Millionaire Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was asked, as he and his Kaminski-millinered wife Lucy served a few Xmas lunches to people doing it tough, about the death on Xmas eve of Faysal Ishak Ahmed, 26, a refugee held illegally on Manus Island by the Turnbull government.
Mr Ahmed had been ill for some time. According to his friend, Abdul Aziz Adam, he was repeatedly turned away from the IHMS clinic on Manus by nurses who accused him of “pretending” to be ill. After collapsing, Mr Ahmed was flown to the Royal Brisbane Hospital, where he subsequently died of his imaginary illnesses.
“The system is designed to kill us one by one,” Mr Adam said on learning of his friend’s death. This is an observation with which I entirely concur.
It is remarkable enough that the Turnbulls’ chose to exploit underprivileged citizens by using their Xmas day as a photo opportunity. It’s not as if the PM is particularly concerned about their fate, having slashed the very funding that holds at least the possibility of relief to homeless people, those whose lives are in chaos as a consequence of domestic violence, disabled people, pensioners, the unemployed and those of us unfortunate enough to struggle with illness. Actually, the only demographic the PM does look upon with tender concern is bankers, mine owners and the otherwise wealthy.
However, when the PM was asked at this occasion about the death of Mr Ahmed, an innocent man who had been declared by the UN to be a refugee, he defiantly replied that he stood by his government’s policy to protect our borders and stop deaths at sea.
Quite why refugees have to live miserable lives and die in their twenties in order to protect Australia’s borders remains a dark mystery to me.
Quite why it is entirely immoral to let people die at sea, but entirely moral to let them rot and die on land also remains one of life’s even darker mysteries.
The lie (let us not sugar-coat by using the term ‘post-truth’) the lie that asylum seekers and refugees who arrive here by boat have committed a crime, continues to be the foundation of and justification for successive Australian governments’ murderous policies. This lie is invoked at every turn to justify denial of medical treatment, detention in inhumane conditions, denial of human rights, and destruction of all hope. We do not do these things to convicted murderers and rapists. We strongly disapprove of those who do these things to animals, and when anyone is caught ill-treating animals there is an outcry, sometimes even by Liberals.
What Turnbull accomplished on Xmas day was a staggering performance of hypocrisy that I doubt he will be able to trump in the coming year. In one half hour, from the lofty heights of political position and personal wealth, Turnbull acted out a ghastly and perverted imitation of Christ’s publicly washing the feet of the poor as a lesson in humility to the arrogant.
Turnbull “humbly” served lunch to the very people he victimises. He then instructed the rest of us to “hug” them.
At the same time, he refused to acknowledge that his government’s policies have murdered yet another refugee, who came to us seeking sanctuary from murderers in his homeland.
I think Turnbull’s jumped the shark. Anything that follows can only be pale imitation and dull repetition.
I’m re-reading Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, which is, if you are unfamiliar with it, an utterly compelling account of the journey of a man and his young son across a torched and ravaged American post-nuclear landscape, inhabited by bands of cannibal survivors whose murderous violence the pair must evade in their efforts to reach the south.
The man and his child imagine the south to be warm, and more conducive to life than the freezing, ash-filled ruination through which they stoically trudge, dragging their small cart, confronted at every bend by the carnage that ensues when the thin membrane of civilisation is fatally ruptured.
McCarthy’s 2006 novel can of course be read as a metaphor, and one appropriate for the present, as a mighty struggle begins in earnest between those we describe as fascists and the rest of us, a motley and divided crew, ill-equipped to deal with what we ought to have seen coming but mostly didn’t.
So many of us blinded by a wilful innocence: a refusal to acknowledge the depths of hatred, disdain and self-interest of which humans are capable, because we want to believe that as a species, we are better than that. We aren’t. We can’t afford to lie to ourselves anymore about the extent of humanity’s destructive capacities. This is how the darkness of us triumphs: because so many of us refuse to believe that it is real.
There are places in which the post-apocalyptic world McCarthy describes are not metaphorical, but real. I’m thinking today of Aleppo. Like almost everyone else, I have no idea how to assist the children, women and men who struggle to survive the myriad ruptures that have reduced their world to smouldering devastation. We send money that we hope will be put to good use. We protest. We demand that our government take more refugees, for all the good that does.
Increasingly, I’m coming to believe that our only hope is to relinquish our wilful innocence, and find courage enough to stare into the abyss which is undoubtedly our future. We have no magical protection from it. All the signs are there for anyone to read. The ascendance of fascism. The normalisation of a state of “post-truth.” The increasing domination of ignorance, and contemptuous rage at the expression of any loving sensibility. The mocking of concern. The violent hatred of those who wish to protect and preserve the natural world. The reduction of human beings to units of consumption. The disintegration of community.
The Road is a harrowing read. It’s an account of the author’s gaze into the abyss. Yet tenderness and love break through, frequently in the sparse dialogue between the un-named protagonists. I can hardly imagine the courage it took to write this book. To survive such imaginings, to fully realise such a world. And then I remember there are people living this imagined narrative. Millions of them.
