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Dear Dad, we don’t need to turn the boats away, we need to send them back for more…

Dear Dad,

Imagine if there was a civil war in Australia. Not like the State of Origin dad, a proper civil war. With guns. Imagine if the indigenous population teamed up with all the other non-white recent immigrants in an attempt to remove white Australians from power in a game of black people vs. white people. A bit like chess I guess, but without castles.

Imagine if Team Black’s goal was to remove any influence Christians had over Australia and its culture. I’m not just talking about banning Christmas either, I’m talking about a war with the sole goal of removing all white Australians from positions of power and erasing as much of white Christian history as possible.

Now, imagine if Team Black didn’t just cause a bit of a ruckus in the suburbs where there’s a big majority of black people, imagine if they actually won the war and were now starting to make life hard for white Australians. They start murdering all white politicians and removing any influential white people from other positions power immediately. You can’t be a mayor if you’re white, you can’t be a manager at a company, you can’t even be a school teacher. They imprison anyone who dares speak out against the new regime and they kill anyone who tries to resist. They ban the bible, they ban white TV presenters. They take away all our passports and they ban us from traveling outside the country.

Worse still, for you, they are hunting down anyone who has ever been a member of a church and they’re putting them into forced labour camps. Even praying is now a crime. Remember the time in 1995 when we went to Pizza Hut with the church group and all the grown-ups sang grace at the table. Not softly, but loud enough for Jesus to hear? There were kids working there who knew me and I had to go to school the next day with them. They thought I was in a cult. I got beaten up. I wanted to stone you all to death with frozen cheese at the time, but if they got caught doing that now under the new regime, I could stone you all to death with frozen cheese. In fact, I’d be given a medal for it.

Not only is being Christian now a crime under this new regime, but anyone who was ever a vocal supporter of white Christian culture has to try and leave the country or they will almost certainly be killed. They even do background checks on people’s parents to find the children of preachers. Your parents were missionaries Dad, and you have been going to church since you were born. You even say grace at McDonalds. You’re screwed.

In fact, not only are you screwed, there’s a price on your head. They want you dead because as a business owner, they fear you’ll try to lead a Toowoomba-based uprising against the new regime. You can’t just turn up at an airport and hop on a plane because they took your passport and if you do get caught trying to leave, you will be taken away and forced to dig your own grave and mum will be tortured. And you have a beard, which they’ll find scary.

Imagine you kiss mum goodbye and go into hiding in the bush with a few other Christians you know and you all pray for a solution. For a while nothing happens and you start to lose hope, but one day, out of the blue, word reaches you that there’s a small boat leaving from Broome and it’s heading to China. It’s operated by a people-smuggling operation. You’ve heard the Chinese don’t like the new Australian regime very much and have offered asylum to white Australians in the past. The boat sounds dodgy, but you know if you stay in Australia you will certainly be killed and mum will be tortured, so you decide to take the risk. You can’t speak Chinese, but you know enough about China to know that it sounds better than death and torture in Australia. You’ve heard there’s a large community of white Australians living there and you decide to go for it, mum can follow as soon as you get to China and are granted refugee status. You get to Broome by bribing state border guards with every scrap of cash you can raise and meet up with 100 other white asylum-seekers and get on a tiny boat.

You’ve heard some rumours and seen patchy news broadcasts about other boats carrying asylum seekers which have been smashed up on rocks in bad weather, and while it all sounds a bit scary, you figure it’s not likely to happen to you and you can’t afford to waste any time because the longer you wait, the more chance you have of being killed.

You make the voyage and arrive in Chinese territorial waters three weeks later. Instead of setting off some fireworks and giving everyone prawn crackers, they tell you to go away because they’re full and threaten to sink your boat and lock you up on a remote rat-infested island in the scorching sun and throw away the key. Stories of your arrival run on the Chinese version of Today Tonight and the public decides there’s no way in hell a boat full of outlaws from Australia should be let into the country. Every other nation in sailing distance says they will sink your boat if you enter their waters because they can’t take on any more refugees.

The Chinese navy tows your boat back to Australian waters and your are met by an Australian naval vessel manned by the new regime. As soon as the Chinese vessel is out of sight, they take you all prisoner, ferry you away to a secret military base near Darwin, torture half of you to death and send the other half to a forced labour camp where you build railroads in the desert for the next 20 years.

Oh, and they make you cut off your beard.

That’s what we’re dealing with here dad. It’s what happened in Nazi Germany in the 1930s. It’s what happened in China in the 1950s. It happened in Cambodia in the 1970s, Rwanda in the 1980s and Yugoslavia in the 1990s. The same thing is happening right now in Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Iran and Sudan.

You like Chinese food dad. You’ve probably never had Cambodian food, but you’d like that too. I know you like chicken soup. Everyone likes chicken soup. OK, vegetarians don’t like chicken soup, but the Jews invented lots of tasty non-meat things too. Like bagels. The point is, when Australia throws open its doors to boat people we get cool things, like chicken soup, and kebabs, and rice-paper rolls, and culture. I know right now you’re thinking “gee, it’s really really sad that some boat people died, but what we need to do right now is get really really tough on border protection and turn back all the boats and not let anyone in to the country and that will solve the problem.”

