A peculiar lack of Empathy.

IMG_1163Violets etc

The new member of Parliament in the Federal seat of Wentworth is now Dr Kerryn Phelps.  She is an independent. A stunning victory whereby this seat held since Federation by the Liberals has changed for the first time overcoming a 19% majority held by the previous ex-Prime Mister, Malcolm Turnbull. He vacated the seat after he was turfed out by his own Government. He quickly left Australia for NYC.

Dr Kerryn Phelps was known for her strong stance on Same Sex Marriage with Wentworth being one of the most progressive pro SSM seats during last year’s referendum. She now wants the Government to take notice of climate change. The refusal to act on climate change is partly due because the right wing of the Liberals, including the present PM, Scott Morrison, don’t believe in climate change. The right wing of the Liberal party primarily believe in keeping the status quo. They like nothing better than sticking to burning coal and a fearless unrelenting punishments for off-shore held refugees.

The present Liberal-National party has lost their one seat majority. Things are going to be difficult to pass legislation with the independent cross benchers now holding the strings.

Dr Phelps promises to  use her independence to get the Government to take urgent action on climate change, and to bring the refugees home to Australia. At present they are held on off-shore islands; Manus, Nauru and Christmas Island. A petition signed by thousands of doctors presented to the Government is demanding that the children and their parents be allowed into Australia for processing. http://medicalrepublic.com.au/doctors-unite-drive-change-refugee-policy/17267

The Government might well have to be forced to take action on the refugees. The rumblings of international criticisms of our present policy on refugees are getting louder. The abhorrence on learning that children of ten are googling how to commit suicide, the sacking of all Medicine sans Frontier personal from Nauru is pointing out the cruelty of off-shore detention.

The Government is now also finally heeding the offer from New-Zealand willing to take 150 refugees from Nauru. So far the Morrison and previous Turnbull Government have refused to consider this proposal.  They argue, that it would give the refugees a ‘back-door’ chance to visit Australia. However, the US has taken a couple of hundred refugees without this apparent condition being attached to their freedom from the Nauru hell-hole! Is it so much more difficult to come to Australia from the US as it is from New Zealand ? The mind boggles.

Where does this urge to keep punishing those vulnerable refugees come from? I found some observation by the Australian Author and academic,  Jill Kerr Conway enlightening. Jill Kerr Conway was the first woman to take the Presidency of the Smith College in the US. She found Australia to be lacking in appreciating women for top jobs and moved permanently to the US. She died a few months ago, aged 84. Her book, ‘The road from Coorain,’ is a masterpiece.

She seems to argue that the hundreds of  thousands of emigrants who left their European homelands to go to the US, Canada, and Australia, must have keenly felt the pains of being up-rooted  suffering aching alienation. The children of the great European migration made up for this loss by, in the US at least, making Hollywood the purveyor of happy endings. This convention was a comfort for those who might have felt or were unwilling to face the possibility that the journey was not worth the uprooting.

In Australia I always thought that the migrants made the best of it by going wildly overboard by the ‘own-home’ on ‘own block of land’ achievements. A peculiar Australian phenomenon. It seems to have calmed down lately. Many young people are happy to ditch this form of idealisation and are now happily renting.

In any case, not much seems to have been studied on how this migration has been part in forming the Australia psyche. How many have studied the history of how it felt like to be transported to Australia, by the convicts, or the children of men and women condemned to forced labor? Has this early convict start and continuation of it by those hundreds of thousands of migrants milling around the fore-shores and migrant camps given the foundation to this ‘muddling through’ within our own political milieu?

Again,  our Prime Minister Mr. Morrison has reiterated that if some of the refugees were to be transferred to New Zealand from Manus, its (New Zealand) Government must give an iron clad guaranty that none of them or their children, will ever be given or allowed a visa to Australia. Not even for a holiday.

Ignoring why refugees would even want to visit the land of their torturers, how insanely revengeful is this proposal? It shows how deliberate and wilful the utter degradation of refugees, so desired by some of our politicians, has become. What have the refugees done?

Let’s all hope Dr Phelps will help to make an end to this sad history and restore Australia’s world standing.

Where does the cruelty come from though?


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15 Responses to “A peculiar lack of Empathy.”

  1. doesitevenmatter3 Says:

    I hope Dr. Phelps will do all of that and many other positive things.

