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The meaning of life

By Ad astra

As you sit on your comfortable chair after a satisfying meal with a glass of your favourite drink in hand and view current affairs programmes on TV, do you reflect on the plethora of distressing images that assail viewers day after day? Do you ponder how you might feel if you were part of those images?

2 How did you feel when you saw the stunned, blackened, bloodied face of five-year-old Omran Daqneesh, sitting in an ambulance after being dragged from the rubble after another air attack on Aleppo? Did it bring back memories of Alan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian boy of Kurdish background drowned on a beach near the Turkish resort of Bodrum in September last year during his parents’ attempt to escape Syria for the Greek island of Kos. This image shocked the world, yet here we are a year later shocked again by the same conflict and the same awful outcomes for children. Now we hear that Omran’s ten-year-old brother Ali died in the same attack.

3 These images reminded us of a photo of a small, naked nine-year-old Vietnamese girl, Phan Thị Kim Phúc, also known as ‘Napalm Girl’ running away from a napalm raid on her village. The photograph is one of the most memorable of the 20th century. It may have changed attitudes to the Vietnam conflict, highlighting as it did the tragic legacy of war, but here we are again reliving the tragedies all over again, tragedies that afflict little children, innocents who suffer because of where they live, whose lives are forever scarred. These children have known nothing but war.

When you wake in the morning, do you ever ask: ‘What am I going to do today?” For older folk, now in retirement, this may be a regular question. Can you imagine what the answer might be if you were living in the rubble of Aleppo or any of hundreds of places ravished by war day after day? Can you picture what your answer might be if you were living in an overcrowded refugee camp in Turkey just over the border from Syria. The most likely answer might be simply ‘survival’, survival for another day – finding enough food, water and shelter for yourself and your family to keep body and soul together. What might your answer be if you were confined to Manus Island or Nauru, with virtually no prospect of ever settling where normal family life might be resumed?

As we enjoy our comfortable lives, how can we imagine what it must be like to suffer the torment, the danger, the uncertainty, the boredom and the endless weariness of living in limbo?

We struggle to contemplate these never-ending agonies, and feel helpless as we reflect on whether we can ever make a difference for those who live with this daily suffering. It is distressing even to think about it.

For these unfortunate people, what is the meaning of life?

When survival is their prime endeavour, how can they anticipate a secure life, a rewarding existence, and a healthy future?

Most who read this piece will have had a satisfying life. Not perfect, not lavish, not entirely free of stress, worry and ill health, but agreeable enough in this land of ours so gifted with natural resources and opportunity. Most will feel fulfilled, will feel that they have made a contribution to our multicultural society. Not all – there are always the disadvantaged, the sick, the disabled, the poor, the homeless, those who have been dealt a poor hand in the game of life. Our society recognizes these inequities and makes provision for some of them.

Most who live in this richly endowed country are likely to feel that they have been able to make a contribution to society and, to use a hackneyed phrase, will ‘leave it in better shape’. For some this has been relatively easy. Teachers, doctors, health care workers, neighbourhood workers, firefighters and police officers go to work each day feeling that what they do is valuable, indeed essential for the wellbeing of the community. Likewise, mothers know that giving life to children is crucial to the vitality of our community. Raising and nurturing a family gives meaning to life for parents around the world. Some find meaning in life by adherence to religion, or through support for charitable organizations. Some join movements protesting against injustice.

There are of course many other ways that we contribute, whether through manufacturing, commerce, industry, public service, the armed forces, or the myriad of services the community wants and needs. Some may feel that their occupation is humdrum and their contribution insignificant, but most can enjoy the satisfaction of doing something for others. For most in this lucky country, although sadly not all, there is meaning to life, and satisfaction with a life well lived.

But this does not relieve us from being concerned about those less well off, about the inequality that afflicts our Australian society, about those whom we as a nation treat poorly, or inhospitably, or cruelly, or indifferently.

How can we watch the images of war: destruction, displacement, despair and death, even of precious children, and not want to do something? All except those who have built a wall of indifference around them feel the anguish of conflict, dislocation, poverty, injustice, unfairness and inequality. Yet we so often feel powerless to effect any change. Too often, we lack the means. While life might be meaningful for us, we know it is not for so many others. How can we make a difference in the lives of the less fortunate? How can we help them to find meaning where there is so little?