I can only bear witness to their anguish by refusing the selfish protection of wilful innocence. And I think that perhaps if enough of us do this, if enough of us relinquish our imagined right to turn away, there might one day be enough of us with strength to triumph. I don’t know. But I have to, like McCarthy, insist on the legitimacy of hope, and our capacity to love and nurture, as well as our capacity to destroy and hate.
You may have noticed yesterday’s minor furore over primary school children sending a petition to various politicians protesting the vileness, criminality and inhumanity of off-shore detention policies.
The children didn’t use those words of course, rather they asked that politicians show concern for children in off-shore detention and resettle them. They also sent drawings expressing their distress on behalf of detained children.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten claimed that eight-year-olds should be writing to Santa not getting up petitions, and federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham expressed his wish that the teachers involved be hunted down and disciplined for aiding and abetting the children’s budding awareness of human rights. Children should not be “politicised,” it was bipartisanly agreed.
Off-shore detention policies are inescapably political: it is impossible to “politicise” what is inherently political. Shorten, Birmingham et al should be owning the shamefulness of their policies, rather than shaming children for objecting and protesting.
Of course politicians don’t want children knowing, let alone caring, about the crimes and misdemeanours they continue to commit against humanity in the interests of attaining and maintaining power. However, in my experience children are far more aware of the world than most of us give them credit for. They need tools with which to deal with the deceits and duplicities of politicians, and politicians have only themselves to blame for this parlous situation.
What is most wickedly deceptive and destructive is the conflation of concern for the welfare of others with so-called “politicisation.” We’ve had decades of contempt for “lefty bleeding hearts.” We have now reached a stage at which anyone expressing concern over the state (and compliant media) treatment of refugees, asylum seekers, Indigenous Australians, those struggling with poverty, mental health, disability and the myriad other challenges people face in a country in which increasingly the only concerns that matter are those of the alpha white male and his consort, is immediately accused of the manufactured offence of “politicisation.” Or my particular favourite, Political Correctness Gone Mad (PCGM).
Do we really want to grow children who believe that caring about the fate of others is something to be ashamed of?
The abysmal legal and moral failure by both major parties to fulfil their responsibilities to asylum seekers and refugees under both international and domestic law is the core problem, not children or anyone else protesting this failure.
If you want your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, children you know and or teach to become aware of the human rights of others, I recommend this rather lovely book, titled 2030 Not a Fairytale. In 2015 world leaders adopted the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, setting seventeen Global Goals to be attained by 2030. These goals are simply explained to young children, and are an excellent introduction to caring about the world they’ll inherit and the people in it.
I know I’m being dangerously subversive, suggesting the politicisation of children. Shoot me.
As for whether or not the 2030 goals will be attained, and the usefulness or otherwise of world leaders at the UN setting them, that’s another story we have to tell children at another time. First, let’s brainwash them into caring.
It isn’t possible to avoid the Christmas palaver unless one is able engineer a retreat to uninhabited regions, I know because I’ve been trying for years.
If you aren’t religious and/or into rampant consumerism, the current performance of Christmas is both bewildering and nauseating, in the Sartrean sense of “sweet sickness” and abject disgust. Indeed, it could be argued that both consumerism and religion spring from the same existential emptiness: there’s a satisfying logic in their coming together at the culmination of the western year, in a union so desperate it becomes impossible to distinguish one from the other.
Thus you will find yourself, as did I last weekend, in the contemporary hell of a large shopping centre, your ears assaulted by a combination of hideously performed Christmas music piped through a hideously distorted sound system; the screaming and whining of innocent children adversely affected by the negative ambience of their surroundings and possessed by the spirit of I want it all and I want it now; and weary, ill-tempered adults who’ll run you over with their laden trolleys in a heartbeat, if you don’t get the fuck out of their way.
We were three adults, with a child each. You’d think with that ratio we’d cope, but we didn’t. We got thrown out of the Elves’ Cave for flattening the reindeer who were left splayed and soggy on the floor after three children sat on them at the same time and the baby chewed an antler. Two of the children are bolters, so there was that as well.
I have seldom known such sensory exhaustion as was induced in me by that hour doing Christmas. I felt, like Sartre’s protagonist, deprived of the ability to define myself against the desperate clamouring of consumerism, backgrounded by Away in a Manger and Silent Night.
I know I have many faults, idiosyncrasies, and traumas. So I can’t tell if my distaste for the Christmas palaver is healthy or perverse. Thankfully, I no longer care.
I hope everyone has a good time. I hope it doesn’t get too lonely if there’s no one else around. And, remember, all things must pass.
Last word to the baby who ate the antlers, a wise child indeed.
Ever deft, the happiest prime minister continues to nimble his way through the minefields and wastelands of unimagined incompetencies, singular and collective, performed for an increasingly incredulous electorate, 24/7.
Always with a jolly hah hah hah at the ready, one vowel the only remaining distinguisher between him and his nemesis, failed prime minister Tony (heh heh heh) Abbott, who continues to loom from the back benches like an aggrieved shade deprived of proper burial rites, intent on tormenting the living until it is accorded what it considers its due. In this instance, a seat in Chuckles’ cabinet.
