Archive | October, 2016

How can Turnbull make refugees second-class citizens in another sovereign state?

31 Oct

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The Turnbull government, no doubt believing it hasn’t yet done enough to convince the Hansonites they should vote for it, has now decided to create a secondary class of citizens by restricting the movements of refugees from Manus and Nauru, should they be settled in third countries. While everyone else in those third countries is free to apply for a visa to visit Australia, refugees are not.

The reason for this discrimination is that they arrived in Australia seeking asylum on a boat.

I can barely get my head around this much insanity.

This creation of second-class citizens does not, both Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull assure us, contravene any domestic or international law, and it does not breach our responsibilities to the Refugee Convention.

I confess myself at a complete loss. I do not understand how this can possibly be the case. The refugees have committed no crime. Their status has been awarded to them by the UNHCR. Yet Australia can, apparently with no legal ramifications whatsoever, cast them as second class citizens of another sovereign nation by refusing them the same freedom of movement other citizens of that nation enjoy.

The New Zealand Prime Minister has already declined to collude with this plan, declaring that his government will not co-operate in creating a secondary class of New Zealand citizens whose movements are restricted by Australia. Surely what Australia is proposing is contrary to every democratic principle?

And how can any country that is a signatory to the Refugee Convention co-operate with the Australian government’s restriction on the free movement of potential citizens who have committed no crime?

Any ideas?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Mr Turnbull. With regard to respect.

29 Oct
Counting Dead Women. Destroy the Joint

Counting Dead Women. Destroy the Joint

 

For quite some time now, you’ve been speaking in mellifluous tone on how lack of respect for women is at the root of violence towards us, with particular reference to domestic and family violence.

There are times when listening to your respect defence I imagine I’m in a courtroom. Your political rhetoric is in the nature of a legal argument, designed to convince, persuade and coax a jury into accepting your narrative, and so extend leniency to your client.

Perhaps I might stretch the analogy and describe your client in this instance as The Perpetrator of Domestic Violence. Your Honour, he is not a bad man, he merely needs to be taught how to respect women, at least sufficiently not to kill them.

I assume you believe that you are respectful of women. I don’t believe you are. I believe that to be respectful of anyone requires not only rhetoric but action, that is, doing everything you can for them when you see they are being mistreated by others. Failure to do this is, in your terms, disrespectful. In mine, it is criminally neglectful.

Action has a two-fold effect, Mr Turnbull. It assists the woman under attack, and it demonstrates to the perpetrator how respect is  a practice as well as a theory.

You are in a unique position to walk your talk in the matter of respect, yet you seem to be running on the spot.

If you truly respected us you would make funding available for the frontline services we so desperately need to save our lives, our health, our well-being and our children’s well-being when we are faced with a violent man who will harm us, and/or kill us. That would be respectful of you, Mr Turnbull.

That you continue to refuse to make this money available is an act of extreme disrespect for our well-being, and for our very lives.

If you truly believe that lack of respect for women is the root cause of the domestic violence perpetrated upon us, then as leader of this country you must demonstrate active respect for us, if you sincerely want to bring about change. Otherwise you are on the side of the perpetrator.

In depriving us of refuges, community legal centres and ongoing specialist services to assist us and our children to recover from unspeakable trauma, you are signalling to the perpetrators that they are free to continue their savagery, and not only are they  likely to get away with it, they are enabled by you to continue, as we have no avenues of escape.

If our government cannot respect us enough to provide the assistance we so desperately need, why should a perpetrator?

I think it was Leo Tolstoy who wrote that respect was invented to fill the place where love should be. His heroine, Anna Karenina, died at his authorial hand, like so many of us die at the hands of the men who control the narrative. You are the man who controls our narrative. You have the power to change our stories. All that is required of you is that you respect us enough to provide resources for our shelter, protection and assistance.

Until you can do that, Mr Turnbull, your rhetoric of respect is a lie, and you, sir, are a liar.

Sincerely, Survivor.

 

 

 

 

 

The Little Mermaid. An allegory.

28 Oct

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by Hans Christian Anderson.

Like her sisters before her, the Little Mermaid is only allowed to rise to the sea’s surface when she turns fifteen. It’s a rite of passage for mermaids, an experience that marks their coming of age.