The answer seems to rest largely with those whom we elect to represent us. Individually, we are unable to stop conflict, eliminate war, remedy the displacement of many millions around the world, and relieve the poverty, the injustice and the inequalities that afflict so many. But we do have our politicians and the public service that supports them.

Of all our citizens, politicians have more power than any of us to effect change. Politicians are able to assess the state of our world and our nation, to identify our problems, to evaluate our advantages, to take stock of our resources, to arrive at equitable solutions, and to put them into place. We elect them to do this. We want them to enact laws that give meaning to people’s lives, laws that give a helping hand to those who need it, that smooth out social inequities, that increase the prosperity of our nation and all who live in it, that enable all of us to make the most of our lives, to enjoy meaningful lives that enrich not just ourselves, but all those with whom we have contact.

Moreover, we want our politicians to reach out to those outside our country, to use their influence to lessen tensions, conflict and war. We want them to bring peace to our troubled world. And while they are doing so, we want them to give succour to the displaced, to the families and the children ravaged by conflict, destruction and death, to give them the opportunity of a meaningful life.

I know it reads like an impossible dream. Sadly we not only seem to be far from realizing the dream; we seem to be making the nightmare worse.

I could write reams about the inadequacies, the indifference and sheer incompetence of our federal government, but I need go no further than ask why our offshore detention arrangements continue to persecute the innocent – the men, women and children that languish without hope on Nauru and Manus Island. How in earth has it come to this?

We know the history pretty well. Look behind it though and we see the real reasons. John Howard saw a political advantage in opposing asylum seekers coming by boat. The ‘Tampa affair’, the ‘children overboard’ saga, and his words, indelibly written into our history; “We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come”, all reinforced a view that these people were unwelcome intruders. Tony Abbott, never to miss a chance to wedge his opponents, ramped up the anti-asylum seeker rhetoric, demonized boat people, stirred up enmity, even hatred among some in marginal electorates, and used the slogan ‘Stop the Boats’ to successfully wedge his opponents. His hyper-partisan approach to boat arrivals set a pattern that exists to this day.

Labor became caught up in an unseemly race to the bottom; inhumanity, cruelty and hopelessness became the norm for boat people. It persists still. Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton became loyal foot soldiers for Abbott and his conservative admirers, and now for Turnbull, who despite his own feelings, has been dragooned into taking the same punitive, unyielding, unsympathetic, mean approach of his predecessor, all in pursuit of the spurious objective of ‘protecting our borders’ from what is represented as some sort of invasion. The truth is that he is protecting his back from the knives of Abbott’s conservatives.

Our federal government seems hell-bent on depriving those on Manus and Nauru of any real meaning in their lives. Every morning, as they ask what they are going to do today, the answer is the same – survive another day. They dare not hope for any improvement in their situation. And in addition to their overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and despair, they now suffer assaults, sexual abuse, rape, child abuse, and discrimination, about which reports Dutton is skeptical and indifferent.

What has our country come to? Our reputation as a decent people is tarnished daily. We are held up to the world community as cruel, indifferent to the norms of international behaviour towards asylum seekers, and thoroughly mean spirited. Is that the image we want?

So what is the answer? What can we do to change the state of the world, or closer to home the plight of asylum seekers in indefinite detention? How can we make life more meaningful for these almost-forgotten people? How can we enhance the meaning of life for ourselves?

The ballot box is one answer. But with both major parties using asylum seeker issues as a wedge, would a change of government make any difference, so entrenched in the electorate is the anti-asylum seeker feeling, now accentuated by Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party?

There are protest movements: GetUp and 350.org are just two, but they are having little effect on the Turnbull government and its hardnosed Immigration Minister, the odious Dutton.

Blog sites and social media have a role to play; even writing something like this piece, and commenting on it, give a feeling of doing something, no matter how small.

We all seek meaning in our lives, but sadly many have few avenues of enriching it. Maybe contributing our small voices in this way is the best we can do to encourage, indeed pressure those whom we depend upon to speak out and act for us in this troubled world, to challenge, repudiate and defeat the alien forces we see operating around us everywhere, every day. But that would take fortitude and selflessness, rare attributes in today’s politicians, for whom self-interest prevails.

Oh for politicians of the calibre of William Wilberforce and Emmeline Pankhurst, whose courage, tenacity and unyielding persistence gave meaning to the lives of so many of the oppressed, so many of the disadvantaged!

Where have they gone?

What do you think?

What do you feel about the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East?