There may well have been a more ridiculous public figure than Malcolm Turnbull in our country’s history, but I just can’t think who at the moment. We’re spoiled for choice in the stupidity stakes, but what sets Malcolm apart from your Bernardis and your Christensens, your Duttons and your Morrisons et al, is that they are being themselves, however bizarre that self might seem, while their leader has abandoned all hope of ever being himself and is instead scrambling to imitate the very people he’s supposed to be leading because if he doesn’t they’ll kick him out.
It’s unseemly. The PM lacks all decorum.
Just yesterday the sycophantic cockwomble ruled out any possibility of an emissions trading scheme, in the full knowledge that this decision will cost households and businesses some $15 billion over the next decade. He did this because harbinger of doom Senator Cory (bestiality will be next) Bernardi cawed like a coal-black crow that the proposed scheme was the dumbest thing he’d ever heard. Which prompted me to observe that the Senator has obviously never listened to himself if he thinks the dumbest thing he’s ever heard was articulated by somebody else.
Flailing around for distraction from yet another capitulation to the far right-wing loons, Turnbull took to attacking school teachers, some of whom will next week protest successive governments’ vile refugee policies by wearing t-shirts with relevant slogans in the classroom.In a leap that would test the credulity of even the most ill-informed, Chuckles went on to claim that such action might well exacerbate our disastrous global results in maths, science and reading, as revealed yesterday.
It is inappropriate for teachers to take political action, and they should behave with more decorum, he thundered, in yet another burst of confected outrage that puts just about every chronically outraged Twitterer to shame. Watch and learn, tweeps. Watch and learn.
It is the conservative way, to be far more outraged by the naming of crimes and criminals than by the crimes themselves. It isn’t inappropriate to torture refugees, it is highly inappropriate to protest about it. Teachers are guilty of politicising torture which is actually quite apolitical, you didn’t know that did you?
Wife Lucy winds Chuckles up with a key in his back every morning to get him going, then the loons give him his instructions for the day. He only has to remember to laugh as he goes slowly tits up, like a performing seal stranded on the side of the zoo pool.
In yet another piece of bellicose dross on the thoughtlessness of protesters, former Howard immigration minister turned ABC broadcaster and Fairfax columnist (via ambassador to Rome) Amanda Vanstone, yesterday unleashed her inner curmudgeon in this indignant rant titled “The ‘look at me’ narcissistic politics of the left.”
On reflection, her curmudgeon aspect is not that inner, but let’s not digress into personalities.
Briefly, Vanstone suffered trauma when as a young woman, indentured to the Myer group, she was forced to walk the streets of Melbourne bearing a load of something or other tied up with string that cut into her hands so badly she was obliged to make occasional stops in order to lay down her burden on the pavements and give her tiny hands a break.
One day, she was prevented from enjoying even this small relief by a crowd of “well-fed” protesters, upset about Australia’s involvement in the US war on Vietnam in general, and in particular, the napalming of Vietnamese children.
The utter selfishness of them, whines Amanda, in anarchically denying her respite from pain, and quite possibly preventing other people from going to the doctor or shopping in Myers. Yes, there’s no question. Napalm Vietnam to kingdom come, but what is really wrong here is that some Australians are inconvenienced.
This has been the aggrieved tone of almost every comment I’ve read and heard since some WACA activists glued themselves to the gallery in the House of Representatives last week in protest against our torture of and other criminal actions against those who legally sought asylum in our country.
Of course, those asylum seekers, now refugees, also inconvenienced Australians didn’t they, in the manner of their arrival and then sewing up their lips and dying and suffering the worst mental health outcomes per capita of any group in the western world. Now we have to bear global chastisement, and we still haven’t managed to get rid of them to a third country.
We speak often on the topic of American exceptionalism, but rarely do we mention Australian exceptionalism. It’s time to start.
Australian exceptionalism believes we ought not to be put upon by any of the world’s estimated 60 million refugees fleeing conflict and violence, for our sovereignty is of far more consequence than any human life, even those lives we have ourselves contributed towards endangering. This is the meta level of Australian exceptionalism.
Australians who don’t care about refugees must not, under any circumstances, be inconvenienced by those who do and take to the street or parliament house to express their concerns at the actions of our recalcitrant governments.
This actually applies to public protest in general: there is a class amongst us who abhor protest, it makes their tummies tingle and all they want is to make it stop because they can’t stand a discomfort worse even than having parcel string leave weals on your palms.
This class puts their comfort ahead of every other human concern, and so we have Vanstone and her ilk believing they are deserving of greater consideration than napalmed Vietnamese children and tortured refugees.
It isn’t “lefty” concern and protest that’s the problem here. It’s entitlement, and an unfounded belief in exceptionalism, both national and individual, that is corroding public discourse and daily life. Nobody is entitled to a life free of all obstacles, be they large or small.
Being delayed or otherwise temporarily inconvenienced by protesters who are legitimately expressing their freedom to speak on behalf of those who are silenced is a very small obstacle and for mine, those who cannot tolerate even this much without complaint are psychologically and emotionally dysfunctional, and they urgently need to get themselves seen to.