It won’t solve the problem Dad. If we get all huffy and cranky and turn back all the boats they’ll probably stop for a while, just like they did when John Howard pretended they were throwing children overboard and everyone got cranky then. But the only thing that will change is that, at best, they’ll become someone else’s problem, or at worst, the people who were trying to come here on boats will be sent back home and tortured to death for trying to leave in the first place.

There are around 798 genuine refugees waiting to come to Australia from the Indonesian port Puncak right now and at least another 1,769 whose refugee status is pending. Do you want to know the best way to stop people smugglers Dad? Put them out of a job. Australia is a massive place. Like you, I’ve seen rather a lot of it. We’re not full. Western Sydney is full. Toorak is full. Everywhere else is far from full. In fact, everywhere else is empty. We don’t need to turn away the boats Dad. We need to send them back for more.

Matt

85 replies on “Dear Dad, we don’t need to turn the boats away, we need to send them back for more…”

M, I agreed with you before I even read this…but your words hit me for six. I’ve never put myself ‘in an asylum seeker’s shoes’ the way I did when reading this post. Thank you.

I like your perspective, I’m sure not one that many people have stopped to consider. A great demonstration of “putting yourself in their shoes” I can’t even begin to image what it is like for refugees, but thanks for slightly opening my eyes to the bigger picture here! We are all humans and we should be looking for humane ways to assist these desperate refugees

Wow. I am speechless – this is an amazing piece of writing that should be read by everyone ever. Am spreading it around my FB, Twitter and plurk – people need to see this. It’s the most powerful thing I’ve seen on Refugees in a long time.

Matt, this is a really eye opening perspective and one to which I thank you for. I think that the plight of the refugee needs to be put in a way to ensure that everyone can understand/appreciate it. My concern however, is that it seems a little uninspired to say that the government should do something to help (I understand that you were just illustrating the plight in a way that others can understand, this seems to be more the mindset of many protesters). I can’t in good conscious agree with these blanket statements about how the government needs to do more. It’s almost like the politicians saying that they’ll solve the current lack mental wellness facilities. What I would like to see, instead of the, “Here’s your dole, Here’s a house and here’s democracy, now get a job” but rather a structured integration policy where there are mandatory in-depth language and culture classes, counseling services not just on the PTSD that they’d no doubt have but also on where to from here (Point of arrival). Then follow up after 6, 12 and 18 months to ensure that they are given the BEST possible chance. Here’s the catch. With an aging population the baby boomers are going to be sucking down on the pension, the taxes are going to have to go up to cover this, in addition to the associated costs of healthcare of an aging population, taking into account foreign aid commitments escalating from global warming, how is Australia going to properly help the refugees? In addition to this, the current housing problems as it is, where are they going to live? Yes we have the space, in theory, but who wants to live in the desert or middle of nowhere? There are no jobs…perhaps when we stop centralizing our workforce on capital cities this may bear fruit however for now I’m finding it hard to believe that it’s sustainable (by sustainable I mean being able to help the way we should) to open our borders. I suppose it’s a trade off where balance is needed to be found. There will always be room for improvement but where do you draw the line? As I said at the beginning I really appreciate what you wrote however many people can only see the issue in Black or White and not the many shades of grey that it is.

Thanks Anthony, appreciate your thoughtful comment. Have a read of ‘The Big List of Reasons Why You’re Wrong About Asylum Seekers’ (http://ambiguityreport.blogspot.com/2010/12/big-list-of-reasons-why-youre-wrong.html) and that’ll answer some of your questions. I think you’re forgetting the fact that asylum seekers tend to end up working pretty soon after they get here, not on the dole. Ever caught a taxi? RE: places to live, like I said, Western Sydney is full, but there are plenty of other places to go, cities like Mt Gambier are welcoming refugees with open arms and are demanding more. There’s also a lot of mines out there which need diggin’.

Whoah! Incredible. Thanks so much Matt. I actually know the father and husband of two of the 1,769 refugees stuck in Indonesia. Even after hearing his stories, your letter is like a kick in the stomach – I have never had to contemplate fleeing my home and seeking refuge in another country. I hope many more people read this.

Great list, there’s not one point on there that I didn’t agree with, the main point that I was trying to make was that there needs to be a much more appropriate way to integrate the refugees (maybe the government could have a feasibility study, pilot program and focus group about the possibility of exploring this program), when integrated into society properly I believe that they would contribute in such a meaningful way that would really make for a wonderful and strong community. But if they are just dumped into the community and “cut loose” I feel that the personal issues will only impede their new life. I love hearing about cities really making an effort to welcome refugees when the big cities aren’t/can’t I also heard that shepparton(?) was doing a similar thing to Mt Gambier.