What do you feel about the way the government is managing offshore processing at Manus Island and Narau?

How would you prefer them to be managed?

Should those detained there be brought to Australia for assimilation?

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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44 comments

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  1. 1petermcc

    I think we are so used to the tragic images that it just washes over us.

    I recently had a “discussion” with a chap on FB who claimed it was easy for asylum seekers to come to Oz. If he had paid any attention to the footage on the news services he would not be making that claim.

    Sadly, it sounded like the only thing gaining his attention is the Bolt-like contributions so easily found on Social Media.

    “Should those detained there be brought to Australia for assimilation?

    Sadly that is how we view folk these days. Instead of celebrating a different culture enriching our lives, the focus seems to be how invisible we can make them. It’s almost as if we have forgotten how great this country is and why it is so.

  2. Steve Laing - makeourvoiceheard.com

    Unfortunately it now seems that pictures no longer shock. As we’ve seen with Don Dale, video footage still seems to capture attention, but reports and indeed pictures, are largely ignored, indeed they are attacked as distractions, and dissected as misleading, or politically motivated, and thus ignored. Unless someone with clout decides to do something about it, nothing will happen, as voters, and the media, seem increasingly disinterested.

  3. Alison White

    I cry.
    I cry because I cannot help.
    I cry because the world is so out of balance.
    I cry from frustration.
    I cry because I imagine being in their shoes too well.
    I cry out of anger at our politicians.
    I cry because there appears to be no answer.

  4. diannaart

    What do you feel about the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East?
    Despair. If not for oil, the USA, Russia and other players would not be interested. How to fix? Weaning off oil would be a good start. Setting up safe areas for refugees, with actual medical, food and educational services. Linked in with resettlement either in nearby region (where most refugees are) or in other willing nations.

    What do you feel about the way the government is managing offshore processing at Manus Island and Nauru?
    The I have felt about successive governments since Howard and ‘children overboard’ – appalled, sickened, cannot believe it has go on for so long. Inept and failure for both the refugees and government.

    How would you prefer them to be managed?
    I prefer they be closed immediately – they are a money pit and damaging people beyond hope. Set humane housing onshore and in Indonesia and other will Asian countries – no bribes, just the opportunity to assist with building homes, providing essential services (medical, education) set up gardens to grow additional produce to food supplies.

    Should those detained there be brought to Australia for assimilation?
    Absolutely. Not sure about the word ‘assimilation’ but to be housed and settled in large regional cities such as Ballarat, Bendigo and equivalent in other states. Immediate support for mental and physical health, education programs for adults and to help children be brought up to speed before joining Australian public schools.

  5. mark delmege

    The first thing is to understand what is happening and why. You wont get it from radio Empire or its cousins (ABC SBS or the commercial media). Go beyond the manufactured images and stop believing that our politicians are the most powerful people in the land. Understand that emotionalism is the first tool in the propaganda playbook. You can do it if you try. Do your own research.

  6. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    A good start would be to demand all politicians to view their political platforms through a social perspective or at least a socio-economic one.

    Break down the Thatcher bullshit that there is no such thing as a society and only an economy made up of haves and have-not individuals.

    That way, the neoliberals everywhere cannot continue to put helping the desperate and vulnerable in ‘the too hard basket’ because it’s all too hard economically to get off our backsides and lend a hand.

  7. Matters Not

    Wow! A very well written article. In awe.

    Metaphysics, epistemology, and axiology. In short – Philosophy.

  8. Matters Not

    We all seek meaning in our lives

    Perhaps? But I suspect that in the final analysis, it is only each and every individual who can (must and does) give that meaning. Meaning is not something ‘received’ but ‘created’.

    Sure, we can always blame the ‘other’ but we shouldn’t deny our individual role in that process.

    Let’s take some individual responsibility for what we think and how we behave.

  9. Maureen Walton (@maureen_walton)

    I watched 4 Corners about Aleppo Syria it was so sad, so horrible. Poor innocent children and poor parents. Russia and Government bombings Hospitals etc. Guns and bombs going off all the time. What sort of a life have these people got now.

    We have a Government who keeps reminding people how bad Asylum Seekers are. I am ashamed of the treatment we are dishing out to these people who just want a good peaceful life in a free country. Yet now lots of people in Australia are now so scared of Terrorists thanks to Abbott and LNP. Reminds me of when I was a little girl we were told how bad the Communists were and they were coming to get us. Thank god they did not, they never came and got us. I so wish same would happen in Syria, Irak and Afganistan that very soon children will be able to be children and not always have bad scary memories in their psyche and that their nightmares will be gone forever more..