    As for the answer to your question…I’ve pondered this a lot in my lifetime, but I’m not sure there is a definitive answer. Some of the things I’ve pondered are:
    1. Some hurting/abused people lash out and hurt others. 😦 But other abused people are kind and caring. So what is the difference in their reactions?
    2. Some people like to be in control and they let power go to their heads and they can become tyrants. 😦
    3. Some people become bullies because they feel very vulnerable, powerless, and have low self-esteems…so the way they feel better about themselves is to hurt and control other people. 😦
    4. Sometimes cruelty emerges because people dehumanize other people. I think it’s called the spirit of abstraction…the practice of conceiving of people as functions rather than as human beings. For example: some people dehumanized older, ill adults…they don’t see those senior adults as humans who were once young, with a career, life, children, amazing talents, etc. They just see them as old and no longer useful, so it’s easy to ignore them or abuse them. 😦 And then they don’t feel bad about themselves for treating the older people badly. 😦
    HUGE examples of the spirit of abstraction can be seen in slavery (slave owners seeing slaves as property and NOT people 😦 ) and how Hitler killed 6 million Jews, etc. 😦

    Well, I’ve got some more thoughts, but I’ll stop with 4.

    It makes me very sad that people can be so abusive (verbally, emotionally and physically), cold, demanding, etc. We are all human beings and deserve respect, love, mercy, help, kindness, etc. We all have family member we want to be treated positively. So I don’t understand how people can use and abuse other people. 😦

    Sorry my comment is so long.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. gerard oosterman Says:

    Thank you very much for your well considered response, Carolyn. I will try and answer.

    1. I think you will find that the children and their refugee parents on Nauru will soon come to Australia. It won’t just be Dr Phelps efforts but thousands of others who are increasingly seeing the terrible conditions and injustices suffering by those on off-shore detention centres.
    People doing great harm to others often give back what was given to them. Those with enough insight to give love and kindness despite their terrible experiences are rare.

    2.In the sexual abuse cases the perpetrators often suffered as child- victims at the hands of their abusers. I am no expert on why it is so. I do know that after arrival in 1956 I was shocked how normal it was for people to bully and abuse each other. Sledging each other was normal.

    3. Looking at how our parliament performs, bullying and sledging is normal. The real tyrants seem to gravitate to power. Perhaps the English boarding-school type of education has a role in that. Many famous people often write in their biographies how deserted they felt and how bullying was rife in boarding schools.

    4. The examples we have seen how the elderly are treated in nursing homes was beyond belief. But, overworked, undertrained and underpaid staff was not helpful.
    As for our treatment of refugees. This was purely a political manoeuvre. The voters were told that our borders were at risk of being swamped by an armada of thousands of refugees. Political capital was made out of fanning fear. And it worked. Now after more than five years and campaigns by good people we might see an end to the inhumane treatment of refugees and their children.

    With the apology by Morrison about the plight of so many victims of abuse by the churches and Government institutions, I wonder if Morrison et all allow their feelings, just fleetingly, rest on the plight of the children of those refugees on those hell-hole Islands of despair? Should they not be given an apology?

    Thank you again for your time and effort. It is much appreciated. You are a great example of giving kindness and empathy.
    Hugs; Gerard

    Liked by 2 people

  3. shoreacres Says:

    Your very interesting post highlights how different refugee issues can be in different contexts. The problems you face in Australia are different from those in Europe, and in turn the Italians or Austrians face different issues than we do here in the U.S. Given that reality, different solutions may be required. I hope the changes that have come with your recent election are a first step toward some better solutions in your country.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      As I write, the present Government has urgently flown 11 children to Australia for medical intervention, Linda.

      6000 doctors have now signed a petition that all refugees on Manus should be treated urgently in Australia.
      The ‘bring them to Australia’ movement is growing into a chorus of revulsion how this situation was allowed for over five years.

      I tried to link Australia’s past history of convicts with the brutalisation and genocidal treatment of Aboriginals as a possible reason for this unbelievably cruel treatment recently of refugees that dared to come here on leaky boats.

      How and why did so many of us turn a blind eye and give the Government carte blanche for so many years to the utterly inhumane treatment of refugees?

      Liked by 2 people

  4. stuartbramhall Says:

    Congratulations. Sounds like your government may get a whiff of sanity.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      It is happening now, Stuart. Dr Phelps is a major reason this is now happening. She is a woman and took her chance. The resistance by our PM and his cohorts against treating refugees is now crumbling.
      The idea that Australia will be overrun by refugees arriving on leaky boats now is preposterous. We have satellites, drones, billions spent on submarines, frigates and all sorts of surveillance equipment.
      Stop warring and bombing in the Middle East. Give aid to re-build those bombed-out countries. That’s how you stop refugees.


