The Good. The Bad. The Asinine.

Speaking of Donkeys…

There is a group of people living within our society today that has been accused of many horrendous things. They are accused of treating their women and children so badly that their actions are tantamount to murder. They are accused of deliberate oddness of dress with a view to concealment and subterfuge. They are accused of child rape and child torture. Of persistently committing murder in the name of their religion. People mutter at the presence of their temples and at the sight of them in the street with their beards and their religious costumes. Dark deeds and purposes are said to follow them from their homelands and measures have been taken in law to prevent them from ‘bringing their problems here’, as well as from displacing local culture. But, most significantly, they stand accused of upholding an ideology of destruction – a belief in the downfall of all other civilisations that will facilitate the creation of a global state that will uniformly worship and honour their one true God.

I am speaking, of course, about the Jews.

Now we all know that any such characterisation of the Jews is completely ridiculous. Sure, there are and have been extremists and nutjobs amongst them – but that’s the same for every large group. And besides, who the hell discriminates on the grounds of religion these days? Just about anyone over the age of 12 could immediately point out some serious history indicating where such idiocy can lead.

It was not, of course, always so. The views and opinions I pointed out above were not just commonplace, but mainstream, for the better part of 1500 years and across most of the world (and I mean the whole world, not just the occidental part of it). It was a known fact that Jews were members of an evil cult that was inimical to the state, and that its individual members were pernicious and harmful to the unity of any right-thinking community. Of course now we can look back on this 1500 years of history and pretend it was some kind of anomaly. We can see that these opinions consisted of blatant and wilful twisting/misquotation/misinterpretation of sacred texts and ceremonies, as well as a rooted unwillingness to understand the cultural norms of the ‘other’. We can comfort ourselves in the knowledge that this kind of blind, fearmongering stupidity could not possibly gain traction in today’s enlightened, civilised and sophisticated West.

Until we read the Daily Telegraph and the great Facebook Vox Populi talking about the creeping threat of Islamisation. Until we see parties like UKIP and Golden Dawn and the torch and pitchfork waving subhumans who vote for them. Until we listen to anything Cory Bernardi or Geert Wilders has to say and, crucially, consider how popular their views are.

On the frequent occasions in life when I would repeatedly make the same damn mistakes, my father used to tell me a story about a donkey. Basically, when a donkey walks a path and encounters an obstacle that trips it up, it will remember forever where that obstacle is, and will never again trip on it. This story would usually finish along the lines of: “So. You are not quite as clever as a donkey.”

Nope Nope Nope

Yesterday, an Indonesian fisherman encountered a refugee boat just off Aceh, saw the state that the passengers were in and decided to take them ashore. That fisherman’s name is Muchtar Ali and, in the area of humanitarian aid and compliance with International Law, Fisherman Ali would appear to be better qualified for a leadership position than PM Tony Abbott.

When confronted with a boat jam-packed with desperate asylum seekers stuck in a game of border protection air hockey between three nations, Mr Ali assessed the situation, made some brief inquiries, and then made a decision that was in line with both SOLAS and the UNHCR. Mr Abbott, when confronted with the same situation, did nothing for several days and then said “Nope. Nope. Nope.”

Okay, to be fair, this was part of an answer to a question regarding Australia’s willingness to resettle some of these refugees. Mr Abbott did use several more words, some of which even contained more than two syllables, but the media have accurately (and gleefully) captured the essence of his response.

Leaving aside the breathtaking shambolic idiocy of making such a statement in such a context… no, actually, I can’t. This is just too consistent with the apparently deliberate foolishness displayed by this government both during their campaign for election and their time in office so far. The contemptible assumption that engaging in the grossest kind of mindless, ill-considered, subhuman, jingoistic, xenophobic populism is the most effective way to engage with the electorate is both insulting and infuriating. It is even more infuriating that, in the case of the last election at least, this assumption was correct. Australia – if this is the best that we can do with representative democracy, then I am afraid that it is definitely time for us to go straight to the naughty corner. Yes, I know I’m using childish idioms that don’t mean anything, but apparently this is how we do politics these days. We should be ashamed of ourselves. I know I am.