A few things bug me in this, I somehow feel guilty for being white and having a christian background now. But then i realise I havn’t caused unfortunate circumstances for people in other countries or even here. My other concern is that this article implies we need more foreign culture, i disagree i feel more chinese than caucasion in the citys. Look i know a lot of miss world peace on earth people are going to call me a racist but some problems cant be helped that easily. If it were white people coming in by boat they would still need to be detained where they would have perfectly adequate food, health and shelter. It unfortunatly is a security risk. Let’s say a few people rocked up at your house with no identification and wanted to stay there. You would probably have some reservations before deciding to let them stay. The fact is our country doesn’t need to grow anymore on an environmental basis. The solution is for these countries to become more civilised. I don’t know how that would happen and its a horrible situation but unfortunatly we can’t just take people in. I am very cautious of falling for emotive blackmail.

I find it odd that Australian governments are all “Breed for the nation! We need more people!” and yet when it comes to helping people who are in dire crisis worse than anything most Aussies can imagine, we are “full”.

you my good sir, are a fucking idiot.

i dont know where you are from but for starters there is a reason that australia is empty. its because ther isnt enough water for everyone! australias climate means we have no way of a reliable water source. what happens when we bring in another few million people?

okay so you mentioned toowoomba in your thing. dalby is an hour and a bit north west of toowoomba. they came within a few days of completely running out of water not long ago. the whole town almost had to be evacuated if it didnt downpour right then. dalby is also the proposed place for a new asylum seeker camp to ease already overful camps. if there was another few 1000 people there and we hit another drought and the town actually does run out of water where will they go? toowoomba? your an idiot. toowoomba’s water supply at the moment is at 35% and that is AFTER a YEAR of ABOVE AVERAGE rainfall.

next problem. aboriginals are starting a vandetta against christians? wow. so ur saying that aboriginals and sudanese arent christians or dont want to be christians? omg.

okay so yes sydney is full. western queensland is empty. did it ever occur to you that there is a reason for that? theres nothing there! are you volunteering to drive absolutly everything including bear essentials out there just so that they can survive?

australia has some pretty massive farms out west. (east if ur in western australia) thats because the herds of cattle out there which australia needs to maintain our strong beef industry are so big. cattle need food and water. both food and water dont just appear. thats the point of mustering. moving cattle from one food source to another and back again. australia just simply is not a fertile country. obviously since the aboriginals never used agriculture. it takes months for the grass to regrow. the balance that has been created must be maintained or everything will fuck up. know what salinity is?

around australia is whats known as the wheat belt. it takes up 14% of the countries total land area. we are the second biggest exporter of wheat in the world. if sydney and those towns are full and you obviously cant put them in the desert then u must be proposing shifting them to the wheat belt area like dalby. ok so a few hundred people or more? where do u stop. eventually you start losing land for agriculture. and because australia isnt fertile and has inconsistant rainfall that agriculture cant be moved. more people but less resourses. good plan bro. /facepalm. i hope you realise that australia has either one of the or the fastest growing population. some resources especially water are already thin. the building idustry is in all sorts of trouble because demand is so high which means prices are high. the high aussie dollar will have a nagative effect on tourism because forigners cant afford to come here.

your making out like australia doesnt want any forign things. wrong. we are easlily one of the most multicultural countries in the world. but we also have our own identity. the aussie accent that america loves so much. you wanna give that away for a cambodian one? have pride in your country.

if i went to china because we’d been taken over and the chinese sent me away because they are full id be like ‘oh yeah i shoulda known that. im going to go to america and tell them to come and save my country. then i will return with our allys to take back the country. i wont run and pretend everything is fine and expect somone else to deal with it and deal with me while i chill. no i will do something. yes i do need help but i wont do nothing.’

you know where these people can stay? in their own country. bringing them here to help us fight a war against black people is stupid. if they come here to genuinly benifit society and abide by our laws then yes they can come. if they try to get in illegally and just sit around all day smoking a pipe then no. they cant come.

now for a logical sloution. we send troops over to forign countries with terrorism and stuff and free the countries. how many of say afghanastanian asylum seekers have immedietly upon arrival demanded to be allowed to join the army and be shipped back to his country to fight the terrorism?
/fin

Wow, Andrew..
Yes, there are inhospitable parts of Australia, but I think “everywhere” was clearly hyperbole.
“bringing them here to help us fight a war against black people”?? Ah.. I think you might have read it wrong. It’s an analogy.
So, you think war frees countries? War, apart from killing hundreds of thousands (depending on the war we’re talking about, possibly millions) of innocent people, creates refugees.
Okay. Moving on.
Will- you haven’t directly caused unfortunate circumstances, no, but you do benefit from them. Check where your clothes and possessions are made and somewhere along the line you’ll find sweatshop labour and unfair wages and trade happening. “We can’t just take people in.” Well, gee if you say so. Oh wait no you need an actual reason other than your (yes, you said you would be called it, and yes, you will) ethnophobia.

Very well written. More people need to see it from the refugees’ perspective. I saw the reference to Christians as an example, not an absolute.

How come the few people who disagree tend not to know how to spell, punctuate or use caps and decent grammar; resort to personal invective; and/or say fuck a lot? (Will being the exception – I might not particularly agree with him, but at least he seems to be trying to engage in civilised debate.)