  5. janesmudgeegarden Says:

    They need to be getting all of those people off the islands, and not just sick children. I’ve found myself wondering if in a few years, there will be politicians making public apologies to these cruelly treated and traumatised people. I wonder too, what support those who have been able to go to the US are receiving. I believe they will need a great deal of support.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yesterday, Morrison told us that negotiating with the idea of letting the refugees go to New Zealand was akin to horse-trading with the criminal people smugglers.
      I don’t understand his assumption that refugees that will be allowed in Australia from New Zealand will start another exodus of refugees. Why would they not as easily go to New Zealand? There is a very strange logic going on.

      Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      By the way, Jane. I have tried three time to respond to your latest article. Can you please check if I am in your spam box. Whenever I get notification of a new post by you, it vanishes as soon as I click on the link.


      • janesmudgeegarden Says:

        Hi Gerard, I received three responses from you! Not having responded to myself, I’m not sure how it works. I don’t completely understand the workings of WordPress! Thank you for your very kind and generous comments. The bees are certainly enjoying all the flowers we have this spring. I can’t grow clivias here as it’s far too frosty.

        Liked by 1 person

      • gerard oosterman Says:

        Yes, Jane.
        I went back to your web-side and all three responses are there. I don’t understand the WordPress machinations either.
        At times it has a will all of its own.
        We too get frosts but the clivias in winter are well hidden in bushes and under trees.


  6. auntyuta Says:

    Gerard, you say: “As for our treatment of refugees. This was purely a political manoeuvre. The voters were told that our borders were at risk of being swamped by an armada of thousands of refugees. Political capital was made out of fanning fear. And it worked. Now after more than five years and campaigns by good people we might see an end to the inhumane treatment of refugees and their children.”
    I am under the impression that our present prime minister still wants to continue with this fanning of fear, as in we are at risk of being “swamped by an armada of thousands of refugees”. Even our opposition government still seems to be very reluctant to change the status quo.
    I seem to remember hearing as a young teenager slogans that said that everyone has the right to “Freizuegigkeit” meaning everyone has the right to choose the place where they want to live. I was gullible and tended to believe these slogans. I thought only in wartime there were restrictions, whereas when there was peace everyone could move freely. In those days, soon after the end of WW II, I never imagined that more and more refugees could be created in years to come who would not be able to find a place of their own for an indefinite number of years.


    Liked by 1 person

  7. gerard oosterman Says:

    Yes, Our Prime minister Scott Morrison is again fanning fear of Australia being at risk of being swamped by hordes of refugees landing on our fair shores.

    He will not allow refugees to go to New Zealand if NZ is not willing to sign an ironclad guarantee NEVER to let the refugees come to Australia, not even as tourists.

    Imagine one of those refugees, after accepting a New Zealander nationality, winning a Nobel Prize for the promotion of Human Rights, or becoming world’s best cricket player? And then being told told; ‘you will never set foot in Australia.’

    I am doubtful of the mental health of some of our leaders. You are right, Uta. Both major parties still seem entrenched in their position to keep the refugees in detention.

    We are such a large and mainly empty country with so much space to spare. Can’t we find it in our hearts to help people driven away from their homes by wars?

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Christine Says:

    It’s cheering that good-hearted people, like you, Gerard, feel strongly.

    “where does the cruelty come from?” I can’t answer.

    In the recent film “Ladies in Black”, the matter of uncultured Australians’ attitude to the refugees from Europe in the fifties was woven through the story; I don’t doubt that attitude. However, it was in the cultured, exciting cities of Europe – and let’s not forget Paris – that citizens were removed from their homes and families put on trains, sent to camps. Only small numbers of their neighbours raised objections. So yes, where does the cruelty come from?

    As for the elderly in nursing homes (many sent there before it’s necessary) – Australians don’t want to look after their old mothers
    So it’s not surprising there’s a hard attitude to refugee families.


  9. gerard oosterman Says:

    Yes, Christine. No doubt you have heard of Godwin’s law.
    In case you haven’t, let me inform you;

    Godwin’s law is an Internet adage asserting that “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1”; that is, if an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Adolf Hitler …


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