Archive for the ‘unfair’ category

To Tanya

February 24, 2014

light the dark

I pretty much gave up on the ALP some time ago, as it seems they gave up on many of the values they stood for. However, they still hold some power, and perhaps it’s worth petitioning them sometimes in the hope that they stand up for justice in some way … some of the time, perhaps, maybe …

Anyway, I wrote to Tanya Plibersek this morning:

Dear Ms Plibersek,

I’m writing to you today because I am increasingly angered and saddened by the way our government treats people who flee to Australia as refugees. Last night, like hundreds of others around Australia, I attended a candle light vigil to mourn the death of an asylum seeker in Australia’s care, and to register my continuing distress at the way we treat those who come to us for protection.

At the very least, you must aggressively hold the current government to account for their increasing cruelty, and the disdain with which they treat the Australian public by their misinformation.

I see that the ALP is in a tricky position here – it was your government which re-opened these offshore centres, and in some ways it is the direction your government took on this issue that has allowed the Abbott government to go so shamefully far in their actions. I understand this is a complex policy area, but there are other policy options available, the ideas written about by Malcolm Fraser in his article “Manus Island: so many questions, one simple answer” in the SMH last Friday are an example: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/manus-island-so-many-questions-one-simple-solution-20140220-333sn.html. There are many other policy alternatives too, and no doubt you are aware of them.

My hope is that the ALP might have the moral courage to change direction on this issue and show leadership that demonstrates the values of fairness the party so often says it stands for, and as you said in your maiden speech “to be a thinking party … of reform and progress”. I would urge you to listen to the stories of people who flee for protection and listen to those of us in Australia who want to cultivate a spirit of welcome rather than ignorance. I would also urge you to consider that history will, I believe, judge those in power during these dark times very very harshly.

Even though I have never met you, and I have only ever seen you speak via the media, I suspect you are a person of thoughtfulness and compassion. We can’t let this situation go on in the name of Australia. I urge you and your ALP colleagues to take some action.

Regards,

Cameron Tero

Belmont , etc

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Little Kings – a lament

September 5, 2013

In the nineties Paul Kelly wrote a gentle protest song called “Little Kings”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCCdxVQN4e8

I’m so afraid for my country … there’s an ill wind blowing no good

I sung it once with a friend at a local school fundraising concert. It was hot sweaty night and the crowd was small and kind. But even now I remember thinking inside myself how deeply I felt those words – I was worried for my country, and that we would descend into a self-absorption from which we would never recover.

I think the back-story for the song was largely about past and present treatment of Aboriginal folks, but it was a theme that runs into many of life’s other places too. And it has run around and around in my head these last few days. The cuts to foreign aid the Coalition intend to make are savage, and they will have real consequences for people who are most vulnerable, people we will never meet, people who have lives that most of us can never imagine.

And most of our population either won’t care, or they will cheer on those who took these ‘tough decisions’. What bullies we are. There’s a pervading meanness in all of this. And it’s a meanness that’s cunningly wrapped up in a pretence of being ‘responsible’, and a series of lies about how ‘tough’ our life here is.

I live with my wife and three daughters in a soundly constructed weatherboard house in a Perth suburban street. We own a minibus, a trailer, shelves full of books, wardrobes full of clothes and some power tools. All five of us have a bike each that we can ride, plus a couple of extras. We live in a suburb listed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ ‘Index of relative socio-economic disadvantage’ as the second most disadvantaged local government division in the Perth metropolitan area. Despite this we have running water – hot and cold, tv and radio reception, a phone, a computer that connects to the internet, and at least seven different musical instruments that are played at many hours of the day and night. Within a kilometre of our home there are three beautiful parks with lawn and playgrounds and barbecues, and most of the time reliable public transport is available in a number of directions from our house. Our own backyard has a wooden cubby, a slide and a trampoline, as well a vegetable garden, seven chickens, three ducks, a dog and a corrugated iron shed. Our children attend a well-resourced school and when they get sick we can take them to the doctor or the hospital and we have our own first aid kit and medicines. We have many other possessions that are not listed here, and clearly have more than we need for survival. We have more than enough.

When the man who will likely be our treasurer says “we need to have a stronger economy to be more generous”, I think what he really means is “we’ll take care of ourselves first thanks very much; what we need is freeways. Those kids who die from preventable diseases, they can wait” – selfishness, barbarousness, right from the top.

Yesterday it was the Liberal candidate blaming clogged freeways and public hospital queues on the arrival of refugees – so misinformed, and again, so unkind.

