We live in a morally flawed world, one full of regrets and reapproaches. Some of the things we regret, or for which we are reapproached, we bring about intentionally and on our own. But our lives are increasingly complicated by regrettable things brought about through our associations with other people or with the social, economic, and political institutions in which we live our lives and make our livings. Try as we might to live well, we find ourselves connected to harms and wrongs, albeit by relations that fall outside the paradigm of individual, intentional wrongdoing. While there are many examples I could give none of them come close to the tragedy that is currently unfolding on Christmas Island.
Each individual act of violence is characterised by a whole spectrum of relations between agents and harms, doers and deeds. It is an undeniable feature of our social life that people have a host of morally significant reactions when they stand in mediated relations to harm – ranging from discomfort to regret to guilt – and they are judged by victims and onlookers.
The victims on Christmas Island today are those poor unfortunate souls who braved untold obstacles in search of a better life, a life free from hunger a life free from fear of persecution a life of dignity. What have they found today on Christmas Island? Only death and xenophobic hypocrisy!
The guilty are you and I and every Australian who lacks the moral fortitude to hold our morally bankrupt leaders accountable. Accountable for running fear campaigns in search of short term political gains, for causing the average Australian to live in fear of their neighbours, for closing our boarders to those who are truly in need. We shouldn’t forget that our morally bankrupt leaders remain in power through the largess of our vacuous media which prattles on endlessly about the puerile, so as not to cause offence in the middle class bastions of ignorance.
Amnesty International Australia campaigns director Andrew Beswick said:
“The decision to get on a boat to seek asylum is never taken lightly, and it should be remembered that asylum seekers who come to Australia are human beings asking for our help… in the vast majority of cases, asylum seekers who come to Australia by boat are found to be genuine refugees fleeing violence and persecution.”
Asylum seekers coming to Australia are found to be genuine refuges in the vast majority of cases. A genuine refugee is a human being just like you and I who is fleeing violence and persecution. Why would we want to close our doors to genuine refugees?
It is worth remembering that all Australians who have settled in this great country of ours since the European Invasion of 1788 are ‘boat people’, another term for refugees. This being said, what gives one group of refugees the right to deny sanctuary to another group of refugees?
If we take the time to consider the spectrum of relations between agents and harms, doers and deeds, we who cast our votes for xenophobia and hypocrisy on voting day are complicit in the harms done by those peddlers of xenophobia and hypocrisy we loosely call our leaders.
While we could argue that the xenophobic actions of Howard or Gillard or Rudd fall outside the paradigm of our individual, intentional wrongdoing, they become ours via the ballot box into the spectrum of relations between agents and harms, doers and deeds. That makes us complicit in the wrongs that were done to the innocent on Christmas Island today.
While moral philosophers such as Aristotle and Immanuel Kant have tendered to avoid the problem of collective wrongdoings in favour of individual choices, these arguments fail in the Collective Age in which we live and they fail absolutely in the face of the human toll of tragedy now unfolding on Christmas island.
My guess is that in the coming days instead of people such as Prime Minister Gillard addressing the real issue, our xenophobes, we will be subjected to an endless barrage of hyperbole ranging from the evils of people smuggling to boarder protection to “we have the right to decide who comes and lives on our shores”. As a Wiradjuri I say all are welcome.