  10. michael lacey

    Images of Aleppo Boy Omran’s self-style photojournalist,Mahmoud Raslan, are seen posted on Facebook together with Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki “rebels” (aka US-backed terrorists) – responsible for beheading 12-year-old Abdullah Tayseer Issa near Aleppo weeks earlier. The western media jumped all over the story as it gave us the narrative the west like, making sure we condemn the Syrian government and the Russians! The journalist who talk the photo is a member of a terrorist group. Why haven’t photos and stories of this atrocity gone viral? Why hasn’t Raslan been exposed as an ally of US-supported terrorists? Why doesn’t this automatically raise red flags about the veracity of the Aleppo Boy story?
    http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=498_1471623146
    http://sjlendman.blogspot.com.au/search?q=aleppo+boy

  11. Jocelyn

    You ask how I feel about the people on Manus and Nauru, I feel totally ashamed at the way they are treated in my name. A few years ago we did our dream trip around Oz, and we were amazed at how many small, outback towns appear to be fading away due to lack of population. Wilcannia in western NSW was one. It has a number of lovely old empty buildings. Why don’t we ask some of these towns if they would be prepared to welcome a couple of asylum seeking families into their community. The asylum seekers would be able to become Australian citizens after staying in that town for a couple of years as was done with the Italian and Greek people who came over here after WW2. A lot of them actually stayed in those towns at the end of the designated time spent, which improved the townships. In most of these outback towns, there would not even be a need to build homes. Our population has only been improved by all the different refugees we have taken in. Think of the billions of dollars we would save by closing down these centres.

  12. helvityni

    I’m shocked, angry, and I cry when I see little boys like Omran and Alan Kurdi and others and witness what has happened to them….

    I had the same reactions when watching Four Corners and saw how cruelly we have treated Aboriginal youths (children), at Dan Dale, and no doubt is still do in many places in Australia, and no doubt TODAY. Where’s the rehabilitation of these young boys.

    I’m stunned that it is possible to have monsters like Dutton in important positions in our government. There’s no nation-wide outrage here at the horrors on Nauru and Manus, yet the world is shocked.

    Contrast that to how Germany deals with the asylum seekers.( another Four Corners story, a happy one for change)

  13. Geoff Andrews

    It would never work, Jocelyn. No political mileage there. Far better to keep them locked up; poking them through the bars with a sharp stick; radicalizing previously peaceful people until the politicians can honestly say (excuse the oxymoron) it’s too dangerous to free them.
    THEN we will all sing their praises for protecting us from those evil people. I’m sure that all the good books say “Do unto others before they do it unto you”.

  14. townsvilleblog

    How did I feel, I felt sorry for the people, but there is little that I can do about it personally. These attacks come from government upon people and factions of Islam v other factions of Islam. Not being Islamic, I have no idea of what action should be taken, however the one thing I do know is that the middle-east ahs been at war for thousands of years, and a dumbarse like me is NOT going to solve their problems, where others have tried and failed.

  15. helvityni

    Let’s cut down on ordinary migrant intake and take more asylum seekers.

    Process them here, on the mainland, treat them humanely at all times.

    Bring those still on Nauru and Manus here, and please ALLOW NZ to take some, after all they have offered to do just that.

    When are those 13,000 Syrians arriving?

    As for the wars anywhere, they should not happen, and Australia should not be so eager to follow US to any of them.

  16. SGB

    I could not comment on my first read of this article and it still makes me so upset.

    There is no way that I can describe my horror, at the reality of the pain and suffering of these children – I cannot comprehend the anguish that their parents and in particular their mothers, must be experiencing.

    Hasn’t there been enough killing, this last hundred years ( since the “war to end all wars”). Are we as a human animal ever going to stop seeking wealth and power over others, for our own self interest and ego’s?

    No I suppose not!

    Thank you Ad Astra
    Thank you Michael Lacey

  17. townsvilleblog

    Jennifer Meyer-Smith/Matters Not as usual I agree with everything you have both said. I wish we could get a ‘like’ key.

  18. townsvilleblog

    helvityni that is a lovely thought but, Australia is the driest continent on Earth, can can only support 22 million people sustainable yet we have 24 million currently. We have small cities like my city Townsville (200,000) who are on Level 3 water restrictions. We simply do not have the infrastructure to take more and more immigrants. We must try to help them in their own home.

