This is a wonderful article by Waleed Ali - one of my personal heroes - about the awful situation in Australia for refugees, being held indefinitely in a detention centre in Manus island. This policy makes me so ashamed to be Australian.
And I'm not alone:
The whole point of detention for asylum seekers is horror, whether it is acknowledged or not
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/the-whole-point-of-detention-for-asylum-seekers-is-horror-whether-it-is-acknowledged-or-not-20140220-333yw.html#ixzz3C7uK0YkQ
Sorry, but we don't get to be outraged at this. The fact that a person is dead, that another has been shot or that yet another has a fractured skull doesn't change anything.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison is undoubtedly right when he describes this violent episode on Manus Island as a ''terrible tragedy''. In fact, he's more right than he knows. Tragedy, in the Greek sense, unfolds as an inevitability. The very thing that makes the tragic hero so tragic is that his fate is sealed, his demise is clear, but he continues to take every step that leads him there. And in the case of Manus Island, that is exactly where we are.
We don't get to be outraged because this violence, with its brutal, deadly consequences, is inherent. We chose it, even if we've refused at every stage to acknowledge that. It is the very logic of our asylum seeker policy - which is built on the sole rationality of deterrence - to create horror. We're banking on it.
So now, let us make this calculus finally explicit: whatever these people are fleeing, whatever circumstance makes them think they'd be better off chancing death on boats hardly worthy of that description, we must offer them something worse. That something is Papua New Guinea.
The worse it is, the more effective it is destined to be, and the more it fulfils the philosophical intentions of the policy. This tragedy is not any kind of evidence of policy failure. It is, in fact, the very best form of deterrence. This is what it looks like when the policy works.
For now, we're busily piecing together exactly what happened. Hence the immediate calls for an inquiry. We assemble the facts as a necessary ritual, but it's ultimately an irrelevance. If it turns out that these asylum seekers were set upon by the PNG police or by locals, what difference will it really make? It will merely have demonstrated what we have long known: that PNG is a highly dangerous, deeply unliveable country, racked by lawlessness and violence. The capital, Port Moresby, is routinely listed among the least liveable cities on the planet. Last year, The Economist had it third-worst, besting only Damascus and Dhaka, and therefore ranking below most of the cities these detainees have fled. And that's the reason the policy of transferring boat people to PNG is meant to work: because we're pointedly not offering these people protection if they're found to be refugees.
And if the detainees are found to have triggered the violence? No doubt such a finding would be useful fodder for those determined to present them as villains, undeserving of our sympathy or protection. That, after all, is the narrative that surrounds asylum seekers whenever this sort of thing happens. But that only highlights an essential fact: this sort of thing keeps happening.
Labor, unable to criticise the policy that has delivered us this death because it is theirs, can only present this as some kind of managerial problem; as evidence that the Abbott government is mismanaging the centre. But riotous violence happened repeatedly on its watch, in Nauru and Villawood, as in Baxter and Woomera previously. Onshore, offshore, it didn't matter. Labor's objections - even in this utterly lame, limp form - are political and disingenuous.
When social behaviour repeats itself like this, we have two explanations open to us. One is that this is a coincidence of sorts: that it is nothing more than the misbehaviour of immoral individuals gaming the system, and that these individuals merely happen to pop up repeatedly.
This is very much the explanation favoured by officialdom - from both major parties - who immediately declare these rioters to have failed any decent character test, having revealed themselves as criminally inclined.
The other explanation is that there is something about the circumstances of detainees that generates this behaviour. Put any group of people through this wringer, and they will eventually respond with riotous protest. Such behaviour, then, is not a function of the defective personalities of individuals, but the inevitable human reaction to inhuman treatment: that the violence we've witnessed over and over is simply a product of the system.
Naturally, officials cannot abide this. Certainly, they are keen on talking about our ''system'', and preserving its integrity. But they present it as entirely passive; as a set of rules and processes that facilitate orderly management, rather than something active in its own right. As far as politicians are concerned, our systems don't have consequences.
This, of course, is bollocks. But it's bipartisan bollocks, so for most relevant purposes it masquerades as truth.
That's why we're blind to it. We respond to a detainee killed, but seem far less moved by the several to have committed suicide, as though they are somehow less dead.
Through it all we maintain the heroic ability to exonerate ourselves through the fiction that we played no part in their misery, or that those who riot are immorally cynical. But the cynicism is ours. Even the briefest sampling of commercial talkback radio this week revealed a streak within us that sees a detainee's death merely as comeuppance. The political truth is that there is almost nothing any government could do that the electorate would deem too brutal, which is precisely how we got here.
A poll last month had 60 per cent of us urging the Abbott government to ''increase the severity'' of our policies towards asylum seekers. That's not a pragmatic policy judgment. We find something cathartic about this official form of violence.
The truth is we've never really come to terms with why it is people get on boats, and why it is that, faced with hopeless inaction once they're detained, they protest. In fact, our public conversation isn't even terribly interested in knowing. That's why, when we do finally discover the facts of Manus, they will mean nothing.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/the-whole-point-of-detention-for-asylum-seekers-is-horror-whether-it-is-acknowledged-or-not-20140220-333yw.html#ixzz3C7u15f5V