When it’s the Little Mermaid’s turn to view the lands above the sea, she witnesses a handsome prince fall from his ship in a storm and saves him, carrying him in her arms to the shore where he lies unconscious. As the Little Mermaid watches from the ocean, a beautiful human approaches the Prince who awakens, and briefly glimpses the girl he believes has saved him.  The Little Mermaid is very sad that the Prince doesn’t know he owes his life to her, and realises she has fallen in love with him.

The Little Mermaid is very discontented when she returns to her ocean kingdom and her family. She asks her grandmother if she can be immortal, like humans, but her grandmother tells her no, the only way for her to attain immortality is to be loved by a man more than he loves his mother and father. Then the man must marry her, and when he does, his soul will enter her body as well as staying in his own, and the Little Mermaid will attain immortality from their shared soul.

I want to be a human, cries the Little Mermaid, and marry the Prince I saved from the sea! Then I will be with the one I love and he will give me my soul!

Don’t be silly, her grandmother remonstrates. We mermaids live far longer than humans anyway.

But the Little Mermaid will not be dissuaded. She visits the Sea Witch and asks for a spell. The Sea Witch pulls no punches, and tells the Little Mermaid she is both stupid and doomed. However, says the Sea Witch, it is possible to replace her mermaid’s tail with human legs and feet if she insists, but there’ll be a price.

I don’t care about the price, declares the Little Mermaid. If I can be with my Prince and he gives me my soul no price is too high.

All right, says the Sea Witch, I will make you a potion. When you drink it will be as if you are swallowing knives. Then you will lose your tail, and grow human legs and feet. But every time you walk it will be as if you are walking on beds of broken glass. The pain will be excruciating.

And there’s another thing, continues the Sea Witch. I want your beautiful voice as payment, so you won’t be able to either speak or sing.

Take it! cries the Little Mermaid. I want only to be with my beloved Prince and for us to share our soul!

And you can never come back, says the Sea Witch. You can never again be a mermaid. And if he marries another your heart will break and you will become sea foam on the crests of the waves.

Wait, says the Little Mermaid. What will the Prince love about me if I have no voice?

Your beautiful form, your graceful walk and your expressive eyes will enchain a man’s heart. You don’t need a voice, says the Sea Witch. Come here and I’ll cut out your little tongue.

The Little Mermaid loses her tail and grows human legs and feet. It is just as the Sea Witch has promised: every step she takes is agonising and she has no voice with which to cry out her pain. She finds her Prince and he is indeed enchanted with her. Most of all he loves to watch her dance and she performs for him endlessly even though her pain is excruciating. He isn’t at all concerned that she cannot speak: as long as he can look at her and watch her graceful movements.

But even though the Prince is enchanted, he has refused to marry anyone other than the beautiful girl he believes rescued him from the stormy seas. He has vowed to spend his life, if necessary, searching for her. The Little Mermaid is unable to tell the Prince it was she who saved him, so she continues to perform for him every day, and at night sleeps outside his door on a velvet cushion.

One day the Prince finds the girl he thinks saved his life, and in due course they marry. The Little Mermaid is broken-hearted. It is the end of her life, and she has not even gained an immortal soul. Then suddenly her sisters appear in the sea below the palace. They’ve brought her a knife, obtained from the Sea Witch with instructions that if she kills the Prince as he sleeps she can reclaim her tail, and become a mermaid again.

But the Little Mermaid cannot kill her Prince and so she dies and becomes sea foam on the crests of the waves.

The End.

 

 

 

 

 

Government v Triggs

24 Oct

 

messenger-season

It’s hardly President of the Human Rights Commission Gillian Triggs’ fault when the Australian government is the worst human rights offender that Commission has to deal with.

When a government acts criminally, one hope for recourse is that statutory bodies will refuse to collude with or enable that government’s criminal behaviour, and indeed, that such bodies will name and shame the errant government.

The Turnbull government’s accusation that Professor Triggs is “politicising” her role is, like much of this government’s spin, farcical. For a start human rights are inherently political, and secondly all actions by governments are also inherently political. If the Turnbull government is determined to transgress the human rights of refugees currently abandoned to a highly uncertain future on Manus Island and Nauru, Professor Triggs has no option but to hold it accountable, otherwise she isn’t doing her job.

Of course any commentary Triggs runs on the government of the day is necessarily political, favourable or otherwise. There are instances in which even the silence of someone in her position is political.

