Just the other night the Australian Senate passed a bill by one vote that heralds a new low for immigration policy in the country. That in itself is no real surprise considering the government in power, but the way in which it was done has me distraught, truly hurt, reeling from the immorality of how people who are ‘leading’ the country behave.
Refugee children that have been held in detention by the Australian government on Christmas Island, who have been begging in various ways to be released from conditions that involve not just uncertainty leading to mental instability, but also actual abuse (while in our care!) have been used as a bargaining chip for senators that were unsure of which way to vote on the legislation. The families, these children, were apparently given phone numbers to these ministers to beg them to pass this evil bill that will do no good for refugees in Australia, only casting more uncertainty than before upon an already broken people.
The Australian government, or at least senator Scott Morrison, ransomed children to achieve their own ends at grabbing for more power.
I could hardly bring myself to teach the day I found out. This news was soul destroying.
In the end it makes no difference if we feel bad about such a thing, if that feeling does not lead to action. But what on earth could I do?
What can a single person do?
What can a group working against this do (as such groups are present and supported) when working against a majority of people manipulated into thinking in such a fearful way as to justify the abuse of children and their use as political pawns? This is putting it strongly, but it is indeed what people support in their complacency.
I did find a way through this, but the feeling of horror has not left me and I am thankful for it. I am glad I have not been desensitised or that I feel I can simply pass this and these people by.
My act? My will?
To teach in such a way that the students I have do not pass other human beings by. That they can always relate to a person, that one they have never met, who is suffering over there; that they suffer another’s suffering. That the only thing that justifies the student’s pain for that other person, their empathy for that person, is their action – to do the work they have been given to do in the world.
Will I do this by sharing horrifying stories from around the world? Certainly not.
This is not appropriate.
The best I can do is to develop a deep understanding of my students; to observe them in such a way that I truly see them, that they feel seen, and to have thanks for their being with me in my class. In appropriate moments, I work with social situations in class that highlight my and their innate impulse to care – this I also feel to be important.
I can not help those children locked up in detention. I can witness and help my students.
I feel the pain of the children on Christmas Island, I feel the injustice of the Australian government’s behaviour. I will to the best of my ability protect and be a champion to the children in my care, and others where possible. This is what I can do, what is currently within my reach, but I will not stop feeling or communicating my distress about how these people called ‘illegal immigrants’ by my government are being treated. Not to the children in my class, but to other adults. I hope this might spark others into action.
This legislation (among the terrible rest) is only a symptom of a western world that is broken – ruled by a dehumanising capitalism, justified by a economically addicted government and championed by a culture that does not look at itself, that is deeply asleep and enjoys the pills it is fed to stay that way. Morality, like faith, like goodness, like harmony and simplicity and basic human rights, have no solid ground in this tyranny, but are used as emotional tools; are paid lip service at best.
This whole thing must be uprooted, but it is important to remember the following, for which I will give a picture:
When removing weeds from a native forest, we need to take care not to ruin the topsoil, nor to kill any healthy native species. It is often best to work with areas that are less affected by weeds and restore those first, while thinning out thicker areas of weed gradually. In essence the focus should be on growing health in the soil and native plants, rather than killing the invasive species. This gives a stronger soil for more natives to grow, for health to return.
We all have the capacity to grow health in our lives and in our work. There is no quick fix, but there is need for a drastic end result. Leaps can be made, but not by destruction. Grow what works, restore some harmony, beauty, goodness, truth in any part of your life that you can manage.
It is not important in the end what we feel or think, but that it gives us purpose and will in what we do.