Friday, 4 September 2015

What if it happened to you

The other day my two year old was on the balcony playing with some toys. She threw her doll Sula, the elephant from the show Bing Bunny, over the railing and it landed in the neighbour down stairs’ courtyard. The neighbour was outside and said she’d bring it up later, which she did. For the time that my daughter was without her toy she lamented. She kept talking about Sula and how she fell outside and where was her dolly and why didn’t she have it. She pouted and fussed and regretted. She didn’t cry because we, my parents and I, kept reassuring her that we would get her dolly back and not to worry about it, but to learn not to throw your toys over the railing. When she finally had her toy back in her hands, she cradled it and took care of it. She wrapped it in her muslin wrap and rocked it. She nurtured it and played with it for the rest of the afternoon. Still the next day, whenever we went outside or played with Sula, my daughter remembered that ill feeling of losing something valuable and relived it. She kept telling me and anyone else who would listen, like her dad when he came home from work, in her two year old tongue, that she dropped Sula outside; she was gone and the lady brought her back. She then held Sula close and kissed her plastic head.

The last couple of mornings I was confronted by a horrific and gut wrenching image on the news and social media, one that has captivated the world. The image is of the three year old refugee child who drowned at sea and washed up on a Turkish beach, not far from a tourist resort. He was dressed in ordinary children’s clothing, sandals, shorts, a tshirt. Face down in the sand, almost in a foetal position, exactly the same position that many children, including my daughter sleep. Except he wasn’t asleep, he was dead. The next image is of a Turkish official cradling his body away. I'm not reproducing the image, but if you live under a rock and haven't seen it, look it up.

The first few times I saw the photo I scrolled past as fast as I could to erase the image from my brain, but it kept showing up and I could no longer ignore it. The image. I could no longer ignore the image, not the issue. I know the issue. I think about the issue every day; especially since our country is currently one of the cruelest in the world when it comes to our treatment of refugees. I read about fleeing people and stopping boats and the inane rhetoric never stops; so much so that it has just become a permanent landscape in my brain that I compare everything to. My kids kept me up all night….at least we have a home. My daughter is annoying me and demanding my constant attention….at least she’s alive and well. We are cramped in this apartment and I wish we had a house…..we have a roof over our head, everything in the world we could need or desire, we are warm, we live in a nice suburb, we are safe, there aren’t bombs, we have electricity and running water etc etc.

But this image, this story really got my attention and snapped me out of my complacency. It made me cry. Not much does anymore. I finally couldn’t resist the compulsion to read the story, because the next image I saw was the face of the father of that child, who had to identify his body and that of his wife and his other child. That man lost his entire family. He is only one. There are hundreds, thousands of people losing their families, their loved ones, their babies every single day.

If my daughter at the age of two knows inherently what loss feels like, if that minor event of temporarily losing a toy can affect her so much that she keeps reliving it and feeling the panic and the pain; if we all can only imagine what that feels like, to lose a loved one, a child so unnecessarily; if we can be moved by that image and that story and feel empathy and sadness and anger and helplessness; then WHAT THE FUCK ARE WE GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?

When is it enough? How many more children and people have to die? That is one very stark image, but one of many and nothing is changing. No amount of praying (please!), collecting money or clothes or toys, marching with witty placards, writing blogs….none of it is helping. None of it is stopping a small bunch of greedy arseholes upholding systems that displace and destroy the masses. We could try to change things at the polls, by voting with our conscience. Anyone that votes for leaders like our bunch of sorry dipshits, that continue to maintain these policies of exclusion and demonisation and persecution of people who are fleeing danger, created and preserved by these leaders and politicians to begin with, anyone that votes for these arseholes is complicit. What are our choices though? In Australia, whether you vote for the blue team or the red team, it doesn’t matter, they are one and the same. We can vote for the green team, but really….not everyone is going to do that and I guarantee that team isn’t rich or strong enough to dig us out of this hole.

This is a great quote from Russell Brand’s book Revolution. He thinks we shouldn’t vote at all. For a long time I disagreed with him. We can’t throw that right away. If we do we have no right to complain. We have to keep participating in the system if we want to change it. Or do we? He makes a very valid point. We can’t change the system if we keep feeding it. We need to destroy it and establish a new one.

“A Revolution is where a political system is overthrown from outside the formal political structures that already exist. The 1997 UK election that swept Tony Blair’s New Labour into power, jolly though it may’ve been, wasn’t a Revolution; it was at best a refurbishment. It was comparable to the election of Obama or Clinton: a bloke with a nice smile and an angle is swept into power after a more obviously despicable regime and then behaves more or less exactly like the predecessors. We shouldn’t be disappointed. No version of ’bloke with nice smile’, or different colour skin, or accent or vagina, will work. True change has to subvert the system that produces these people.”

It applies in Australia too. Abbott’s government are monsters, no doubt about it. What is Labor going to do differently? How different were they when they had the chance? They came up with Nauru! What are the Greens going to do if by some miracle everyone voted for them en masse?

Nothing, that’s what. The people who get into politics are a certain kind of animal. They are people who are born into privilege. Politics and private school education run in the family. They come from old money and old notions of class and ideology. They were political in school and at university and after that went straight into political jobs. They’ve never worked in a factory or been unemployed and had to struggle on welfare payments. They are on scholarships and trust funds and easy street pretending they know what ‘the people’ need and want.

So how do we expect them to represent us. They don't. They represent themselves and their mates in big business. 

I'm not sure what the answer is, but I know that photo broke my heart, but didn't surprise me and I know one thing for sure. If it was my family being bombed and at risk on land, I may make the same choices refugees make when they get on boats and risk their lives in the ocean if there was a slim chance at a better life.

Maybe we should all think a bit harder next time we have to vote. These people, the politicians, they work for us. We are their employers whether they like it or not. We have to unite and demand they do a better job. There are more of us than them. We are so powerful together. Maybe we need to start understanding our strength and acting on it.

For now all I can do is hug my kids tighter and be grateful every day that it's not me and my loved ones out there, as selfish and heartless as it feels. Because it doesn't take much for the tables to turn. Who's to say the thin veil that is our stable civilised country isn't thrown to the dogs by a pack of selfish bastards one day. They don't care. They'd sell us down the river in a heartbeat if it meant a greater profit. 

All these photos have achieved is reflection and navel gazing and a whole bunch of words on the internet in the comments section. But maybe if each and every one of us chose to demand more from our leaders, maybe some day the tide will turn. I hope it happens in my lifetime or at least my children's.  

Here's something we can all do though. Get on this website and read, learn, donate, get involved. These people are the beginning of something.