    I agree with you that something must be done, but following the Global Financial Crisis all governments are weary of spending too much helping others and in Australia’s case our tory government has said that no refugees will be settled in Australia, so we should be pushing the tory government to quickly find a third country for these people to settle, until that happens these poor people will be stranded either on Manus or Naru.

  19. townsvilleblog

    Steve Laing – makeourvoiceheard.com as per usual Steve, spot on the money mate.

  20. Karl Young

    helvityni that is a lovely thought but, I agree with townsville; I we have to evaluate things from the Big Picture first then work back from there.

  21. Karl Young

    Townsvilleblog: Plus there is; at any one time a surplus million or Two people; made up of 457, 007, backpackers, fruitpickers and other overseas visitors with their footprints on the ground.

  22. Kronomex

    What do you feel about the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East? Read “The Arabs A History” by Eugene Rogan. Personally, the situation in the Middle East has gone past religion and is more about money, weapons sales and oil, mining, etc. Until the West leaves nothing will change.

    What do you feel about the way the government is managing offshore processing at Manus Island and Narau? Repulsed and ashamed.

    How would you prefer them to be managed? Refer to diannaart’s reply it sums up my thoughts as well.

    Should those detained there be brought to Australia for assimilation? Oh poo, diannaart’s done it again. I’m going to sulk in a corner.

  23. Kronomex

    I’ve heard people use the old refrains, “It’s got nothing to do with us so let them kill each other.” “They’re Muslims.” Arrogance and ignorance go hand in hand. And Omran Daqneesh, give it a week or so and he’ll just be another photograph languishing in a file. The mental damage to that child will haunt him for the rest of his life. Anyway, in the Murdoch Slease Media, a Kardashian arse is far more important than some small child in another country caught in a conflict he has no way of understanding let alone comprehending.

  24. diannaart

    Kronomex

    I’ll take that as a compliment. 🙂

    Although my comments were not at all comprehensive. What I find extremely frustrating is that while the situation in the Middle East is complex (although eliminating the oil factor would be a start) there is a solution to helping refugees who have reached our region instead of using them as political shields.

    We wouldn’t have to ‘stop the boats’ (wasted use of Navy) if we cooperated with Indonesia and set up clean, healthy accommodation there. Unlike in the Middle East there is not a bunfight over resources, not too difficult to build housing, assess for immigration to Australia or other countries.

    Of course, this would mean the LNP and Labor doing a wibble-wobble – not as if our 2 major parties have never wibble-wobbled on a range of other issues.

  25. mark delmege

    Yes michael lacey correct and if the webmasters here were doing their job they wouldn’t be adding to the disinformation.

  26. mark delmege

    dianaart…Indonesia of course is fully aware of our complicity in the wars in the Middle East – of our role in the dismantling of Afghanistan Iraq libya and Syria and our support for Israel and the creation of all those refugees – of the barbarism killings and support for proxy armies of fundamentalist crazies – who are also terrorising Indonesia – they are too kind in not criticising us publicly but they will detest us for our role nevertheless. Why would you assume they would want to do us any favours?

  27. diannaart

    Mark why do you think the current situation of massive numbers of refugees arriving in Indonesia is desired by its government?

    Did you ever consider that a way forward would be for Indonesia and Australia to work together, towards solving this problem?

    It is not about ‘doing favours’ it is about problem solving.

  28. helvityni

    When we call our black footballers monkeys and throw bananas at them, today in 2016, I don’t see any positive changes in a way we treat of our Indigenous youths in detention or asylum seekers in a hurry.

    We idolize our sports people, what’s wrong with Betts and Goodie? Wrong colour?

  29. mark delmege

    dianaart the point is who is creating this mess! If you dont understand why…

  30. peter

    The photo of a child bloodied and in shock will deepen and enliven the empathetic stirrings of those who are capable of feeling. For those who are not moved by such an image – you have my sympathy. I believe that mankind is now on the cusp of a level change, one that will herald the dawning of a truly empathetic society – a way of living which will replace the dog-eat-dog competitive mode that holds sway today.

  31. helvityni

    Off Topic:

    Townsvilleblog, I watched the ABC show where that dapper Englishman walks the streets of Oz towns, and talks a bit about their history.

    What I saw of your town looked rather nice.