Andrew Cooper, thanks at least for not being anonymous! Your heart is in the right place, but the point of this article was:

a) To get people to think differently about the circumstances boat people are typically leaving.

b) To highlight the fact that there really aren’t that many people waiting in Indonesia and that we’re not in danger of being immediately swamped and if we want to stop people smuggling, we could do something about it immediately.

c) To remind people that Australia is an empty country. Yes, there’s plenty of desert out there, but there are plenty of small towns and cities (not necessarily Dalby) which could sustain a vastly increased population with the proper LONG TERM planning.

I’m not suggesting for a second that we invite a million refugees over for dinner before Christmas.

“they tell you to go away because they’re full and threaten to sink your boat and lock you up on a remote rat-infested island in the scorching sun and throw away the key” spin spin spin mate you’re just as bad as the news websites.

Amazing article Matt…
Its interesting to note the people who seem to be disagreeing with your comments seem to be patriotic Austrlians, which is great. However they seem to dismiss the reality of these lives that are being punished for being born in the wrong country.
Different country/same world/same race…a country is a location but a human is a life.
I have compassion for lives and believe everybody deserves a chance to live one of freedom and opportunity. Saying that its too hard is a MASSIVE cop out!!!
With the right planning, resources and smart leaders – Australia will be able to create a procedure to support those less fortunate.
Thanks for your insight Matt.

Love the piece.

My favourite comment so far is:

The analogy you use is not accurate and is spun in a way to support your own opinions.

For me, this the heart of what an analogy – a fiction designed to convey a point of view. The comment is like angrily pointing out your article is composed of words.

David, you rock 🙂 I think this article has done the rounds of people’s Facebook updates and lots of people who haven’t really taken the time to understand my point have just chimed in anyway.

verysmallspacemonkey – You’re spot on, people do absolutely keep to their own culture, but I think you’ll find cultures adapt over time. Once we were Romans.

Fantastic piece Matt….great analogy. Thank you!
@Andrew Cooper….can you even imagine what some of these people have gone through??? Do you have no compassion or concern for them?

I’m very split about this topic.

I think we have so many people on our streets that need our help. People without homes, food and medical assistance. I think we have people who need our support who are already in the country. Maybe my education on the situation is poor but I would prefer to see those people looked after and put into housing commissions then those who waited on a list.

It frustrates me to see Australians, on the street, begging for money, struggling, not allowed to get help from Centrelink or support or shunned, yet in the end, our boat people are accounted and provided for.

The situation is not good in foreign countries and we SHOULD help in all of our capacity but we should also ensure that we are not neglecting those in Australia that need our help. We need to find a happy balance and order is needed. We need to stop the illegal boats and instead start a repopulation policy and make it a more streamlined and affective procedure. People smuggling is not safe and it is not fair either. Criminals should not profit from those who are in need of a helping hand. You are correct, there are still unchartered areas of Australia and we have the room. We should be spending our funds FIXING our problems and creating solutions to assist those who want help. We should also be opening more houses for the homeless and also starting a task force of wellbeing and welfare to support those who don’t know where to start for help.

Please don’t think that I am not compassionate towards the plights of asylum seekers. There is a reason why they seek asylum and they are risking the lives of themselves and their families. You do not do this without great struggle and plight. Putting them into camps is not fair. Sending them back to their country is also not the right answer. So instead of complaining about the wrong answers, let’s think of a right one and make it happen.

I know you like analogies so I will use this one (I’m terrible at them so I don’t know why I’m bothering, but anyway).

Say you needed a medical procedure. You have lymphoma. You are desperate for assistance but you can’t afford it. Your getting sick. You sit in line waiting, waiting and waiting. You have been there over 7 hours and you are in great pain, but you sit there patiently as you have been told to wait, help is on its way. Then, someone else comes through the door, they force their way through the door and the poor thing they are soaking wet. Everyone feels so sorry for them because they got wet in the rain. They walked from their house 1km away. It started raining 10 minutes ago. When you got here 7 hours ago it was sunny. People rush to help this person and the poor wet, sick person is assisted. Thank god, they needed help. Everyone in the waiting room is pleased and chuffed that the system got it right. You continue to sit in the corner. You haven’t eaten for 3 days and the pain is getting worse, but thankfully, that wet person is dry and being attended to.

Is there a reason why this person should be assisted first? In an ideal situation, we would help both people but this person they just seemed.. more in need? More in need than you, who was sitting there, head down, humbly waiting?

I know that the refugees are hurting and they are unsafe and that they are fleeing a country, but there are a lot of people in Australia who are just as bad. Being attacked in the streets because they are homeless. Getting sicker daily. Addicted to drugs and in need of medical assistance. But no one is willing to give them a hand. The government has processes and procedures to support accepted asylum seekers in accommodation and workforce, yet we turn our noses down to those in the streets who are trying to make good for themselves.

I saw a homeless man the other day, sitting in the streets, head down, merely waiting. Waiting for someone to assist him. There was a large group of teens surrounding him and many passerby’s. Everyone ignored him, the teens snickered at him. As I got closer I noticed he was holding a sign, asking for help. I gave him money and wished him well. I was stared at with such detest for engaging with this man.

