Are we a world at war?

head-with-broken-potHead with broken pot, Georgia O’Keeffe

Are we a world at war?

Surely for a world to be at war there should be some cohesion behind geographical lines. There should be advancing fronts. There should be a war office and sirens in the streets.

‘Where are the bomb shelters?’ we in Western nations cry. Go away and leave us be! We are at peace, not war!

But that doesn’t account for all of us. Maybe less than 1% is small, too small to care about, but not when it translates into 60 million.

60 million refugees. That’s according to the UNHCR; nearly 60 million people forcibly displaced in 2014.

One person in every 122 on the planet is either a refugee, internally displaced or seeking asylum.
These are the highest levels since 1945.
So is the world at war? I think it is. I think that we are in the midst of a monumental crisis and we are for the most part blind to it.

Saying that world war exists starts the search for causes and solutions.

It could be argued that the main cause lies in history: in peoples lumped together with other peoples whom they may never have much liked or got along with as the globe was carved up under the auspices of Empire. It could be argued that each situation has its own unique history: The Rohingyas of Burma, the Kurds of Turkey, Iraq and Iran, the Darfuri of Sudan, the Hazara of Afghanistan to name some on a long list.

And what of the African migrants in South Africa? That’s a different sort of ethnic cleansing. Workers pitted against workers.

What of the Haitian descendants in the Dominican Republic, who face expulsion back to Haiti? All 250,000 of them. Different again. This time it’s been legislated.

The victimisation of minority ethnicities has a long long history. It could be said that these examples show a world not at war but disunited.

But what of the cleaving in the Middle East between Sunni and Shia? A faith dispute between two versions of Islam? Or a manufactured cleaving feeding off the schism. A cleaving cultivated, funded, sought. To answer that we need to examine America’s interests. And Saudi Arabia’s. And Britain’s. In fact, the entire military complex that seeks war, especially when times are austere.

As they are now.

As they are now thanks to the biggest sting against the 99% the world has ever seen: the GFC.

Is it the case that, done with the casino, war is now sought by the banksters, by elements of big business, by the 1%ers whose ambition is only to acquire more wealth?

Or is it simply the case that the cankers of hatred festering in the body of many nations, cankers that have fed on fear and on poverty for decades, are bursting all at once?

Maybe it’s all these things.

My little blog post seeks only to ask questions. The answers would fill bookshelves.

It is my impression that a world at war is what we have. War invisible to those of us who deem ourselves unaffected by it. What a privilege that is! What a convenience! It gives us the power to thumb our noses at asylum seekers. To regard refugees as the scum of the earth.

This is Refugee Week. It’s about time we told ourselves over and again that those 60 million refugees on the planet are the casualties of various forms of ethnic cleansing in countries involved in some sort of war.

It’s about time we tell ourselves that just because the tanks are not rolling down our streets, doesn’t mean we are a world at peace.

It’s about time we tell ourselves that casualties of war are not collateral, are not so much garbage, are not takers and chancers.

They are people, people who bleed just like us.

 

Isobel Blackthorn’s first novel, ASYLUM, has been released by Odyssey Books and is available through all major booksellers.

Book critic Ann Creber reviews Asylum

I’m delighted to share this priceless feedback on my novel, Asylum, from book critic Ann Creber.

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“What  a survivor [protagonist] Yvette is! 

I thought it was clever and subtle the way the sub-plot (almost) of refugees was woven into Yvette’s story.

Congratulations to Isobel Blackthorn for a moving story of near despair and triumph. There is hope there for so many women in difficult situations.

And of course we are going to expect to hear more of the next  phase of Yvette’s life!  And soon!

Asylum is a rewarding read, rather like a meal when you savour every mouthful instead of gulping it down because there are better things to be done!”  

Here a full interview on Ann Creber’s The Good Life here.

You can read more reviews and an excerpt of Asylum here.

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.

Welcome to Australia

I woke this morning at about five o’clock to the sound of cock crows and magpie chortles, knowing that my third piece, Welcome to Australia, would appear in On Line Opinion  today.

