tear the whole thing down (some rushed thoughts)

by tobybee

With this latest news I despair.

Because framing the ‘problem’ of the arrival of refugees as a reinstitution of the ‘White Australia Policy’ is too crude, too obvious in its racism, the political parties frame it as a law and order issue. Thereby making it a ‘problem’, rather than an opportunity to help (because, really, we could take all who come by boat, and there’s no reason why those who come by boat should affect the numbers of people we take in the offshore humanitarian program. It’s a false calculus, designed to demonise). As though the problem Australia faces is people breaking the law in order to come here (which isn’t even true – there is no law against seeking asylum), and that makes them always and forever unworthy of being allowed to stay, much less becoming citizens, much less have their families come to join them. And then because people who come here seeking safety are obviously inherently bad and lazy, they must be put together with that other group of demonised folk, the unemployed, and forced to work for the dole for the rest of their time here.

I wonder when refugees would stop having to prove that it is unsafe to go back to where they came from. Would their children also have to prove that they ‘need’ to stay? Their grandchildren? Should I have to prove that it is unsafe for me to go live in Poland to be allowed to stay in Melbourne?

My facebook and twitter timelines are filled with news from the killings in Egypt and news of the latest attacks on asylum seekers in Australia; scattered with messages about the Russian government, the horrors of Guantanamo Bay, and on and on. It’s clear that we’re facing a transnational attack, being reinforced at every turn, but also that each instance of this is particular to the conditions in which it exists. It’s overwhelming. The temptation to hide is strong. (As I’m drafting this post, Ghassan Hage just described this on facebook too, writing “I apologise for the silly updates but waking up to a massacre in Egypt, a murderous bomb in Beirut, the symbolic violence of the ‘peace negotiations’ in Palestine, and the macabre competitive inhumanity of Australian politics has made this morning a bit hard to negotiate”.)

I’m currently helping to put together a course called ‘A History of Violence’, and in my reading this morning I read this from Saree Makdisi in his book Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation (p. xvi):
“What draws me to Palestine, then, is neither nationalism nor patriotism, but my sense of justice, my refusal to remain silent in the face of injustice, my unwillingness to just go on living my life — and enjoying the privileges of a tenured university professor — while trying to block out and ignore what Wordsworth once called the still, sad music of humanity.”

I like this phrasing. I wonder how to productively refuse to remain silent (or, more precisely, I wonder how to productively make enough noise to tear the whole thing done).