Is it the government’s expectation that Triggs will ignore human rights abuses because they are perpetrated by the government? In what country are we living?

Triggs isn’t acting in isolation. Amnesty, the UNHCR, professionals who’ve worked on Manus and Nauru, refugee advocates, some thirty nation states, and this editorial in the New York Times speak with one voice to Australia’s refugee detention policies, and that one voice is damning.

There’s no doubt that in some instances, including the New York Times editorial, there’s blatant examples of the pot/kettle affliction, however, that does not invalidate the truth of the protests against Australia’s policies.

In a classic abuser pattern of behaviour, the Turnbull government continues its efforts to destroy the messenger, in this case Professor Triggs, though the government isn’t fussy, the tactic is transferable. The first concern of abusers is to silence accusers, and the government has displayed this pathology innumerable times, not only in relation to the secrecy with which it surrounds Manus and Nauru and threats of retribution, including imprisonment, against anyone who might transgress those secrecy demands.

Last week, the Border Force Act was amended to remove a comprehensive list of health professionals from the threat of two years jail for speaking publicly about conditions they encountered whilst working in the detention camps. The Turnbull government was forced to make this particular backflip because health professionals have spoken out regardless of the intimidation, and even this collection of political grotesques can see the folly of prosecuting them. However, they can still go after Gillian Triggs and deprived of other targets, they’ll no doubt double their efforts.

(Note to Turnbull government: never wise to make threats you can’t carry out. Makes you look wussy.)

Obviously, the solution for the government is to cease persecuting refugees. The pursuit of Professor Triggs is a distraction: don’t look at the refugees, look at this woman who is (allegedly) overstepping her role. It’s a greater offence to (allegedly) overstep a role than it is to torture refugees. Again, we see the classic abuser spin: it is a far worse crime to speak out about abuse than it is to perpetrate it.

It’s been messenger season as long as I can remember, in private and in public life. The paradigm is deeply entrenched in our society. It starts at the top and it doesn’t trickle down, it roars like a river in flood. It’s time to turn it around and put the focus where it belongs: on the perpetrator. In this case, the Turnbull government.

Stand with the messengers. Stand with Gillian Triggs.

 

 

 

Letting loose the inner Trump

21 Oct

trumps-promise-to-women

 

The footage of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s bus ride with Billy Bush in which he owns sexual assault as his preferred method of engaging with women he finds desirable, led to a tsunami of accounts by women who’ve been similarly treated when men let loose their inner Trump.

Journalist Karen Middleton published her account of sexual harassment and assault by MPs and male colleagues in The Saturday Paper.

Leah McElrath broke down Trump’s non-apology for his actions into a series of astoundingly succinct tweets every woman should print out and stick on the fridge as a guide to common manipulative tactics used by abusers.

In fact, Trump has done all of us a great favour. His global performance of alpha male entitlement has given us a textbook example of predatory male behaviour, without us having to bother reading the textbook. He’s created an atmosphere in which women in our millions can comment on our experiences of such behaviour and, in many instances for the first time, give it a name. He’s outed both himself and the toxic masculinity from which predation springs in a way nothing and nobody else could. For this we can be relieved. There can no longer be any doubt that to adherents of that toxic masculinity, women are prey.

Trump also sorted something that has deeply troubled me for the last couple of years. I’ve written on this blog and elsewhere about my childhood sexual abuse and the PTSD that is its consequence. So when I met online friend David in person for the first time I knew he knew my history. When he asked me about it in the cafe I was discomfited: it seemed neither the place nor the time, however, part of my psychological damage from that time is that in certain circumstances I’m unable to make an assessment of my own best interests, so I briefly answered his questions and also told him of my lifelong struggle with PTSD.

When we left the cafe David grabbed me, pulled me to him, kissed me and put his tongue in my mouth. It was one of those moments in which you can’t get a handle on what is actually happening because what is happening is so unlikely. Then it’s over.

I’ve never been able to make sense of why, only moments after listening to an account of prolonged childhood sexual abuse and subsequent lifelong PTSD, a man would grab a woman he’d just met and put his tongue in her mouth.

