Getting acclimatised to horror

6475318-3x2-700x467PHOTO: For a country that values its commitment to human rights as does Australia, the silence in the face of Rohingya suffering is a humiliating moment. (AFP: Christophe Archambault)

Isn’t it wonderful that popular culture provides us with glossy rituals of glamour and celebrity to distract us from the realities of our lives and the lives of others. Like Eurovision. Go Guy Sebastian! – Catchy little song he’s got. But I’d rather sleep than sit through that pap.

Still, it’s easier to shut my ears and eyes to Eurovision and not be affected by it. Whereas hearing the latest spin on those asylum seekers languishing in South Asian waters is something I can’t disengage from.  Julie Bishop has been told by Indonesian officials that the Bangladeshis on those boats are all illegal labourers, or ‘economic migrants’ and not refugees at all. I dare say there will be much debate and speculation about the validity of the claim. Whatever the outcome, I’m deeply troubled.

I awoke this morning thinking that we will no doubt also describe all environmental refugees who leave their land as a result of climate change, ‘economic.’ A sure justification for sending them back. As sea levels rise, and floods and droughts decimate the world’s poorest nations, what are people to do? Sit down and die? That would go against our basic survival instinct.

So now I wonder. Is a stage being set? Has it occurred to anyone else that the harsh attitudes to asylum seekers the world over is less to do with not wanting to home war’s collateral overspill and more to do with the looming horrors of climate change? One that invokes a pointed hardening of attitudes of the citizens of recipient nations. Are we being systematically conditioned into accepting as banal things which should turn our stomachs and see us taking to the streets enraged?

A stage set so that countries like Bangladesh will end up being their own ‘internment camps,’ as their peoples flee only to be dumped back on shore. No gas required. Death assured.

And with those deaths will die our conscience.

No applause.

Isobel Blackthorn’s first novel, ASYLUM, has been released in paperback by Odyssey Books. Also available in ebook formats @ Amazon, ibooks, Smashwords. Links can be found on the ASYLUM page.
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5 Comments

  1. Much as I hate to say this, I believe you are right.

    Research has shown that continued exposure to horror or violence numbs our sensitivities and we become harder. I have a dreadful feeling this is what is happening now.

    For the sake of our humanity, I sincerely hope that both you, and I, are wrong

  2. I find the attitudes from Canberra distressing. That Abbott was not taken to task more vigorously for his dopey nopes and the more chilling announcement that his government resisted the cries of human rights lawyers is an indictment of our mainstream journalists.

    Bangladeshis have provided cheap, non-unionised construction site labour and domestics for years to the Middle East and places like Singapore. There conditions are dreadful. With the destabilising events in the Middle East, they feel unsafe, their jobs gone. They are compelled to seek work elsewhere.

    You rightly point to the effects of climate change on that delta nation. Unable to grow crops in saturated soil, do they leave home underfed – starving?

    The Rohingya are horribly persecuted by the kindly Buddhists of Burma.

    The sea will be polluted by human corpses if a regional solution that includes Australia with New Zealand and Singapore is not found. We can’t expect Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia to take responsiblilty for these desperate people alone and permanently.

    Our government washes its hands of decency, refuses to have an active sense of responsibility, chooses to exploit xenophobic fear. We are also encouraged to believe we are good- hearted people. Australia’s refugee intake is 0.3% of the number of refugees recognised by UNHCR. Until immigration policies are dramatically overhauled, the beating of good hearts will be overwhelmed, not by the cries of human rights lawyers, but by the cries of an increasing number of desperate people.

    1. Thanks Carolyn, for your insights. I believe you are right, that we must challenge the rationale behind the policies and overhaul the immigration system. I’m not holding my breath. 🙂

  3. Reblogged this on Migration and commented:
    People must begin changing their perceptions and attitudes towards refugees. We also need to understand that people around the world are forced into leave their countries as a result of factors such as war, climate change or lack of education and jobs. We have the privilege of living in a safe and stable country and others should also have this experience.

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