JOHN MENADUE. Cruelty and evil have become banalOct 1, 2016
Malcolm Turnbull told the UN that our treatment of refugees is world’s best practice. Only a guilty conscience could allow such self deception.
In her book ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem’, published in 1963, Hannah Arendt refers to the ‘banality of evil’. Her thesis was that Eichmann was not a fanatic or sociopath, but an extremely stupid person who relied on cliché rather than thinking for himself and was motivated by professional promotion rather than ideology. She says ‘The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil’.
In a post in this blog Hugh Mackay speaks of ‘intentional brutality … why not call our asylum policy what it is – immoral?’ More politely Pope Francis speaks of the ‘gentrification of our hearts’. We are more concerned with money and comfort than the cries of the those in peril . In Syria for example.
Our policies towards asylum seekers – cruel, evil and immoral- depend on our first dehumanising and then demonising then. They are not like us and do not deserve empathy and protection. It is an attempt to dull and chloroform our consciences.
- It began with John Howard who told us that asylum seekers are so devoid of humanity that they would even throw their children overboard.
- Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison laundered our language to hide the cruelty and brutality of our policies. Asylum seekers became ‘illegals’, even criminals. The Department of Immigration and Border Control now uses the term ‘illegals’ .
- Journalists are excluded from detention centres because we might hear the cries of abused people.
- By focussing on people smugglers Ministers divert attention from the plight of desperate people.
- Scott Morrison urged the Liberal Party to beat the anti Muslim drum so that there would be less empathy for refugees.
- Senator Abetz told us that asylum seekers that commit crimes in the community should be listed like paedophiles.
- Scott Morrison told us that refugees bring disease and wads of cash ..
Based on this dehumanising and demonisation of asylum seekers, our brutality and lack of compassion is magnified. In the name of deterrence and world’s best practice we continue to brutalise 1700 people in our gulags , Manus and Nauru. We inflict long-term physical and mental injury.. We also continue to punish the 30,000 who have been ‘released’ into the community on various bridging visas but are not allowed to work or study. The results can be deadly, really deadly. It is estimated that the suicide rate for Hazara men is three time the Australian average. See SMH link: http://www.smh.com.au/national/asylum-seekers-are-taking-desperate-actions-as-bridging-visas-leave-them-in-limbo-20160919-grjgac.html
But not content to dehumanise asylum seekers our ‘leaders’ play mind games with us by suggesting that government policies are designed to save people drowning at sea. If only there were the smallest grain of truth in this the government would be sending out ships to rescue desperate people at sea and ministers would be waiting hopefully for the UNHCR or the Nobel Prize committee to make a humanitarian award. Save us from the hypocrisy that our cruel policies are to save lives at sea. That is pure cant. The real object is political, to exploit fear of foreigners. It is shameful. And the ALP has also followed this ruse to justify cruel policies.
As result of the policies of the Rudd and Abbott governments boat arrivals have stopped but we still keep punishing people as a deterrent against future boat arrivals
Through political spin and by good people staying silent, we are losing our moral compass on what is right and decent.
In allowing evil and cruelty to win our political terrain we should recall the words of Pastor Martin Niemoller who was imprisoned by the Nazis . He said ‘First they came for the socialists. I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a socialist. Then they came for the Jews and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Catholic. Then they came for me and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me.’
Many people are speaking up for just treatment of refugees but the institutional cruelty continues. It has now become world’s best practice.
What sort of a country have we become?
Where is our anger and concern?
I recall a speech some time ago by Bill Moyes, the former host in the United States of the Weekly Public Series on PBS. He said ‘What has happened to our moral indignation. On the heath, King Lear asks Gloucester ‘How do you see the world?’ and Gloucester who is blind answers ‘I see it feelingly.’ I feel it feelingly also. The news is not good these days. I can tell you though that as a journalist I know the news is never the end of the story. The news can be the truth that sets us free – not only to feel, but also to fight for the future we want. And the will to fight is the antidote to despair; the cure for cynicism … What we need is what the ancient Israelites called hochma – the science of the heart – the capacity to see, to feel and then to act as if the future depended on you.’
And it does depend on you and me.
We are acting cruelly and immorally. Evil now has an everyday face. But we pretend it is not us. Yet the opinion polls tell us that it is us – that we want to treat asylum seekers this way. 47% of Australians believe we should ban Muslims..
Hannah Arendt said ‘The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.’ That “sad truth” is happening in Australia today. Evil has become banal. We tell ourselves and others that it is world’s best practice!