This man needs our help. But he is getting none.

The refugees also need our help.

Let’s stop being REACTIVE and start being PROACTIVE and try and fix the larger problem at hand.

I feel like we are all willing to back the refugee situation and asylum seekers, but we are NOT willing to address our home grown issues, we just tuck them into the corner.

Maybe I have talked in circles. I am not against refugee’s or their need for help! I am against the system and the lack of procedure and policy for immediate world and local aid.

I know that we all like to talk about the plight of others in poor countries and the devastation we face, but when you do this, please consider those in Australia in need.

When you pass a homeless man, woman, family, don’t brush them off, yet go home and rave about asylum seekers, treat them with the same courtesy and respect that you do our asylum seekers.

Meh, I’m terrible with ideas and thoughts.. sorry for the ramble.

What a though provoking article. For those people who are waiting for a day when compassion overrides fear, keep talking about it – keep living it. Fear and ignorance are the greatest burdens of society, I hope this helped open some hearts, everyone has the right to happiness and avoid suffering.

I want to print this out and carry it around with me, then every time someone makes a racist remark about immigrants I’d like to somehow force them to read this out loud. As a country Australia is incredibly spoiled and we take all that we have completely for granted. I do think we need a complete reform of our refuge acceptance system, maybe when they come to Australia they could all be sent to work on farms? We certainly need the workers out their and since we’re all too up ourselves to do it. I don’t know. It sounds horrible saying it out loud, but they appreciate honest work 10x more than we do. I’m going to stop rambling now. Well done Matt!

Lets think about the Refugee’s, the 100,00’s of thousands who are waiting in camps in places like Rowanda, and The Sudan. Let’s think about them, the people who volunteer to run them, the doctors who are raped, beaten and killed.

Let’s think about them; those who don’t have the Tens to Hundreds of Thousands of dollars to pay their travel. To create false identities. Who don’t hope skip and jump from country to country by plane. Who don’t pay to be smuggled on a boat from a port in Indonesia. Who skip 10’s, to 100’s of other refugee camps they can possibly stay at.

Let’s think about the Refugee’s who wait years. Nay decades to be placed in a country because it isn’t safe where they are, where they have come from. These people who have to wait so long because a bunch of people, who are after questionably refugee’s have skipped normal processing. Who have the money to pay their way into their country of choice.

Can we think about the Refugees? Not the people who are taking the spots of these genuine deserving people. Not the people who have taken it upon themselves to jump all across the world to a country that isn’t local.

I know Refugees. I love them. I live with them. I respect them and I hear their stories. Their stories of waiting for a country, with a place to turn up and accept them. An order that is delayed every single time we take a person who has taken upon themselves to skip a Refugee camp.

People are always implying because you don’t believe the boat people should be allowed it’s because your racist – and this blog is no better – that is obviously true for some. It’s not true for all.

I want Refugees to come to this country. I believe we have the responsibility to house and protect people while their country is in danger – or they are.

I don’t believe we have the responsibility to house and look after people who decide to spend 10’s to 100’s of thousands of dollars to illegally – and yes it is illegal queue jump. Who at times destroy their papers to delay identification. Who have, at times, been deemed as a danger to our country because they have raped and killed in their own (I am not saying this is true for all people who come in boats).

So yes. I encourage us all to think of the refugees. Those who call a camp, and at times it is as it is described a ‘camp’ home. Who fear for their lives in some of them. Who have been waiting for a safe Haven. Let’s think about them. Please.

Thank you for saying something I have been thinking about for years.

As for multiculturalism not working, of course it does. After three or four generations the edges blur as the kids start playing rugby or AFL or cricket. Our language picks up a few new words, our cuisine picks up some new flavours and our country becomes greater.

Then, when a new group starts arriving in 50 years time, those of distant Sudanese or Middle-eastern origins will start complaining about the threat to Australia’s special culture.

i value the sentiment, but i think you managed to make me anti-boat people when before i actually didn’t care.
what happens in your example when every single white australian has exited the great southern land in one way or another? did it solve anything? all it has done is cause future civil wars in other countries as they try and settle elsewhere.
it seems therefore the answer lies in sorting out why the people are refugees in the first place. honestly aussie culture is such most men would die fighting before deserting, they have a european war backbone after all, but as far as those other countries go – stop the illegal boats and help where its really needed.
maybe i’m being naive, but you are to.

You’re ‘solution’ is a ‘Band-Aid cure’ for over 300 years, worth of imperial racialization. Opening the proverbial gates will not fix the problem; it merely perpetuates it by justifying the cruelties inflicted and relocating the racial (or religious or other) tensions globally.

Every sovereign nation has both the right to defend its political cohesion. And in a ‘world’ whose previous 100 years of history has been typified by gross politico-racial conflict and associated ‘flare-ups’; every nation has a responsibility to do so also.

This cohesion, particularly in a nation which makes it compulsory for its citizens to vote, is maintained through screening. This is a process as old as democracy itself.

This does not absolve us from our responsibilities as human beings to be empathetic and provide aid. However, empathy and assistance are not synonymous with an uncensored welcome to the entirety of the Cold War period’s 2nd and 3rd world’s aggrieved.