We do live in a land of increasing economic disparity, but we also live in a land of plenty – and it seems a land where unkindness will become a national pastime.

“I was born in a lucky country

Every day I hear the warning bells

They’re so busy building palaces

They don’t see the poison in the wells

In the land of the little kings

Profit is the only thing

And everywhere the little kings

Are getting away with murder

In the land of the little kings

Justice don’t mean a thing

And everywhere the little kings

Are getting away with murder”

 

– Paul Kelly, Little Kings

Everything has a biography

May 10, 2010

All commodities have a biography – the coffee and tea we drink, the fuel for our car, the clothes we wear, the toys that children play with, the packaging that is discarded.

The biography of all those things includes what they are made from, how they made and under what conditions, and how they are traded and marketed. What happened to the earth and the sea where the raw materials came from? Who made the things I bought and what is their life like? The end of life for all those commodities is a part of that biographical journey – will they be recycled, added to landfill, or discarded on the side of the road or in the bush.

We could be tempted to see our food and our clothes and the energy we use, as only existing where they are with us, but they have histories and futures and to deny those would be a lie. Environmental degradation, sweat-shop labour, and manipulative marketing are all part of the life story of a great deal of what gets bought and sold.

A news story I was reading yesterday reported on the latest oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, where still 800,000 litres of oil a day leaks into the ocean from an exploded rig. The report reflected upon the ongoing ramifications of another famous oil spill over 20 years ago. In 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil tanker leaked over 50 million litres of oil into the ocean off the Alaskan coast. Twenty years on, the ongoing costs are enormous – tons of oil still under the ocean bed, herring and fish stocks that never recovered, local fishing villages gripped by alcoholism and domestic violence that rose along with the unemployment rate as the local fishing industry perished along with the sea birds.

The sins of heavy industry are not the only ones – there are lesser known, ongoing stories, in which we play a part too.

In Cote de I’voire, where a large proportion of the world’s cocoa beans are grown, poverty is endemic, with children, many of them from neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso, held in forced labour in places where there are no clinics, no schools and no electricity. They know little of the future of the cocoa beans they work long days to harvest. The issue of child trafficking and cocoa is complicated – ingrained poverty, cocoa trading by large transnational corporations, the varying advocacy efforts of fair-trading co-operatives. It is a complicated web of contingencies, often with no clear flows of cause and effect, but laced with plenty of injustice and misery. The chocolate we consume joyfully and readily has a biography too, and it is a shady one.

But must I spend my days wracked by guilt? After all, to function socially where I live, and to earn a living and contribute to society, I need some things – clothes, tools, books, transport. And I need to eat. Constantly researching and worrying about the origin of the things I buy is wearying, and seems almost pointless – a lonely drop in a large ocean. There are other drops but they are never enough to change the tide. Ignorance is easier.

Resignation is an option too. Human history, amongst other characteristics, is one of harshness and exploitation, of one group’s power over another, of earth and sea constantly changed. Perhaps this is life on our lonely planet.

This seems inadequate though. Dissatisfying, lazy, weak even. What if we just resigned ourselves to the fact that if a child gets sick, they might die. What if the East Timorese had resigned themselves to never being free. What if a girlfriend beaten up resigned herself to the fact that it will just keep happening. Resignation is what people do when they’re leaving somewhere, and even though we will all die at sometime, most of us are staying for the moment. If we never sought change, our humanity would be diminished.

I can’t change, know or understand everything. But ignorance and resignation would be too lazy a response.

* I first read about this concept of biographies in a 2005 Arena Magazine article called “After Affluence”, written by Kim Humphrey

Headlines

April 9, 2010

Villagers massacred by Ugandan rebels … Chinese waste problem growing as fast as economy … suicide attackers strike peak hour metro …

As usual, I am struck by the tragedy of the headlines. Not just that they are very much full of strife, but the scale, the depth, and the variety of tragedy can be mind-boggling if I let in sink in. I am in no way the first to feel this, to feel the hollow resignation that comes with powerlessness. What can I do? Well … nothing.

I am not a resistance leader, aid worker or politician. Anyway, I suspect they too are wracked by many of the same feelings. Even so, my mind searches for what could be done – send money, political action, hope and pray, support the work of others, keep telling the stories, give up …

Actions and intention either never seem enough or they are some how out of reach. Still, feeling powerless is no excuse for ignorance – that would be giving up completely