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The children, the children!

Twenty-five minutes into last Monday night’s QandA, a question was asked about the refugees and specifically the children, stuck in the Guantanamos that Australia had created on Nauru and Manus. Mr Phillip Ruddock was asked to respond.

Ruddock leaned forward defiantly, some would say threateningly and asked the audience, “How many of you have been to Cox Bazaar in Bangladesh?”

Ruddock is the special envoy to the Prime Minister for Human Rights, the NSW Liberal Party President and a member of Amnesty International.

His demeanor could bring to mind an old uncle who had lost his mind a very long time ago and his temper at that very moment.

His view, as he enunciated it, is that unless we can do something about all those other – millions of them! – children living in far more appalling conditions in Cox Bazaar and all around the world, we need do nothing about those children that we ourselves have locked up and put into our own version of “appalling conditions.” It is an act of charity, after all. To save other children from drowning.

Therefore, he concluded, the NZ deal cannot go ahead and the notion that all those refugees – all those children in those “appalling conditions” – be brought to Australia was a nauseating anathema! We have no humanitarian questions to answer! The NZ deal could not happen because sometime in the future, these children would be able to come into Australia and … and what?

This view, that unless we do something else, something which is impossible to achieve, we don’t need to do anything, is emphasised a little later in the evening when Ruddock is asked this time to comment on climate change.

“… if you’ve not got China if you’ve not got Europe, if you’ve not got India if you’ve not got the United States if you’ve not got South America all involved …”

So we do nothing about those we’ve locked up in our abominable dungeons and we do nothing about climate change!

How on earth can we face all those other countries which Mr Ruddock has mentioned and ask them to do something about these issues if we, not only have done nothing about them but, in fact did things to make them worse?

Ruddock’s rhetoric is casuistry at its most blatant. A work of sophistry. A set of specious dot points that rely not on Aristotle’s “sylogism” (a set of conclusions based on previously proven conclusions) but, the reverse, conclusions made on things that cannot be proven or accomplished, the end result of which would be that the status quo remains. The children stay in those “appalling conditions” and the planet stays on its trajectory to becoming uninhabitable, all thanks to this form of thinking.

From the other politician, Mr Albanese I could – try as I might- heard nothing that delivers anything more than what Mr Ruddock had delivered. It took the brand-new politician, Dr Kerryn Phelps to put a bit of a flutter of optimism in my heart.

Thank you, Dr Phelps. Long may you reign and strong may be your right hand as you try and bend these unbendable minds now clogging the corridors of this country’s power.

Would we be hearing anything different from a certain female Senator from Queensland?

The question on children indicates the state of our moral health and that on climate change, the state of our intellectual health and the health of our planet. So far we have failed miserably on both of these states.

So, now we have the children and the planet caught firmly in the cross fire of egos, far too big, too prodigiously billowing to be allowed to continue as they are and at their whim and at their political contingencies.

And they are caught not only in the cross fire but in the cross hairs of our politician’s political long guns. Both, children and the planet are being shot at, both being treated with ever-increasing contempt and an ever-increasing resolve to have them – children and climate – disappear one way or another from their list of duties and responsibilities.

Some two and half thousand years ago, in the nascent Democracy of Athens, Pericles, one of its most prominent leaders, enacted a law which said that only children whose parents were both citizens of Athens would be allowed citizenship, otherwise they would remain in the status of barbarians, foreigners in our parlance. In other words, both mother and father must be Athenian citizens for their children to be treated as citizens, with all the rights of all Athenian citizen.

The tragedian Euripides was disgusted by that law and wrote his “Medea” to show what the outcome of such a discriminatory, eugenic, racist law would be.

Jason was from Iolcos and the rightful king but his father Aeson who wanted to keep the throne for himself, sent him off to Colchis, virtually the other end of the known world back then, to bring back the Golden fleece. That he thought would have him killed or disposed off for a very long time. (Kicking the can down the road a bit, as it were.) Jason gets a crew together, called the Argonauts after the name of the ship and its builder, Argos, goes to Colchis where Medea, the Princess helps him to take the golden fleece and escapes with him back to Jason’s home.