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It’s a controversial piece and in the pre-dawn darkness I feared some would misread it and accuse me of being anti-Australian. Then I thought that if they did, it would only serve to strengthen one of the themes.

My thoughts wandered on to all the different sorts of people who are against our treatment of asylum seekers. From human rights lawyers such as Julian Burnside, to doctors, actors, musicians, writers, teachers, religious groups and social advocates, Liberal voters, Labor voters, Greens voters, all sorts of people motivated by all sorts of factors.

The bottom line for all of us is that we care.

Why do I care? What motivates me? Before the break of dawn I recalled my relatively late entry into the asylum-seeker cause. It was entirely the result of investigative journalist Antony Loewenstein’s book, Profits of Doom. A fast-paced read taking the reader from Curtin to Christmas Island, then on to PNG and beyond. Of concern to Loewenstein is the role that transnational corporations such as Serco and G4S and Transfield play in the detention of asylum seekers. He calls them vulture capitalists. I think that’s an apt description.

And such corporations don’t restrict themselves to running detention centres. They run our railways, our hospitals, our courts, our prisons, our defence services, anything in fact that governments outsource. Even, if our government has its way, Medicare.

I can only conclude that asylum seekers held in indefinite detention are profiting these vulture corps in exactly the same way as we profit the very same corporations the moment we hop on a train. Corporations who also profit from our taxes, which our governments hand over in payment for their services.

Asylum seekers are the ultimate victims of this system. Like prisoners, the longer they are there, and the more of them there are, the greater the corporate profit.

Yet there is no separation here. We are all victims of the same system.

I think that is why I am so passionate about the mandatory detention of asylum seekers. They are lambs, sacrificed in the name of a dollar god.

Abbott the Abuser?

More than seven hundred asylum seekers on Manus Island continue on hunger strike over resettlement fears, some sewing together their lips, others swallowing razor blades. It’s a dramatic mass act of protest and despair that is gaining global media attention.
150120200222-blurred-manus-island-group-large-16919 Jan 2015
Meanwhile, the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre posted a press release on their website stating that, ”the Abbott government is about to become the first government in Australian history to knowingly  and deliberately let an asylum seeker die in their care.
A young Iranian man in a Darwin detention centre has now gone a total of 76 days without food. Days from death. Lost 30 kilos. Lost all hope. Abbott plans to let him die.
Today, he told us that he fled Iran to escape being locked up and tortured – only to suffer the same fate in Australia.

We call on the Abbott government for an Act of Compassion. They can relieve his suffering and save his life by releasing him into Community Detention immediately.”

This could be me, you, anyone in fact born into an unhappy fate. My head hangs in shame of my government, in shame of my country.
I hear some say in the face of domestic violence and child abuse, ”you must forgive, otherwise you will end up bitter.” – What do we do in the face of ongoing violence and abuse meted out to asylum seekers by our abusive government, a scenario in which many of us feel the agony of bearing witness? Am I to forgive? Of course not. Am I too forget, push aside as too damaging to my own psyche? Nope.
Those of us who stand in solidarity are crucified, our flesh weeping blood from so many nails as our friends on the other side of the fence are violated, tortured and oppressed every day.

Acceptance of violence and abuse always happens after the fact. I may not forgive the perpetrator but I can find acceptance in my heart, for I cannot undo time, regret is futile and I would not wish to give the perpetrator the additional satisfaction of ruining my whole life. While the violence and abuse continue however, there is no acceptance. There is only an agony of heart. There is only the awareness that we exist inside a living hell, a hell equal to all the other living hells, from the Inquisition to the Nazi death camps.

There will always be those who condone or even approve of the internment camps, just as there were those who approved of the Inquisitors.

I’m always amazed by how many who choose to stand on the side of the abusers, the perpetrators, those prepared to deny the horrors, the truths. Mothers who blame their daughters for the bruises on their faces, bruises from marital punches. Citizens who vilify victims of terror for fleeing the bombs, the bullets and the blades.

As I hang from the nails embedded in my flesh, my wounds weep all the more knowing this.