    ( I haven’t been much further North than Brisbane.) 🙂

  32. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    “Let’s cut down on ordinary migrant intake and take more asylum seekers.” Spot on, Helvi.

    Also, well done diannaart, for finding a sensible short term solution for legitimate asylum seekers via Indonesia, as opposed to the criminal abuse and neglect of languishing detainees in Nauru and in limbo on Manus (and other detention centres).

  33. astra5

    Folks
    Thank you all for your comments, so many of which reflect the distress we feel about these child victims of war, and the shame we feel as Australians about the way we are treating those escaping the terror and trauma of war.

    There are of course those who are skeptical about the veracity and the politics of these tragic stories; and there are those who prefer to erase from their consciousness the problem of war, displaced people and asylum seekers. Much false information is about, some propagated by politicians for political purposes. There is a Red Cross site that dispels much of this: http://www.redcross.org.au/files/20141103_Asylum_seekers_13_things_you_should_know_FINAL_HR_crop.pdf

    As you suggest 1petermcc, many seem to have become immune to the shocking facts and images. It is psychologically easier to ignore, dismiss or erase these uncomfortable facts, to overlook this nation’s indifference to them, to remain blind to its inhumane attitudes.

    Some of you mentioned the word ‘assimilation’. Used biologically, it implies that, for example, ingested food is taken into the body of the organism. Used socially, it implies that those new to a group acquire the social and psychological characteristics of the group. It is a complex process. On the one hand we would hope that immigrants become a part of our way of life and culture, whilst preserving the parts of their own culture that can enrich ours. There have been examples, as Jocelyn mentions, where some communities have embraced refugees. Albany is an example: http://andrewbartlett.com/albany-wa-refugees/

    We share you heartfelt response Alison White. What poignant words you write.

    You write kind words Matters Not, You are right – we create meaning in our own lives, rather that receive it. I believe though that any of us who has the opportunity can, through our attitudes and actions, foster an environment: physical, psychological and social, that enables others to find meaning in their lives. The boys who began the Orange Sky Laundry, and now Orange Sky Showers for the homeless are an example: http://www.orangeskylaundry.com.au

    I agree Jack that the conservatives have managed to divide this nation on many matters, not least asylum seekers. You mention Tony Abbott Maureen Walton; he was, still is, the master of division and adversarial behaviour; his ability to wedge his opponents through derogatory framing is legend. His legacy lives on and causes problems for his successor every day, and in many ways. How long will it take to erase his malign influence?

    You ask helvityni where are the 13,000 Syrians we promised to take preferentially. Have any of you heard a word about them recently? How many have we already taken? When will the rest be arriving? When did anyone last ask Dutton?

    Thank you for your words SGB. We share your anguish.

    You put your finger on the problem townsvilleblog. The world is weary. The criminals who almost brought down the global financial system at the time of the GFC have left us a horrendous legacy – major disruptions to global finances, uncertainty, apprehension, and ruin for some. This plays into the attitudes of nations towards refugees seeking asylum, seeking deeper meaning to their lives. In several European countries we see the arising of right-wing activists determined to rid their country of these ‘invaders’, whom they assert come ‘to take our jobs and impose their culture on us’. We are seeing similar moves here.

    Thank you Karl Young, Kronomex, diannaart, Jennifer Meyer-Smith, and mark delmege for propelling the conversation.

    When it’s all said and done, what can we do? For those of us who have only the power that derives from our words, we can write, protest, sign petitions, join movements, agitate continually for a better way of treating those who have suffered so much and seek only a better way of living and more meaning in their lives.

    I sense from audience reaction in such programs as Q&A that there is a rising groundswell of concern for refugees, and growing disgust at how our government is treating them. Are we on the cusp of a paradigm shift? I do hope so.

  34. Kim Southwood

    What do I think? I think that media coverage of other human beings’ suffering is the single most profoundly disturbing and dis-empowering experience we must endure on a daily basis. Australia’s part in the cause and effect compounds the distress especially if we accept that Australia must bear some responsibility.

    It might also be understandable that some Australians react with fear or even anger that we are caught up in all the ugly repercussions. Whatever mix of feelings we have won’t stop the relentless media stories, but they will influence the range of solutions we choose and there ain’t gonna be a lot of consensus! So, with a conveniently divided, fractious public, the government further flexes its punitive muscle to exploit or allay the more powerful emotions of fear and anger in society.