I was born in the sick bay of a refugee camp where water had to be boiled before drinking and you could be arrested for having fresh fruit and my family was considered to be fabulously wealthy because my parents owned baby bottles. They arrived there in a longboat with a hundred other people. They had already tried to escape Vietnam twice, and the Communist party threw my father in prison each time. They were running from their homeland because my mother’s parents were wealthy land owners and my father’s father was an officer in the French army and this caused them to be treated like illegal aliens in their own country. They lived in a tiny shack with half a dozen other families. My mother’s father sent us money from America and she was able to make sure I was properly nourished in my first year of life, and made certain to share the food with other families who had children.

It was not a life that suited my parents. In Vietnam, my mother had been a wealthy heiress with fine dresses and twenty beaux or more. Now all her family’s money was gone, her father was in America, her mother and sisters in hiding. She cried when she saw what the camp was like and begged my father to take her back to Vietnam. My father was a university graduate and professional engineer and had left behind a collection of banned books. His sister, a celebrated artist, had changed her name and was trying to make a living producing propaganda posters for the communist party. His father was dead, and his mother, who had once had servants and a cook and a driver, had taught herself to read and gone to market to sell her silk dresses and jade combs to support her family. My father worked in the camp school and my mother worked in the camp kitchens with the women. When I was born, they said that they stopped praying for their families at night.

No one should ever have to live like that.

Now my father is a brilliant IT technician and sysadmin, and my mother is a teacher. They love this country and consider it their new home. My father often says to me, “Vietnam was my mother, but Australia is my wife.” I can’t imagine living anywhere but here, and I consider it the greatest gift and blessing that my family was allowed into Australia as refugees. I must have done something very good in a past life.

I was once told that if you want the measure of someone, don’t look at how they treat their superiors or equals. Look at how they treat their subordinates, their inferiors, their supplicants. If someone is polite to you but rude to a hobo, then they are not a polite person. If someone is good to you but bad to a beggar, they are not a good person. What does this signify about a country that is good to its citizens but bad to its refugees?

Mr Granfield, I salute you.

Godly D, ‘bigots with an accent’ is saying the same thing about you. Matt interesting article: well written! I really like the debate. It’s a pity the people that are willing to look at themselves are usually the people willing to listen and those easily manipulated by social commentary and media believe what they are fed.

If we keep letting all these “refugees in we will have a civil war….!!! why do you think they are leaving their own country and coming here….so they can do just that…

It seems to be part of the educated Western World’s cultural cringe to take a position or proselytise that we are a selfish, heartless group for not wanting a swinging door, take all comers approach to immigration. The fact is there is real human decency and respect for life and the rights of others which comes from that very same, dirty ‘Western’ culture. It is precisely that you live in such a paradoxically fucked up country based (for the moment) on this culture that we can all hear these views. However consider that it has become commonplace to piss on those with views other than expressed in your letter. They are pissed on by the mainstream and social media and the fact is that this isn’t China or even one of the myriad other shitholes from which asylums seekers come but they will be gagged just the same. No one (I hope) could ever, ever accept seeing people hurt and killed like at Xmas Is – it is totally fucked and wrong that not only have they left wherever they were from but that we have those compassionate gems in Indonesia (or wherever really) ready to send them and whatever disposable sods (or even themselves – the gems – because chances are they are only trying to get ahead in their own shithole) on a journey which could easily end like this. I think people are taking a hard line on asylum seekers because they see their country and their ‘culture’ changing so much – ironically more from mainstream immigration than asylum – and away from a Western, Christian foundation. Whether they realise it or not they are scared, not so much from a loss of religious or even what they might think of as cultural identity but more the imposition of other’s culture on them. It doesn’t seem fair to them – they couldn’t go to China or Indonesia and be a wildly divergent cultural or religious minority with values alien from the mainstream. I say values because that is the issue not religion, language or anything else that might get tossed around by the lesser informed or inarticulate out there. It is the fact that this country needs/wants to adhere to a common standard of human decency and acceptance of each other (very much at the basis of your letter) that seems to drive the agenda, ironically enough because we have this view we are really unwilling to even question some of the people, their culture or attitudes when they fly in the face of our own. What is the answer – don’t know but it is no more to open all the doors than it is to become the same as those very rich cultural shitholes from which people are now fleeing.

