Australia’s political solutions to the asylum seeker ‘problem’ are despicable. On this not enough of us agree, but we have mass enough that we ought to be able to make a difference.
We march in the streets, we light candles, we share on Facebook, we sign petitions, we express our dismay when this or that news report manages to expose the horrors of life in detention centres on Nauru or Manus Island or when this or that former employee blows the whistle.
Yet still absolutely nothing changes. Except for the worse. Usually around election time.
What can we do?
Our collective helplessness is stupid.
Rather than sharing compassionate thoughts for Australia’s asylum seekers on social media, let’s spare a thought for ourselves and the shame we are likely to experience in the future when Royal Commissions dam our inaction claiming that sharing FB messages was not enough.
In reality we ought to be starving ourselves in the street over this issue. At the very least we might spare our merciless judgements for good people in previous times and cultures who stood on the threshhold of potentially dreadful human business and spoke up, perhaps even loudly, but evenutally allowed their powerlessness to overcome their outrage.
Like them, we have spoken up – and then failed utterly to rise as a force and demand ‘not in my name’ change, and finish once and for all, cleanly and sharply, what has been set in motion before it reaches its natural end game.
What do I mean by this?
Think it through.
Dreadful situations do not appear out of the blue, they grow. And they are not immediately obvious to anyone on the now side human history. Judgement is for those who come after us, who will be dismayed and appalled that we allowed the situation to go on, year after year after year.
Take a quick glance at the news and the current Royal Commissions into sexual abuse – have a quick peek at your own reactions. Here’s a stark reality: most of us knew. I wasn’t the only one reporting on it in the 1990s – in a regional newspaper – a five-week, four pages a week expose – hell, I even won a big award for it. Nothing changed.
Unlike sexual abuse, with asylum seekers we won’t have the excuse ‘the media’ didn’t report it loudly enough for us to hear or see or know.
So in the name of wondrous, uplifting, decisive 21st century action, and not starving ourselves in the streets, I hereby launch in my imagination The Sunflower Project.
A lasso to wrap around the myriad voices, groups and organisations making a stand for asylum seekers in this country. Let us wear the mask of the sunflower when dealing with governments and their officials and change our profile pictures, faceless sunflowers faces in solidarity with those whose faces we may not see and whose names we may neither know nor speak.
This is all small means of connecting our lives with those our policies have betrayed. Yet we must do more than take disparate well-meaning action on days that suit us.
Have you ever walked down the street with a sunflower? I did. It was a birthday present for a friend, who didn’t recognise me and thought I was a protesting something. Now we’ve recovered the senses that gave way to laughter, I am. I am protesting something.
Sunflowers make us laugh and smile. They are beacons of shining light, beaming hope to the powerless – the kind of message political powerbrokers can’t miss.
Put sunflowers on our cars, our websites, our social media, in the windows of our homes, our correspondence. Let them be a symbol of our helplessness before political forces that are merciless towards the world’s most vulnerable. Let them speak for us, let me see you walking by, driving by, internet surfing by – aaah, I will say, Sunflowers for Humane Asylum Seeker Policy.
And what will our sunflowers really symbolise?
That we didn’t know what else to do for the women, men and children locked up in our name. And that we don’t have time or energy or personal resources to do anything more than this.
Mostly, they are a way of drawing together disparate campaigns into one potent symbol. The best minds in this democratic nation can deliver the humane solutions. We just need to let them know that when it comes to the politics, we’ve got their back.
And let our policy makers know – that we will have humane asylum seeker policy. The politics come after that.
Then again, how much time do I have for a Sunflower Project?