The Christchurch tragedy has exposed the Canberra virus that haemorrhages hypocrisy, racism, lies, scaremongering and heartlessness infecting the Australian psyche.
Normalised cruelty against asylum seekers
Since Tampa, and more specifically since John Howard, Australia changed.
Howard, the arch-white supremacist, monarchist and friend of pedophile Pell, spawned Abbott, Morrison, Dutton and the 28 LNP senators that voted it’s OK to be white. Howard evinced that the cruelty of incarcerating Muslim asylum seekers was an election winner and in that instant created Labor in his image.
It is pure evil to cold-bloodedly turn vulnerable children, women and men fleeing persecution into hostages of election ambition denied of their human right to freedom, to dignity.
Government normalisation of racist cruelty perpetrated against bona fide asylum seekers who are not charged or convicted of any crime by Howard, Rudd, Gillard, Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison and overseen by their respective immigration ministers has had the trickle down effect of comatosing the conscience of the majority of Australians who blithely, callously vote for the LNP and ALP, who blithely become callous accomplice guards and torturers.
This trickle-down indifference to the injustice and suffering is transmitted throughout every aspect of our society and contaminating institutions such as universities that should be movers and shakers for what Chris Hedges calls, the ‘primacy of justice’ against the utter dehumanising and ‘’terrifying [of] the wretched the earth’.
Nobel nomination for Behrooz Boochani
A case in point: I read a review by Paul Bonjiorno of asylum seeker Behrouz Boochani book No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison. There was a throw away line which I caught, “I believe it is worthy of a Nobel prize for literature.”
Behrooz’ white-hot lyrical Truth about the searing collision of moral resilience (beyond our ken) with political depravity is a an almost unbearable read. The craven incarceration of innocents in conditions of filth, torment, ‘demoralising degradation’ within what Behrooz calls the boot-on-your-throat ‘Kyriachal System reminded Richard Flanagan, who wrote the book’s preface, of his “father’s descriptions of the Japanese commanders’ behaviour in the POW camps where he and fellow Australian POWs suffered so much.”
I found that qualified nominators for the Nobel Prize in Literature were Professors of literature and of linguistics at universities and university colleges and the deadline was 31st January 2019
On 30 October, I attended a Sydney launch of Behrooz’ book hosted by Unions for Refugees. The auditorium was full and Behrooz came to us live on screen from Manus. At question time suggestions for action were invited and I requested everyone in the room contact nominees at universities to nominate Behrooz’s book- at this point, a shy smile of pleasure transformed Behrooz’s stressed countenance.
Given the endemic ethical inertia, I did not leave this action to chance. I researched professors of literature and linguistics and collected 50 from 18 Australian universities. On 11 November 2018, I sent them invitations to nominate that included the relevant links to the Nobel institute, author and book information including where to buy, plus reviews . In short they were provided with comprehensive details except for the book itself at their finger tips.
The invite was co-signed by Em.Prof Stuart Rees OA and Julian Burnside QC OA, both human rights and refugee advocates and myself (Richard Flanagan declined to join us). I requested that any takers for nominations contact us.
On 9 January as a reminder, I resent the invitations. Not one academic had the courtesy to even acknowledge our communication.
Ironically, on the very day of the Nobel deadline, Behrooz won “two awards at the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards ceremony, held in.. Melbourne: the Victorian Premier’s Literary Prize for Non-Fiction, worth $25,2000, and the overall Victorian Prize for Literature, which is Australia’s richest literary prize, worth $100,000.” Behrooz could not attend the award ceremony.
I had truly expected a rush of at least 20 nominations. As a Phd in literature, I know first hand that literature makes us “strong in will, to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield’ and along with dissident Chinese author, Ma Jian, “I believe the power of literature is stronger than the power of tyranny.”
On 12 March, I sent the professors a short request to let us know whether they had submitted a nomination. I received a mere 8 replies- all negative. There was not one nomination.
As well as profound shock, I almost feel sorry for these Brahmins of academia; they irredeemably lost an eminent moment of personal /professional integrity. No heroic hearts here.
Then again it’s not too surprising as our corporatised universities bowing to the commercialised bidding of government, donors and sponsors have forgone the ideals and values of humanity.
The light in the Christchurch darkness
The Christchurch massacre has sent a seismic shock to the heart of our humanity and has jolted the Australian conscience from its Canberra induced coma.
The prime minister of Aotearoa-New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern has, with breath-taking grace, honour and love, guided her nation through the darkness of the Christchurch tragedy. Consequently, in leadership, in ourselves and community, we want no less than uncompromising integrity, compassion, inclusion, tolerance, kindness and generosity.
Speaking of – Ardern’s government repeatedly made generous offers to welcome yearly intakes of asylum seekers from Manus to Aotearoa-New Zealand. The Hollow Men and Women in Canberra declined.
But now with Australia changing for the better and it is, as Ardern says, up to us. We the people, we the voters, will decide who comes to our country and the circumstances will be based on justice and compassion.
Safety means being free from the fear of violence.
But it also means being free from the fear of those sentiments of racism and hate, that create a place where violence can flourish.
And every single one of us has the power to change that.
PM Ardern’s address to parliament
Dr. Vacy Vlazna is Coordinator of Justice for Palestine Matters and editor of a volume of Palestinian poetry, I remember my name. She was Human Rights Advisor to the GAM team in the second round of the Acheh peace talks, Helsinki, February 2005 then withdrew on principle. Vacy was convenor of Australia East Timor Association and coordinator of the East Timor Justice Lobby as well as serving in East Timor with UNAMET and UNTAET from 1999-2001.