David ” For me, this the heart of what an analogy – a fiction designed to convey a point of view. The comment is like angrily pointing out your article is composed of words.” Sorry David but just because you believe something doesn’t somehow make it correct. This isn’t neverland where you can break the laws of physics by believing in something hard enough. An analogy is drawing a comparison in order to show a similarity or convey a point in a manner that is more easily understood by your target. It doesn’t mean making up a fanciful story spun to misrepresent an issue in order to push a particular opinion.

thanks Matt Granfield and bobby, real comments there, kinda…not really. As a refugee who came as an immigrant to australia from yugoslavia, i can say, the author is full of shit, he has never been through a real civil war, he cant imagine it, i find his attempt to recreate it offensive and wrong, over simplifying and over complicating at the same time . I brought my skills and degree to aus, unlike 90% of those today, i contribute to australian culture and heritage and i say i am australian before all else even if i was religious. i say again fuck christians, fuck immigrants

Well put. I couldn’t agree more.
I would like to pull you up on one point though. Contrary to popular belief, and as much as John Howard and his supporters liked to think he controlled the flow of refugees simply by making life hell for them once they got here, the number of boats coming to Australia went up and down in line with the rest of the world, not Australia’s policies.
http://slightlyodd.com/2010/06/boats-versus-planes

Good read. Unfortunately, while it appeals to the readers who can already put themselves in someone else’s shoes, I’m not sure it’ll change the minds of those who think it’s best “to turn the boats back”. That tough ‘love’, patriarchal attitude still seems to be the dominate one in Australia. I hope that as a country we can move towards a more humanitarian policy, but right now, we’re very far from it.
And Fred’s “fuck immigrants” comment would have to be up there with the worst, most racist attitudes. Who are you, Fred, to judge an immigrant’s ‘skills’, and propose that 90% don’t have any? Ludicrous.

Interesting concept. Black is black and white is white and never the two shall meet. But I admire you view. However, the answer formulated by Wld is terribly interesting. Does one have to sink to profanity to put forward an opposition to your view? I wonder if the natural body functions he/she so stresses make his/her answer more compelling??? And Fred … oh dear, Fred … your answer also comprised of four-letter word emphasis is pretty low. My dear grand-mother used to say that if a person could not express themselves without swear words they show a lack of intelligence. No matter how many Degrees one has it does not give licence to abuse another who has a different viewpoint from your own.

who am i lustforlanguage, i am a voting member of australia and a quiet observer of australias immigration techniques over the past several years. Lizzie, your grandma can go fuck herself if she thinks that, i will use as much or as little of the english language as i please, and having degrees does give you a licence to disagree with those with a different view, in fact more of a licence.

Oh dear, Lizzie. To profane or not to profane? Your grandma is as much a dribbler as you are – the challenge is not swearing so much as weaving an actual viewpoint (do you have one?). I think Matt’s original piece is as just as negative and condescending as a southern cross wearing redneck at Cronulla Beach can be (in their own unique way). The point being made is that while the “everyman” might swear and fail to articulate to the standard you desire they still have a view which, at its heart, is of value as much as the converse or indeed whatever it is that you think. It is interesting that you do not consider Matt’s prose “abuse” of others with different viewpoints – myopic much? Please continue to wonder if my, or any viewpoint is compelling – have a shot at arriving at a conclusion too – don’t strain yourself. Ah Blogs… you filthy dirty twisted little world – bringing people together so they can toss (block your ears here Lizo) SHIT at each other!!!!

Its just a poorly written and crude article, if people are suddenly putting themselves in other people shoes because it they lack basic human empathy or have never watched the news.
My disagreements come with the way the article, sure clumping all Australians as Christians is offensive I do see how the author is trying to get the idea of religion and ideas of race being damaging, evil and a curse splitting mankind. Anything other than this and the author is doing nothing but continuing the hate as we hopefully move into a world of enlightenment, no better than politicians and hate mongers world over that revive that age old fear of what’s different to get votes, kudos and webpage visits.
However i ask why the article is necessary, who would read this that hasn’t already seen news reports whose images rather than atrophied imaginations have really failed convey what happens overseas. The article represents nothing but hack journalism; it’s been done before, and better, to a country and people who just don’t care except when it comes to election time, and then the knowledge of why they care is incomplete and fleeting egged on by trumped up election adds or blown up articles.
Those who want to do more research wont just on live leak or independent news sites and make a commitment to stopping the cause of refugees and immigrants. Rather than this article is spread around and aimed at liberal know-nothings who like what seems right without knowing why it’s right. Sure there are comments from those who have suffered, who have come here at legitimate refugees, and to be honest I have nothing against refugees just those who exploit them.
That being said instead of creating an article of what ifs, imagine if and now you’re in their shoes offer ways to change things, groups, websites so people don’t just reads it and go “well that was interesting” post it on face book and forget it ever happened. Remember this; how you would handle refugees and immigrants, would you let them straight in the country, not restrictions, not screening process. The government for all its wrong has an obligation first and foremost to its citizens, not anyone else’s no matter how much their government has failed them. Yes as we move on through time we will have the global citizen but it is not here yet and Australia has a certain appeal to those looking for a better life but when it comes down to it there needs to be restrictions in place, there needs to be these limits that liberals find so disheartening otherwise the government is failing as a government to protect you from a threat real or perceived.
I can’t wade in and say things like Australian culture, assimilation, the aussie way of life but I can say that although I have background in immigrants and refugees as well as family overseas and roots around the world, I am even moving overseas to spend the rest of my life there, but I am and always will be Australian first, in a secular and non patriotic and non political way, with all else second.
This is what it means to be Australian and this is what those who fear immigrants and fear refugees feel they are losing, an understandable fear when you consider that you man not be able to make a cartoon with somebody’s prophet in it or make a political criticism without being labeled a fascist or racist (as I have although I fall on neither left nor right of the political spectrum). Being an Australian first crosses all races, ideas, ideals, theologies but a people that make up the nation and are able to effect government while being free in their private lives. That being said when I see someone from another country I don’t look down on them either, we are a people of the world but we are not at the stage yet where we can afford to throw open the doors and declare a utopia for the disenfranchised. This is many many years away, change is a slow process.
I would suggest aid work and donation as well as increasing your knowledge of world events through non religious NGO’s and see what change you can effect on your way to become a global citizen and a greater Australian citizen