    The ongoing conflicts in the Middle East speak to the historical imbalance of both wealth and power in the world, between and within countries. Inequity, founded on entrenched corrupt practices, is blatantly alive and flourishing and no major power cares to do anything about it. I see the only solution is an unrelenting global movement to expose inequities and demand ethical standards and consequences which promote fair-play at all levels of government and society. I greatly respect the movements already out there working to that end. They provide a very positive and empowering option for all of us to jump on board and counteract the suffering/inequity.

    The Australian government is NOT managing offshore processing. But they have spent a lot of tax-payers money (1.2 billion over 20 months contract) on 2 detention centres run by ASX entities which have restructured so frequently over the last 20 months no-one really knows who’s running our offshore misery farms. Right now they seem to come under the umbrella of a Spanish conglomerate called Ferrovial, but I might be wrong next week.

    Our government’s policy is far less transparent than the shifting fortunes on the ASX. One thing’s for sure, their cruel apathy is shrouded in on-going secrecy.

    I would prefer a quantum shift in global economic and social policy which would see our international organisations gain traction in achieving visible ethical, humanitarian goals. As quantum shifts are unachievable overnight, I believe we must not give up recommending that our government adopt the policies that are most humanitarian in the long term.

    Briefly, my notion is to put our ‘$1.2 billion over 20 months’ towards:

    a) offering Manus and Nauru detainees temporary refuge in the Australian community (a la Kososvo).

    b) advocating for a long term peace initiative in the Middle East unclouded by foreign economic interests.

    c) allowing an option for refugees to repatriate when peace is re-established or offering Australian citizenship after two to four years of integration into the Australian community.

    d) providing a higher intake of refugees from trouble spots under the same terms, with an emphasis on re-uniting loved ones.

    e) contributing more to our internal infrastructure of support for refugees of all ages.

    I believe these suggestions would receive favourable up-take from the many humanitarian people in our society who have benefitted from this country over their lifetime. I also believe that we must remain very positive in advocating for positive outcomes both in this country and globally. Quantum shifts need patience, resilience and unwavering belief in the underlying ethical principles. Thank you for opening a conversation.

  35. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Hear, hear Kim.

  36. jimhaz

    [Australia’s part in the cause and effect compounds the distress especially if we accept that Australia must bear some responsibility]

    On what basis? The only area we bear partial responsibility for is allowing refugees to remain in detention for periods that are too long. Even there I accept zero personal responsibility.

    [The ongoing conflicts in the Middle East speak to the historical imbalance of both wealth and power in the world, between and within countries]

    Not our fault. Any country willing to cooperate with the main western power bases in a fair democratic method don’t have many problems.
    The Middle Easts problems are virtually all related to the muslim religion and its complete lack of democratic principle and Russia’s part in geopolitics.

    Nope. No responsibility warranted.

  37. astra5

    Kim Southwood
    Thank you for your comprehensive, well reasoned response. What you suggest bespeaks justice and fairness, uncontaminated by vested interests. You put your finger on the root of the problem: human selfishness and unremitting inequity. Whatever the problem – social or political – inequity seems to contribute to its genesis. It is worldwide. We see the devastating effects in the US where those at the bottom of the pile grasp at the false hope Trump is offering; we see it in our own country where the conservatives regard inequity as the natural state of affairs, not to be corrected lest those at the top have to surrender any advantage they hold.

    You may be interested in the recent Chifley Research Centre report: Inequality: The Facts and the Figures: http://www.chifley.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Chifley_ResearchDocument_19.08.16-FINALV2a-min.pdf

    Michael Cooney, the lead author, begins his Executive Summary with:

    “If only ten percent of people win when the economy does well, ten percent of people will care if the economy does well.”

    The Summary continues:

    “The central argument of ‘Inequality: the facts and the future’, is a simple one.

    “Australia is well placed to resist the economic and political pressures which can make us more unequal over time. If we do this, our economy will continue to grow strongly and middle Australia will see the benefits of that growth in higher living standards.

    “The alternative – to go down the American road of rising inequality, slowing growth and stagnant living standards – would be bad for all of us, and political instability.

    “This core argument stems from scholarship that is at once relatively new, firmly established and approaching a consensus among key international economic institutions.

    “The IMF, the World Bank and the Bank of England are among the global economic authorities warning that rising inequality is a serious threat to the future growth of advanced economies. This is an important development in the global economic debate.