Given how effective this kind of imbecility has proven to be, though, I’ve decided to give it a try:

  1. The dudes on the green boat are refos.
  2. They can’t be sent home.
  3. We can’t yellow card them for getting on boats.

So, in the language spoken in Abbottostan, the appropriate legal response to our international posture, the entirety of our border protection policy as related to asylum seekers, and our utterly stupid response to the current situation is:

Nope. Nope. Nope.

 

P.S. For those of us who prefer to be treated as beings capable of reason, the relevant law is given below.

  1. “A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it..” (UNCRSR Article 1)
  2. “No Contracting State shall expel or return (‘refouler’) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social or political opinion” (UNCRSR Article 33(1))
  3. “The Contracting States shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees who, coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened in the sense of article 1, enter or are present in their territory without authorization, provided they present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence.” (UNCRSR Article 31, (1))

Our Government is Less Intelligent than The Tea Party

One of the stories being splashed all over the progressive media at the moment concerns a Tea Party Congressman called Tom Emmer. Basically, Congressman Emmer went on a tour of African aid recipient countries and came back staunchly defending the benefits of providing foreign aid.

Leaving aside the fact that he had to travel thousands of miles to learn one of the most elementary principles of foreign policy, this is probably, on balance, a good thing. Traditionally, if that word can be used to describe the habits of a tiny reactionary clique in political and intellectual infancy, the Tea Party has been in favour of drastically reducing or eliminating aid to foreign countries. In Emmer’s own words:

“I have made the statement in the past that a dollar that we are spending for instance in Africa, in Kenya, is a dollar that we could probably be using at home to build a road or a bridge.” 

What Emmer realised in the course of his visits, however, was that foreign aid is advantageous primarily to the country that is giving it. Sure, there’s the benefits to poor people and all the lovey-dovey, touchy-feely stuff, but if this was all there was in it there is a fair chance that not a single country in the world would do it. Foreign aid contributes to the stability of one’s neighbours, opens doors for trade and exports into the target countries, creates an additional layer of diplomatic engagement and enhances the giver’s international reputation. There are solid strategic reasons for the dissemination of aid as well. Aid programs can help to facilitate military co-partnership, shore up alliances and guarantees and smooth the way for the maintenance and development of inter-operability, not to mention potentially enhancing the overall stability of the target nations. Or, as Emmer puts it:

“A dollar spent on [foreign aid] is a dollar that we won’t have to spend on additional bombs and bullets and God forbid boots on the ground in the future.”

In terms of Australia’s foreign aid, we generally give to countries that straddle our trade routes, or that we are hoping to export goods and plant to, exploit for resources, or any or all of the above. All of this makes solid strategic, economic and geopolitical sense and these are, possibly regrettably, the principle reasons for providing aid. It is also astonishingly cheap at less than 1.4% of the federal budget and less than 0.5% of gross national income.

Cut now to the Australian government, who have announced whopping cuts in aid to African nations (70%) and to our immediate Northern neighbours (in the region of 30%). The reasons they cite are a little bit vague and confused, but this is understandable as such a discussion requires sentences consisting of more than three words. As far as I can make out, however, once we cut away the repeated use of the words ‘defecit’ and ‘recurrent’, the current government simply cannot make out why we need to send this money over. They point out incredulously that many of the countries that receive aid also give it (and this from a party that believes in trickle down economics), ignoring the fact that some of these countries have been given aid partly on the understanding that they will distribute it through their regions.

What this seems to point to is an inability to understand either the function or benefits of foreign aid. This is disappointing, certainly, but what makes it ludicrous is the fact that our government is incapable of understanding an idea that a Tea Party Congressman has managed to wrap his head around.