmalade skies…
Newspaper taxis appear on the shore, waiting to take you away,
Climb in the back with your head in the clouds and you’re gone…
That dog. He’s a bloody poet.
Really though, in all honesty I have to admit that when I’m back on earth in my usual form, minus antennae and universal perspective, I will probably just get stuck back into the brawl like I always have. I will jeer and sneer and give the finger with the best of them. I will gasp in outraged horror at something else Scott Morrison says, and I will continue to berate the Gillard government for it’s moral decline into unspeakably horrible plans to transport everybody to Malaysia where they may well be caned without first being stunned.
And why? Because I have to. Because even when it gets tiring and bogged down and you think it’s going nowhere you can’t stop. Because people who arrive in boats are my fellow humans and from that comes everything else, and when I can’t remember that any longer, I might as well sew up my lips,stuff up my ears, and close my kaleidescope eyes.
- Latest boat brings 66 asylum seekers (news.theage.com.au)
- Detention centre rioters handed a ‘life sentence’ (theage.com.au)
- Why Does Australia Want to Send Refugees to Malaysia? (time.com)
- Stop groupthink: A blanket ban will stop the boats (thepunch.com.au)