Upon their return however, Aeson refuses them both, the throne and citizenship and sends them away. The young couple now become refugees.

They end up in Corinth but there too, they are treated very badly. After all, they are not Corinthians. They are foreigners. They now have children.

After a while, Jason wants to marry the local princess, Glauke, so as to – so he says- get some respect for and acceptance of his children and of Medea. Medea doesn’t buy that and, in a mood of vengeance kills the Princess and, at the same time, her father the King.

Then she kills their two children and flees off to Athens.

Euripides tells this story as a criticism of Pericles’ new law and, more importantly as a moral question to the Athenians: “now that Medea is here,” he asks them, “how will you, Athenians, you who listen to your Pericles and boast that you are civilised and democratic and fair-minded and hospitable, people whose god is Zeus Xenios (ie the protector of the stranger) how will you treat her?”

Euripides had changed the myth slightly so as to emphasise his disgust. In the original story, Medea left alone and it was the Corinthians, the locals who had killed the kids. By changing this bit of the story Euripides, shows, among other things the desperation a mother feels in a hostile, racist world. She kills them rather than leave them for the locals to either torment them or – worse, kill them – and takes away their bodies to bury them with dignity elsewhere rather than to have them defiled by the racist locals.

That was Medea’s children, children that were caught in the crossfire of adult egos, children who have done nothing but were punished fatally. Cross fire and cross hairs.

Then, some 26 years later, in around 405BC, Euripides wrote his last extant play, Iphigeneia in Aulis.

This time he uses a young girl to teach the same lesson.

The young girl, Iphigeneia, a princess and the daughter of the leader of the army, (one thousand ships of it) Agamemnon, had committed no sin and performed no ill deed to anyone. But her father did. He had committed a grievous sin against the goddess Artemis by killing her favourite animal, a deer. Now, Agamemnon and all the armies of Greece were stuck around the harbour of Aulis for three years, waiting for favourable winds to fill their sails and head for Troy to bring back the queen of Sparta, Helen who was abducted by Paris, the Trojan Prince.

The priest Calchas was asked to ask the gods what was wrong, and he had returned bearing bad news. Artemis is seeking compensation of equal value: he had killed her favourite animal, so he must kill his own, that being Iphigeneia. Also, to deter others from committing similar acts of hubris.

Iphigeneia’s speech, her plea to her father is one the most emotional speeches that Euripides had ever written, though, as emotional speeches go, he has always been far superior to his colleagues, Aeschylus (the father of tragedy) and Sophocles, who, most probably, was still around. Those two weren’t as keen to use emotions to deliver their moral instructions. Their method was simple. The gods are annoyed with you, Agamemnon or Klytaemestra, or Oedipus so you must die. Euripides went not only for the jugular but also for the heart.

So, the child, Iphigeneia too was caught in the cross fire of adult egos. “If I had the words of Orpheus, father …”

Verbal emotions were exhibited aplenty by the two leaders of the two leading parties in Australia last week, saying sorry to the children who were caught in the cross fire of political egos and the cross hairs of paedophiles.

Not too far away by terrestrial as well as by moral metres are some other children, also caught in the same cross fire of the same political egos, egos that care only for their own hollow bloatings than for finding a way of releasing those children from the jaws of torture and death into which these very same politicians dropped them and bringing them here, into our welcoming arms, arms that welcome all life.

Rhetoric gushes out easily. Cascades of it, tsunamis of it and all replete with emotional appeals and sympathy. Saying sorry is easy. Far too easy it seems. Doing things that show that we are indeed sorry, that we repent and are prepared to repair is quite another thing.

The children – and adults – in Manus and Nauru will stay there and under the same “appalling” conditions so long as politicians use casuistry like that used by Mr Ruddock and the mealy mouthed mumblings of Mr Albanese during last Monday’s QandA. Let us hope that Dr Phelps’ words become the flesh and blood of real action.