    “We find an inverse relationship between the income share accruing to the rich (top 20 percent) and economic growth. If the income share of the top 20 percent increases by 1 percentage point, GDP growth is actually 0.08 percentage point lower in the following five years, suggesting that the benefits do not trickle down.

    “This reflects the growing evidence that excessive concentration of wealth and rising income inequality has destabilising effects on financial markets and distorts investment incentives. It also reflects the emerging argument that sluggish global growth and weak economic demand are actually being reinforced by economic policies and market outcomes which limit public investment, squeeze living standards and restrict wages growth.

    “Australia has a strong starting point. Our economy is stronger and fairer than that of most other countries. We have both grown faster than others and been more equal than others, and this is no coincidence. But there are emerging economic threats that demand a long-term policy response. Inequality has been rising for some time in Australia: unemployment is rising and real wage growth is slow, houses are harder to afford, some kinds of health care cost patients more than ever, education funding is inadequate and is often poorly targetted, and both pensions and superannuation systems are threatened.

    “Ineffective action on climate change and a politics subject to deep partisanship and short-term decision-making further darken the picture. New economic trends are emerging as future threats to shared prosperity as well.

    “The global disruption to workers and business imposed by digital technology, the rise of Asia, longevity in Australia, and the end of the mining boom, are all challenges that could result in big benefits to the vested interests who benefit from a further concentration of wealth and income, while middle Australia misses out.

    “Finally, the conservative policy consensus is a political threat to Australia’s traditions of egalitarianism and social mobility; it will only fuel rising inequality.

    “The conservative plan for Australia attacks our tax base, weakens our labour market institutions, limits wages and incomes, and shrinks the social democratic state. It is driven by vested interests and reinforced by conservative prejudices: a denial of the inherent link between economic equality and social mobility, and a misunderstanding of the broader societal role of government and the relationship between economic growth and long-term fiscal strength.

    “To pursue this plan in coming years would be to lock rising inequality into the Australian political economy and lock middle Australia out of the benefits of growth and undermine the deep drivers of that growth. It also risks deep damage to public support for the type of productivity enhancing structural reforms required to lift national income and enhance social mobility.”

    The Report is a long one, but being fact-rich and well-reasoned, is a worthwhile read.

  38. Jock Strap

    No one cares what you think jimhaz !

  39. mark delmege

    I could post real pictures of children dead or legless or armless or both from western backed attacks in Syria but I would prefer not too. In war bad things happen and once the gates of hell are kicked open anything is possible from either side. Our media will pump the propaganda endlessly on why Syria must be destroyed to save it – for what? Madame Clinton says its good for Israel. Can you believe that. Israel says its good to keep IS going to fight Iran Hezbbollah and Syria and that the destruction of IS would be strategic mistake. And to be clear arms shipments from the US to so called good rebels end up in IS hands.

    But back to the first two images above and how they were used as propaganda – as I and a few others here have said –
    http://www.voltairenet.org/article193049.html

  40. mark delmege

    Have absolutely no doubt about the role of our national broadcasters ABC SBS they are absolutely not independent and absolutely lie and absolutely misrepresent what is happening in our world. Their foreign newsreports on certain issues are absolutely propaganda and absolutely cannot be trusted.

  41. Michael Taylor

    The ABC is certainly heading that way, Mark. I trace it back to when Howard started stacking the board with a couple of right-wing fanatics.

  42. Kyran

    “What do you think?”
    Excellent question. I think our ‘politicians’ manufacture/confect problems to justify their existence between elections, in the most insidious of ways. They ignore real issues, their obfuscation assisted by the distraction of focussing on the ‘politician’, rather than the issues they claim to address. They will scream about the problem, yet never offer a realistic solution.
    “What do you feel?”
    For the last three years, mostly nausea.
    The question that wasn’t posed was “What will you do?”
    There will be protests around Australia over the weekend. I’ll go for a walk on Saturday (Melbourne) in the very firm belief that, no matter how many turn up, it will not likely be reported widely or influence our ‘politicians’. But I will never give credence to the suggestion that a ‘politician’, however assisted by MSM, will reflect what I think, feel or act. Given the absence of their thoughts, feelings or actions, on so many issues, it is the only protest afforded me, asides from an election.
    Thank you Ad astra. Take care

  43. astra5

    Kyran
    Thank you for your heartfelt response and your good wishes, which I reciprocate. I share your sentiments and your frustration.

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