Until I read a discussion between Donald Trump and Howard Stern. Troubled women, Trump asserts, deeply, deeply troubled women, give the best sex:

She’s probably deeply troubled and therefore great in bed. How come the deeply troubled women, you know, deeply, deeply troubled, they’re always the best in bed?”

Stern said damaged women are “looking for love, they’re looking for positive affirmation, they’re looking for a father figure who will love them and tell them they’re wonderful and they’ll never be enough.”

Well I have a friend, Howard, who’s actually like a great playboy, I mean, I don’t say this about men, this guy does very well, Trump said. He runs silent, runs deep as they say, like a submarine. He will only look for a crazy women. He says, ‘Donald, Donald, please, please, I only want the crazy women.’”

“They’re desperate,” Stern said.

Reading this exchange was like an epiphany. I understood why David had been so overwhelmed by desire he’d felt compelled to grab me and stick his tongue in my mouth, even though you’d hope a man might think twice about violating a woman who’d just spoken about childhood sexual abuse and lifelong PTSD.

But hey, a deeply troubled woman can turn loose a man’s inner Trump, and he can’t help himself  he has to grab her and stick his tongue in her mouth.

Vulnerability turns him on. Damage turns him on. It’s deeply, deeply sexy.

It’s a relief, really, to have my experience explained by Trump and Stern. It’s a relief to know it’s a predator’s thing and how else would we know so publicly, so accessibly, unless men like Trump and Stern shared their opinions?

We’ve known for a long time that women who experience childhood abuse are highly vulnerable to re-traumatisation. But I doubt it’s ever been so clear that this is because there are men who seek us out, specifically because we’ve been damaged.

Think on that, if you can bear to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Charlotte Pass today

20 Oct

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You’re gonna make me lonesome when you go

14 Oct

bob-dylan

 

We’re having dinner at the Molong pub on our way to Canberra, and then to the Snowy Mountains for a month.

We’ve been driving for nine hours on the back roads, avoiding motorways and highways and listening to Bob Dylan because today he won the Nobel Prize for Literature and we’re stoked, and we need to revisit everything he’s ever sung, which you can’t actually do in nine hours but we’ve given it our best shot.

There’s an entertainer at the pub, he’s a little stout and red-faced with silver chains round his neck and he’s singing stuff like The Proclaimers I’m on My Way, and Elvis’s Suspicious Minds, and Joan Jett’s I love Rock n’ Roll, and there’s a woman wrapped around the verandah post, leaning over the singer and going “uh huh” every now and then in relation to pretty much nothing. She’s a little pissed and pretty happy and the singer’s trying to pretend she isn’t there. The sun’s gone down, it’s getting chilly in the beer garden and I wrap myself in a woollen shawl, drink another glass of wine, and consider asking the act if he’ll sing some Dylan.

As stoked as I am by Bob’s win, I’m also sad because if there’s one thing my beloved husband would have wanted to live long enough to hear, it’s that Dylan won the Nobel prize. Babe, if you can hear me, you were right.

Dylan was part of the soundtrack of our decades-long love affair, and Arnie’s knowledge of the man was encyclopaedic. He did a radio show on Sunday afternoons on 2SER just about Dylan. We went to every concert we could, and we only ever walked out of one, at the State Theatre in Sydney when Bob’s performance was so excruciatingly late and then so excruciatingly bad, even we couldn’t hack it. Something to do with drugs in the dunny, I don’t know.

I don’t ask the performer at the Molong pub to sing some Dylan, instead we walk back to our motel and eat chocolate and drink green tea in bed. I’m trying to think of which song was ours, Arnie’s and mine, but that’s the thing about Dylan: there was a song for every shifting phase, even the dark ones, maybe especially the dark ones.

Arnie always came back to You’re going to make me lonesome when you go as his song to me. Which is ironic, because in the end he went and I’m still here and still singing:

I’ll look for you in old Honolul-a
San Francisco, Ashtabula
You’re gonna have to leave me now, I know
But I’ll see you in the sky above
In the tall grass, in the ones I love
You’re gonna make me lonesome when you go

I know there’s all kinds of arguments against the Nobel prize for Bob Dylan. Some of them I probably even agree with. But I don’t care. What he wrote decades ago, personal and political, is as applicable today as it was then, his body of work is vast and varied, and I’ve never anywhere come across images of the kind Dylan comes up with.

As Mick Jagger said, Thank you Bob.

 

 

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