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  1. Baby Jewels

    Ruddock was always evil. A twenty first century christian (unlike the Christians I knew growing up) who is perfectly comfortable in his promotion of harm towards the vulnerable whilst prancing the world as a member of Amnesty International – a great cover.

  2. Nigel Dale

    Ruddock was also asked how the Coalition under John Howard emptied the very same centres of the asylum seekers sent their after the Tampa affair without the the ‘People smugglers’ sending more boats to Australia. He couldn’t or wouldn’t answer the question. What I want to know is how did that happen?

  3. Jon Chesterson

    George, I am so pleased you picked up on this for this is the bane of our existence in Australia and sadly Q & A looked really banal for not allowing these two to be challenged more rigorously.

    …So I’m thinking about Kids on Nauru, global warming, the recent by-election and our idiot politicians who dish out this cruelty like smarties, smirk and think they’re smart. Both Ruddock and Albanese trudge those moral trenches, typical of both parties, but none so repugnant as Morrison and the Lberals, past and present.

    The drought,
    the floods
    they rage

    So here’s my poem: Morrison’s Bell – A Treasurer’s Creed, AB 25 October 2018 at

  4. Diannaart


    Agree with your thoughts on Ruddock and Albanese. Was Albo actually worse for obfuscation, or Ruddock for attempted bait and switch?

    Did not bother with the lecture on one of the works by Euripides, I’m sure it is relevant and, no doubt, others will appreciate your effort. Indeed “rhetoric gushes easily” 😋

    Will Dr Phelps live up to her promise? Helen Razer has some very pertinent thoughts:

    It’s gonna be an interesting ride … by way of the Chinese definition of ‘interesting’.

  5. New England Cocky

    Ruddock will be remembered for his sham Christianity and inhumane attitudes to refugees rather than his review of the Family Law Act that provided relief to many families.

  6. helvityni

    What I find very baffling that both Labor and the Coalition are expecting other countries to solve this problem of keeping sick and depressed children and adults indefinitely on Nauru and Manus; where is our empathy and humanity.

    Didn’t we once give millions to Myanmar (?) to take some of our asylum seekers,only very few went there, god only knows where they are now…

  7. Terence Mills

    This is very worrying :

    The Greens senator Nick McKim had sought to visit the island nation in late October to speak with the refugees sent there by the Australian government and inspect their living conditions. However, on Thursday afternoon he was told his visa request was denied.

    “We have been informed by the Australian High Commission on Nauru that the senator’s request to visit Nauru does not have the support of the Australian Dfat office,” a Nauruan consular assistant wrote. “Therefore Nauru government is unable to support the senator’s visa request at this time.”

    PS Helvityni, it was Cambodia that we gifted some $50 million to take our refugees : in the end I think only six went and they have since moved on.

  8. kerri

    Thank you for this article. I have been commenting since Scotts teary performance about the utter hypocrisy in what was said.
    The problem with refugee children is that they are too young.
    We hear you.
    We believe you.
    Only applies when you are of a litigious age.

  9. helvityni

    Thanks Terence, I could not remember, and was too lazy to check…

    kerri, we have many Scotts; the teary one, the sporty one, the smirky one, the spiritual one, the angry one ( when Phelps won the election)….

  10. Patagonian

    Ruddock’s replies to all questions were uniformly bizarre, but the lecture on Cox’s Bazaar was the most bizarre of all. He thinks he’s being clever by using the Bejelke-Petersen method of ignoring the question and saying what he wants to say but people these days are far more media-savvy and he just ended up looking like a senile old fool.

  11. SteveFitz

    In our quest to become more civilised, as a species, this is what we are up against. Lessors like Ruddock would drag us back into the cave.

    Race, colour or creed doesn’t matter. If you mixed us all together there are only two groups that define us. Those who have a sense of what’s right, and those who don’t. Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell us apart until the true colours are shown.

    Ruddock has exposed himself and those he represents and, it’s not too late to do something about it… I can still be shocked

  12. george theodoridis

    Many thanks guys for reading and for your excellent comments.

