Learning human rights lessons from Turkey?
Turkey promised to keep its borders open for the people fleeing the violence in Syria. Many thousands of Syrians have crossed into Turkey and footage shows men and women, children walking into that country.
Even though Turkey is a country with a large population of over seventy million and already coping with an overflow of many other nationalities, it has not lost its humanity in doing the right thing by extending its hospitality to those so much worse off. They are quickly opening disused buildings and building camps, constructing a temporary hospital.
If Turkey can do it, where is our compassion?
Lack of ‘humaneness’ is what seems to doggedly divide Australia from most of the rest of the world with a deeply engrained hostility towards others. It is especially directed to those hapless victims of endless wars that somehow managed to make it anywhere near our shores.
Our present minister and previous Government ministers have exalted in, ‘we must make conditions here as harsh as possible as a deterrent’. The general gist of the messages from our ‘Leaders’ has been very constant, ‘No-one, we repeat, no-one should come here under the understanding they will be treated with compassion or care if they jump the ‘queue’ or come ‘illegal’ by boat,’ is what they mainly are saying. The political leaders are well aware that those sentiments will be well rewarded with the approval of thousand of voters.
The latest threat of sending at least 800 refugees to Malaysia just about takes the cake in the manoeuvring of our desperate Government keen to further whip up our xenophobia. The fact that this whipping might be translated to a caning in Malaysia was just seen as a mere bagatelle, easily overcome with a few soothing words of a promise that that would most likely not happen. The UNHCR seems less convinced.
While the conversation is continuing and a flurry of visits to New Guinea and Nauru intending to underline our tough stance once again, some might question where this dreadful fear comes from. Is there something in our history that gives us clues?
We couldn’t do much wrong by visiting our most recent history of how we treated children, both in our mother country of the UK and in our own.
Just having seen the film Oranges and Sunshine and previously read David Hill’s, The Forgotten Children, I wonder if one day we might admit there was something rotten going on in our culture dating back perhaps hundreds of years. I know of no other country that exported and deported over 130,000 children in recent times. I also know of no other country that then allowed the further destruction of those children in the institutions they arrived at.
Is it is the history of bullying children and sending them into the hierarchical system of the English Boarding Schools, the Public (Private) Schools with its whipping masters and the degrading of all those coming into contact with the ‘British system’ of parenting and educating?
This seems to go to the very heart of why Australia has never managed to shake of that bullying that defined us from the very start.
Yet, when it comes to cattle or suicidal whales we all get teary eyed, ban the export of cattle or stand in the sea for days stroking dying whales. Where is the stroking for the flotsam of humans cast on our shores?
Last Monday’s Four Corners: again ‘bullying and degrading’ at the very core of our armed forces. It is totally ‘us’ and not just the isolated few of ‘them’. Howard, Ruddock, Abbott, Gillard, Morrison, Bowen. What chance did they all have growing up and indoctrinated into a system of bullying? No Government except the British conduct parliament so appallingly and again, bullying is at the very heart of it.
In the meantime we should take a leaf out of Turkey’s book. We will not turn them away, is what the Turkish Minister for Immigration is reported as saying. They are human beings in distress.
I can’t even imagine one of our politicians saying that.