Goodness me! What a diatribe. OK, Fred … my Grand-mother did … and my mother was the result. Your Grand-mother did as well … unfortunately! And Wld, I appreciate your vehement comments … it’s just not necessary to descend to gutter-speak to articulate them. To be honest, the original article was a bit melodramatic for my taste, but it was an interesting idea. I do agree with Az … I’m not a Christian, but I do feel there is a germ of an idea in Matt’s comments. It was a thought-provoking way of expressing his apparent empathy for the refugees/boat people, whatever they are.

Oh, by the way … I’m a 6th Generation Aussie and my “refugees” came here voluntarily in 1830 in their own ship. He was a jeweler and goldsmith from London. They came to give their daughters a better life and they and their descendants have had just that. Surely I cannot deny others to do the same?

Lizzie, gutter speak is a value judgement on your part. What is necessary for others to do is not for you to say – conversation in the modern world is a cut and thrust ride – as I said BLOGS! Back on topic – empathy and feeling for others is part of this country as is giving a better life – we just need to make sure that those joining us have these same values and allow us to remain a secular, multicultural and tolerant society now and forever. I no more want to see a home grown southern cross emblazoned bogan than I do an “aussie” hating cedar boi but as long as they really, truly live and let live I think we can take it. The issue of migration is part of the discussion and plan for our society and we should be brave enough and mature enough to say what we do and do not want – it is not racist to do this. For mine I say NO to Americanisation (c’mon we need a bit more social conscience not to mention brains than that) but equally NO to those which seek to belittle, coerce, exploit or drive our system and our socialist leanings (this isn’t just the migrants but our very own socially conscious, right minded lefties) – let the country have rules, respect them, agree to them or do not come by whatever means. As wanky as the original article is I do have to say good topic, good talk, thanks for coming!!

Wld, ‘wanky’ is a value judgment on your behalf too 🙂

Plenty of commenters have formed a different value judgment to yourself. I’m curious what part of the article you see as “negative and condescending” though..?

Matt – true, true re the value judgement – guilty bud. Obviously some commenters like what you have said and other not so much – self evident I would think.
I guess the tone of the article, speaking to your Dad in a way that seems overly simplified and telling him how to suck eggs ie condescending in that it seems you suggest he is ignorant and misses a grand design which you clearly appreciate so deeply. Negative in that, for me anyway, it is more of the same, rehashed “take a red hot look at yourself aussie” view suggesting that (per my first post) there is nothing deeper than bigotry in having a view different from yours.

Suffice to say Wld, Dad didn’t was exactly pleased with the article either! It wasn’t about *him* though, I was just using him as a literary device against his will. I apologised. It was condescending, I could have done better.

I don’t accept that it is a negative article though. The opposing view to my real point is that, essentially, our country should revert to back to the White Australia policy. I’m not apologising for being against that.

Matt – you certainly got a lot of attention all round it seems. While not on exactly the same page as you re the article there is no way I am for White Australia either. Australia as some sort of classless, upstart, egalitarian society sounds good to me. Let’s hope that all the levers and interconnected actions of all the players get us to a good place – at this point I think it is going to be more hope than design that gets us there – over and out.

“Technologically we are in the space age, emotionally we are in the stone age.” ~ Dr. Carl Compton

Where is that great big rock in space to threaten all human survival? Only then will we realize that borders/race mean sweet FA.

az, Mim, I’m not “clumping all Australians as Christians”. I was using an analogy. It’s not real.

Az, thanks for your literary criticism though. It touched me:

“Its just a poorly written and crude article, if people are suddenly putting themselves in other people shoes because it they lack basic human empathy or have never watched the news.”

Your approach to accepted English grammar and spelling conventions is truly visionary. You’re the Miles Davis of the written language – pushing boundaries, throwing out the rules, inventing new ones. I’m stuck back here with Kind of Blue and you’re already out there in Bitches Brew. I salute you.

Ok son … you can come home….let the boats in ….and next time bishop- abott – morrisson says its the heartfelt worry …about people getting in crappy boats and drowning that directs their mobs half of AU humanitarian policy .. write a coupla drum pages telling them to send some shiny unsinkable boats over to update that political worry …

….and leave my Aboriginal mates out of your kidpumped Judeo+Christian oversold sympathies

…and to payback for your dumb disrespectful slur on Aboriginality .. write a coupla effective pages on the more humanitarian options that are available to effectively address the misery of the Northern territory Intervention

…and son ..you have to earn the right to where the Aboriginal flag on a tee shirt…its not a promotion to be worn by a young white fella sympathist surfer

savvy

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