    Nigel, Peter van Onselen gave the answer to that question. Howard did it quietly. A few here, a few there, without any noise or fuss. It worked. The issue subsided. But that was the problem. When issues disappear the relevance of the politicians becomes questionable. So, politicians will try and make sure that they don’t. At least not entirely. The likes of Ruddock, of Morrison, of Dutton, Abbott -perhaps the whole of the LNP, if not the entire population of the Parliament will keep churning it -the issue, I mean. Who suffers in the process is, to them, merely a type of “collateral damage” (euphemism for “callous carnage”).

    Great poem, Jon.
    “…no greater lie than denial of humanity,
    …. and I shall not resign…”

    No, none of us should! I have always been confounded by the ease with which these politicians utter these grotesque lies, complete with the smirks of smugness and disdain for what any sentient being would think or feel.
    Do they really believe this stuff -that it’s ok to demolish the fragile spirits of an innocent child so as to teach others a lesson, for example, or that we’re doing these very evil things so that other children won’t drown? Or that these children are not suffering, it’s the journos and the lefties who lie?

    They sicken me these smirks. But they do go on! And they go on confounding me!

    Thanks for the link to Razer’s article, Diannaart. I love her observations and her insightful cynicism. Politicians, they spawn it and they nurture it. They live of it.
    I have heard a number of utterances from Dr Phelps that made me quite anxious and Razer lists almost all of them. Phelps’ views on the muslims is also a deep worry.
    But she has put a kink in the trajectory of these thugs -labor and liberal- especially concerning Climate change and the refugees. At least for now and at least with bellowing announcements so that if she shows herself to be yet another Morrison -or Turnbull, or Dutton et al- she will have Razer’s pigshit dropped on her from a great height and in great volume.
    One thing I used to do but have not done since I grew up, is to think that a politician is a hero -like Hercules, for example who cleaned Augeas’ shit-clogged stables, or Theseus who killed the Minotaur a beast that was fed 14 youths every seven or so years. There is no politician who can clean so much shit and save so many children. At least not right now, so Dr Phelps is not a hero or a messiah but someone who’s promised to be one.
    But she has delivered a sharp spear at the body of politics and for that I thank her from the bottom of my heart.

    NEC, I’m not sure whether there is anything other than “sham Christianity” or “sham-any-religion.” They are, in my devout atheism, all collections of stories that give rise to superstitions and fears and ignorance and pretenders of the high moral ground. Ruddock is the absolute paradigm of abject hypocrisy when it comes to anything resembling morality. And, like so many other hypocrites, he holds such a hugely powerful position in the running of this country. Indeed, one might well argue that our country is run by -and has been run by for a very long time- by hypocrites and bigots of the worst order. Remember George Brandis and his “we all have the right to be bigots?”

    Helvi, yes, how on earth can we expect other countries to take over our responsibilities to fellow humans, responsibilities towards the humans we, ourselves -and with great gusto- put in these barbaric situations? There is nothing in this very sorry saga that makes any sense at all. Nothing that can engage neither brain nor heart satisfactorily. It is pure evil. Totally so.
    You are right to ask about our vanishing empathy and humanity.

    Terence, and why do we allow this totalitarian order to take effect? Nevermind, McKim, we should grab everyone of our politicians and drag them there, one by one, make them look into the faces of the children, their mums and dads, make them live with them for a month -let alone for five+years and ask them how they felt. Make every one of them walk in the shoes of their victims and let’s see if they change their mind. Or keep them there until they do!

    Yes, Kerri. Politics 101 seems to include a very effective term in Acting, Dissembling, Mendacity, Surreptitious Trickery and self serving Legalisms. Kids that are too young to know the word “bastard” may be treated unjustly.

    Patagonian, my jaws dropped when I saw the imbecile jut out his face and spat out the question, “Have you been to Cox Bazaar?” Bizarre is right. Ignore the question, ignore the plight, ignore your duty. Politics in our day, in our country!

    SteveFitz. Fifty or perhaps even a hundred million years of human evolution seems to have bypassed these creatures who, intellectually and morally seem to still be lurking in the primal sludge. The planet will go up in flames before they ever set their foot on land and their brain on a mind.

