Political power & Leaky Boats

I watched ‘Leaky Boat’ last night on the ABC1 TV and the follow up ‘Q & A’  special, ‘Stopping the Boats’.

Both programs were disturbing.

‘Leaky Boat’ showed the callous cruelty to asylum seekers and the media manipulation of a largely ignorant and fearful nation by our political leaders in their pursuit of political power. The second program, ‘Q & A’, perhaps inadvertently demonstrated the inability of the show’s panel to engage in constructive and civilised dialogue, let alone any iota of accountability by the politicians.

I was grateful for the courage  of the former navy sailor, Bec Lynd, who was prepared tp speak publically of her horror and changed understanding of ‘boat people’ due to the Australian naval ship, ‘Adelaide’, failing its moral duty by waiting and watching until the asylum seekers’ boat sank before giving them support.

Two photos, one with a child being held aloft by an asylum seeker and a second photo taken later when the boat had sunk and children were in the water, were conflated into one act: ‘children thrown overboard’. The Australian Government used this slogan and helped the nation conclude that Australia did not want this sort of people. The crew of the navy ship, Adelaide, was told that ‘children (thrown) overboard’ was not true but they were not to talk to the media to correct the erroneous view previously given by the Government.

It was becoming clear that the Australian Government’s telling of this story was untrue and moreover that keeping the ‘boat people’ out of Australia was not about Australia’s national security but about the Government winning the election and holding on to power.

To what extent a corrupt (or corrupted) nation is complicit in this dehumanising of asylum seekers and its associated fear mongering, remains a vexed question. At the end of the ‘Leaky Boat’ program a gracious young Muslim woman, a ‘boat people’, who survived the trip to Australia, stated ‘Australians are mostly nice people when you get to know them’. Grace is the stronger when responding to callous self-interest.

But are Australians ‘nice’ to ‘strange people’ on a leaky boat? Australians have yet to demonstrate it.

May God give us generosity and courage to be truly ‘nice’; the costly ‘nice’ of generous hospitality, fearless compassion and a willingness to not cling on to power but to give up what might be rightly ours for the good of others. We remember Jesus who gave up all his glory and power to give himself for undeserving world Philippians 2:1-11).

Our capacity to dehumanise the people fleeing persecution by referring to them as ‘boat people’ was briefly discussed on ‘Q & A’. I too wonder at the term, ‘boat people’ and ask why do we reduce people through labelling them ‘boat people’ and to what end? Is it to justify our treatment of these people as objects hostile to our way of life, even as ‘enemy’, and hence we are able to cast them literally out to sea while we permit ourselves to sleep with a clear conscience?

I was heartened to hear both the Immigration Minister Chris Bowen, and his opposite number, Scott Morrison, refute the claims of a rogue email claiming that refugees receive better benefits than Australian citizens.

See Leaky Boat  and  Stopping the Boats.

To see the ‘human face’ of asylum seekers check out: The Rugmaker of Mazar-E-Sharif.


Political power & Leaky Boats — 3 Comments

  1. Amnesty International have released a survey into Australians’ attitudes to asylum seekers.

    The results show our views about asylum seekers are not based on racial issues.

    “Distrust or antipathy towards asylum seekers was a perception – [that] these were people that were breaking the rules, that they were doing something wrong and because they were doing something wrong, being tough on them was actually taking a stand for Australian values,”

    Unsurprisingly but sadly it concludes, “the debate about asylum seekers in Australia could be different if it was not so politicised”.

    In an attempt to overcome this Amnesty International has used the findings to develop a new campaign called ‘Rethink Refugees’.

    “I think what it comes down to is getting these facts out there, but then at the same time, giving people opportunities to empathise with the real stories of asylum seekers,”

    May God bless the ‘Rethink Refugees’ campaign and read the following outstanding book which builds empathy with asylum seekers, http://imaginarydiocese.org/bishopjohn/2011/07/08/the-rugmaker-of-mazar-e-sharif-book-review/.

    The ABC radio headlines: “Asylum seeker debate fuelled by misinformation, not racism”. See, http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/07/09/3265478.htm?section=justin

  2. When I read Brian McLaren’s book, A new Kind of Christianity, the following passage illuminated the “why”, i.e. the reason, for the campaign to dehumanize refugees.

    “Sociologists sometimes say that groups can exist without a God, but no group can exist without a devil. Some individual or groups need to be identified as the enemy, as evil as a threat – so that the troops can be rallied, funds can be raised, internal questions and divisions can be suppressed, and boundaries can be maintained”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *