Tuesday 14 February 2017


Refuse Refuge? Part 1

This is the worst image I saw this year. As you can imagine it was on Television. A vision from Afghanistan. A small girl child, of about five, was lying in bed in a makeshift hospital. She had picked up an un-exploded cluster bomb, a bright yellow plaything compliments of the U.S. While exploring this newfound toy it exploded, removing in one swift and horrible moment her beautiful little hand. The image which is staying with me and which is burned into my brain is that of her mother entering the ward and the confused crying child placing her good arm around her mother’s neck. I am seeing this image from behind. The back of the mother and the small vulnerable arm. This gesture of trust, this hug which places heart to heart, so unnerved me I wept and had to turn off the TV. I felt like turning it off for good. I had seen too much misery for one year. But turning off the TV didn’t mean the image went away.  

What was it about this which grieved me so. Maybe this. I have a small girl child friend of about five. When I visit I always pick her up and experience the unquestioned trust in that small gesture of her placing an arm around my neck. I also often watch her being picked up by her parents and delight in observing the same gesture. The placing of the small arm around the adults neck in Total Trust of the adult world. Or maybe I was upset by the following. Going back for a moment to the image of that useless little dead hand lying somewhere in a small rural Afghanistan village where the people have no history with those who bomb them. Imagine the aftermath of this relevantly small event of which there are so many. (All of these brutalities, for the moment, concentrated in this destroyed small child’s hand). What did this carelessly dropped raw cluster bomb take away. Many possibilities. Many possibilities to make, to draw, to paint, to prepare food, to garden, to sew, many possibilities to touch, many possibilities to caress, many possibilities to wave, many possibilities to gesture. All possibilities to create the most simple experiences of a life. There are thousands of these people for which this constant terror is, and has been, a daily experience for a long time now. Some of these people can’t take anymore and have decided to leave the land of their birth (imagine that) and find a somewhat safer place elsewhere. And in so doing risk everything. We have recently seen some of these displaced people appear on our TV screens. Crammed onto boats. We label these people illegal immigrants. These people whom some politicians label ‘Possible Terrorists’.

When you repeat a lie often enough most people will start to accept it as the truth, especially when the lie is based on common fear. The fear of not knowing. The fear of not understanding. Blind fear.

If what we are now doing with the refugees is right what is there left to be done that is wrong? What can we, sitting here safely, well fed, well clothed, oon fully Christmassed, possibly do about this terrible state of affairs. Turn off the TV when it becomes too much? Why are we, as a nation so afraid of a relative few people who have only misery to carry with them? Why are we as a nation so accepting of those continuous lies, cleverly based on our fears? Do we actually question this, or is it all too difficult.

I heard an interview with a New Zealand commentator who explained that in New Zealand the government gives refugees work visas. It has turned out that most of these people make excellent immigrants. Why? Most probably because they are resourceful and because they share. Abilities we, in the main, seem to have lost in the comfort zone of our wellbeing.

Refuse Refuge? Part 2

I was a refugee once. All non-indigenous people in this country are, or have been, in their histories. We all looked for ‘refuge’ in a new land, for whatever reason. I am a boat person and, like many people, arrived in the late fifties to a land of promise. This land filled with promises was actually pretty empty. The promises only those which we could create for ourselves. Empty, with many possibilities to colour in. To fill with ideas, to fill with creativity, to fill with culture.

But, you’ll say, there was a culture, a rich Aboriginal culture. However, this was almost wiped out by the Anglo culture which preceded us newcomers by a mere couple of centuries. I do not know exactly what this Anglo culture brought to this land but I remember that it felt empty in the fifties when we arrived from many other parts of Europe. Since I arrived with a knowledge of the Patisserie I can only comment on the food  aspect of the culture. I most vividly remember the food consciousness at the time. Little pastry boxes filled with questionable meat stuffs. Pasty Pasties. Poor quality white bread. The culinary delight of the Adelaide floater. The refined taste of the vanilla slices. And the endless stream of mono tasting beer. Wine? Wine, I was told at the time, was for poofters.  

As a result of the arrival of the post W.W. 2 refugees, then called New Australians, Ities, Wogs and the like, the culture has changed a great deal. Not only the food culture but the culture in general has been enriched as a result of what these refugees brought with them and, additionally, were able to do with their skills in this country. A big large open space ready for a creative approach, some resourcefulness, some daring. Some different ideas. Wine? Our wine is now among the best in the world. This is the result of change. Not the result of the stagnation of a culture in a fortified place.

Has anyone, voting for ‘the fear view of the world of refugee acceptance’, considered for a few moments the possible positive side of the refugee crisis aspect? Considered this as a possible gift?  Considered the newness which these people would bring with them? Considered the energy which they would offer us? Consider the gratefulness they would carry in their hearts? Has anyone maybe tried to think where they came from. Tried to think what it took them to get here. They must be incredible human beings. And maybe that’s what makes us so uneasy? Their strength and resourcefulnes.

The government told us there was a crisis. I have always believed that a crisis offers  many gifts for learning on a plate. Are we taking note? Or are we allowing this wonderful opportunity to pass us by? The gift for the possibility of endless compassion. The gift for an understanding that to take in a few more people who seek refuge would create the possibility for change, for movement and for a different view. The more points of view we can bring to our world, the larger it becomes. It involves taking a risk. Every step taken outside your comfort zone does. Consider the prize. Ask the many young Australian travellers exploring new lands who, as a result, are learning and enriching themselves. However, on the other hand not taking steps outside your comfort zone would result in an even more scary situation, down the track.

This brings me to the second worst thing I saw ever. Again on Television. People jumping from the ‘perceived’ comfort zone of the World Trade Towers. Everything is connected. That little hand blown off was the indirect result of that event. But what brought that event about in the first place? Where did this event have its roots? People who have dared to speculate have been labelled un-American and most probably un-Australian as well. Think about it. In the end the ultimate result was a child’s little hand dead to many of the possibilities a life offers. The least we could do is offer a little more generous point of view. Happy christmas!