  13. king1394

    The excuse of ‘but everybody is doing it’ is an adolescent’s version of Ruddock’s and the Liberal Party in general’s attitude to many problems. Adults are expected to take personal responsibility to manage problems of their own making, and to work communally to solve problems that are affecting us across society.

    In the case of our treatment of refugees who have ended up on Nauru, it is definitely a problem arising from the Libera party’s own policies, and therefore it is their responsibility to figure out a solution – Ruddock is more than just a mouthpiece and holds his high position in the Liberal party because he is a willing supporter of the policies. The ALP supports the New Zealand solution, and it is the Liberal Party (and Nationals) scrabbling for some way to prevent the use of this solution who have come up with the extraordinary idea that a special barrier should be raised against these people somehow ever making their way here in years to come. Ruddock’s attempt to be emotional about the worldwide tragedies of refugees everywhere (and yes, we have heard of Cox’s Bazaar) is just a slightly more sophisticated version of the queue jumper argument.

    The same abrogation of responsibility on the grounds of the same sort of adolescent argument is seen in the Federal Government’s attempts to ignore the problems of climate change while there remains possibilities for private profits in coal.

  14. paul walter

    king 1394 nails it with the descriptor “adolescent”.

    The idiot busted in the US for mailing out the pipe bombs is an example of the tendency come to fruition. Leading the pack locally are Hanson, Dutton and Abbott, but there are plenty more just behind, including Abetz, Cash and Morrison.

  15. David Bruce

    Thank you George for an excellent article!

    Three other interesting items (to me at least) have occurred this month. Germany, France, Russia and Turkey have decided to fix Syria. The heads of state met recently in Istanbul. Their statement, read by Erdogan, called for a committee to be established to draft Syria’s post-war constitution before the end of the year, “paving the way for free and fair elections” in the war-torn country. The summit also addressed the plight of the millions displaced by the grinding conflict, saying that conditions needed to be created “throughout the country for the safe and voluntary return of refugees”.–spt.html

    Then I found the latest book by F William Engdahl about THE LOST HEGEMON: WHOM THE GODS WOULD DESTROY . He writes about how the world really works and his latest publication is brilliant. The authors’ foreword about The Islamic State and the Lost Hegemon claims that by the early weeks of 2015 the Sole Superpower, the global Hegemon, the American Oligarchs were not only lost, but also going mad. The world was slipping from their grasp.

    Euripides expressed it, “Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad.”

    Finally, I read the article in the Economist and Yahoo Finance News, about “Australia’s economy is still booming, but politics is a cause for concern!” by Edward McBride. He asserts “Politicians are the biggest threat to our economy” in Yahoo Finance!

    What really concerns me is this comment from Edward McBride!

    ““I’m surprised by how few Australians seem to realise how much their country stands out,” McBride told Yahoo Finance.
    “Not just in terms of how long it has gone without a recession, but also in terms of income growth, immigration and economic reform.”

    If the USA and China decide to have a show down, Australia would be a perfect target!

    China needs Australia as its’ food bowl and quarry, the USA needs the bases (Pine Gap, Darwin and a permanent aircraft carrier in the South Pacific).

    It is time we tell our politicians to PYFO and POPO

    (Pull Your Finger Out – Perform Or Piss Off)

  16. Josephus

    How I wish the Greek plays were performed, rather than the mindless drivel of many plays eg musicals, which are usually bread and circuses, no more. Or soma, to quote Huxley’s Brave New World. It is not democracy when the people are encouraged to be idiots.

  17. Paul Davis

    Sky News is reporting, with support from Menzies Institute and Liberal Party, that 40 of the 300 people transferred to the USA some months back are “begging” to be allowed to return to Nauru. Other persons ‘incarcerated ‘ on Nauru have taken holidays to places like Fiji… They also receive a living allowance paid by Australia that makes them more affluent than local Nauruans.

    The question is, therefore, are these people living in a gulag or a paradise?

    Maybe if Morrison allowed open access by the press we might know the truth.

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